Proverbs like “Chinogova ruoko muromo haugovi” and “Musikana anenge ishwa inodyiwa namanhenga ose”, often appear among the updates on what one would presume to be an unlikely Facebook wall. People from Zimbabwe see images of back home and get sentimental. They reconnect on his wall and have since given him the title “Maunganidze” for creating a global village where they can all feel at home.
by Monica Cheru-Mpambawashe
A classic recent post shows a man enjoying Chibuku Super (beer) in Chitungwiza and is accompanied by lyrics of a Bundu Boys classic:
Zvakazopera musi wakapera basa.
Kwa maiSophie ndaizivikanwa nezita.
Kwa maiChipo ndaitorwa semwana wepo.
Kwa maMujube ndaishevedzwa nemutupo.
Zvakazopera musi wakapera basa.”
This wall does not belong to a typical Zimbabwean abroad pining for gochi-gochi at Mereki or any other such memories of home.
Welcome to the wall of an Irishman who has become more Zimbabwean than some born and bred locals! Frank Hand’s story is fusion of a love affair that deserves to be immortalised in a movie and the personal journey of a man who came, saw and became a part of this country.
Although he is now based in Ireland, his other home, Frank remains very much keenly interested in the goings on in a part of Hwedza, the corner of Zimbabwe that has become his home. His Facebook posts attract many comments and likes as he reminisces about his time as an expatriate teacher at Mount St Mary’s Mission at Rusunzwe in Wedza.
“I ended up in Zimbabwe somewhat by chance!” he says.
Although he had a good job and a comfortable life back home in Ireland, Frank felt a pull towards Africa.
“This fascination began innocently enough through my childhood hobby of stamp-collecting. I recall being very impressed by the colourful flora and fauna that featured on the stamps of many African countries. In addition my uncle, Colm, was a missionary priest in Kenya. But most telling of all, in 1964 shortly after Zambia gained its independence, my father was offered a local government job in Lusaka. As a nine-year-old interested in geography, I set myself the task of planning our family’s route to Africa which I thought would probably involve taking a liner from Southampton (UK), travelling past Gibraltar through the Mediterranean, down the Suez Canal until we finally disembarked in Dar es Salaam. What an exciting prospect for a child! However, my hopes were dashed when my father decided to turn down the job offer. So, I suppose from then on I was destined to make it to Africa under my own steam.”
His first shot was for Kenya but fate was leading him to Zimbabwe.
“I wrote to a few secondary schools in Kenya which had Irish missionary involvement to ask if any of them was looking for a Mathematics teacher. I received no reply! One day while taking coffee with a colleague at work I expressed my frustration at the lack of a response. He said that he knew someone in Zimbabwe who would probably be delighted to take me up on the offer. That person was Fr Paschal Slevin OFM, superior of Mount St Mary’s Mission at Rusunzwe in Wedza.
“That is how I came to arrive in Harare on May 6, 1983.”
Frank was to spend the next few years as a resident of Hwedza and even earned himself an honorary totem: “I became known as ‘Samaita’. This came about due to the fact that I played in defence on the teachers’ soccer team. My nearest co-defender and I formed a good partnership. He covered for my mistakes and I for his. After one game in which I had saved his bacon a few times, he came to me and said: ‘Ah! That was amazing, Frank. Thank you. You are my brother. You are Samaita!’ This exchange was overheard by the students and the name stuck!
“In recent times I have also been nicknamed ‘Maunganidze’ by two of my former students who reconnected through me. Reconnecting people and bringing people together is something I just find really satisfying.”
Somewhere along the line Frank met the girl who would become his wife.
Fellow expat teachers who were living at the mission but who taught at another school got tired of Frank bragging about his bright students and produced a star of their own. They invited the girl to meet Frank at Mount St Mary’s.
“Scholastic’s father had been tragically murdered during the Chimurenga. So she (Scholastic) was living with relatives in Makwarimba, a village which is even further from the mission than Matsine about 10km from Rusunzwe. On the appointed day, Scholastic walked all the way to our mission from Makwarimba accompanied by her cousin. This cousin was named Norah which, as it happens, Norah was at one time a very popular name for girls in Ireland. It is a popular Irish name. In fact one of my own grandmothers was named Norah. I was suitably impressed by Scholastic. She was very confident and chatty. Norah on the other hand seemed a very quiet, shy girl. However, there could be no denying that Norah was also remarkably beautiful.”
The following year Frank’s parents visited him at the mission. He brought them to visit Norah’s village and his mother was quite taken with Norah.
Frank left Zimbabwe in 1985 at the end of his tenure, but returned on holidays in 1987.
When he went back to Ireland after this trip his mother was disappointed that he had not made a special effort to see Norah and did not have any news of her.
“Immediately my mum told me that the next time I visited Zimbabwe she would send me with a gift for Norah. I would pass on the gift in person and find out how Norah was doing.
The following year, 1988, I decided on a return to Zimbabwe. My mum sent me with the gift for Norah. We arranged to meet outside Kingston’s Bookshop on Jason Moyo Avenue. I knew immediately that one meeting would be insufficient! Norah was a tsvarakadenga!! Musikana ainge ishwa inodyiwa namanhenga ose! We managed to meet a couple of times during that trip and we hit it off.”
The couple went through twists and turns including a period during which they were out of touch. Then finally in 1991, they got together and married in 1992 in the Dublin Registry Office. But that was not the end as the couple had two continents and cultures to join. Lobola was duly paid.
“In August, 1993 my parents returned with us to Zimbabwe for our wedding and at least half of the population of Makwarimba turned up, uninvited, at our muchato in Mount St Mary’s Mission.”
Frank is modest about his Shona speaking abilities:
“There is a misconception about my fluency in Shona. I really don’t speak it all that well. I have lots of outstanding Shona reference works like Hannan’s ‘Standard Shona Dictionary’, Hamutyineyi and Plangger’s ‘Tsumo Shumo — Shona Proverbial Lore and Wisdom’, Hodza and Fortune’s ‘Shona Praise Poetry’ to name but three. When Facebook came on the scene and I managed to link with some of my former students, I began to post the occasional tsumo on my status as a way of entertaining/surprising them!
“More recently I have begun to transcribe and memorise the lyrics of some of my favourite Zimbabwean musicians . . . Bhundu Boys, John Chibadura, Leonard Dembo, Patrick Mkwamba, Thomas Mapfumo etc. Last June I delighted in astonishing the crew and passengers on a Kombi in Harare by launching into a rendition of ‘Makorokoto’ by the Four Brothers! ‘Hama takatambura kwemakore mazhinji. Ona rugare rwauya. Tose tose tofara . . ’ etc.”
The couple returns to Zimbabwe on numerous occasions since then with their two children — Colm Kudzai and Nóra Tatenda, keeping them in touch as best they can with their relatives in Hwedza and Chitungwiza and with their mother’s culture.
It was during one such visit in June, 2015 that the Chibuku Super images were taken while Frank and Norah were in Zimbabwe on holidays and stayed for a few days with Norah’s sister in Zengeza 5.
Frank says he is likely to spend more time in Zimbabwe in the coming years:
“As to my future plans, I will be retiring in three years time and I would love to spend a few months time in Zimbabwe every year thereafter. I think it would be great for Norah too as she has been suffering from the chando over here in Europe for almost 25 years!
“I hope to find a way to contribute something useful, possibly through education. If not, I have another plan which would involve recording, collating and archiving traditional stories/music around the country. But, we’ll see. Mwari oga ndiye anoziva zviri mberi.
“Vakuru vakataura, ‘Ziva kwawakabva; mudzimu weshiri uri mudendere.’ and I really feel that I have a little nest in Hwedza! I can honestly say that Zimbabwe is ever present in my heart. To quote a line from one of Mukanya’s lyrics.
‘Ndingaende nyika dziri kure handikanganwe iwe Zimbabwe’.”-HERALD