Getting ZIMspired

Literature | By Jennifer Schuchmann, Forester | 21 November 2014

Last year I got the great opportunity to take a break from my studies in Germany and do a 6-month internship at FAO in Zimbabwe. These months were spent at the Harare office and in the forests around Chimanimani in the Eastern Highlands. My internship there focused on researching the reason why baboons were damaging pine trees, as part of my Masters degree thesis. Besides the work for my studies, I discovered a whole new side of myself, to which I got inspired by the culture and landscapes of Zimbabwe. I got ZIMspired!
Zimbabwe is not very well known in Germany. Little surprise that many of my countrymen first heard about Zimbabwe when I told them about my impending 6 month visit. Even I didn´t have any specific expectations of what I would see and experience in Zimbabwe. But, the trip- really opened my eyes to a whole new part of myself.
Right at the beginning of my stay I learned about the culture of totems, the tradition that each family has an animal that they associate themselves with. All this fascinated me a lot and raised questions of how a family got their totem and the meaning behind it. I lived with a family whose totem was Nzou  (Elephant) and despite explaining to me about their culture and traditions, I still had more questions than answers.

Before coming to Zimbabwe, a good friend of mine gave me the idea of writing stories about what I see and experience in Zimbabwe. I never wrote stories before, so I didn’t expect myself to really do it. But, when I was in Zimbabwe and I saw the beautiful landscapes, the amazing balancing rocks, the culture of totems and a kind of magic spirit all around it, I just started writing stories.

The main character of my stories is called “Princess Nzou”. She comes to a new world and discovers the magic and history of that world. She learns about how the magic stones gave an animal as protector and connection to nature to each family and she lives many adventures with her friends, the lizard and the baboons, until she meets the monkey who shows her the way to happiness.  These stories are inspired by the landscapes I saw and the people I met during my time in Zimbabwe. One of those stories I will share with  you  now.
I want to emphazise, that this and the other stories are only from my own imagination, it does not and should not represent any traditional tales from Zimbabwe, rather my own way of reflecting on the images Zimbabwe created in my mind.

Zimbabwe inspired me to start writing stories and songs. I got ZIMspired! What about you?

City of dancing trees
On her journey in the country of sunken trees, Princess Nzou took a break and sat down on a stone to rest a bit. Sitting on the stone she felt how she calmed down and decided to stay. In the evening when the sun set down behind the horizon, she saw how the branches of the trees started dancing. They started dancing on the superficies of the water and Princess Nzou listened to the memories of the branches back then, when the water wasn´t there yet, when they were dancing together with the animals of the forest every night. Back then, every evening when the sun set down, the dance of the forest began. The animals made the music, each one in their tone and melody. All together the music began to rise, more beautiful than any human would ever hear. The music of the animals was so powerful and magical that even the trees at night were able to raise up their roots out of the soil to join in the dance. The trees danced in chorus or alone. At times they danced wild, at times they danced silent, but always in tune with the music of the forest animals. When the big water came the music stopped and the animals fled and left the trees behind. Since then the trees are where they are night by night and they remember the sounds of the animals and dream of the dance of the forest. The branches of the trees move on top of the water in tune to their memories and will do so until the memories fade and the trees will stand still and alone in the water. Princess Nzou became part of those memories, when she sat on one of the magic stones watching the branches dance in the night.