So Southern Africa, that far far part of Africa that a lot of Americans do not know that much about! Well everyone quotes Nelson Mandela and wants to go to South Africa, but the rest of the countries down there, are a blur to the rest of the world.
Most of the representation of Africa in America comes from West Africa, which is understandable, being the group of Africans that have been migrating to America since forever, some involuntarily 400 years ago. Resultantly what people in America think is African food, music or dance, is actually west African and just a piece of the continent. I am always fighting for representation of all of Africa when we tell the African story, and yes I am side eying all my Nigerian friends who I have had to strong arm into this conversation before! I travelled with some school friends a year ago around Zimbabwe and they were blown away by everything they experienced! Here is your chance to engage with the South of Africa in some packaged “fun facts.
- I am from Zimbabwe, a former British colony in the South of Africa. Zimbabwe was formerly known as Rhodesia, named after Cecil John Rhodes, the guy who led the colonization efforts across Southern Africa. After independence ,which we got on 18 April 1980, we renamed it Zimbabwe, which is actually a name in two parts, “Zimba” which means house, and “ibwe”which means stone. The whole name means House of Stone, and it IS derived from a kingdom that was actually built by my people/tribe, the Shona, and it was a great civilization in the north of the country between the 11th and the 15th century that traded with the Portuguese and the South Eastern coast of Africa.
- Speaking of the Great Zimbabwe, it is a world heritage site and an architectural feat, because it is this massive city that was built with no cement. They simply carved stone and laid it on top of each other. Sculpting is actually one of the biggest pastimes of my tribe and I have family that makes a ton of money from selling stone sculptures. Under colonization the British tried to discredit that it was built by native Africans to support their notion that we could not be capable of achieving complex feats like that and we needed salvation from them, but archeology proved them wrong!
- Southern Africa was the last region of Africa to decolonised fully, in particular the two countries, Zimbabwe (1980) and South Africa(1994). The british has 2 types of colonies, protectorates that they just exploited but did not full live in, perhaps due to the harsh environment and settler colonies, that they decided they were gona make their homes in as well. Zimbabwe and South Africa were the latter and if you ever visit, you will see that we a perfect countries for this idea.I will take this moment to explain weather in Africa, and address the question that most Africans always get asked, how hot is it over there in Africa?
Africa is a continent, a huge continent, which geographically can fit North America, Europe and Asia in it. It also means on the globe from north to south, it covers all the geographic imaginary lines that divide up the earth,and Africa as a continent falls on all the weather patterns imaginable. For instance, African countries through which the equator run include Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Uganda, Kenya and Somalia and these are the consistently hot ones. In my country we have 4 distinct seasons, an awesome summer with lots of rain, hence farming being the backbone of our economy and winter does come harsh for us! So yup it does get cold in Africa, some parts of it anyway. Nothing like what i have experienced in the midwest of Africa though :(, side eye to Chicago for ruining my life time and again!
4. Southern Africa was the worst hit by HIV/AIDS of all the African countries, earning it the name “the HIV/AIDS belt.” Some statistics associated with that are, as of 2013, Swaziland had the highest HIV prevalence of any country worldwide (27.4%), which is crazy for such a small country of 1.23 million people. South Africa has the largest epidemic of any country – 5.9 million people were living with HIV in 2013 and at the height of the epidemic in Zimbabwe, we had a 30% prevalence rate. We will talk more about this later.
5. Southern Africa is the home of one of the natural wonders of the world, the Victoria Falls. It’s a 5,604 ft wide, 354 ft tall waterfall, sitting on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia and it is the main tourist attraction in the region.The name Victoria Falls, is its colonial name, given to the falls by David Livingstone to honor Queen Victoria. The native people call it Mosi-oa Tunya falls, which means the smoke that thunders, referring to how you can hear the falls from miles away in the surrounding town and when the water hit the bottom of the falls, a mist of showers rises from it.
Fun fact about the falls, a popular activity on visiting the area is swimming in what is called Devil’s Pool. There is a section at the top of the cliff of the falls, that is still water, right next to the water is raging over. People can actually very carefully go into the pool to experience the exhilaration of sitting on the edge of the biggest waterfall in the world, and the view from it is amazing! On our trip, my friends did it, and no I did not partake, I can barely swim and I am not generally not trying to die!
6. Last point is that I resent South Africa for a variety of reasons, some of them I will write about. But one is this not changing their name after independence like the rest of us! It is such work for the rest of us to describe directionally where I am from in Africa. While others can say I am from West, East or North Africa, while we have to stress Southern Africa, just in case we are confused with being from the country South Africa. Petty I know, but hell!