TRANSNATIONALISM is a phenomenon which refers to a community of people who migrate from one country to the other and because of links with the country of origin and new relationships as they integrate within the host country. Their lives are transient. They live across national borders. On death, such people prefer to be buried at home. But where is home?
For migrant communities, connections with home are stronger within first and possibly second generations. However, links with countries of origin tend to weaken with the third and later generations. These later generations would mostly have been born in the host countries. Connection with grandparents and extended families in the country of origin will be so much weak as to be irrelevant. Issues about visiting the country of origin become an unnecessary expense and any resources available are used to deepen integration within the host country and holidays in places of adventure and touristic attractions around the world. This generation is more related to a new virtual family born out of social media and the internet. Together, they speak a common social and internationalist language which is hardly obtainable in conversations with those from the country of origin.
When the time for Israel to die drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “When I die, please take my body out of Egypt and bury me with my ancestors." So Joseph promised, "I will do as you ask." Genesis 47 vs 29-31. As a first generation Zimbabwean I still hope for my bones to be laid by my grandmother’s grave in rural Chivhu. Does it really matter, one would ask. Of course it does to me, at least. It is sentimental. It is where the umbilical cord was buried. It is where I call home. Home cannot be Colchester or London. I did not herd goats and cattle in these English plains. It might sound silly but that is how I define home. Being buried anyway else, would make me feel like being thrown away from my people especially those who would have gone before me. Some will argue that it does not matter because one will be dead. No, it does matter. My children will live with guilty tucked in their hearts because that is what my will says.
However, even as I have chosen my resting place as home, the notion of home remains problematic. Apart from living in my rural home in Chivhu, I have also lived in Mutare and Harare. Many a time when people have asked me where my home is, depending on the time of the question, I have either said Mutare or Harare or that I am a Njanjarian from Chivhu in Zimbabwe. Every time I say that I come from Harare I always feel like a lie has slipped off my mouth. Why? Because, having grown up in colonial times, I still want to be associated with my real home-Manangazira kraal, in Chikomba district of Zimbabwe. That tribal trust land from whence we used to climb trees, break our legs and got beaten for injuring ourselves!
A married woman in Zimbabwean culture leaves her parents’ home and acquires a new name and home, the husband’s. Marriages are under so much strain both in the diaspora and at home. When marriages break, women no longer go back to their parents’ homes. They either take possession of the family home or live with the children as the man finds a new home or she moves into a new home mostly with under age children in her custody. Should she remarry she will more likely to take her children with her into the new family home. Such children are likely to have problems in locating which place to call home; the new place in which they live with their mother and her new husband or where their father lives. In the United Kingdom one is likely to hear children referring to the new home as “my house”- “are you coming to my house for a sleep over?” This shows that as far as they are concerned that new location is their home, not where their father lives, perhaps with a new wife.
As compared to countries of origin where men are dominantly the main bread winners, new opportunities have meant social mobility for most women. It is quite common to find a diasporan wife being the main bread winner in the family. This tilt in power in the wife’s favour has, in many instances, produced strained marriages.
Some men have found it unpalatable that they can no longer unilaterally make family decisions and now have to listen more to what their wives input. Some men, instead of giving in to the new dynamics have stubbornly held on to their previous dominant positions. Some women have not given up this new freedom. This strain has led to many broken families where children become the biggest losers. They become torn between two parents. Some break ups are so rough that children have witnessed one of the parents being treated with so much disdain so much that the children find it difficult to respect that parent again.
A new life amongst new people of mixed nationalities has also meant more inter-marriages. Immigration challenges have also accelerated cross nationality marriages. Many children have been born out of such unions. Children born out of such unions struggle to identify what they call home. Oftentimes, they will just refer to themselves as British; more so with the Zimbabwean government seemingly unready to recognise dual citizenship despite it being a constitutional right. Should death happen to these children in which home shall they be buried? Their village mates are the Pakistan, Indian, Nigerian, Senegalese and other nationalities they go to school with or whom they work with.
Relationships with extended family in Zimbabwe is usually week and at times children struggle to understand how they are related to all those “aliens” who do not attend their birthday parties let alone send a congratulatory message and an iphone 7 as a present. The children only remember parents’ misery when another call comes in to say another aunt has died back home and money is needed to bury them. After all some children remember how embarrassed they were the last time they visited the so called home. Because their parents never attempted to teach them the “home language”, the other children were taking a pick on them on the playground; laughing at them as a lost generation that has totally lost their identity to a foreign culture. To them, such a place cannot be called home and any discussion around ever calling it such becomes a cause for conflict.
We are witnessing a number of Zimbabwean adults being buried in the diaspora. They will have given instruction to their relatives for that to happen. We still have to witness a Zimbabwean getting cremated and a container of ashes being taken for burial for example in one village down there in what I normally sarcastically call “Tribal trust lands” like my Manangazira village in Chikomba district.
The question which many will continue to ask is: does it really matter where one is buried as any place can be home? What is important is that an environment of celebrating a life well lived is created. Friends and relatives gather, pray together for the departed soul, mourn and take time to relive a life shared. In many instances, despite where one finally gets buried, the availability of funds to facilitate the funeral gives a certain mood to the funeral process. Where cash is not an issue, less time is taken in endless caucuses and honour prevails in the absence of whatsapp, facebook or GoFundMe appeals.
Just going by the events of the last few months, we have witnessed so many deaths among the Zimbabwean community. We have also received appeals for cash to repatriate the deceased loved ones. Cash plans like the Diaspora Funeral Cash Plan provide decency in death. Cash knows no borders. Money is wired to wherever the death occurs and burial is done wherever the deceased or relatives choose.
Article taken from NewZimbabwe.com .
Jeff Sango is a CitizensUK trained Community Organiser and now Head of Business Development & Sales with Diaspora Funeral Cash Plan, which is available to all Zimbabweans and Zambians worldwide including those back home.