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Zimbabweans, food and a bucketload of memories

Made by Kuda (MADE IN ZWE), a gift to Plot Mhako and the earGROUND vision.

Zimbabweans, food and a bucketload of memories

Through a given community’s cuisines one can have a more pronounced appreciation of the people’s way of life and their shared values. Foodstuffs and their associated evolvements in time can also be hallmarks that can help some to easily recall certain historical twists and turns. A simple recollection of some edibles for Zimbabweans draws a pool of both the good and bad memories.

By Tawanda Mupatsi


Food as partaken in different Zimbabwean cultural set-ups occupies a space that goes beyond nourishment. It is a measure of one’s hospitality, the individual decision to either give or withhold spells out one’s character in the broader community. The ancient elders realizing the power of food in fostering social cohesion coined the Shona proverb ‘Ukama igasva hunozadziswa nekudya‘ which means relationships are reinforced when food is partaken. To this day food is a constant during traditional ceremonies, weddings or even funerals.

Reminiscing of days gone past, many can recall how relatives would congregate from far and wide once a year for Christmas under the village sun and how the smoky but inviting smells of roasted meat glided through the air while laughter and ululation added brightness to a moment of love, sharing and harmony that has long been shackled by individualism.


The pursuit of greener pastures has seen millions of Zimbabweans settling in different places around the globe. For most of these individuals one of the factors that incites homesickness is food. This is a void that neither Burger King nor McDonald’s adorned in all their might of appeal can fill. It’s in the craving for a sorghum sadza dish served with vegetables and offals or that plate of traditional rice with peanut butter accompanied by a mouthwatering piece of chicken that immediately sends one’s mind home, among the long forgotten hills and valleys, into the Zimbabwean streets and highways where hope is never obliterated irrespective of the odds. It’s not surprising that some local brands that have withstood the test of time like the cereal Cerevita and Mazowe orange juice have been favorites among Zimbabweans in the diaspora. Besides being exceptional brands with distinct tastes, they harbor memories.


The year 2008 was the zenith of political and economic meltdown in Zimbabwe, everyone was virtually a millionaire and hyperinflation was sinking its teeth deeper. Long queues meandered outside local shops as foodstuffs disappeared from the supermarkets’ shelves only to resurface on the black market being sold at exorbitant prices. The crisis prompted people to be creative with whatever that was available. In the face of bread supply shortages people boiled and ate bulger. Black jack leaves, pumpkin seeds and soya beans chunks became common relish, prepared with little to no cooking oil as the commodity was scarce. The scramble for food items during this era exposed the existence of socio-economic classes. Those with access to resources were shielded from the pinch while the masses scrounged to get through another day.

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Food has also been a recurring feature in Zimbabwean music either as an allusion to playfulness or a symbol of a critical matter. The late music icon Oliver Mtukudzi in the composition ‘Chimbambaira chiri mupoto‘ used food as an open invitation to celebrate life while the Urban Grooves lyricist David Chifunyise used his musical dexterity to explore a deeper theme. Using the symbol of maheu (a popular sour non-alcoholic beverage made from fermented maize or millet) David called upon people to come together in harmony irrespective of existing differences. Reference is made to his song ‘Maheu‘ where in one of the verses he stresses “why can’t we all be friends relax, sipping a glass of maheu”

Images credit: KwaMurongo, Lee’s Kitchen, Sprinbok Delights, Dairibord Zimbabwe,

Made by Kuda (MADE IN ZWE)
A gift to Plot Mhako and the earGROUND vision.
Truly, for the culture.

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