Sipiwe Dube, Edith Weutonga, and Antonella Bargione, three participants from the Forum
We brought 4o diverse people together for three days of exploring what we might do to heal the social fabric of Zimbabwe. Over the course of the days, the conversations gradually moved from what we could do about it, to an immersion in actually reweaving social fabric together in real time, through our listening, our sharing and our presence.
What we managed to do during these days was for the different inner domains of the many participants to begin to come together – entering into a collective field. We were able to begin to reveal what those inner dimensions were and speak from those places and illuminate them to each other. In the process you could say that we began to see the inner landscape of the soul of Zimbabwe.
A lot of these inner worlds aren’t usually spoken because they are painful. They aren’t shared because of underlying mistrust; deep wounding; and sometimes because of a rage that we are not even always conscious of in ourselves, but which is there, unexpressed, unwelcome, feared even. The process over the three days very carefully, gently and yet precisely began to allow these inner dimensions to be expressed, to be revealed, to be seen, to be shared.
The process became the medicine that allowed a healing process to begin; a healing process which originated in the tentative speaking of something that has been hidden, sometimes even to the people themselves. Speaking, witnessing, being witnessed, illuminating - all leading to clearer seeing and new and deepened connections. It was like the lifting of a veil, and an opening of a window.
We worked with big themes. The Ndebele-Shona rift that goes back to the 1800s and possibly before that. There was a seeing of the pain and wound and the delicacy of healing a rift that is very deep. We worked with the male and female divide. It was hotter and more entrenched than we realise in the everyday reality. We worked with the gap between the young and their elders; with the divide between citizens and the state; between the colonizer and colonised. Not small topics.
We came to realize that we are country of skeletons, of ghosts. We want to build a Zimbabwe that is peaceful, but we have a painful violent history that has not been addressed. Ghost that have not been appeased. We are loyal to those ghosts, those wounds and unable to see clearly who we each are beyond those. Our parents and grandparents have never really had an outlet - so far we (their children) have been their outlet. They need - we all need - a place to talk about our trauma.
And yet, in our time together we became aware of a deep seated impulse of wanting to get on with things: ‘can we not just get over it and move on?’ (whatever ‘it’ was). There is an urge to leave the past behind so we can move into the future. We realized that part of this impulse stems from the discomfort of slowing down and facing what is really here; the residual hurt, pain and mistrust. But we also experienced that trying to move too fast into reconciliation can compound the challenge, and further the sense of mistrust. “Who are you to tell me to move on? Do you know what I have suffered?” If we try to move on too fast, a part of us will remain frozen in the past. This is the truth of trauma. We were learning what it might take to begin the process of thawing that which is locked in the past.
“In my grief all I need is for you to stop and hear me. Truly hear me.”
There were moments when there was a sense of slowing down almost to a standstill, so that we can let that wound breathe. We were learning to be with it (the wounding, the pain) in a place of deep stillness. It was hard - sometimes almost impossible for the group to stay here, but we began it, together.
We learnt of the risk of assuming to understand the other. Of the need to learn to listen deeply, carefully, intently. To truly be with another, but not to assume that we can ever fully comprehend their reality or their pain. We learnt of the need for the grief to be allowed, welcomed and expressed, as well as the rage.
Many of these moments were deeply healing in the field:
A moment with an Ndebele and Shona woman having an exchange that showed the deep fear and mistrust, but also the willingness to reach out and come closer;
A young Ndebele man sharing his shame in joining in songs calling for the Ndebele to separate from Zimbabwe, but also his deep joy at these moments expressing through song his sense of pride in their peoples. That pride is needed for the future, and yet there is no space to express that pride now.
A woman (on behalf of women) screaming out “Enough, enough! We have suffered enough. It ends here.” Man apologizing with shame for his part in her suffering.
A young woman demanding of her chief: “I want a leader who can accept my tears; who is big enough to hold my anger. Anything less is not good enough” - after he had asked for us to engage with less emotion. It was a strong moment - and the Chief listened to her (even if he might not have been ready to be everything she needed him to).
Each of these moments held healing. They offered illumination of what happens when we live old structures, stories and hurts unconsciously, and what becomes possible when we become aware of them - and see them more clearly.
Our need is to be able to slow down to be present to what is unfolding.
There was an initial fear to do this. But we began to learn it as we went along. We developed a capacity to slow down to allow something new to come into focus.
As we came to completion we were clear, that we need more of this kind of work and this kind of dialogue.
As we continue with this kind of gateway conversation many of the people from this first one will need to come with us. We have opened a field together. We are creating a vibrational and relational field in which a new way of engaging is becoming possible and in which there is space for all the wounding and hurt. There is already a fundamental glue holding us together, and a commitment to hear the pain of the other.
The capacity to slow down, to open our listening and our sharing is not an easy one. The more of the people who will be in the next one – the more capable we will be to come into that quality.
Forums can be anywhere form 40 – 130 – 500 people. We began with 40. Perhaps the next one continues with 60-80, expanding from the initial core. Going deeper into the wounds, and together experiencing the capacity for transformation as we learn to rest in that almost arrested moment, where we can see and listen to each other - letting the past breathe, until it is ready to be reborn in a new form.
Gateway Zimbabwe is a collaboration between Kufunda, ORAP and Trust Africa seeking to contribute to generative peace in Zimbabwe through reweaving our social fabric.
The forum was facilitated by CFOR Communities for Change, who specialise in processwork as an approach. You can learn more on CFOR at www.cfor.info