Musician tackles World Cup racism in Berlin

Zimbabwean maestro, Virginia Mukwesha, is championing the fight against discrimination in the German capital ahead of the World Cup...

Hundreds if not thousands of black people are expected here for the world’s highest soccer showpiece that kicks off on 9 June.

Angola, Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Ghana, Togo and Tunisia are participating in the tournament and fans are expected to throng Germany to back their African teams.

After realising the reluctance by some Germans to accept the black community, Mukwesha has embarked on a deliberate exercise to stamp out racial segregation.

“They are very racist (Germans) and I don’t think we can ever change that but it’s better to try than to just say 'we can’t do anything'.

"So I am giving lectures against racism. I work with teachers who then give lessons to their pupils. Sometimes I do it practically in the sense that I teach classes. The teachers then learn how to educate their students by watching me doing it. The main aim is to ensure that the youths grow up without a racist ideology and in the long term, that will help in stamping out this cancer”.

The 40 year-old lamellophone diva said there is a plethora of discriminatory language in Germany pupils’ tutorial materials.

“Looking in their textbooks, there are a lot of racist words. You have to read a lot, look a lot in newspapers, whatever you come across and if it’s racist you all have to discuss this. The teachers then confront this,” explains the musician, who is married to a German national.

Their child, Farai, is also involved in music at his school and has teamed up with his friends to record an album set to be released soon.

Mukwesha says there is resistance amongst adults in accepting other nationalities and races, hence the decision to target the young generation.

“It is not an easy exercise because adults are not easy to convince to change their way of thinking. That is the reason why I have decided to target school-going children”.

The artist said her anti-racism campaign has received overwhelming support from the federal government of Germany.

Mukwesha is daughter to renowned musician Stella Chiweshe and former-footballer Freddy Mukwesha. Unlike her mother, she acknowledges that she is not a veteran of the Zimbabwean music scene.

“I never really performed under my own name in Zimbabwe; I used to perform with my mum. It’s only in 1997 when she had a concert at the Book Café in Harare when she asked me to sing three songs from my own album. That is the only time I sang my own songs in Zimbabwe otherwise I never performed there. I left Zimbabwe when I was still young, I didn’t have a band then I only formed my existing band when I was already based in Germany".

In her latest and sixth album in a track titled Nzara (Hunger) that explains why blacks are flocking to some European countries such as Germany, Mukwesha depicts an African mother's frustrations over the state of the economy in her homeland hence her decision to seek fortune outside the continent doing menial jobs.

Literally translated, the lyrics of the song say: “I used to walk tall and proud. I once came from a beautiful country full of milk and honey. What I earn today is not enough for the basic needs. So here I am: cleaning the bottoms of old people in a foreign country. It really pains me”.

Mukwesha’s music is popular in Berlin and it is common to hear the distinctly Zimbabwean sound of the mbira amplified in certain stores. Although Zimbabweans back home hardly know Mukwesha, the artist is proving to be more and more popular in European Union countries such as Austria, Britain, and Netherlands where she has held exhilarating shows.     

Meanwhile her fans in Zimbabwe and the entire African continent will have to wait a little bit longer before they can see the songstress doing what she knows best behind the lamellophone (also called a 'thumb piano').

“This [anti-racism] project requires a lot of time and I don’t see myself performing back home and other countries in Africa in a short time to come; besides there is much preparatory work that needs to be done if I am to perform in Africa.

"Here in Europe I perform for about an hour and I think I need to practice to play for several hours before a crowd because my fellow Africans would feel cheated if I perform for only an hour and then I leave the stage. I want to make sure that when I perform people really feel the value of their money because it is not easy to get money in our motherland”, said Mukwesha.