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National hero Oliver Mutukudzi left indelible mark of love, unity

Oliver Mutukudzi

The late music legend Oliver Mutukudzi who was  declared a national hero left an indelible legacy of love, care and unity that transcends generations, colour creed or race.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared the late 66-year-old Oliver Mutukudzi a national hero on Thursday 24 January 2019. The decision was received with jubilation from across the country. Despite the national hero status, Mutukudzi’s family has opted to bury the legend at his rural home instead of the national shrine, the Heroes Acre.

Exiled human rights poet, Mbizo Chirasha said Mutukudzi’s songs are timeless and do not age like baobab.

“You have paved the way as always, pacesetter of our times. Todii? What shall we do? Is the question now heaving with questions marks in the trembling hearts of many in Africa and beyond. What shall we do? After you have gone. The question Todini? Remains our tutelage for life issues. The lyrics defines the wrath and the pain of sexual abuse. Such revered grand mastery cannot go untold or without befitting testimonials. History will judge and generations will curse if we fail to give legendaries their befitting tributes.

“Your advocacy for the respect of human rights and girl child’s rights was beyond touch. You advised the godchild to remain holding on, to be steadfast, and to be resilient as they danced to the touching imagery of Neria. Your lyrical dexterity is unmatchable. Your literary prowess is so profound. Your charisma ethnic and organic. You were a natural teacher, an emotional healer and a creative intellectual. A larger than life icon. A humanitarian and a symbol of great talent,” Chirasha said.

He said Mutukudzi was the Zimbabwean Musical Ambassador who carried the beauty, the character and the aspirations of citizens in the strings of his guitar.

Vivid Gwede, a human rights defender and advocate, said very few people in Zimbabwe have been able in their short lifetimes to harness the positive social forces of art as much as Superstar Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi, who died on January 23, 2019, at 66 did.

Gwede said as far as the local arts are concerned, one would immediately remember icons such as writers Dambudzo Marechera, Dorris Lessing and Yvonne Vera. Yet, many a time Mtukudzi did this using the native Shona language deeply tinged with his Korekore dialect, which was the main medium in which he communicated his timeless, universal and powerful musical message.

It would appear one of his most famous songs was ‘Neria’ – a rendition in consolation of a widowed woman, which was adapted into a film. Apart from his music, Tuku was keen on making a mark in causes that promote social change, hence his global ambassadorial roles on issues such as HIV/Aids and child marriages.

“As a senior musician, one of those who cut their teeth in the colonial era, Mtukudzi comported himself well as a role model for upcoming ones, something which even appeared in recent years to intensify with his untimely loss of his beloved son, Sam. He would later record many collaborative songs with younger musicians from a wide spectrum of genres such as Winky D, Garry Tight, Sulumani Chimbetu, and others, in which he humbly assumed the role of a father figure,” Gwede said

The human rights advocate added that Mtukudzi showed the way by building an arts empire at Pakare Paya in Norton, southwest of Harare, where he has been willing to nurture and refine more talent into the music industry.

Coming from an era in which music was seen as a profession for the low life people, Tuku brought through his solid personal achievements great respectability, dignity and sense of greater purpose to the profession.

Not only that, his trademark sound drew attention to local musical traditions, instrumentation, dance and traditional values such as Ubuntu. In songs such as ‘Neria’ and ‘Nhaka Sandi Bonde’, one unmistakably gets Mtukudzi’s commitment to pushing messages that promote women upliftment and empowerment

UNICEF joined the people of Zimbabwe and music lovers worldwide, to mourn the loss of celebrated singer and songwriter Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi, who was a UNICEF Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Eastern and Southern Africa.

“Following his appointment in June 2011, UNICEF had the pleasure of working with Oliver Mtukudzi on issues relating to young people’s development and HIV and AIDS prevention. He used the power of music and impactful lyrics to speak out against stigma, discrimination and abuse of children, and inspired people at all levels of society to take action on behalf of children.

“As a tireless advocate to end child marriage, he composed the emotive song ‘Haasati Aziva’ (‘You can’t pledge your child for marriage’) and most recently, during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, he authored a compelling opinion editorial in Zimbabwe’s Herald newspaper, calling for an end to this harmful practice. UNICEF offers its deepest condolences to Oliver Mtukudzi’s family and Zimbabweans everywhere. We honour his memory as a champion of children’s rights,” read a statement by the UN agency.

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende