Robert Nester Marley is no doubt an icon. In 1980, he performed in Zimbabwe during the independence day celebrations, the only African country in which he performed at independence day. He also sang a song, ‘Zimbabwe’ in 1978 for the Zimbabwean freedom fighters. There are plans underway to build a statue in Zimbabwe in honour of Bob Marley.
When the Union Flag of British rule was brought down, and the flag of Zimbabwe was raised, after the revolutionary voice of Robert Mugabe had taken oath, another Robert stood waiting, Robert Nester Marley.
On the 17th of April 1980, Bob Marley took to the stage and launched the young country of Zimbabwe into revolutionary reggae songs. For many Zimbabweans, it’s a night they still reflect on with much euphoria. It is therefore not surprising that even when one Bob disappointed them, they felt another Bob deserved a statue.
The first official words uttered in Zimbabwe, following the raising of the new nation’s flag, were, “Ladies and gentlemen, Bob Marley and The Wailers.” Marley performed numerous songs which wowed the multitude of fans. The struggle for independence in Zimbabwe had been one Marley had keenly followed. Despite his manager’s advice not to perform in Zimbabwe, Marley not only played, but also hired and paid for his PA system, chartered a Boeing 707 that carried him and his band, and slept in a rundown hotel.
Now in 2018, South African based Zimbabwean arts and media consultant, Martin Chemhere, after months of consultation with Marley’s representatives, has been given the green light to create and install Bob Marley’s statue in Zimbabwe. Chemhere told the local paper the Daily News, “I’m thrilled to have finally succeeded in this project for our beautiful country. The approval is a great achievement for Zimbabwe as the statue will attract tourists.”
The proposed statue would be an 8 meter life-size bronze work that would be made by two South African artists, Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse Van Vuuren. Rufaro Stadium, situated in Mbare, which is the oldest township in the capital Harare, is the proposed site for the statue.
Marley’s attachment to the country is not only that it was the only African country where he performed at independence, but that in 1978, Marley sang a song titled ‘Zimbabwe’ that inspired freedom fighters.
Chemhere stated that during the entire making of the statue, and in a bid to pass knowledge down to the younger generation, the two South African artists will mentor some young Zimbabwean artists.
2017 was year where various contentious statues were erected and being brought down. A statue of Bob Marley couldn’t have come at a better time, “men and people would fight you down, when they see Jah light.”