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Journey to Great Zimbabwe: Expressions of sexuality on the Zimbabwe flag - Zimbabwe Today
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Journey to Great Zimbabwe: Expressions of sexuality on the Zimbabwe flag

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Phathisa Nyathi
LEST some readers may be doubting the ubiquity of sexuality in the African world of  culture, let’s take the theme further. As pointed out, an identified theme usually manifests itself in more media or contexts than one.

We saw in the previous articles how representations and expressions of sexuality reside in architecture, village gendered spaces, performances, totems and a lot more. As we bring this aspect to a conclusion, we shall draw readers’ attention to one national symbol which some people may not fully appreciate its expressions. We are here referring to the Zimbabwe national flag.

At primary school pupils are expected to know national symbols. The national flag is one such and teachers are expected to interpret or tell the narrative embedded in the national flag. Most people concentrate on the colours which are easy to interpret. The star is equally easy although the fact that it is a reconfigured chevron may not be that easy to appreciate.

What is better understood is its association with countries that assisted in the liberation struggle, namely the former Soviet Union (now Russia) and China. However, it is equally important to see that star as a chevron design arranged in a circular form.

The  reconfigured chevron renders or reiterates the  resident double meaning. The chevron alone carries the message of sexuality as interpreted earlier on. It expresses ideas of continuity, endlessness, perpetuity and immortality.

Now that it is arranged into a circular design affords it to express the meaning resident in a circle which is that expressed by the chevron design. We did point out earlier that a chevron design essentially is a circle reconfigured. Their expressions are similar-the concept of eternity and endlessness.

However, the fundamental difference is that the chevron, unlike a circle, places emphasis on eternity and endlessness through sexuality as the icon itself is inspired by the body of woman, the part of her where the uterus is located.
So, already the idea of sexuality is expressed in the design of the Zimbabwe flag. But this is not all. The triangle in which is found the star and the Zimbabwe Bird is itself a symbol of fertility or sexuality.

It may be drawn as an open V or triangle. The meaning being expressed remains the same. In the Israeli Star of David, it is rendered as two interlocking triangles, one facing up and the other facing down. The one facing down is male while the other facing up is female. This is an expression of sexuality which avoids vulgarity and impropriety associated with matters sexual.

The white triangle on the Zimbabwe national is part of a story of sexuality. On its own, it bears the female element.

By and large, Africa told a complete story about fertility, continuity, eternity and endlessness. Before we identify the male element, we may do well to say a little more regarding the isosceles triangle. The two equal sides meet at the apex. When the triangle is superimposed on the female body, the apex faces down and actually ends where the vulva is. Some may be more familiar with the term vagina.

The external opening leads to the vaginal canal that links up with the all-important part, the uterus. The importance of the uterus may not be overemphasised. Fertilisation, resulting in the creation of the zygote, the basis of future life, takes place within the uterus.

The idea of eternity is concretised within the body of woman. No wonder Africa’s decorative icons are dominated by expressions of femininity. It could not have been otherwise as celebrating the continuity of human species inevitably touches on and recognises the greater importance played by women.

So, in the Zimbabwe national flag the female element is easy to identify — it’s the white triangle. But where is the other element, the male element that affords Zimbabweans to tell a full narrative, assuming they know the narrative that resides in the their flag, an important national symbol? By the way, there are other countries, two of them being our neighbours, South Africa and Mozambique, that have their national flags expressing the idea of fertility. Palestine and South Sudan are the other countries.

In all instances, where there is a national flag that expresses the narrative of sexuality or continuity, there is a band, black in the case of the Zimbabwe national flag which is interpreted as representing the black majority. Yes, indeed that is correct but it is not the only interpretation. Apparently, the designers of the national flag did not deliberately seek to create a narrative of sexuality. Possibly, for them it was doing what others had done before us.

Mozambique already had such a flag. South Africa, after Zimbabwe, followed suit. A member of the team that designed our national  flag seemed not to see the bigger picture on the national flag. He did not see the expressions of sexuality.
It is the black band that ends where the apex is.

The black band is symbolic of a phallus. It is the male element which completes the human anatomical expression on a two-dimensional plane. When sexuality is so expressed, we should not be taken aback. Expressions of sexuality are indeed ubiquitous and come in many disguised forms.

Navigating the treacherous field of sexuality demands creativity of the highest order. As we shall see later, this is precisely what happened when the “Zimbabwe Bird” was created to disguise and conceal vulgarity and offer decency. The ‘bird’ was created in the mould of totems, cast in metaphors that traverse a minefield of indecency and emerge unscathed.

Next time you see the Zimbabwe flag flapping in the wind, do remember you are gazing at the narrative of sustained human commitment and effort. It is a prayer for success and eternal achievement. It is a never ending pledge, vow and oath to achieve the best through relentless effort.
Aluta continua!!

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