The changing meaning of home

What really is home? It is a four letter word whose meaning is all the more relevant and ever changing, in this era of mass migration. Guest blogger Tafadzwa Mundida writes from South Africa.

Kumusha - home

Kumusha – home

Unobva kupi?” (Where do you come from?)

PaBorrowdale apa.” (I’m from Borrowdale).

That is how a friend of mine used to respond to the common question among my countrymen. It was all in jest, of course. The typical Zimbabwean would find such a response ridiculous. Where you come from means your rural home. But will it always?

Our roots

My grandparents grew up in the rural areas. My grandfathers moved to town to look for work, while my grandmothers remained in the rural areas raising the kids. When the men retired, they moved back to their rural homes. My parents also moved to the city. In their case, it was a more permanent move. They moved together. They both worked in the urban areas. The kids were raised in the city.

My childhood reasoning

Two Shona words are commonly used to mean home: ‘kumba’ and ‘kumusha’. Growing up, I had an easy formula for distinguishing them. ‘Kumba’ was my parents’ home. ‘Kumusha’ was my grandparent’s home. I think my father had also hit on the same definition. As my grandparents are his parents, we used the two different words to refer to the same place.

Future generations

Someday I might have kids of my own. For them, their grandparents’ home will be a suburb in Harare. The idea of a rural home will be practically meaningless to them. In the space of a couple of generations, the idea of a family home will have changed completely.

Among my South African friends, the question of where you come from is more likely to be met by ‘Johannesburg’ or ‘Durban’ and not some rural place. For some Zimbabweans, this will be a reality for the generations to come. It seems like a minor distinction, but it has some profound effects on society.

The socio-economic impact

Post-retirement

Post-retirement

My grandfather did not have to worry too much about his retirement savings. Upon retirement, he was always going to go back to his rural home and make a living by growing crops and raising livestock. While my grandmother never had any formal employment, she fed the family off her farming activities.

The rural life has always been a safety net. Being uneducated and unemployed did not automatically condemn one to starvation. What will happen to our society when we no longer have rural homes?

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Tafadzwa Mundida is a tech enthusiast who is fascinated by Zimbabwe’s place in a tech driven world. He is among the dying breed that would rather read the book than watch the movie. He grew up in Masvingo and is currently living in Johannesburg. Read more on his personal blog here

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