Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Kudzai Mbewe, British- Zimbabwean, living in Mozambique

I have a foot in too many worlds. Actually, that isn't even the right figure of speech to use, because I don't have enough feet to go in all the worlds I'm supposed to be in. It's three worlds really, and I mean the countries and cultures: Zimbabwe, England and Mozambique. My dad's Zimbabwean, my mom's English and I live in Mozambique. The thing about being mixed race, mixed culture, and mixed nationality (mongrel, as one friend once said) is that you never feel accepted anywhere. People always want to label each other and put people in categories (I don't blame them; I do it myself) but the trouble is that I don't fit into anybody's neatly labelled file. I guess I think of myself mostly as English (as opposed to Spanish or Filipino, not really truly English) but I don't think that's what a British person would really think. Mozambiquans will call me "White" and they hardly ever see beyond that. Zimbabweans just want me to be Zimbabwean, which annoys me; just because my dad's from there doesn't mean that's where I feel my home is. There's more to it than passports.

Then there's the colour thing. I'm black-white, which (relearn your colours) isn't grey; it's a kind of yellow/ brown colour. I wouldn't be ashamed to be called black or white if I were one of those, but I'm not. And in Africa, people look at me and think "white" with negative connotations, and in England they think "black", which I'm not. In South Africa people would call me coloured, which is what I would call myself, and I don't stand out there - that is, until I speak, and then people have to rethink. I can see the mystified look on a shopper's face in a supermarket when they hear my English accent. It's worse if they hear me speaking Portuguese or Sena (the local language here).

I know this sounds like a long paragraph of complaints, but that's actually not what it's supposed to be. I don't expect people to be able to look at me and recite my genealogies or know how I feel about skin tones; I'm just stating the plight of the missionary child, especially the mixed race one: fitting in.

I would call Mozambique my home. It's where I'm most accepted without questions. People here love the fact that I speak their language, respect their culture and enjoy learning from them and teaching them what I know about the world beyond their part of it. People here often listen to something I say and just shake their heads and say, " These white people" but I think they enjoy hearing a different opinion on life.

Our garden is the temporary YWAM base until the base outside of town is finished, which means that we have the privilege of interacting with the students and staff of the D.T.S, that first my parents and then a lovely Mozambiquan couple have been running since 2005. The D.T.S is, for me, the (predictable) highlight of every year. I make friends with the students and have wonderful discussion on theology, culture, and life experiences. I have taught a number of the women to knit for their babies and talked about hygiene and nutrition with those who are interested in improving their health and the health of their children. Last year there were nine children (belonging to various students) and I enjoyed playing with them, especially when some of them had to be left behind for their schooling when their parents went on outreach. We had riotous games of "church", "house" and "pumpkins", a traditional Sena game. It was wonderful to see lives changed on the D.T.S and we still enjoy seeing the graduates of the school sometimes.

I am proud and happy to be a YWAM kid. To see God work and change lives is a great privilege, especially when I can have the honour of showing a person His love through actions and words that speak of Him. Sometimes things seem really difficult, and I wouldn't say now (and don't think I ever will) that I haven't a care in the world, but I am so encouraged when I think of the words of an old hymn "Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace". He has his plans and we can't understand them withour " feeble sense", but when we trust Him, He can work things out, whatever the difficulties concerning fitting in and being a "mongrel".

God doesn't put us in boxes and files as humans do. That's so good to remember.


  1. Kudzai, this is incredibly insightful. Thanks for your honesty about this whole identity/box thing ... I would love to hear from more YWAM/missionary kids to know how they have grappled with this issue. It makes me think about my adopted (black) daughter, growing up alongside her (white) sister ... when it comes down to it, we are all such beautiful blends. If only we didn't have to try to find neat labels to describe ourselves!

    Miranda - mother of missionary kids!

  2. Wonderful article for & great insight especially for me being a mom rising two mixed boys soon to have another addition mid-this year living in Eastern Europe originally from Zambia. Serving with YWAM Kosova!

  3. Kudzai, I met you when you were very young in Mozambique. I was a DTS student at the time and loved meeting your family.

    I now have 2 missionary kids of my own and it warms my heart to read the things that God is teaching you as I look forward to walking through similar things with my own kids.

    It's not an easy journey, but God always walks with us:)


  4. Kudzai! I know I didn't get to know you well when we were in Mozambique, but I think you guys do very well in any culture. :) You are a wonderful family, and really, what does it matter that you are labelled any colour? You have the best combo too btw! :)

    It's Grace from YWAM Perth, if you remember me. :)