Spirits of Peace: Recovering Zimbabwe's Heritage of Traditional Reconciliation Systems for Today's Peacemakers

How can cultural heritage support peacebuilding efforts?
Project status

In January 2018, Zimbabwe established a National Peace & Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) to address deep legacies of anger about civil war, state massacres and political violence, and develop strategies to prevent future violence. The 2013, Maseru Declaration’s Framework for Peaceful Development in Southern Africa recommended using 'indigenous and traditional methods of healing, reconciliation, and alternative dispute resolution.' But this has turned out to be complicated. Zimbabwe has a long heritage of community reconciliation systems, often based on pacifying angry spirits. However, in the period 1890-1980 these systems were misrepresented, persecuted and driven underground. Today, there are conflicting, often deeply patriarchal, claims to the ‘authentic’ heritage. In partnership with the NPRC, this project uses practice-based research with traditional spirit healers, archives and oral history to uncover Zimbabwe's complex and changing cultural heritage, illustrating there is no single ‘authentic’ practice, but rather a rich and adaptable resource for today’s peacebuilders. 

Research TeamDr Diana Jeater, University of Liverpool; Professor Tabona Shoko, University of Zimbabwe; Professor Gerald Mazarire, Midlands State University, Zimbabwe; Dr Ushehwedu Kufakurinani, University of Zimbabwe

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