Thursday, August 13, 2015

Judge Chris Greenland speaks at Brown Velvet event in the UK on 01 August 2015.

Hello! And hello from all those at home and those of us in the diaspora who cannot be here tonight.
I want to first thank Ms Veronica Semenya, known to me from schooldays as Zelpher Joseph, for having ensured that I got here. I must also thank Ms Ava Rogers, Alistair Abrahams and Ms Margaret Soper as regards accommodation. Lastly, my appreciation is also extended to Ms Tracey Jane Bell,CEO of Brown Velvet.
In accordance with our culture it is incumbent on me to pay respects to the person whose domain we have entered. So on our behalf I am extending greetings to Her Majesty. Her Majesty is the one on the right. I am saying “Greetings,Your Majesty, we come in peace” We are here to make happy in your wonderful land.   
In my view it is also not out of place to thank Her Majesty for the fact that her people left these shores all those years ago and traveled to our region.
Yes it is terribly politically correct to postulate colonialism as a bunch of thugs arriving in armoured cars and robbing our local people of their houses, cars, money, cell phones, TVs … etc … etc ….
It was not at all like that. These people first travelled in mouldy,rat infected ships in a perilous three month sea journey to the Cape. If and when they made it to the Cape it was not as if they jumped on a Blue Train and made it in luxury to Bulawayo. No, they had to jump into ox wagons and trek for over 2,000 miles over mountains, across deserts and rivers, all the while having to contend with ferocious and formidable animals such as lion, buffalo, hyena. Then there were the creepy crawlies such as snakes and scorpions. Worst of all there was this one, the nyokamafazi. When this bites a man, he turns into a woman. Can you imagine anything more terrible?
Lastly there was the mozzie. . As small as it is this insect was keeping all humans in check with malaria. Most of the pioneer babies died as they had no resistance to African aliments and pathogens. All this terrible hardship only to arrive at a place called kuBuluwayo, the placeof killing.
So let us please extend a salute to Her Majesty’s people for their courage and resilience.
I am not that much in agreement with King Lobengula that the British were the chameleon and he was the fly. What happened is that when the pioneer column arrived they were met by the locals. The first thing that was noticed was that all the local girls were topless, their attributes well defined in the bright African sun seemingly defying gravity. This did not go down well with the ladies of the pioneer column who were even feeling all saggy after such a long trek and who had their attributes held up by whale bone bodices.
It got worse as the local men were covered in nothing more than amabetchu. Ibetchu is a made of animal skin and sort of covers the groin area of the African male. Its covering attributes are not good. To put it bluntly the situation was seen as there being just “too much information”, and this "information" was visible to all the pioneer woman.  There was bound to be trouble.  There was bound to be trouble.
Men do not take kindly to other men displaying their bits to their women. So big trouble was assured.
The Brits and the locals fought it out in what was then called the “pioneer wars”. I am inclined to say that it was more of being the “amabetchu wars.”.

We have to salute our local people for having put up such a valiant fight. My Gogo and her people, some of who had been at the famous defeat of the Alan Wilson Patrol at Shangani in December of 1893, gave the categorical assurance that it was the much lamented “isgwagwagwa” that gave the pioneers the advantage. Isgwagwagwa is the sound the Maxim machine gun made when it was being fired. They were adamant that had the pioneers not had the Maxim machine gun they would not have been beaten.
Thankfully the so called pioneer wars did come to an end and then something truly wonderful happened.  Trevor Noah says it is because Europeans really do love chocolate.  I am inclined to see it as having been a language issue. After all that trekking it is obvious that the pioneers were very, very tired and must have been told to lie down and rest … that is to lala pansi.
So lala pansi were the first local words that they learnt.
You don’t have to be very bright to work out what then happened
with both sides imploring the other to lala panzi. It was not long before the first brown baby was born … and they named the place Lalapanzi. Yes , you have heard it officially confirmed here on Brown Velvet that the first brown baby was born at Lalapanzi.
That is how our people came about and some of them are shown here including Gaston Thorneycroft (one above bottom left) who walked all the way from Malawi and was treed by a lion.We also see a pic of James and Grace Abrahams on their wedding day (bottom left). After taking that pic, they went straight back to work. In the middle we have some of our very own freedom fighters. My hero is Jenny Williams of WOZA (one above bottom right).
My God Father, Aaron Milner ,Minister of State in Kaunda's first Cabinet is top left.
These are but a small sample of very good humans from our community.


Today so many of us are in the diaspora, and this has led to the birth of the Brown Velvet phenomenon. No one should be confused as to who is responsible for the plight of all our people. Ian Smith and Robert Mugabe are equally complicit. Smith was a funny bugger. He fought in the last World War to stop the Germans imposing the very same type of oppressive foreign minority rule that he was trying to impose on the people of Zimbabwe. Wow?
 Robert Mugabe inherited a country that, as at April 1980, had the best resources, infrastructure and human capital in Africa and most of the world.  Today Zimbabwe languishes in the bottom four poorest countries. Bah!

Between these two very bad politics was the order of the day. It is now being said that we do not exist. It used to be said that we do not have a culture. Social scientists will tell you that it is language that is the main determinant of culture. Now who does not know that we have language in abundance?.
I once walked into an appliance store in Tottenham Court Road,London, and announced that “I want the best, I want it now and I want it for nothing”. The owner immediately said“you must be a goffal from Zimbabwe” and hugged me like a long lost brother. You see, just from my language, he was able to differentiate me from the millions he sees in his shop.
We do have our own language. If you do not know that you are dwarse. To be dwarse is to be stupid, which is duspid when we resort to our very own kabwards (backwards) language.  Others have their cars, wheels … etc… that they drive about showing off their girlfriends, babe … etc.
With us you pilot your gee in which you have your gooza … and you pilot it with your body set at a 37 degree angle to your path of travel and spine axis.
You do not just go or come. You hit out or cut a line.   You can even “skirmish”, i.e., run away.
Other groups  spoke of there being some women who were “loose”, i.e. of being of questionable morals and stood to be condemned. To us such women were kind and if they were very kind they were trolleys … and very much appreciated, not condemned.
If my friend wanted to know whether or not I was in a serious relationship, he would ask who was feeling sorry for me these days. I have to thank Ava and Edgar Rogers for introducing me to Pam,who has been feeling sorry for me for over 38 years,
So it is very, very clear that we have our very own culture that is proved beyond doubt by our very own language.
Of course we also had to learn one or more of the "indigenous" languages. IsiNdebele was very hard with all its clicks. I found Shona very easy as there were just three words to learn === "pasi", "pamberi" and "ne".
So I could babble away "pamberi ne Jongwe ... pamberi ne ZANU-PF ... pasi ne Ian Smith ... pasi ne maBreeteesh ... pamberi ne hondo ... pamberi  ...
That was it.  If you could do that, you were more or less fluent in Shona.
I thought I was until Ava Rogers took me one side, scolded me (she is a teacher you know)  and taught me "real Shona" starting with "Mankwanani shamwari, waswera here. Ndinoda kutaura newe ..... ?"So off I went to Msika were I usually got my stash ... NOT of weed, but of vusa nkunzi.
I met some locals there and was proud to greet them, using my newly acquired Shona skills.
They looked at me, seemingly stunned, having first exclaimed "eh".  Then, frothing at the mouth they chanted "pasi ne we ... pasi ne ma busumani ... pasi ne makarhaadi ... pamberi ne hondo .. pamberi ne hondo ..... ". I was in my gee before you could blink and skirmished out of there.

Brown Velvet Awards are always going to be a kind of a compromise because of a time span that involves many generations of our people.  I decided that I should choose someone who is really representative of us on all counts.
I first thought of Mrs Edwards who rose from nothing to become a business tycoon and leader of a such a great family. I have to confess bias because she once summoned me and confronted me in her bedroom of all places. She wanted to now why I was so "stupid" as not to be interested in her grand daughters Priscilla, Pearl and Ingrid D'Almeida. She was seated on her bed and I was wondering if it was true that the Rutendo Bus Company "millions"  were kept in the mattress as was the rumour. I had to ask God to forgive me as, just for a moment, I did entertain evil thoughts about how I could get all that money. Those bright blue eyes burning right thorough me as she lambasted me made my evil thoughts seem rather foolish.
I explained to her that, as the Chairman of Arcadia Basketball Club I could not be courting Pearl,as she was one of our star players, and such advances would be seen as contemptible sexual harassment. I also explained that Michael and Lorraine Marshall had "match-maked" Ingrid and I, treating us to a film called "The Sting". However their effort was in vain as Ingrid thought I was "too dead".
However as regards Priscilla things had looked very hopeful when she immediately said that she was very interested in me. She went on to say that she wanted to see me naked. Wow!   I queried this, asking if we should not at least go on a couple of dates first?.
Priscilla said "No" this was not necessary as she was an artist.  I asked if this was the way Leonardi da Vinci and Co carried on ... getting naked and hoping into bed before getting to know the other person? She became somewhat irritated and explained that, as she was an artist, she wanted to paint a picture of me ... in the nude.
Me: Prisccy. That. Is. Not. Going. To. Happen. !!!!!!!
Priscilla: Why???   Do you have issues with your body?
Me: Of course I have issues with my body.  That is why I wear clothes.
And that was that.  I mean can you imagine it ... Brown Velvet Awards ..... Category Art ... and the winner is Priscilla D'Almeida with her nude portrait of Vavie Greenland .... Judge of the High Courts of Zimbabwe and South Africa.??
Still I feel deeply honoured that this grand Lady Mrs Edwards, imagined that I was good enough to be a member of her very own.

My choice as the human being that best represents everything about who and what we are is Ms Regina Monteiro.
You can only imagine what bad cards this lady was dealt. We can have only a vague idea of the humiliation, marginalization and gratuitous victimization she was subjected to.
Regina Monteiro not only endured, she overcame and conquered to rise up to become a woman of substance, providing more than enough for herself and her children, always in communication with her God.
This lady carried herself with a poise and balance that got your attention. When she spoke you could not help but listen. When she danced, not a man would have his gaze elsewhere.
Aunty Regina, as she became known was a rock of sense and fountain of wisdom for all, especially for daughters who needed "real advice' about life that mothers are so tongue tied about.
I had the good fortune to have had some in dept conversations with her. We know that in this region, thanks to the likes of Smith, Mugabe, their ilk and their supporters, issues of racism, subjugation, inequality, grievance ... etc played and played in a dreary loop of misery.
Not so with Regina Monteiro.   Her stance was that you can only be made to feel inferior with consent ... your consent.
Since nobody had ever been able to make her call them "baas" she was never inferior to another human being.

It struck me so forcefully that this simple truth attaches to our community in all its immense implications.
No one was ever able to make us call them "baas".
So please join me in saluting this great human being, Regina Monteiro.

We have a culture of tolerance, acceptance and equality. It is also why we are not homophobic. We understand that what others do with their private parts is not any of our damn business.

In concluding I am asking you to think kindly of me and tell your children and childrens' children that I had this to say to you and them






Thank you
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2 comments:

Rainbow butterfly said...

A very enjoyable and entertaining speech Chris! a speech laced with humour, but enforced with reality and truth.

We are very proud of you Chris, and also proud of our people who have worked hard and achieved against all odds!

Chris N Greenland said...

Thank you.
There is a undefinable beauty about simple truth.

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