Musalad Losing Identity

Musalad Losing Identity

Last month, CNN’s Inside Africa featured a Zimbabwean DJ in New York, Chaka Ngwenya who started up an online radio station SARFM Radio through which he says he is trying to help African listeners keep their identity abroad. Identity caught my attention and that lead on to not forgetting about who you are and where you are from. Thinking about ‘Identity’ got me thinking about the term “MUSALAD” that so many young Zimbabweans have been labeled. What exactly is a “salad/musalad/salala?” It is a term that cannot really be given a clear cut definition because of people’s different interpretations of it. My understanding of the term is; someone from a low-density suburb and from a so called group ‘A’ school (private school) who is not streetwise, copies Western culture (mainly American) and speaks English with an accent. In years gone by munozi (nose brigade) was more commonly used due to ‘these people’ speaking nasally.

I am one of those people who was and still is labelled a munozi and/or musalad but to a much lesser extent as compared to years gone by. Up until just after starting high school I went to these so called group ‘A’ schools until I was shifted to a boarding school out in the rural areas. Within the first few hours of being there I was labelled a munozi. Very soon after that I was given a nickname brought about by me being told to stand up and tell the class my name. When I opened my mouth, the entire class burst into laughter and I didn’t understand what was going on until the teacher eventually asked me to repeat what I had just said whilst a number of my classmates (and the teacher) were still laughing and mimicking what I had said with a very exaggerated nasal intonation. The nickname I was given was what they thought they had heard me say and it stuck through out my time at the school. It wasn’t easy going by day to day and having to deal with the discrimination (which is how I saw it) but as time went by I got used to it and paid less attention to it. Those years of my life were probably my quietest and I only spoke when I really needed to so that I didn’t have to deal with the onslaught if I spoke. I did make a few friends and those who got to know and respect me saw more than just what was on the surface.

Masalad are viewed by many as, “vanhu varasa tsika” (people who have lost their traditional ways). This Shona term, tsika refers to knowing and being able to use the rules, customs and traditions of society to be regarded as a respectable person. Not all masalad are a lost cause. Those who went to schools where they mixed with other races, they had and still have different accents to those from a rural background. For most when they got back home it was back to their traditional ways but they would take along what they picked up in their environment. They way that they speak is different but it is not necessarily fake or put on. Yes, there are some where it is a bit over the top and obviously put on and bound to draw a lot of attention and criticism. The video shows what I would consider to be over the top. The people in the video do live in the United States but you could very easily come across people in Zimbabwe who have never stepped out of the country speaking like them.

It is not only masalad who get discriminated against. An example I can use from years and years ago is that before I left the private school, an SRB (someone with a Strong Rural Background) was awarded a scholarship to do his ‘A’ levels there. He was ostracised because of his mannerisms and the way he spoke English with a very heavy Shona accent. He was a very nice guy but his background and the environment he was in did not do him any favours.

I have been criticized by family and friends who said I had an identity crisis because of the many white friends I had and the ‘white things’ I did (whatever they were). Yes, I did mix and mingle with a lot of white people but that did not make me less of a Zimbabwean. The discrimination encountered by both groups of people (masalad and SRBs) is unwarranted at times because we should not be judging a people by the way they speak, what they wear and how they carry themselves. As long as those in question know who they are and where they come from they should be treated with respect. When cultural identity has been lost there should be cause for concern because you will have lost a lot of who you are.


8 Responses to Musalad Losing Identity

  1. Anonymous October 7, 2008 at 2:13 am #

    INTERESTING!!!! I went to all private schools, hang around all races but no one really labeled me as having an identity crisis. I think the thing with most of us private schooled people or masalad as you may refer to us is, “we don’t know when to switch off the musalad act – there’s a time and place for everything. I know that sometimes you oblivious to the fact that you’re acting like that but if you go to kumusha and refuse to drink the water there because you think it’s dirty or maybe you ask for a “SALAD” then you have major problems, you’re not being mindful, just bluntly arrogant, your mother should have taught you better. Any who I’m sorry that you experienced such discrimination, my advise to you would be “try to fit in, blend in, know your place, be mindful, and know who you are!” As for the video, LOL! Some people especially those with strong rural backgrounds (as you call it) think its cool kunoza shona – it’s just plan ridiculous. I know a few people like that, they actually like being called a munozi. I sum them up with a few words, lack of self confidence, embarrassed of their heritage, they need help. I like the post keep up the good work.

  2. sanimoyo October 7, 2008 at 1:42 pm #

    I am from Zimbabwe, not salad, this is an interesting post and love your blog, the accent in the embedded video is not really the zim salad accent if I must say.

  3. Kojak October 8, 2008 at 9:08 pm #

    I think people are influenced mostly by who they hang around with most of the times and age as well. It’s easy when you are young for you accent to change.

    If I take my son, his accent is so much different because he spends his time in an English speaking school. Ndivo vave kunoza shona……but I wouldn’t call him musalad.

    But some people do take it over the top.

    Unfortunate what you had to go through in your early days at boarding school. You reminded me of one guy who was at the boarding school I went to and had done his primary education in UK.

    Not easy from London to boarding school in Mrewa

  4. Anonymous October 17, 2008 at 1:38 pm #

    I went to a former Group A junior schools, then forms- 1 4, kuboarding yekumusha, and came to a former Group A school for my As. Junior, school, I was coming from a former Group B school, and was seen as an outsider initially,and then after years of being forced to speak only in English, the accent changed somewhat and I was more or less one of them…This made me different at the boarding school, but I was not discriminated against in any way- if anything at all, there were elements of envy- for my part I didn’t just speak Prospero’s well, but I was a Caliban who had learnt to curse in quite well in in written form…

    A’ level, this a former Group A school in its truest sense, only a handful of non- Blacks remained, while the rest had fled to private schools, and coming from the schools we were coming from we were seen as invaders, who were killing the long- held traditions the school had had…

    By then I had a problem with that mentality, and I guess that is where the whole question of identity crisis comes in…You might have many white friends, are familiar with many white customs and traditions but you are not white and the kind of flake we took for not upholding white values was misplaced, misdirected and tragically unfortunate.

    do Jews lose their Jewishness, Indians, their Indianness, etc? Beyond the superficial difference of accents if people can connect around certain core values,hunhu,etc, which make up African identity, despite certain differences, then bye- bye the “class” induced conflicts engendered by accents…

    The pathology of self hatred that afflicts anyone, whether a musalala or SRB, or gives rise to tensions between, the two, that is the enemy in need of defeat, and the wound that needs healing

  5. Tawa August 25, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

    I am 23 and left Zimbabwe for Australia when I was 16. I have been back home every single Christmas sometimes even twice a year if I am lucky I have been to magroup A school etc my whole life. And it hurts soo much to be called musalad or munozi, even worse when I deal with some people I am called uptown ! what does that even mean.

    I think in Zimbabwe we put too much emphasis on the way people speak how eloquent they are etc and never pause to consider the value of their character. We seek to sow artificial divisions. That being said I can be very clueless about our culture and while my shona is good sometimes the slang challenges me and that can make it seem like I am showing off.

    Thanks for the post

  6. Tawanda June 14, 2017 at 9:56 pm #

    I appreciate all these comments, i can relate to them directly, and they revive memories in my mind of how it was for me and my twin brother in high school. I too came from a group A primary school in Borrowdale, grew up and was bread in Borrowdale Vainona, my parents had and still have their home there. how ever i’m 27 years old now. We were sent to a boarding my high school for the 6 straight years in Murombedzi. We were often seen differently, labelled, and just discriminated against at times for know reason really.

    Ofcourse my english sounded differently from my peers, and there are certain interests i enjoyed that my school were not as plugged into as i was such as rap music from America. My english accent was very fluent but was never over the top, so it must be my shona accent then, my shona was’nt fluent at all and so people saw it as if i have lost my identity and am a lost cause and uphold the white man. The most ironic part is i was generally good at shona as a subject in terms of the grades i got, and even got a B for my O level shona which was higher than some of the other guys spoke it better and even had comments about me.

    It really hurt my feelings and always took an emotional toll on me when they called me a Salad i guess because it was meant to make me come off like i am unaware of what is happening out there, and of the ‘real world’ and i am slower than others and have a silver spoon in my mouth which has crippled me in terms of my capabilities which was in fact not true.

    I had a few friends and at times avoided people so as to not get attacked over who i am as a person, but my capabilities in terms of sports and extra curricular activities were equal to those of my peers but i felt segregation at times. The ones who got to know me overtime saw me for whats inside, and not whats on the surface.

    Conclusivley, isu masala need to always be ourselves yes but learn when and how to just fit in, and try not to be too sala around certain people because of how it will make them feel but even if you try and get a social backlash its then it means them not you, and society in Zimbabwe really emphasizes too much on how people talk and their accents as opposed to their capabilties.

    I love you all, thank you for the posts

    • Living Zimbabwe June 14, 2017 at 11:03 pm #

      Many thanks for stopping by, reading and commenting. Your experience sounds very similar to the one in the post. We are happy to see that despite the emotional toll it had, you are still able to be yourself. As you said, at the end of the day, what matters is how you are inside.
      There will be many people who have been through similar experiences, who are going through similar experiences and who will go through such experiences. Your comments will help them get through it so once again, thank you for sharing your experience.
      The Living Zimbabwe Team

    • Living Zimbabwe June 14, 2017 at 11:09 pm #

      By the way, if at any point you feel like sharing a story, please consider doing so here >

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