Barefooting on CNN

 Having received enthusiastic Facebook reminders that Barefeet - a Zambian NGO  - were to feature on CNN’s Inside Africa, I tuned to CNN’s webpage and found not only the item on Barefeet, but several reports on Zambia.

Zambia the forgotten, I sometimes believe, not having a dictator the ilk of Mugabe, crime as in Johannesburg or war as in the Congo - international media coverage of my little groundnut is almost non-existent. 

I was chuffed to find that these reports weren’t focused on poverty, mining or Chinese investment, but were about creativity, intelligence and innovation. Inside Africa features the segments of society and activities that though most identifiable to the rest of the world are probably the most ignored.

Not only were friends of mine, Barefeet, featured, but also shown were Christopher Chiangu (Chris Dreadlocks) - a loctician, Elijah Zgambo and his group of skateboarders, Kenny Tonga - the CEO of Power FM and a tattoo artist Mutakela Lisimba.

The presenter Errol Barnett uses words such as “innovative,” “exciting,” “creative pioneers that are breaking with tradition and culture” and he’s right.  For instance Lisimba’s parents are lawyers who undoubtedly had similar expectations for their son and Zgambo who uses skateboarding as a means of self-expression.

Each of them in some way is challenging society.

Elijah Zgambo reports being slapped by a paramilitary soldier – a criminal act, but the sort we have been raised to believe is permissible. Therefore, by continuing in his sport he’s contesting the much-exceeded authority of the police and paramilitary to wield violence against citizens.

Groups such as Barefeet challenge our culture through encouraging individuality by identifying abuse, and encouraging the youth to seek redress and psychological help for the crimes committed against them.

While Chris Dreadlocks’ business grows, our national registration office holds on to an archaic belief that dreadlocks must be cut off in order to receive a national ID. Simultaneously, Zambian artists and musicians bemoan a perceived lack of government support while Lisimba, the tattoo artist, nurtures his own business.

Identity, individuality, self-expression - these are unfamiliar concepts in a land as conservative as Zambia and I’m glad to see them celebrated. 

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