Home » Industry » Zvinhu Zvirikufaya – Zimbabwe’s First Major Internet Meme

IF you use Facebook you have likely noticed of the “Zvinhu Zvirikufaya” phenomenon that is going viral in the Zimbabwean corners of social media. In essence, Zvirikufaya involves posting a short cell-phone video where one testifies as to why “zvinhu zvirikufaya” (things are going well) in their life.

The videos posted so far have been as varied as they are interesting. For example, one young man from Australia posted a video of his online bank account that held roughly $3 million, or as he called it, “3 metre”. Comedy ensued as the audience accused him of having Indian Rupees and he posted further videos (now all taken down) to convince them that he was telling the truth.

A man in Zimbabwe posted a video of himself preparing a goat, making the argument that things are going well for him because he can enjoy goat meat while those in the UK cannot. A mother in the USA posted a charming video of her and her family returning from a party in a “Zimoco” while explaining that things were firing for her because she has Brazilian hair and her kids have iPads.

One poster living in South Africa showed off his garage that held luxury cars with a combined value of over a million U$D. Finally, one comedian got his son to record him while he bragged about having a waterbed and then when the video zoomed out he was on the floor.

Zviri Kufaya – Water Melon

Surprisingly, the response to these videos has been explosive. I first learnt about Zvirikufaya on July 5th, and at that point the Facebook page had roughly 4,000 “likes”. As I write this on July 8th, nearly 12,000 people now like the page.

To put Zvirikufaya’s popularity in perspective, Thomas Mapfumo’s Facebook page has almost 20,000 likes while Tuku’s has approximately 120,000. Your writer is of the opinion that Zvirikufaya has the potential to approach Tuku’s likes over the next few months.

At first glance this phenomenon appears juvenile or as an excuse for people to flaunt. However, if we look at the bigger picture there are a number of fascinating aspects to Zvirikufaya.

Zvirikufaya -Muriwo

The first is that this is Zimbabwe’s first major internet meme. Wikipedia defines an internet meme as “an activity, concept, catchphrase or piece of media which spreads, often as mimicry, from person to person via the Internet.”

The biggest internet meme of 2013 was the Harlem Shake, where people from all over the world posted short clips of themselves dancing to the same song. Participation in the meme was broad, with the Norwegian army, Miami Heat and Manchester City even getting in on the action. YouTube reported that during the height of the meme, people watched 2,782 years worth of Harlem Shake footage in a month. As you can see, this meme stuff can be serious business.

Obviously there are not enough Zimbabweans to deliver those kinds of numbers, but on a Zimbabwean scale, Zvirikufaya could still be a force to be reckoned with. A key reason why Zimbabwe having its first internet meme is important is because it gives us key insights about Zimbabweans and the internet.

Firstly, since this is the first big meme, it means the way Zimbabweans are interacting online is changing. Something about the way we use the internet has to have changed for Zvirikufaya to occur, or it would have happened before, or not at all. What changed would be difficult to establish without further research, but we can at least say with confidence that the way Zimbabweans are using the internet is evolving.

Another insight Zvirikufaya gives us about Zimbabweans and the internet is that some who reside in Zimbabwe increasingly have internet access that is on par with the diaspora. The traditional view is that the internet in Zimbabwe is too slow and expensive for most Zimbabweans to participate in a data intensive activity like video sharing. Zvirikufaya turns this notion on its head and shows that a significant proportion of people in Zimbabwe are very plugged into online trends.

This apparent evolution in the way Zimbabweans use the internet is a good thing. The free flow of ideas into and out of Zimbabwe brings us closer together and serves to make global Zimbabwean culture richer. As the anonymous creator of the Facebook page puts it, “there is an inner yearning inside a lot of us to express ourselves. I wanted to give an opportunity to everyone that can make others smile and feel good about being a Zimbabwean.” There are certainly questions to be raised around those poorer Zimbabweans who are left out of this digital evolution, but that is a broad topic for another day.

The story of the origins of the meme is an interesting one because there are differing accounts. The creator of the Facebook page credited the Zimbabwean businessman Phillip Chiyangwa with inspiring the meme. As he put it, “I believe the first Zvinhu Zvirikufaya video was a response to Chiyangwa’s video selfie diaries. That’s when I heard a lady driving in the UK saying ‘zvinhu zvirikuita, zvirikufaya'”.

Another account links the origins of the meme to a song that was making the rounds on the messaging app, Whatsapp. Unfortunately the version your writer obtained does not contain the original title of the song or the name of the artist. The song opens with a rendition of Simudzai Mureza before the singer starts explaining how much better life is in Zimbabwe than in the diaspora.

Below is the song and a few excerpts:

Kuenda Joni, uchisiya ngoda kuZimbabwe

Kuena London, isutichingofaya kuZimbabwe

[… ]

Ndiwe uriko Kudiaspora, utori hako kuchando

Asi hapana chiriko ikoko, dzoka kuno zvako

[… ]

Hatisisiri kuroja, takarima fodya

Iwewe uchiri kuroja, kunokuzvakufaya

With this second account the origins of meme become clearer. Those who first posted videos claiming they are not returning to Zimbabwe (“hatiuyiko”) were responding to this line of thinking, perhaps even this song. Secondly, the source of the flaunting in the Zvirikufaya videos becomes clearer. Diasporans feel there is a narrative that they are not doing well and so they go above and beyond to show that they are in fact doing better than they would be in Zimbabwe.

In turn, those in Zimbabwe see this message and respond by showing that life can be good in Zimbabwe too. This unleashes a continuous cycle of videos as each side tries to outdo the other. In sum, we see that Chiyangwa’s videos created the precedent for the format of this meme, while a particular political narrative in Zimbabwe provided the topic that the meme would revolve around.

(As an side, yesterday, dancehall artist Jah Hanief released what seems to be a response to Dzoka Kumba. It is titled Hatiuye ikoko and references some of the memes that have appeared on the Facebook page.)

Despite its origins, the Zvirikufaya meme appears to be slowly shifting away from its politically sensitive beginnings. Not every video being posted is of the dzoka kumba or hatiuye variety. Some posts are simply people sharing an aspect of their lives or being comedic, and that is then defined as zviri kufaya.

For example, one man in the UK shares a slick video on how to “barbecue perfectly” while another lady shares a story of how she is on her way to an African women’s event. This is characteristic of memes. They tend to evolve as people see earlier videos and use that experience to change how they approach their own. As memes evolve sometimes the original reason they began is lost, and people participate just because everyone else is doing it. For example, most who partook in the Harlem Shake would still have no idea where it came from.

Some argue that Zvirikufaya creates division between the diaspora and those still in Zimbabwe. I disagree. What we are seeing here is a healthy debate, and a very humorous one at that. While the Diasporans do their fair share of trash-talking Zimbabwe, one can see that it’s good natured and they still love their country. In a number of videos you see some displaying their Zimbabwean flags, even as they talk about how good life is overseas.

Another positive aspect of Zvirikufaya is that it opens a window into the way Zimbabweans are living around the world. As the creator of the page puts it, “I hope my page is going to make people proud of being Zimbabweans wherever they are.” Indeed. Having seen the different things Zimbabweans are doing inside and outside of Zimbabwe, I cannot help but swell with pride at their resilience. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with negative news about our country, is it so bad that Zimbabweans have found a way to laugh with each other?

Source : New Zimbabwe