Remaking Mutirikwi

June 2015
19 black and white, 3 line illustrations
365 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Eastern Africa Series
Library eBook
James Currey
BISAC SOC002010, HIS001000, POL029000

Remaking Mutirikwi

Landscape, Water and Belonging in Southern Zimbabwe

Joost Fontein

Finalist for the African Studies Association 2016 Melville J. Herskovits Award

A detailed ethnographic and historical study of the implications of fast-track land reform in Zimbabwe from the perspective of those involved in land occupations around Lake Mutirikwi, from the colonial period to the present day.

The Mutirikwi river was dammed in the early 1960s to make Zimbabwe's second largest lake. This was a key moment in the Europeanisation of Mutirikwi's landscapes, which had begun with colonial land appropriations in the 1890s. But African landscapes were not obliterated by the dam. They remained active and affective. At independence in 1980, local clans reasserted ancestral land claims in a wave of squatting around Lake Mutirikwi. They were soon evicted as the new government asserted control over the remaking of Mutirikwi's landscapes. Amid fast-track land reform in the 2000s, the same people returned again to reclaim the land. Many returned to the graves and ruins of past lives forged in the very substance of the soil, and even incoming war veterans and new farmers appealed to autochthonous knowledge to make safe their resettlements.
This book explores those reoccupations and the complex contests over landscape, water and belonging they provoked. The 2000s may have heralded a long-delayed re-Africanisation of Lake Mutirikwi, but just as African presence had survived the dam, so white presence remains active and affective through Rhodesian-era discourses, place-names and the materialities of ruined farms, contour ridging and old irrigation schemes.
Through lenses focused on the political materialities of water and land, this book reveals how the remaking of Mutirikwi's landscapes has always been deeply entangled with changing strategies of colonial and postcolonial statecraft. It highlights how the traces of different pasts intertwine in contemporary politics through the active, enduring yet emergent, forms and substances of landscape.

Joost Fontein is Director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa and Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh.

Published in association with the British Institute in Eastern Africa.

An e-book version of this title is available (9781782045243), to libraries through a number of trusted suppliers. See here for a full list of our partners.

Table of Contents

Remaking Mutirikwi: An Introduction
PART ONE: Remaking Mutirikwi in the 2000s
New farmers, old claims
Graves, ruins & belonging
Rain, power & sovereignty
Hippos, fishing & irrigation
Genealogical geographies
PART TWO: Damming Mutirikwi, 1940s-1990s
New white futures, new Rhodesian settlers & large-scale irrigation, 1940s-1950s
Remaking Victorian landscapes, 1950s-1960s
War & danger in the wake of the dam, 1970s
Promised returns & frustrated futures in the wake of war, 1980s-1990s
Epilogue: Remaking Mutirikwi in the late 2000s and early 2010s



An enriching book that cuts across a number of disciplines. JADAVPUR JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Packed with fascinating stories and important data...chapters deal with spirit control of landscapes, and the intersection of the material and spirit world in negotiating use and creating belonging; the contested relationship between wildlife - including fish and hippos - and people; the legacies of the liberation war and the struggles over land that occurred both during and after the war. Ian Scoones, ZIMBABWELAND

A fascinating book that is ethnographically grounded with an appreciation of local histories and archaeology to bring out a complex story of the struggles over resources, belonging, imagined futures and statecraft in Southern Zimbabwe. INSIGHT ON AFRICA

Fontein's interdisciplinary approach as an anthropologist, a sociologist, an ecologist, and a historian provides further credence to his writings.Fontein may have opened the door for a whole new understanding of peoples and places. AFRICAN AFFAIRS

Highly recommended, both for those interested in detailed analyses of (the impact of) land reform in Zimbabwe, as well as those interested in more theoretical debates about the significance of materialities in anthropology and history. ANTHROPOLOGY SOUTHERN AFRICA

This is a story of a tangle of imminent pasts and imagined futures firmly rooted in the substances of Mutirikwi . many audiences . will want to journey through the pasts and futures of this book. IJAHS

T]his handsome volume helps readers to wrestle with the complexities of matter, experience, and time in southern Africa. Fontein's scholarship will interest students of African Studies, landscape, African history and historiography, materiality, development studies, and critical heritage studies. JOURNAL OF AFRICAN ARCHAEOLOGY

Basing his book on extensive fieldwork, in-depth oral interviews, and an intimate understanding of the historical and social context, Fontein provides an exceptionally detailed analysis. . . . The moving stories of informants, vivid photos, and helpful maps make for an excellent work. Highly recommended. CHOICE

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