By guest writer Lancelot Muteyo
Throughout my community development work in Zimbabwe, and across Africa, I have never met anyone who has done as much for peace and justice using reggae music as a form of nonviolent and interfaith activism as Mannex Motsi. It is such an honor to have shared my life with Emmanuel Motsi, also known as Mannex Motsi, the best reggae musician in Zimbabwe. He is a singjay, chant master, percussionist, writer, and peace warrior who once shared the stage with one of the best Jamaican artists, Sizzla Kalonji.
Mannex was born in the ghetto of Mbare in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city. He was born into a modest background and soon started witnessing Africa’s struggle against external forces of neo-colonialism and imperialism, and internal forces of corruption and nepotism. Growing up in the Warren Park neighborhood, Mannex started singing black conscious music to other children at a young age in class while the Primary School teacher was absent.
These early years of his life shaped his philosophical framework as a Rastafari. The Rastafari movement is an African-based spiritual ideology that arose in the 1930s in Jamaica as a way of life. The movement believes and accepts one single triune deity called Jah, who sent his son to earth in the form of Yeshua, and manifested as former Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie. Upon deepening his faith, in 2002, Mannex formed his first musical group, Bootkin Clan. They sang many hits in the Shona language, including Tsamba (Letter) and Anoti Nyoo Ndiani (Who dare to refuse) in 2004. His music was widely praised in Africa.
Then, in 2006, Mannex began to more seriously examine Africa’s predicament. He went solo and produced Munhu mutema (Black man), which emphasised black pride, identity, freedom, and the spirit of ubuntu. In 2007, he began educating young people on HIV and AIDS though a program I organized called the Christian Arts Festival.
Mannex spread his wings far and wide, and in the coming years he toured the Czech Republic and other European countries. To acculturate himself for this kind of international work, he made a pilgrimage to Ghana and visited the slave castles where slaves were kept packed together before they were shipped to America across the Atlantic Ocean during the centuries when slavery was a thriving international business. This pilgrimage changed him musically, socially, and spiritually, with a commitment to transform his community through transforming battlefields into holy ground. Zimbabwe had been severely hurt over the past fifteen years by an economic meltdown that led to dilapidation and degradation of basic social services in urban areas.
Mannex then saw the need to set up a Pan African movement with other conscious brethren, and founded the Warren Park Arts and Culture Development Association. This was formed with the principle that all black people of the world should join in brotherhood and work to decolonize the continent of Africa using nonviolent, proactive means. For the past five years, the Warren Park Arts and Culture Development Association has been teaching youths about cultural identity, mental emancipation, social transformation, economic empowerment, and black pride. This association has done a lot to turn many lives in Harare away from addictions, street crime, and hatred—toward peace, love, and harmony.
Rastas assert that Zion, which is Africa in their tradition, is the land Jah promised to them. For this reason, Mannex joined hands with Trees of Peace Africa to foster peace and justice through environmental conservation and preservation. Many green belts were created, several clean-up campaigns conducted, plant and tree nurseries set up, and several conflict transformation workshops were organized.
Many songs by Mannex and his band MoFamille have deeper meanings that transform society. “Mwari Ndewe Munhu Wese” talks about Jah as a peacemaker without favor, providing restoration in the face of iniquity and inequality. Each time Mannex starts a concert he begins with a prayer that many know as the Lord’s prayer.
I admire Mannex’s belief that in Africa there is no “I” but “We.” His efforts may be a small drop in the ocean, but like Mother Teresa said, that ocean would not have been the same without that small drop.
About Guest Writer Lancelot Muteyo
Lancelot Muteyo is a young Zimbabwean, trained independent social scientist, Christian, peace activist, writer, and performing poet. He is the founder of Trees of Peace Africa, a youth organization that promotes environmental conservation and preservation. Lance is a well-traveled independent peace trainer who is a volunteer Director of Training and Advocacy for the Pan African Peace Network, an interfaith movement for peace and justice in Africa.