Zimbabwe’s recent history is full of high highs, such as that of gaining independence, and low lows, such as unfathomable inflation, all set to the bounding musical soundtrack of an ancient thumb piano, a man nicknamed Tuku and some guys who used to tend chickens. Read on . . .

The Shona people of Southern Africa successfully fought off invasion of its profitable gold, ivory and copper-trading routes for a thousand years until the late 19th century, when the British took colonial control. The British called the land surrounding the massive and mysterious stone structures of Great Zimbabwe “Rhodesia,” after Cecil Rhodes, whose British South Africa Company dominated the region for decades while mining its precious metals and other natural resources. Rhodesia’s mainly Shona people rebelled in the ’60s and ’70s, led in part by the fiery Robert Mugabe. Mugabe became president in 1980 soon after Zimbabwe won its independence and has stayed in power ever since. Zimbabwe’s economy boomed for the last two decades of the 20th century but took an abrupt turn in 2000 when “land reform” promised since independence confiscated commercial farmland from white farmers but failed to maintain sustainable levels of food production. Zimbabwe’s economy has since spiraled out of control  and for years seemed on the verge of collapse, though somehow a balance has returned. Zimbabweans are unsure what will happen to their proud nation when the long reign of Mugabe ends.

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