First things first, I strongly encourage you to watch the YouTube video above before we start talking about the things we liked about it. At the end of this post, I have attached an amazing podcast I did, talking about 5 creative ways/ areas I think a similar production could improve on. I also went on to mention 5 things I did not really like about the video above in that podcast.
But for now, here is a break down of the “Ten things to like about Varozvi”, after the list below I shall go into detail on each of these ten points. Here is what I liked:
- The breaking away from misunderstood symbolism
- I also liked the inclusion of historical News and video clips
- The cutting out and placement of images
- No direct mentionings of individual names
- The choice of language
- Minimum repetition of images
- Images of gold
- Colour grading
- No threat of violence
- Inoffensive scriptural references
Now that you have an idea where this is going, here is the meat of the story. Just don’t forget to listen to the podcast at the end of this post, to get additional info on this topic.
10. Breaking away from misunderstood symbolism
This video talks a lot about corruption, abductions and all sorts of human rights violations that were taking place in Zimbabwe at the time of production. One of the many notable things they did in this video can be seen at 1 minute 57 seconds. At that time mark you see a vector illustration of characters that are “raising a fist”. In Zimbabwe the “raising of a fist” is mostly associated with the main “Ruling political party”. Tragically, for most Zimbabweans the meaning of a raised fist got lost. It is not a symbol that should be “owned” by a particular political party, as one owns a logo or a patent.
No, at its core the raised fist shows unity and most importantly defiance against a system. During the colonial years in Zimbabwe, it made sense that the now “Ruling party” would use the raised fist in their liberation war against the colonisers of Zimbabwe. Now things have changed, time has passed, the once “small” David who fought against a Goliath called colonisation is now being challenged by new/ smaller Davids. Davids who seek answers to issues on corruption and state sponsored brutality.
I’m impressed that the video took back ownership of the raised fist, I have a few more comments on their choice of vector image in my podcast attached below.
9. Historical News Clips
This video is not your typical musical video. It’s a masterfully done slideshow of African images, videos and Newspaper clips. Well, to be fair there is only one Newspaper clip in the entire 4 minutes 49 seconds long YouTube video. I wish there was more, but I’ll talk more on that in my Podcast about this video.
The Newspaper clip they added in was perfectly placed and added so much to the words that were being sung. It’s a 2016 Mirror article about hungry Zimbabwean villagers in Mwenezi that had to now resort to eating baboon meat due to economic hardships. It’s always applaudable when a work of art uses real world happenings to fuel itself.
8. The cutting out and placement of images
It’s not easy to “photoshop” dozens and dozens of images into a unified/ singular production. The editor(s) did a brilliant job in cutting out people and objects from multiple sources and joining them all together as one. You can see very few unrefined edges here and there, but all in all it was a job well done.
7. No direct mentionings of individual names
The thing that goes to make this a timeless piece, was the creators’ ability to avoid using any specific names of victims or abusers. This keeps the product relevant to anyone that continues to face any of the challenges being sung about. It’s true that having specific names of those that have been abducted or brutalised would bring light to unsolved cases but on the other hand, if this song had any specific names it would lose some of its relevance to any future struggles.
6. The choice of language
One of the things that makes the message hit home was the use of Shona instead of English. In the entire song I think the only English word I recall hearing was “answer”. Since the message and issues being sung about affect all Zimbabweans from all walks of life it was a necessary move to make.
5. Minimum repetition of images
I have to applaud these guys for being able to go for almost 5 minutes with little repetition of their slideshow image collection. There were some overlaying images of bare chested African men which got overlaid onto most of the other footage, but I think those particular images served as “frames” of sorts to unify the whole visual direction.
4. Images of gold
This video has a lot of images in it that I truly commend but I would like to praise and single out the images of gold. The reason why it was clever to use gold in this video is; Varozvi are known to have fought off the Portuguese vigilantly in order to retain control of their native gold mines. Despite having inferior weapons (by modern standards) their battle tactics and relentlessness won them the continued control of their rich gold mines. Cleverly, the makers of this video used gold images at any song-segment mentioning wealth. Instead of using images of Lamborghinis and mansions.
3. Colour grading
One of the things that makes the video work so well was that a lot of care and time went into tuning the colours and grading them. This allowed us to have a visually unified product, despite it being a digital collage of images and videos from multiple sources. The colour grading did a great job in bringing it all together.
2. No threat of violence
One of the things that scares away artists from speaking out against social and political issues is legal liability. In countries like Zimbabwe if your work of art is seen to be instigating violence you could easily find yourself in hot water. In a perfect world you are free to speak however you wish, but sometimes the artist needs to dodge any unnecessary prosecution in legally unjust dystopias. That way you live to fight another day.
1. Inoffensive scriptural references
As a Christian I prefer to consume content that does not twist or misrepresent the Word of God. Ideally I like it when productions leave religion alone and just focus on their own concepts and ideas. Around 3 minutes and 3 seconds the singer talks about the splitting of an ocean and lost sheep to mention just a few points. Though in that first section it sounds more like he was talking about Changamire Dombo figuratively separating the sea. There are a few other mentions of lines from hymns and verses, all in all I liked the innovation surrounding that verse.
Thank you so much for reading the list of ten things to like about Varozvi, as promised here is a podcast where I talk about five ways the production could have been made better and five things I did not really like about the video. Enjoy the podcast!