Meduulla is an emerging Zimbabwean-born artist, poet and rapper, raised in Manchester. Commissioned by IWM to respond to the theme of migration as a consequence of conflict, she is eager to use her voice and her craft to push pertinent conversations to the forefront. “Whose Land?” is an original piece drawing on the history of Zimbabwe, referencing the land reform bill, conflict and mass migration. Using her voice to explore different perspectives, Meduulla’s piece considers the inner conflict migrants faced once they had left Zimbabwe and the ongoing legacy of this conflict on young people today. 

This project has been supported by Manchester based artist, writer and Producer mandla rae, on placement at IWM through Counterpoints Arts’ Refugee Week Leadership Project

"Whose Land?" by Meduulla

Commissioned by IWM for Refugee Week; an annual festival celebrating the contribution of refugees and promoting understanding of why people seek sanctuary. Refugee Week is a partnership project coordinated by Counterpoint Arts. 

Meduulla
Filmed and edited during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Whose Land?” by Meduulla

Whose land is the ground that I stand? 

Which man is the maker of plans? 

I need to know one thing that I don’t understand 

Hella man in command but ain’t none of them tanned 

Until they said I’ll be damned 

Bosses didn't like, so he closed up his hand 

The only like a plan when their making the demands 

IMF, World Bank sounds like one big gang 

Let me use my rap to rap 

While I’m here let me take you to the past 

Blood tears stain the southside of the map 

So I’m here to tell the story I ain’t leaving any gaps 

I’m from Zimbabwe yeah that’s where I was bred 

You know that place that was known for bringing baccy and bread 

But the people that lead 

Power got to their head 

Then a million civilians got up and fled   

There are other reasons they left, 

Things were sour before power came the Wild Wild West 

Yeah they colonised the country, left a wild wild mess 

Took the land from native farmers claimed they know what’s best 

What did that mean for the rest? 

No one intervened they needed means for the bread 

So they had to borrow money call that cause and effect 

Coz they borrowed what was borrowed, that’s a wild wild debt 

 

(Chorus) 

Whose land is the ground that I stand 

Which man is the maker of plans 

I need to know one thing that I don’t understand 

Hella man in command but ain’t none of them tanned 

 

Until they said I’ll be damned 

Bosses didn't like it so he closed up his hand 

The only like a plan when their making the demands 

IMF, World Bank sounds like one big gang

 

You see he used to be a legend, 

The man who ran, had a plan, had intentions 

Help us win the war, helped us gain independence 

But when he finally reigned he wanted fame and possessions 

But they never really mention 

How the west was using money as a means of oppression 

They pick and choose where the news leans our attention 

If we’re writing wrongs the first one needs correction 

I guess the rules ain’t the same 

I guess a lot of us are living like we’re fools in a game 

No one is unscathed in political gain 

Hungry for a change but we’re feeding the flame 

So plough the issue from the root 

End the family feud that we didn’t even choose 

We can run till there’s nowhere else that we can run to 

Till then we’ll be swallowing a guilt we never chewed. 

(Chorus repeated) 

Whose land is the ground that I stand 

Which man is the maker of plans 

I need to know one thing that I don’t understand 

Hella man in command but ain’t none of them tanned 

Until they said I’ll be damned 

Bosses didn't like it so he closed up his hand 

The only like a plan when their making the demands 

IMF, World Bank sounds like one big gang

About Whose Land?

Meduulla discusses the inspiration, ideas and personal experience behind Whose Land? with producer, mandla rae. Drawing on her experiences as a first-generation immigrant from Zimbabwe, she shares her thoughts on why she has chosen to produce a rap about the impact of land reform in Zimbabwe. 

Its’ a pertinent time to have such conversations, the time that I’m living in now feels as though the world is having a little bit of an awakening and questioning of things that were historically okay or just normalised’.

Recorded 17th May 2021

Meduulla and mandla rae
Filmed and edited during the Covid-19 pandemic.

[Music/ instrumental]

Mandla rae: “Really excited to be having this chat with you today about the new piece that Imperial War Museums and myself have commissioned from you, Whose Land. And just to get us started can you tell me a little bit about yourself?”

Meduulla: “Yeah so, my name is Medulla, um, I’m a rapper and poet, I was born in Zimbabwe and I was raised in Manchester. I’ve always had a passion for words and how powerful they can be. So and I’ve also feel like I have a way of being able to tell stories in a way that people want to listen to them through my music and my poetry so I just use that gift as like um my way of I guess my stamp on the world like I have things to say and I think people should hear them.”

Mandla rae: “Is there anyone who's kind of inspired you in that particular aspect of your work?”

Meduulla: “Yeah so, I have a lot of people that have inspired my work um namely Kendrick Lamar. Like, he changed my life, changed my life and um it did, it was that first thing that gave me courage to talk about. The way that he talks about the place where he was born and I’ve never been there in my life but through his music I feel like he's been there and I want people, he gives you that, he puts you in his shoes and I’ve always wanted to do that with people as well.

My first thoughts when I was making this project, I decided in the end to do it about the redistribution of land and land reform in Zimbabwe. I chose to do this one because I do feel a direct link to it being a first-generation immigrant myself and I do feel like um I had like a personal connection to the story so I felt it would be a great way to express it. This is the best space for me to tell this story because it is um and one museum that tells historical stories.”

Mandla rae: “Can you tell me about your musical and lyrical inspirations for your starting point in the work?”

Meduulla: “With this piece the overall message that I wanted to portray was that actually ultimately the land does not belong to anyone but we're fighting over these arbitrary things and as a result we are like, we are suffering from conflicts that occurred way before we were born so like um I think in one of the lyrics it's like I say something like, “plough the issue from the root to end the family feud that we didn't even choose” and I think what I wanted to get across with that line is that if we don't confront the root cause of the reason as to why there's so much conflict or why conflict has caused so much migration then it's just always going to be this that elephant in the room that no one talks about or it's going to be people pointing fingers and you know, you kind of lose accountability whereas if you just looked at the issue from the beginning and like consider its historical context then I think it allows for, I don't know just a better understanding of the world.”

Mandla rae: “In terms of yeah historical things that sort of are still present in the present day um what um yeah how does the past sort of link to your own personal experience?”

Meduulla: “The fact that the land redistribution program happened is a direct link to why I’m here now because having come here as like economic refugees it maybe had, had the country being economically stable due to you know not having been sanctioned and etc I think maybe I wouldn't be here. So I think I have a direct link to the historical context because it's, it's directly shaped my identity. I now belong to a community called the diaspora because obviously like I’ve moved from the country that I was born in and so yeah like I guess it it's just it's made me who I am today, I guess. It's an interesting space because you do have this like control dual heritage that like yeah you, you have the heritage of your mother country and then you have the heritage of the country that you've grown up in and been socialised in. And I think as well like I did want to get that across in the visuals as well of the piece because I chose locations that were quite bare and there wasn't much around so it was just literally me and the land but then I was like a contrast of like greenery and then more like desert type of scenery and I think with that I just wanted to get across that like I’m in between these two places but I don't, I don't belong to either but I belong to both at the same time.

It's a pertinent time to have such conversations. I think that right now in the world, I mean I’ve never lived in another time in history so I wouldn't know but where I’m the way the time that I’m living in now feels as though the world is having a little bit of an awakening and like kind of questioning things that were like historically okay or just normalised so I think this is like the best time to have this conversation even like when you think of like tragedies that are happening like with Israel and Palestine like I think it's a time when people are questioning the ownership of land and um whose land is it like you know.

I saw a statistic that said that indigenous people occupied 65 percent of the land but only own 18 percent of that land that they occupied. So I think this conversation will hopefully spark other ones that we have been needing to have but this is the time to have them because it's kind of like something that's happening across the world.”

Mandla rae: “Definitely. I feel like yeah, we should definitely acknowledge the past I think. In not acknowledging it we sort of can definitely like create whole new different realities then what is. Yeah why do you think it's important to talk about the past?”

Meduulla: “I think it's important to talk about the past because not talking about the past creates a generation of people who just exist in the context that they exist in which sounds like obviously what else would you exist in but like I think having a knowledge about the past gives that context that allows you to shape a greater future in my opinion.”

Mandla rae: “Thinking about being kids and how much our parents sort of let us know of the wider world around us, like I remember for the longest time I didn't really know the exact context as to why we were here, that we were refugees and yeah all these things just sort of happened and I remember sort of when I was about 17/18 sort of starting to understand the bigger picture.”

Meduulla: “I'm the same, like, it's something that I did learn in in my like teen years that actually, oh we're here because of like instability in the country because of things that have happened in the past, like that wasn't even something that was in my brain, I just thought like, even though I was born in Zimbabwe I just thought okay I was like born here that sort of thing. So, it was like, I mean, it was an interesting like time because it's just like wow all of that was going on and it actually, it makes me commend my parents a lot because I think it was so much going on and it's just like the fact that you were able to shelter that from me like as a child like, I really appreciate that and it's just like um it's not an easy thing like picking up and leaving everything that you've ever known in your life and just moving to a different place because, um you know you want better opportunities for your children.

And I think being in the diaspora as well like we exist in such an unusual space because I think we all have such specific experiences like me and you we can share our experiences because we're like both Zimbabwean and British.”

Mandla rae: “Yeah, thanks for yeah thanks for sharing a personal little bit of your life there with us, um and I guess yeah obviously whose land is about your own um personal um experiences and stories and yeah why um do why does it feel urgent to tell this story? Why now?”

Meduulla: “This is a story that needs to urgently be told just because there is never a right time to say difficult things or to have difficult conversations, so the right time is, the answer is always now like, have it whenever you can. I’ve, I have explored in my poetry and music, I do like to use it as like a weapon of like revolution or protest um because I think words have weight they have like immense power and I am someone that would identify as like a pacifist I don't think violence is the answer to you know freedom but um yeah so I think like in in my other pieces before I have explored um you know inequality or oppression or you know um I think doing that, exploring it in your music, it kind of it calls people, it calls, calls people to confront the issue head-on I think because now that you've said it in a piece people have heard it.”

Mandla rae: “Yeah, I guess you've touched on this a little bit but, um, could you maybe tell us a little bit more about how this particular bit of story of migration or bit of Zimbabwean history has impacted your life today in 2021?”

Meduulla: “I identify as a diaspora, um, because of, um, the historical events that have happened in the past that have led to me being here today. So I guess that's how it affects me in 2021 but also I think just even on the ground in Zimbabwe like, um the country's experiencing brain drain which is like, I mean, I learned this when I was doing my research and like it's just like there's a large amount of professionals and people who have been studying you know like it could be like doctors or nurses and firefighters, so many people that are qualified and experienced but have to completely leave because there's just no opportunities for them there and as a result of the lack of professionals or doctors and firefighters, people that would work in you know the public service in on the ground, so in 2020 those are the effects that we still see today.

I think, um it would be like naive to think that those things have just happened in the past and they're just isolated incidences that don't have any effect on our um, our lives today and I think as well I think there is still, there's not been much resolution so these issues have just been left to fester and as a result you know there's consequences to action so.”

Mandla rae: “What kind of conversations do you hope your piece sparks?”

Meduulla: “I hope it sparks questions that actually drive change because I think there's a lyric that i say in the piece,  “we can run until there's nowhere else to run to until then we'll be swallowing a feud that we never chewed” or something like that. I wanted to get the point across that actually we need to like tackle these issues now, so I hope that just promotes just fruitful conversations about how we can progress further in terms of like giving back equality to historically oppressed people and in my piece as well I wanted to make it a point that I wasn't imposing an opinion but putting out facts and seeing like you know these are the facts how are you digesting them? How are they, what does that look like in the future? What are you gonna, what does these questions evoke you know?

So um yeah I just hope that if the bare minimum I’d just like people to just think about the questions that I’m asking in the chorus like who's whose land, why are the majority of people that own the land? Why is there such a small um percentage of people that own land that are not indigenous people?”

Mandla rae: “What are your hopes for Zimbabwe and its future?”

Meduulla: “I'm very optimistic. I think that my hopes are and maybe this just sounds very generic, but I just hope that underlying issues that I feel are stifling the growth of the economy or the country as a whole, I hope that they will be tackled whatever they may be. Like, I think there's like I was saying there's just so much to learn all the time so there's not even one thing I could pinpoint but I think also um just going back to what I’ve learned as well that as someone that's in the diaspora like I can't look at Zimbabwe and think ‘oh I’m like a saviour that's gonna do something’ like people are doing what they need to do anyway there that you know I mean. Like me as someone that's here that’s the best thing I can do is share stories that are being lost in translation, you know?

So, yeah, my hopes are just more unity, more conversations about things because I do think there's a disconnect in like Zimbabwean diaspora sometimes that like we, we don't know a lot about our history. So, I hope maybe that changes, maybe things can be put in place that allow for people that are outside of the country to still get that knowledge and historical context.”

Our curators say:

Our collections – and the stories they illuminate – demonstrate how conflict can be provoked, promoted, sustained or ended through an interplay of social, cultural, political, technological and economic factors involving Britain and the Commonwealth. They show how multiple factors intertwine to produce effects that have shaped, and continue to shape, the world. Commonwealth, former Commonwealth and former Empire stories are a crucial component of this deepening understanding of a complex world of conflict and peace.  

IWM holds collections that relate to the journey that Zimbabwe took towards independence. Traditionally, these collections have been viewed through the lens of then Southern Rhodesia’s military relationship with Britain, beginning in the two world wars and continuing through the unilateral declaration of independence and the conflicts fought in the 1960s and 1970s. By exploring these collections in greater depth and adding different perspectives to the narratives they reveal, we can explore more of the complex legacies of these conflicts for subsequent generations – in both Zimbabwe and Britain. And by amplifying those voices that have thus far been underrepresented, we gain a richer understanding of the underlying conditions that caused conflict, affected its course, and led to the consequences that are still shaping people’s lives.

To explore our related collection items and to hear from other migrant voices, follow the links below.

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