Book Review: Joost Fontein, ed., Remaking Mutirikwi: Landscape, Water, and Belonging in Southern Zimbabwe

Date01 December 2015
Published date01 December 2015
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews
Joost Fontein, ed., Remaking Mutirikwi: Landscape, Water, and Belonging in
Southern Zimbabwe. Rochester, NY: James Currey, 2015, 341 pp., $80,
ISBN 978-1-84701112-1
While the construction of dams and their after-effects have become a genre
of their own as documented by many books and researches published on
the downstream and after-effects of dams, these largely leave out the
dams’ social, cultural, and political productivity, which among other
things Fontein’s book, Remaking Mutirikwi: Landscape, Water, and
Belonging in Southern Zimbabwe discusses. It was inspired by the
“social life” or “cultural biography” of things reflecting the changing
meanings and values (social, cultural, and political) associated with Lake
Mutirikwi and its landscapes. The book explores the complex contests
over land, water, and belonging centered on the continual remaking of
the landscapes of Mutirikwi. It exposes how this has always been
profoundly intertwined with changing strategies of both the colonial and
post-colonial state. The book shows that the damming of Mutirikwi
River in 1960, which created Zimbabwe’s second largest lake, was a key
moment in the “Europeanisation” of the river’s landscapes alongside the
land appropriations of the 1890s. However, the African landscapes were
not wiped out by the Kyle Dam (before it was renamed Mutirikwi dam
post-independence in 1980) as they remained affective and effectual.
The achievement of independence in 1980 witnessed the reassertion by
local clans who claimed control over their ancestral land and this was
evident through a wave of squatting around the lake. The squatters were
once again evicted by the post-independence government as it asserted
its control over remaking of the landscapes of Mutirikwi and they later
reclaimed the land during the fast-track land reform program in the
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
19(2) 193–203
2015 Jadavpur University
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/0973598415627893

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