My Allotment by Mai Thandiwe

Mai Thandiwe smiling
Selection of vegetables grown in Florence's allotment


My Allotment by Mai Thandiwe


My country of birth is Zimbabwe. I have lived in Oxford for more than 20 years and before I moved to Headington in 2005, I lived in Littlemore, Oxford. While I was living in Littlemore I took an adult access course for higher education (HE) and I enjoyed very much learning especially debating/sharing ideas with my fellow students about topics taught to us by our tutors and having time to socialise with other students. The access (HE) course enabled me to do a law degree at Oxford Brookes University. In Zimbabwe I went to a boarding school at Lower Gweru Adventist secondary school, but for my primary school education, I went to study at a school not far away from my parents’ home. It was in a village I grew up in Mazvihwa under headman Mr Maveta. My late father with the support of my late mother was also a headman in Mazvihwa until his passing in 2021. Being a headman is an important role of solving disputes in rural villages. Although my father was a headman for his community, my late parents and grandmother (my father’s mother) with the assistance of family and extended family were able to run their own subsistence farm very effectively.

The type of crops my parents grew on their farm were maize, millet, rapoko, sorghum, beans, sunflowers, cotton, sweet reeds, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, watermelons, round nuts, groundnuts and vegetables. They managed to harvest crops for sale and for feeding our family. They even shared some of the harvested produce with some of the extended family and members of their community. On their farm they also had livestock that they used for farming the land, lent some cattle to others who did not have their own, to sell and feed the family. The concept of their successful farming was derived from my parents` deep understanding of the soil type on their farm and how they could improve the harvest each year. Therefore they practised crop rotation, ploughed the field after the harvesting season was over, applied their livestock manure on the field and kept an eye on the crops so that they were not enveloped by grass/weeds. Then with good rain season we were always having a bumper harvest from my parents’ farm. Even though my late parents enjoyed very much farming, they were keen to have an orchard at their homestead with fruit trees. Every year we picked and ate the delicious and tastiest mangoes, oranges, guavas, African chewing gums, bananas, lemons, peaches and mulberries from these fruit trees. And as successful farmers both my parents were awarded certificates in farming.

When the dry hot season arose with its slightly cool breeze - our family built/repaired a garden by their home where we cultivated cabbages, tomatoes, peppers, chomolia, covo and onions. The reason for a home garden was because they wanted us to supplement our diet with fresh vegetables and bearing in mind that the local vegetables like munyovhi/nyevhi, muchacha, mumbuya and derere that grew in their field cease to grow after the harvesting season. These local vegetables grow during the rainy/farming season without being planted. Munyovi/nyevhi`s tender fresh leaves are very delicious and is one of my best favourite vegetables. Each farming season I used to look forward to picking the leaves from my parents’ field. However mature leaves of munyovi/nyevhi are quite bitter therefore I avoided picking them - this is the advice my late mother gave me about this type of vegetable especially on how to pick, prepare and cook the leaves - flowers of this local vegetable are edible. Munyovhi\nyevi as well as the vegetables in the home garden and the fruits from the orchard my parents gave some to our neighbours and visitors.

Turning to my story about my allotment let me point out that Fairview Allotments Association gave me the allotment on 9th March 2019 and I regard this allotment a special place. The story will focus on the photographs of the vegetables harvested from my allotment as the objects - the photographs were taken by my elder daughter Thandiwe who eagerly helps me with the preparation and tilling the allotment.

I will write this story in my mother tongue called Shona (see the Shona story below) and translate it to English to ensure that others who are non-Shona speakers who may be interested in reading it will be able to understand the genre. It is also vital to write the story in Shona due to fact that it is part and parcel of my heritage. In other words, it’s about preserving the language not only for me but, my daughters and descendants as well. On the other hand a story written in one’s language enables me to express my thoughts in an easier manner, expand plus rebuild my vocabulary. Besides it is a positive way of sharing my language heritage with others especially how it looks like in written form and the meaning of the written script in its translated format.

When I moved to Headington in 2005, I decided, with great deal of excitement, to have an allotment so that I can grow a variety of crops. The day I got the allotment keys and paperwork from our Fairview Allotments Association (FAA) chair I was overjoyed with the fact that at last I have my own plot of land that I have been yearning to have in order for me to grow my own vegetables. I still remember vividly ululating, but quietly, with sheer happiness as well as my mind was dancing to the rhythm of joy. On that same day my mind enthusiastically wanted to start pampering this special land by preparing it, yet I was unable to do so because I didn’t have the tools to start cultivating. However my elder daughter (Thandiwe) and I we immediately equipped our thoughts on planning about what variety of vegetables we were interested in planting. Our progress and planning was delightful satisfying especially when our vegetables were happily growing and ready to harvest. With the help of my daughter Tanya/Nonthando in 2021 we also added/planted a flower meadow at my allotment.

When I got the allotment in 2019 it needed to be tidied up before planting because of the overgrown grass/ weeds and amongst this was the bramble bush, but I decided to leave the bramble bush. The bramble bush and flower meadow are like a feature thus giving a fabulous uplifting environment within this special place. With the bramble bush I pick the tastiest fruits and I like the flowers they are beautiful. These flowers at my allotment are also good for the bees and other insects.

Having an allotment gives me an abundance of contentment because it allows me to grow and pick fresh, organically tasty vegetables that I can eat, share with family, friends and my daughter’s friends. Growing and harvesting crops rekindles my fond memories about our home and family in Zimbabwe where we harvested organically grown vegetables and other main type of crops from beloved parent’s small scale subsistence farm and home garden as mentioned above. My experiences living with my parents and helping them run their farm is the true driving force that gives me the energy to grow my own vegetables/crops at my allotment. In addition it helps my daughters to have some knowledge about my life in the village I grew up.

In essence the allotment provides me with benefits, for instance, exercise which is good for my wellbeing. I get these benefits when I walk to and fro to the allotment and whilst I am tilling the plot. Additionally it is a space to spend quality time with my daughters when we go together to do various tasks. My younger daughter Tanya (Nonthando) has fully embraced the concept of growing her favourite vegetables at the allotment. Furthermore it is a place to chill out and catch-up with friends as we sit down and enjoy picnics underneath the shade of the giant walnut tree in the background of the allotment.

Lastly my allotment is a place to relax too whilst listening to the birds sing in their favourite chosen spot of a tree, and there is calmness and serenity within my plot as I sometimes sit alone underneath the magnificent walnut tree either checking my emails, WhatsApp with family or reading etc. Therefore I will always cherish having a connection of residing in Oxford city with this adored space (allotment).


My beloved parents, daughters and family members/ extended family who encouraged me to persevere in what I choose to pursue in life. This has enabled me have long term life skills and enthusiasm of growing my own crops as well as devoted attachment to my allotment.

Again being grateful for my elder brother and my younger sister for catching up/updates about the following matters - our family/extended family in Zimbabwe, our parents’ field, livestock and parents’ home. Also due to the fact that I had forgotten some of the local vegetables I would like to say thank again my younger sister who reminded me about these vegetables.

My friend Kate Macfarlane who supported me since I met her in Oxford and who continues to do so. She heightened my confidence to write my story.

Baba Ndo, my family friend, for his deep knowledge of our Shona language and for teaching and clarifying to me some aspects of our Shona language.

Museum of Oxford City Stories for providing a very useful and educational platform that encourages the community and individuals in the city of Oxford to have an opportunity to choose, share and write their own story/object.

Fairview Allotments Association Oxford that gave me a special place (my allotment) where I enjoy spending beauteous quality time.

The Oxford Windrush Festival 19/6/2021 that I attended at Templars Square shopping centre in Oxford. At this festival I came across representatives of Museum Oxford City Stories who explained to me the purposes about this museum to the community of Oxford city.

Shona translated script below
Munda/Mugove wangu

Nyika yandakazwarirwa inonzi Zimbabwe. Ndagara kuguta rekuOxford kwemakore anopfuura makumi maviri. Apo ndaigara kumba kwangu kuLittlemore ndakaita kosi yekudzidza, iyoyi kosi yakaita kuti ndienda kunodzidza kuOxford Brookes Univesity. Ini kuZimbabwe ndakaenda kunodzidza sekondari yangu kuchikoro chinonzi Lower Gweru Adventist, asi chikoro chepuraimari kwandakadzidza chikoro ichochi chaiva chiri pedo nekumba kwavabereki vangu. Chikoro ichochi chiri munzvimbo yandakakurira inonzi Mazvihwa mubhuku rasabhuku VaMaveta. Baba vangu nerutsigiro rwamai vangu vakazoita sabhuku muzvimbo iyoyi yekwa Mazvihwa kusvikira apo vakashaika mugore ra2021. Basa rasabhuku iguru chaizvo nokuti rinogadzirisa nharo kana kusawirana panyaya dzinenge dzaita pavanhu mubuku rasabhuku. Chero baba vangu vanga vari sabhuku webhuku ravo ivo vabareki nambuya vangu (mai vababa vangu) vaikwanisa chaizvo kurima pamunda wavo apo vaibatsirwavo nemhuri yavo nedzimwe hama dzedu.

Pamunda wavabereki vangu vaidzwara mabagwe, mhunga, rukweza, mapfunde, nyemba, masanifurawa, donje, ipwa, mabura/mbambaira, manhanga, mavisi, nyimo, nzungu nemirivo. Zvavairima vaikwanisa kuzvitengesa nekudya nemhuri yavo nedzimwe hama dzedu navamwe vanhu munzvimbo yavo yavaigara nedzimwe nzvimbo. Pamusha wavo vanga vanezvipfuwo zvekurimisa munda, kuronzera nombe kune vamwe vanhu vaiva vasina nombe, kutengesa nekudya ne mhuri yavo. Nyaya yokurima inobva kuti vabereki vanga vaneruzivo rukuru rokuziva nevhu remunda wavo, nekuda kuti varime zviyo zvakawanda gore negore. Kuti vabudirire nekukohwa zviyo zvavairima vaipesanisa mbeu dzavainzwara apo vapedza kukohwa vairima munda wavo, vaiisa mufudze wezvipfuwo zvavo mumunda wavo, vachishakura bundo kuitira kuti zviyo zvikure zvakanaka. Pakuva neruzivo irori nekuva nemvura inonaya zvakanaka gore negore taikohwa zviyo zvakawanda chaizvo. Chero vabereki vangu vaifarira kurima vaiva nechido chokunzwara miti pamba pavo yakaita semimango, mioranji, migwavha, mitobwe, mibhanana, milemoni mipichisi nemumabhurosi. Gore roga roga taitanha tichidya mafurutsu ainaka chaizvo aibva pamiti iyoyi. Ikoku kurima kwavo kwakaita kuti vabereki vangu vapihwe zvitupa zvekurima.

Pachirimo mhuri yedu taivaka/nekugadzirisa gadheni repamba pavabereeki ratainzwara mirivo yakaita sekabheji, matomatisi, mhiripiri,chomoriya, kovho nehanyanisi - zvegadheni repamba vairiitira kuti vave naro nokuti mirivo yemunyovhi/nyevi, muchacha, mumbuya nederere uyo waimera mumunda wavo hauchameri apo zviyo zvekumunda zvapedzwa kukohwa. Iyi mirivo inomera yega mumwedzi wekurima zvirimwa muminda. Munyovi/nyevhi unonaka kana wamutanha usati wakuru mashizha, asi kana ukautanha mashizha akuru unovavira saka ini ndangandisingamutanhi mashizha akadaro. Ini ndinoziva izvozvi zvekuvava kwemashizha emunyohvi/nyevhi nokuti ndakadzidzisiwa namai vangu. Gore rega rega ndaifara nokuti ndaiziva kuti murivo wemunyovhi uchazomera ndingonotanga kumutanha nekuubikira mhuri yangu. Maruva emunyovhi/nyevhi anodyiwa. Munyovhi/nyevhi, mirivo nemiti yeku ochadhi yepamba vabereki vangu vaipavo vavakidzani vedu nevaenzi.

Asi chiregayi ndichidzokera kunyaya yangu iyi yepamusoro pemunda uyo wandakapiwa nebato rinonzi Fairview Allotments Association Oxford mugore ra2019 mumwedzi wa9Kurume. Panyaya yangu ndichaisa mupikicha yemirivo yandinorima pamunda wangu. Iyi mipikicha yakatorwa nemwana wangu Thandiwe uyo wakandibatsira kugadzirisa munda iwoyu wandinorima mirivo.

Nyaya yangu ndinoinyora nerurimi rwamai runonzi shona asi ndichazotsanangura nyaya yangu nerurimi rwechirungu kuitira kuti vamwe vanhu vasigatauri rurimi rwangu vanzwisise zvandinonyora panyaya yangu. Asi zvakanaka chaizvo kunyora nerurimi rwamai nokuti ndionoda kuti ini nevana vangu tigare tichiziva nhaka yedu nekuitira kuti tisaikangamwa. Uyezve munyori wenyaya anokwanisa kudzidza mashoko matswa awo aangaakangamwa. Dzimwe nguva chinhu chakanaka kutaurira vanasikana vangu nevamwe vanhu nepamusoro penhaka yangu kuitira kuti vaizivevo manyorero anoita shona nezvainoreva apo yatsanangurwa mururimi rwechirungu.

Kubva zvandakatanga kugara kuHeadington mugore ra2005 ndakafunga kuita munda wekurima mirivo yakasiyana-siyana. Pandakapiwa munda nemukuru webato reFairview Allotments Association ndakafara chaizvo kuti ndazowana munda wandaifunga kuti rimwe zuva/gore ndichamupiwa ndigonzwara mirivo. Iwoyo musi wandakapiwa munda ndinorangarira chaizvo ndichipururudza asi kupururudza kwacho hakuna akakunnzwa ndaipururudzira mumwoyo wangu. Mwoyo wangu musi iwoyi wakafara zvikurusa zvokuti waitamba nerufaro rukurusa.

Ndinoenderera mberi ndichiti iwoyu musi wandakapiwa munda mwoyo wanguzve wakatanga kuda kuti ndichitotanga kugadzirisa zvakanakirira iwoyu munda. Asi handina kuzoita irori basa nokuti iwo mapadza nezvimwe zvokugadzirisa munda ndanganisina. Zvino ini nemwana wangu uyu (Thandiwe) takatanga kufunga zvataida kuzonzwara mumunda iwoyu asi zvikuru zvataifarira kunzwara murivo. Nyaya yedu yekunzwara mirivo yakafamba zvakanaka chaizvo apo patakaona mirivo yamera nekusvika tazotanga kukohwa mirivo yacho.

Muugore ra 2021 ini ne mwana wangu Tanya/Nonthando takazonzwaravo maruva akasiyana-siyana pamunda wangu uwoyu. Ndicharangarira pandakapiwa munda iwoyu mugore ra 2019 kuti wakanga une bundo rakakura chaizvo nemuti uyu unonzi bramble bush. Asi ndakashakura nekubvisa bhundo rose ndikasiya uyu muti unonzi bramble bush nokuti ndaida kuti ndizodya michero yacho inonaka chaizvo, kana kuitira kuti shiri dzidyevo michero yemuti iwoyu uyezve maruva acho akanaka. Maruva iwawa atakanzwara pamunda wangu neiwawa emubramble bush anosumudzira nzvimbo yepamunda wangu uyezve nyuchi nezvimwe zvipembenene zvinouya kuzotora zvokudya zvadzo.

Ini ndinoti kuva nemunda kunoita kuti ndifarire zvikurusa kunzwara mirivo yakasiyana-siyana iyo yandinodya nekupa shamwari dzangu nevamwe shamwari dzevanasikana vangu. Zvandinorima zvinodifungidza kumusha kwangu iko kvatairima pamunda wavabereki vangu mbeu dzakasiyana-siyana. Saka ini ndakakura nechidzidziso ichochi chokuziva kurima zvokudya kubva kuvabereki vangu mumunda mavo. Kuva neruzivo rwakadayi zvinondifadza nekundipa simba rokurima mirivo yangu kuno kuguta reOxford. Asi kutaura chokwadi munda wangu munda unoita kuti ndidye zvirimwa zvinonaka chaizvo nekudzidzisa vanasikana vangu neruzivo rwemagariro angu kumuhsa kwedu kwandakakurira. Pamwe ndingangoti iyoyi nyaya yandanyora inhaka yangu nevanasikana vangu nemadziteteguru edu.

Ichokwadi kuti munda wangu unondibatsira nekuita kusimbisa mumbiri apo pandinofamba kuenda nekudzoka nepandinoshanda pamunda. Asi tisakangamwa kuti iwoyi munda unoita kuti ini navanasikana vangu tiwane nguva yakanaka youkutandara nekutaura nyaya dzakasiyana-siyana-tichifara zvedu nekuseka apo tinenge tichiita mabasa imomu mumunda. Ikozvino mwana wangu uyu Tanya / Nothando anonzwaravo mirivo yake yaanoda imomu mumunda. Pamwezve iwoyu munda inzvimbo youkufara neshamwari mugere pamumvuri wemuti mukuru unonzi Walnut uyo uri pamunda wangu. Pamumvuri ipapape muWalnut tinogara tichidya zvokudya zvedu tichitandara zvedu.

Pakupeddzisira nepamusoro penyaya yangu ndinoti munda wangu inzvimbo yokugara ndichiterera shiri dzichirira mumiti uyezve inzvimbo isina ruzha zvokuti dzimwe nguva ini ndinogara pamumvuri we muti weWalnut ndichitarisa maemails, nemawhatsapp kumhuri, nekuverenga mabhuku. Saka ndinofara chaizvo kusarudza munda wangu sechinhu chinondibatanidza neni nekugara muno muguta re Oxford city. Uyezve muupenyu hwangu ndichagara ndichirangarira zvakanakirira kuva ne bataniddzo re munda iwoyu muguta irori rinonzi Oxford.


Vabereki vangu, vanasikana vangu, mhuri yangu ne hama dzangu dzinodiwa vanondikuridzira kuti nditsungirire nekutevere zvandionoda kuita muupenyu hwangu nekundibatsira chaizvo nekundipa masimba ekurima uyezve nerudo rwekufarira kurima pamunda avabereki vedu iyi mirivo yandanga ndakangamwa mazita.

Bhudhi vangu Gift namainini mai Thelma vanondiudza nepamusoro pemhuri yose yekuzZimbabwe uyezve nemunda, zvipfuwo ne musha wavabereki vedu.

Mainini mai Thelma noukundiudza mazita eimwe mirivo yandanga ndakangamwa yaimera kumusha kwavabereki vedu.

Shamwari yangu Kate MacFarlane yakandibatsira kubva zvatakatanda kuita ushmwari hwedu-nekutenda zvakare apo akandiwedzera nechivimbo chekuti ndinyore nyaya yangu.

Baba Ndo shamwari yemhuri yedu vane ruzivo rukuru nezverurimi rechishona nekundidzidzisa nepamusoro perurimi rrwechishona.

Miziyamu weguta re Oxford unobatsira vanhu vemuguta irori kuti vawane mukano kana kuti vakwanise kusarudza nyaya dzavo kuitira kuti vandinyore.

Bato reminda inonzi Fairview Allotments Association nokundipa nzvimbo yandinonofarira kuva nenguva yakanaka chaizvo.

The Oxford Windrush festival 19/6/2021 rakaita kuti ndiwane nguva yokuenda kumusangano uyu iko ndakanohwa nebato rinonzi muyuziyamu wengano nemunhunu akanganga akamiririra bato irori muno muguta re Oxford.


2019, published in 2022.


Mai Thandiwe


Museum of Oxford


English and Shona

Alt text

Two images: Mai Thandiwe smiling and a selection of vegetables grown in the allotment (photography taken by Thandiwe Wilson).

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