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About this project

Cover of SAHA report 'ZAPU through Zenzo Nkobi's lens'This virtual exhibition draws on an oral history and research project undertaken by SAHA  in 2010 and 2011 into aspects of the armed struggle for Zimbabwean independence. At the centre of this project was an important collection of nearly 10,000 photographic negatives, donated to SAHA in 2007. Taken by Zenzo Nkobi, a Zimbabwean photographer with ties to the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) from the mid-1970s until well after independence in 1980, these images provide an intriguing glimpse into the struggle waged by ZAPU's armed wing, ZPRA, and provide evidence of the significant role it played in combating the Rhodesian regime.

The donation of these materials presented an opportunity for SAHA to seek out some of the ZAPU survivors to identify those events and individuals portrayed in the photographs and, at the same time, discuss their experiences within ZAPU and ZPRA and their understanding of the role played by ZAPU in achieving independence in Zimbabwe.

Twenty six oral history interviews were conducted in 2010 and 2011, using a selection of Nkobi's photographs as a starting point to discuss the history of ZAPU and ZPRA. These interviews, now transcribed and archived at SAHA, explore various aspects of this history, from the early development of ZAPU, its administration and leadership, through recruitment and military training within ZPRA, including the women's brigade, military operations, regional alliances, international solidarity, to life in the refugee camps, and post-independence politics in Zimbabwe.

This virtual exhibition, based on the project report of the same name, brings together images and extracts from the interview transcripts to tell the story of ZAPU's liberation war, as seen through the lens of Zenzo Nkobi's camera and told in the voices of ZAPU survivors.


Project concept and management: Catherine Kennedy
Oral history collection and report: Mary Ndlovu
Project research and support: Zephaniah Nkomo / Mafela Trust
Archival support: Debora Matthews, Elizabeth Marima, Hilton Borerwe, Nonhlanhla Ngwenya
Design and layout (report): Rizelle Stander Hartmeier
Design and layout (virtual exhibition): Black Square
Virtual exhibition preparation: Nelson Dlamini

SAHA thanks those ZAPU comrades and ZPRA ex-freedom fighters who generously gave of their time to be interviewed for this project. In addition, the support of the Mafela Trust, notably Zephaniah Nkomo, Andrew Nyathi and Nomathemba Moyo, throughout this project is greatly appreciated.


This project, including the development the project report and the virtual exhibition, was made possible through the financial support of the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and the Altlantic Philanthropies.


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