Feature: Zimbabwean teen raises COVID-19 awareness through poetry

By Tafara Mugwara

HARARE, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- Through the use of beautifully crafted stanzas, a Zimbabwean teenager is raising awareness about the COVID-19 pandemic, urging his peers to follow the precautionary measures needed to stem the spread of the virus.

Nineteen-year-old Elvis Mazwimairi from Chitungwiza, a dormitory town near Harare, uses his voice to air his displeasure on the community's laxity to follow proper COVID-19 preventative measures.

In the poem titled "I am Corona", Mazwimairi makes a reflection on the impact the pandemic has had across the world and explains how it's spread can be minimized.

"You better follow the standard recommendations to prevent me from spreading in your community."

"Always cover your nose and mouth with a flexible elbow or disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing."

"Clean your hands frequently for about 30 seconds using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water," reads part of the poem.

Mazwimairi said art, no matter the form or medium, has the power to make a lifelong impact in local communities, adding that messages channeled through art has the power to transcend audiences.

"In this time of COVID-19, the role of art becomes more central to our lives, whether we realize it or not. In the act of poetry, it is something that has a refining vision which moves the souls of people towards new understandings about this pandemic," he said.

"Some of us easily take this pandemic for granted just because no one has yet shown us light in a way we can understand. But when one recites or writes a poem it's like he has preached the word, where one will be keen to follow every command of those words," he told Xinhua.

Mazwimairi said art forms such as poetry can help trigger much-needed conversations in society.

"The thing is that some people don't really believe that COVID-19 exists. They think that what they are told are lies. So I chose poems as a way of preaching COVID-19 awareness. By this maybe my fellow brothers and sisters will understand about this pandemic through this artistic way I use," he said.

Poetry is immensely popular in Zimbabwean culture, and the southern African country has a rich and powerful verse tradition which spans centuries.

Since ancient times, the people who occupy present-day Zimbabwe have used poetry and song to highlight social, political or economic issues affecting society.

In contemporary Zimbabwe, poetry still carries significant importance, and it has been used as an effective tool when raising public attention to social issues and when communicating health messages to the public.

Poetry played a significant role in raising awareness about sexually transmitted diseases, and helping confront stigma about HIV/AIDS in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Although the number of new coronavirus infections in Zimbabwe has significantly declined, other countries mainly in the northern hemisphere are witnessing a surge in the number of new cases.

While the Zimbabwe has since relaxed COVID-19 regulations allowing nearly all sectors of the economy to resume their normal operations, people are still required to follow proper virus prevention measures such as maintaining social distancing and wearing masks.

The country has recorded 8,276 cases of COVID-19, of which 7,797 cases have since recovered as on Monday.

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