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“Excellent Channel for Self-Expression”: Former Zimbabwean Pacer Henry Olonga Shares His Love of Music and Life After Banishment

<p>Henry Olonga, the youngest player to represent Zimbabwe in cricket history and the country’s first black international, is most known for being a pacer with flowing hair and a deadly right-arm delivery that was frequently uncontrolled but packed with punch.</p>
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<p>Even though the 47-year-old’s life was completely turned upside down by his outspoken black armband protest against the former dictator Robert Mugabe’s regime more than 20 years ago, the effects of that incident are still profoundly ingrained in his memory.</p>
<p>He used to be the quickest bowler in the nation, but he struggles to stay within the lines and lengths. Most notably, he was criticized for tossing during his first match against Pakistan in 1995. He then worked with many coaches worldwide to improve his bowling motion before making a comeback to the playing field.</p>
<p>“It would be an awful tale if the inaugural Black player for Zimbabwe’s national team were to fall so badly at the first hurdle,” Olonga thought to himself.</p>
<p>Olonga was more than simply a cricket player who played on the field. Before cricket took over, he was an artist who loved to sing, dance, and perform on stage. He was also politically conscious and did not hold back when expressing his opinions, which finally resulted in his banishment from his own country.</p>
<p>Olongo said, “I wasn’t wired to be just a fast bowler or a cricket player. I wanted to be more than that.”</p>
<p>Olonga, who had become rather fond of Mugabe in his early years, believed the former leader stood out for the rights of the black population, which was repressed.</p>
<p>He said, “In my impression as a young man, he was one of the heroes of the political transformations that came to Rhodesia and allowed Zimbabwe to become the country that it is today.”</p>
<p>Olonga’s perspective on the tyrant was, however, altered and his eyes were awakened to the reality upon closer examination of the material under the supervision of human rights attorney David Colbert, who subsequently became Zimbabwe’s minister for education, sport, arts, and culture.</p>
<p>“I felt like I had been duped,” I was mistaken to believe that Mugabe was a brave liberation war hero, but instead I discovered that he was a cruel despot who would do everything to maintain his grip on power and eliminate his rivals.</p>
<p>When Zimbabwe experienced an economic downturn in the wake of a legal amendment allowing the government to buy land for resettlement and reallocation, Mugabe, who had risen to power and solidified it in the 1980s, was in charge as president and head of state.</p>
<p>The situation grew as a consequence of white-owned farmlands under the dictator’s control being taken by seasoned military personnel and then given to Mugabe’s allies, who failed to cultivate the newly acquired property.</p>
<p>“Given some of the harsh realities that many Zimbabweans had to deal with, I wasn’t going to be a silent victim,” he added.</p>
<p>Human rights abuses, corruption, incompetence, and invasions of farms are all examples. And you have a young guy who was just tired of hearing it,” Olonga went on.</p>
<p>Around this time, Olongo and teammate Andy Flower made the decision to wear the black armband. This decision upset Mugabe’s fans back home, and the players were compelled to flee into hiding and then into exile.</p>
<p>“I remember it fondly; I had some amazing times there. Together, we achieved some incredible victories. But in the end, I found it to be bittersweet.</p>
<p>A homecoming for Olongo remains uncertain, even though Flower went on to have other successful coaching positions across the globe until briefly rejoining his national team last year.</p>
<p>“I never remain somewhere I’m not welcomed, and I never go where I’m not invited. It has taken on some personal significance for me. You can bet your bottom dollar that I won’t be coming to Zimbabwe if I get the impression that I’m still unwanted there, said the former pacer.</p>
<p>With grief in his voice, he said, “The sadness stems from the fact that the very people I was trying to help, represent saw me as the enemy.”</p>
<p>It struck me as odd that so many people were blind to the fact that what I did was hurting myself in order to help others. Merely expressing his disappointment, he stated, “I was hoping that I was representing the voiceless, the people who couldn’t speak for themselves, or the people who didn’t have a platform, only for that to be thrown back in my face.”</p>
<p>After leaving his own country, he accepted invitations to play for certain English teams before moving to Australia.</p>
<p>Olonga also discussed the historical context of the sport and how it was considered somewhat improper for athletes to be involved in the arts.</p>
<p>It’s sort of ingrained in people’s ideas of what masculinity is; it was never accepted. It could also seem a little corny or gaudy to a lot of folks, in my opinion.</p>
<p>Olonga, who now resides in Adelaide, Australia, with his wife and two kids, is a professional musician and believes that music is a kind of healing in and of itself.</p>
<p>In 2019, he even appeared in the Australian edition of “The Voice,” where he shared personal details about his life.</p>
<p>“I’m having a great time right now making new memories in a whole new universe and area. Here, I’ve discovered serenity.</p>
<p>“I envision performing music until the day I pass away.” It’s a passion of mine. It is, in fact. In the end, however, I just want to play and enjoy making people happy; I want to sell songs and be rewarded for it.</p>
<p>“The soul responds very well to music therapy.” For the benefit of both the listener and the artist, ideally.</p>
<p>“I believe I’ve reached a point where I can affect people’s emotions. I won’t claim to be an expert in my field, but I am very certain of my capabilities and limitations. In addition, I find it pleasurable since it gives me a lovely way to express myself,” Olonga said.</p>