In Paris in 1903, the Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist, popularly known as Rainer Maria Rilke, received a letter from a 19-year-old officer cadet asking that he review his written poetry. Rainer respectfully declined, but instead offered an honest and candid reflection on his journey, experiences and self-reflection, which he intimated was more important than any critique; this sparked a ten-letter exchange that explores the intricacies of identity, discovery, love and loss.
This nature of reflection has carried through time, human innovation, manmade wars and otherwise. The search for understanding of our relationships with the world that surrounds us is everyone’s story to tell. It is this story that we have explored through the first season of “Room for Doubt.”
The challenges encountered by young adults or graduates who are seeking employment brought forward a reflection on the paradoxical choice between staying and fighting to create space, or moving across unwelcoming borders in a world that has further awakened to shrinking immigration policies. The fight to create space has brought many against a rising wall, with available opportunities oversubscribed or reserved for those with direct links or audience to the prospect. It has also presented some with the chance to create and start for themselves endeavours that would not be as viable for them elsewhere.
This season has further brought forth interactions on the stifled progression into self-sustainability and adulthood that has seen many live with parents and relatives for prolonged periods of time. As a result, the inability to gain autonomy for some has filtered through to day-to-day decisions, interactions and relationships. The most poignant of these were accounts of how plans for marriage and sustained relationships begin to feel the effects of a strained financial environment. Also discussed were situations where some people find refuge in pursuing relationships for monetary gain; alternatively, the effects of long-distance relationships are taken into consideration. In other accounts, the cultural weight placed on young adults, especially in the context of women to use marriage as a signifier for achievement, was one that had brought disillusionment and opposition to many.
These stories of how we define ourselves as individuals and people, and how the wider world provides nuance to our journeys, have been given voice through this season. As we continue to explore life through the reflections of the Zimbabwean youth, we hope to enhance and project this voice. A voice that carries with it a need for understanding of a culture that has been passed on, and how this is navigated and incorporated in the context of a modern world, not so far removed from Officer Cadet Franz Kappus, and his search to understand the space he occupied in his world.