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A neurological letter from Zimbabwe
  1. Arjune Sen1,
  2. Sloan Mahone1,2,
  3. Taurai Kadzviti3,
  4. Ingrid Landman4,
  5. Gwen Kandawasvika5,6,
  6. Andrew Mataruse6,7,
  7. Gift Ngwende6,7
  1. 1 Oxford Epilepsy Research Group, NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK
  2. 2 Faculty of History, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  3. 3 Epilepsy Support Foundation, Harare, Zimbabwe
  4. 4 MASH Faculty, College of Primary Health Care Physicians of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe
  5. 5 Department of Paediatrics, University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences, Harare, Zimbabwe
  6. 6 International League Against Epilepsy, Zimbabwe Chapter, Harare, Zimbabwe
  7. 7 Department of Medicine, University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences, Harare, Zimbabwe
  1. Correspondence to Dr Arjune Sen, Oxford Epilepsy Research Group, NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, OX3 9DU, UK; arjune.sen{at}

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Zimbabwe is, fundamentally, not what you think (see Supplementary panel 1). This southern African country has a rich and proud heritage best exemplified by the 12th century Munhumutapa kingdom, which was flourishing when Europe was still in the Dark Ages. Trade thrived and an ordered, hierarchical, religious society constructed ‘Great Zimbabwe’—a vast complex of structures built with hand-cut stone near Masvingo. The extensive ruins, still remarkably intact, are the country’s second greatest tourist attraction after Victoria Falls. This sacred site is the spiritual heart of the country and gives modern Zimbabwe its name (figure 1).

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Figure 1

Zimbabwe is a land-locked country in Southern Africa (A,B) with a rich cultural heritage. Although famous for Victoria Falls (C), the spiritual heart of the nation lies in Great Zimbabwe (D) where an ancient, powerful civilisation thrived. Soapstone birds found at Great Zimbabwe provide evidence for an ordered hierarchical structure and an example features on the modern Zimbabwean flag (F). The famous golden rhinoceros of Mapungubwe, which dates from around 1100–1200 AD (G), was found close the South African border with Zimbabwe.

More recently, conditions have changed dramatically. Colonisation by Cecil Rhodes and the creation of Southern Rhodesia meant that minority white rule, with all of its oppression, took root. Then, in 1965, the Prime Minister, Ian Smith, signed a unilateral declaration of independence from the UK. In some ways, the fact that the white Rhodesians felt able to sever ties with the UK underscores the wealth and natural resource to which they had access. However, the declaration …

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  • Contributors AS, SM and TK: applied for the grant to visit Zimbabwe and constructed the idea for the manuscript. TK, IL, GK, AM and GN: all offered enduring support during the visit to Zimbabwe and subsequently. AS: wrote the initial draft of the manuscript. All authors: commented on the draft manuscript and contributed to the final version.

  • Funding This study was funded by University of Oxford, AfOX Collaboration and the Oxford NIHR Biomedical Research Centre.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed. This paper was reviewed by Colin Mumford, Edinburgh, UK, and Myles Connor, Edinburgh, UK.

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