Saturday, February 11, 2017

Musaemura Zimunya mourns poet Samuel Chimsoro

(picture: Samuel Chimsoro)
+The Zimbabwe Writers Association (ZWA) are going to hold a reading and discussion event in Harare on Saturday 18 Feb 2017, at the Zibfa offices, from 12 to 4pm and one of the issues on the agenda is the late poet Samuel Chimsoro. Below here is a write up by Musaemura Zimunya on the life and work of Samuel Chimsoro…


Most followers of Zimbabwean literature first came across the works of Samuel Chimsoro in his first collection of poetry entitled Smoke and Flames published in 1978 by Mambo Press.  However, this eminent Zimbabwean poet had been operating under the radar for close to a decade and half from the late ‘60’s until then, writing and refining his craft almost entirely out of the public view.  To him it mattered little whether he got mentioned or published in the then prevailing platforms such as Chirimo Poetry Magazine, Two Tone or Rhodesian Poetry.  For him, it never seemed to matter to enter his poetry for the so many competitions on offer, whether English or Shona. 


Nevertheless, a few people were aware of this enigmatic character.  One such was Toby Moyana, the great mentor of so many authors then, who had not only taught him along with Berth Msora, the dramatist, at Nyatsime College, but nourished his thirst for creative writing in the mid-‘60’s.  Moyana was one of those great lights that light up the sky and vanish like a meteor before the world could even notice the brilliance of the phenomenon. Back in 1970, he put together samples of the work of Julius Chingono, Musaemura Zimunya, Samuel Chimsoro - the first two poets having already been published in Chirimo - including his own in order to forward them to Heinemann Publishers who were by then fully established as the preferred destination for many aspiring African authors.  Sad to say that all of Moyana’s efforts came to nought.


Indeed, so secretive and enigmatic was Chimsoro in his endeavours that even the great Kizito Muchemwa who compiled Zimbabwean Poetry in English, the first collection of poetry by Rhodesian Africans, completely missed Chimsoro. Smoke and Flames (1978), published by Mambo Press, his first poetry collection in English.  Dama Rekutanga: Muunganidzwa weNhetembo, published by College Press, 1990.


Those who would do research on Samuel Chimsoro would not find him on Wikipedia, even though he appears on the index of the website as one of many Zimbabwean authors appearing on the list.  However, when you point your cursor on the name, it is frozen and inactive.  And if one were not connected to the family, one would never have known that this great poet died alone in a hut/house in the distant wilderness of Zhombe while his fate was not known until three days after his death.  Nor did the news leak to our prowling press at any point, or so it seems.  This is a writer who never found the urge to join any literary fraternity, not even to set foot at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair where from the beginning of time all writers felt at home and always looked forward to mix and mingle with some of Africa’s greats.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Indeed, one can be excused for thinking that Samuel Chimsoro was a mystic, and yet he did, indeed, live like one and died like one.
Born on February 13th, 1949, Chimsoro passed away on 6th July, 2016 in Umgugu Village, Zhombe. He did his secondary school at Nyatsime College in Seke before proceeding to Fletcher High School, after which he went on to train as a technician in water analysis at the Salisbury (now Harare) Polytechnic College.  Started work in a government laboratory as a technician on radiation detection before joining the Department of UZ and later translocated to Bulawayo Technical College and then on to The National University of Science and Technology. There he rose to become Chief Technician until his retirement.


Samuel Chimsoro originally served his apprenticeship as a poet writing in English and so it is no surprise that his first collection was in English.  Although Smoke and Flames may not represent the vast scope of his creative talent, it is a collection through which critics and lovers of poetry may peep into the mind of the creator himself.  Chimsoro loved metaphors that depict the human experience, emotionally, socially and philosophically.  Almost every poem in this collection derives its energy from this very raw, lyrical force of his creative vision while at the heart of his complex metaphorical universe lies the point: the message, the radial centre of a spider’s interconnected mesh. The following lines from “Leah” may serve as an example:


            A stampede of words


            Stormed the pines but


            Leah spurned the sound


            For my long arms to coil


            Round the strained web


            Of the shredded soul –


            When it was too late to gather


            Words lost in the snoring foams


            Of my fermenting voice.


 


            Teeth gnashed in chronic chaos


            Trembling like tuning forks


            Tuning splinters from


            The cracked auditorium


            To a noise that could


            Crack her cocoon.


            Even then love rolled over listless ears.


This poem also happens to belong to a sequence that explores the myriad situations that make perfect love a recalcitrant proposition.  However, lest we forget, Chimsoro is not merely an aficionado of decadence and passion as some of his poems may suggest.  He is one who also lived through the pain of oppression that characterised the era of settler colonialism and did not shirk from expressing his conscience and protesting against the system.  Thus, the section entitled “Zuva Huya-Huya” is devoted to the cause of the liberation struggle and there are many memorable verses, of which the following titles can be taken as an example: “On Waking Up”, ”To Borehole Drillers”, “Baskets and Stones” and “Colours Grow”, to name just a few.


Chimsoro’s next collection of poetry is Dama Rekutanga which, roughly translated means “The first word”, a self-explanatory introduction of the author’s venture into Shona poetry.  In this collection, the poet freely exercises his full repertoire of craftsmanship earned from his English poetry to full effect.  In these poems we see and hear the poet as a teacher and sage, given to proverbial bursts and turns of phrase to dramatise his message.  The following lines from “Sekuru kumuzukuru” may serve as a good example:


            Sei uri shwindi


            Unoita mapusiro enyoka iri kuvhunura,


            Uchasvika pakudimburisa gave musungo.


            Kukutsiura kwangove kuponda vhunurwa.


Chimsoro published two prose writings, Nothing is Impossible, a novel and Hovhiyo neHowa, a little tale. Nothing is Impossible (1990), is a biographical novel based on the life of Zimbabwe’s earliest and, perhaps, most successful insurance agent, Paul Mukondo.  As in all biography, Nothing is Impossible is a story of growing up.  It traces the experiences of Simbai, a young Rhodesian African who grows up desperately poor but survives the brutality of farm labour and colonial exploitation through the work ethic inspired by his family, especially his grandmother whose words have a prophetic ring for all who would aspire to overcome adverse circumstances:


            All that is expected from us is the vision of the seed, to accept


            to be buried and then germinate and then grow.  You are a man. 


            Manhood should be your ground....I am saying this to all of you so


            that you can be people at whom people can point without shame..... (p.49)


Not surprisingly, Simbai works his way into becoming a member of the Million Dollar Round Table, an event held annually in New York celebrating the achievements of insurance salesmen who have broken the million dollar barrier around the world.


Hovhiyo neHowa is a little tale about a wife who, in a bid to pamper her husband’s appetite for mushroom ends up preparing a tempting dish which has a potential to destroy the family through poisoning. Written in Shona, the short story itself succeeds through the intriguing plot which keeps the reader in suspense, unsure what will become of the family who eagerly anticipate a sumptuous meal of mushroom whose identity no one can confirm. The suspense is climaxed when the son who has taken the dog which had eaten some of the dish starts behaving strangely, eating grass, retch and, finally, vomiting.


It is remarkable that Chimsoro has not found academic challengers who have the courage to tackle this most gifted of poetic craftsmen to have emerged from our midst.  One supposes that part of the fear of tackling this author arises from the tragedy that he has left no record of any interview – audio or press – that may help to unlock his artistic journey, his modus operandi, his beliefs or his vision.


So, we are stuck with word puzzles whose references are not always accessible and remain as obstinately secret and private as Chimsoro’s personality.  So obstinately clandestine that even his family could find only one photo of a remarkably cheerful face – as though it was stolen at an unguarded moment - which is at odds with the picture of an intractable man we are left with.  Perhaps, the organisation of an occasion by The Zimbabwe Writers Association with the support of ZPH to celebrate his works will help alert literary scholars and critics and trigger overdue interest.
-Musaemura B. Zimunya- 9 February 2017, Harare



Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Zimbabwean academic publishes a whole book on Marquez Literature


+To get a copy, phone or whatsap: +263 773763171 Email: bcmanyarara@yahoo.com

The late Nobel Prize winning Gabriel García Márquez, who died on 17 April 2014, is considered by many, including myself, as the greatest author ever to be translated from Spanish to English. I also appreciate that some consider him the greatest author in the Spanish language. I also agree that Marquez’s most successful work as a writer is the long and expansive novel,  One Hundred Years of Solitude. I hear that it became a huge success in the years after its publication in 1967, selling more than 10 million copies in more than 30 languages! It made García Márquez a leader of the Latin American literary "boom" and an international phenomenon.

 

All that may be easy to say, but in front of us is Barbra Manyarara’s book on Marquez. I became aware of Barbra Manyarara of the University of Zimbabwe’s immense interest in  Gabriel García Márquez by accident when she looked smitten by the great author’s death to the extent of agreeing to do an obituary for him for my blog, KwaChirere, on 25 April 2014: http://memorychirere.blogspot.com/2014/04/my-old-man-marquez-is-gone-barbra.html When it came, I saw that it was entitled:  My old man, Marquez is gone! I uploaded it as it was, word for word. In that piece, Manyarara mourns her literary hero:

 

       “The news of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s passing on Thursday 17 April 2014 quickly filtered down to me although I was far away from media access. Two of my undergrads sent me messages of condolences, followed by another two from family overseas. They had been purchasing most of my study material on this writer, seeing as Amazon will not deliver to Zimbabwe. Each of the messages started with, “Mama, mudhara wenyu afa.” (Mom, your old man is dead.) Another of my callers was my own hubby telling me, “Your old man is gone,” to which I retorted, “I thought you were my old man!”

 

       To all these concerns I made the gentle reminder that Gabriel Garcia Marquez has only been promoted to a better place without pain because authors do not die, they live on through our reading of their works. All these messages recognise the special relationship I have with Gabriel Garcia Marquez for I have spent the last three years studying his representations of sexualities in several of his works. 

       Literarily, I first met Gabriel Garcia Marquez when I was recovering quite unsatisfactorily, (according to my doctor), from a life-saving op and running out of satisfying reading material. In the end it was a choice between a lame copy of Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) or Voltaire (without the benefit of even schoolgirl French). My copy of One Hundred Years clothed with the usual Penguin austerity starts with page 377, so I meet Jose Arcadio at a moment when he has taken up with children in a relationship whose significance at this point, I have no idea of at all. Still I am intrigued and flip through to discover that after page 422, there is page 41. From page 41, I could now read through to the end, that is, back to page 422 again. Despite missing that poignant first sentence, “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice,” I was fascinated!”

That is Barbra Manyara’s life with Marquez!  I was first introduced to Marquez by the then writer-in-residency of the University of Zimbabwe, late writer Chenjerai Hove in 1991. Hove spoke to us lavishly and vividly about Macondo, a town in Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude as if he actually came from it. It was so elaborate that we felt sorry for ourselves for not having read this novel. Suddenly I also wanted to go to Macondo like our mentor. I immediately set out to read the novel! It was a monumental mistake because since then, I have never recovered!

I have since read a lot of Marquez literature. I must confess that I prefer the Marquez short story. I particularly love his ‘Maria dos Prazeres.’ Maria,  protagonist of this story , is a Brazilian mulatto woman living in Barcelona. She is a self- retired whore in her seventies who is planning for her imminent death, which was revealed to her in a dream. Maria is removed from her own country (Brazil) when her mother sold her to a Turkish official, who after enjoying her without pity, abandons her, leaving her “with no money, no language and no name”. (p109) Now, old and seemingly useless to herself, Maria goes about the business of deciding on her funeral with matter-of-fact efficiency.

She has already purchased her burial plot and taught her dog, Noi, who sheds real tears, to locate the plot in the cemetery and cry over her grave. She has also made arrangements for a neighbour girl to take care of Noi after she dies and to let him loose on Sundays so that the dog can visit her tomb. Then, one rainy night, she and Noi hitch a ride home to get out of the weather. Maria trembles in the darkness, certain that the mysterious man who gives them a lift and asks to come up to her apartment is the Grim Reaper himself. Then, to her delight and surprise, she realizes that the stranger is actually a customer.

I also read and re-read ‘Bon Voyage, Mr. President.’ The story begins with:

He sat on a wooden bench under the yellow leaves in the deserted park, contemplating the dusty swans with both his hands resting on the silver handle of his cane, and thinking about death. (p3)

The above lines create an image of a very spent, lonely and tired person and from the onset; one guesses correctly that this must be an old person in distress and regret. But there remains, for a discerning reader; visible traces of a life of vigour, careful self- cultivation, glory and plenty rioting from underneath this wreck:

He had the arrogant mustache of a musketeer, abundant blue-black hair with romantic waves, a harpist’s hands with the widower’s wedding band on his left finger and joyful eyes. (p4)

Then the cruellest sentence in this arrangement tries to supersede all that: ‘The years of glory and power had been left behind forever, and now only the years of his death remained.’ (p3) Beneath that, is even a crueller rendition of the plight of the old man. He suffers from an insistently ‘devious’ pain whose position in his body the doctors had not been able to locate in both Martinique and Geneva. As they search for it very actively all over his body, they go to and fro, almost like officers after a criminal!

 

But, I understand what Manyarara sets out to do in this book in your hands. It is about  interrogating Gabriel García Márquez’s representations of sexualities in Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981); The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975); One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967); The Sad and Incredible Tale of Innocent Erendira and her Heartless Grandmother (1972); and Memories of My Melancholy Whores (2004).

 

There is an understanding that although there is a lot of critical energy already expended on Marquez, most of it has dwelt on the author’s use of magical realism as a writerly mode. Critics have also dwelt on the literary influences that have impacted on him and how he in turn, has influenced other writers. Critics have also discussed García Márquez’s employment of prostitution as a metaphor for the exploitation of the colonised people by their European colonisers. Manyarara contends throughout this book that there remains a yawning gap in scholarship in terms of understanding other constructions of sex and sexuality as manifestation of other forms of exploitation in García Márquez’s literary works. This scholarly gap has become particularly glaring because of the wave of public animosity towards García Márquez’s representations of sexualities in his latest novel, Memories (2004).

I hope that this book will manage as Manyara asserts to show that “García Márquez’s employment of the sexuality motif enables him to delve into many worldwide current concerns such as the irrelevance of some socio-cultural sexual practices; commercial sexual exploitation of children; the different manifestations of prostitution; and female powerlessness under autocratic rule.”

If she manages to do that, Manyarara would have broken new ground by showing that “García Márquez’s representations of different sexualities are not merely soft porn masquerading as art. His is a voice added to the worldwide concerns over commercial sexual exploitation of children in the main and also the recovery of a self-reliant female self-hood that was previously inextricably bound to male sexual norms.”

For me, Barbra Manyara’s book is the most important new book on Latin American literature that I have read this year, 2016. This is an attempt to break a new window through which we can begin to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

-Memory Chirere, 2016-    

 

 

 


Boss Chidora reads Farayi Mungoshi's Behind the Wall Everywhere

Boss Tanaka Chidora reads Farayi Mungoshi's Behind The Wall Everywhere. The review is here: https://litmindssite.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/farayi-mungoshis-behind-the-wall-everywhere-a-book-review/

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Charles Mungoshi's son arrives!

In Harare, The Herald reports that Charles Mungoshi’s son, Farayi has published his debut short story collection. In the link to the story below, Beavan Tapureta reviews Farayi Mungoshi’s book:
In the WinZim pic above, Farayi discusses his book with two Library of Congress officials. For a copy, phone 00263 772634918

Sunday, January 10, 2016

kwaChirere reads Huchu's second novel


 

 

The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician by Tendai Huchu
Published by ámaBooks, 2014, www.amabooksbyo.com
isbn:9780797495005

I don't know why I initially found it difficult to find time to do a nonstop read through Tendai Huchu's second novel, The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician. Months! Going. Stopping. Going. Stopping- then I was happy to be finally going on forever for the rest of last week!

I was even able to read through Tinashe Muchuri's new Shona novel, Chibarabada- in between The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician. Maihwe-e! I was carefully feeding into their two different feel for life, place and people. Warning: I have always been ambidextrous with books! I do funny things when you surround me with books... 

I was even emotionally flattered to learn that there is a character in The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician itself, who reads, like me, two or more novels at the same time! But unlike me, he starts to lose his bearings and decides to burn books! Kikikiki! That is the maestro for you. The reason: after reading many books nonstop, he finds that “each of these books was just a jumble of words with which he had no connection…” And after burning them, "he curled up on the carpet and cried himself to sleep.”  

There is a way in which The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician asks you to go slowly, crosschecking details, underlining whole passages for closer reading in another time and another place... This novel allows you to use the page marker and do other things, read other things even, until you are able to 'return to the source' and take another dose to last you another whirl wind tour. The references to Geography, Music, History, Architecture etc are laden with nuggets that demand further contemplation and investigation. 

What I am telling you is that this novel is compact. I had a similar experience with Bryony Rheam’s This September Sun and Allende’s The House of The Spirits. The book tells you: You can’t deal with me in one gulp because I was written slowly, over time and… you can never really go away forever from me…

Now that I have finished reading it, I feel that I have been paid. I chat with friends at home and abroad about this novel and they marvel at the comments I make. I admire the parallel process arrangement of this novel. Three separate stories running together like three fine novellas from one shelf, only ‘confluencing’ together at the very end. Running dutifully together like three weaving cords. Maybe in that regard, this is the first novel of its type by a writer from my country, Zimbabwe.

Now that Alfonso is not exactly what I thought he was in the beginning, I have learnt a lot about the power of holding out a key detail. I must now go through this whole story again, mentally, laughing at myself for having been led down the garden path. Alfonso is not exactly that drunken fool who enters the novel through the Magistrate’s door one morning. Through him, you learn that this novel does not underestimate what the establishment in Zimbabwe can achieve, miles and miles away. That is why I am still laughing every time that I read the very last page of the novel. Alfonso! O, Alfonso!

At the heart of this story are three Zimbabwean men, residing in Edinburgh, Scotland, far away from Harare and Bindura. They are named the Maestro, the Magistrate and the Mathematician. The way these men think and go is typically Zimbabwean. Although they are far away from it, turbulent Zimbabwe of the around the year 2000 is their recognizable fulcrum. Their thoughts on Zimbabwean politics are not bitter but careful.

But the Maestro is my man. Through him, Tendai Huchu makes the most poignant contribution to Literature and Philosophy: “I went on a journey of discovery, trying to find the meaning of life, he said. I discovered that it is many things to many people at many times, and that , for me, and for me only, because you can only discover the meaning of your own life and no one else’s, that the meaning of life lies in giving a bit of yourself to someone else…. And he lay there and told her everything: wide open spaces, blue skies, laughter and the sound of sweet rain falling on zinc metal sheets, the brown puddles the rain makes, splashing in the puddles under the moonlight, cups of tea in the sunshine, cricket pavilions, of time that is measured not by the tick-tock of a clock but by its nearness to eternity, how the crickets sing their song in the night and birdsong picks up the refrain at dawn, all these things and more…”

Here is a man who goes far away from home searching for his lost soul. Then he starts to read book after book after book, until he discovers that if a book contains an idea, then it contains something of the writer’s soul…

I must add that I enjoy disliking the Magistrate. It is because despite his huge social loss that comes through leaving Zimbabwe and the privileges he used to enjoy, he still has the holier than thou air around him, like most government officers everywhere whom I have learnt to loathe. His wandering around Edinburgh, taking in the environment and dreaming of little and far away Bindura, tells you that here is a bully from Zimbabwe, looking for a new pedestal to sit on in order to start to bully other people all over again. I am startled that the opposition sees method in him! I can reveal that I like it when that fatherly pride of his is constantly punctured for him by his no longer submissive wife and unsympathetic daughter. However, I catch myself wallowing in and enjoying his deep appreciation of Zimbabwean music. He turns all the remembered songs into a map of his good and bad memories of Zimbabwe. I am also like that. Kikikiki!

I don’t know what to do with the young Mathematician and what finally happens to him. I honestly think that he wanted opportunity to find meaning out of life, love, sex and friendship.

Tendai Huchu’s second novel is a serious work of art, meant to accompany you through three different mental journeys of travelers from one country to a foreign city. This is a novel about cities through the eyes of newcomers. I think you may want me to say that this is a novel about migrants and how they peer into their souls from behind totally new cultures and infrastructure. But I will add: you come closest home when you travel further and further from home!
-Memory Chirere, January 2016, Harare.

 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Tinashe Muchuri's debut novel-Chibarabada now out


blurb:  Dai uri mumwe, dai waverenga zvako bhuku rino. Chibarabada chaTinashe Muchuri chinoendesa mberi-mberi chaizvo novhero reZimbabwe. Chinotangira panoperera mamwe manovhero eZimbabwe atinoziva. Chinodzika chaizvo nenyaya yaShingi neyaFreedom neyako neyangu. Chibarabada chauri kubvunza, chinwiwa chinobikwa muchivande chozongobudiswa panguva yokunwa. Chibarabada chinoona zuva musi wekupedzisira. Unoona vanhu vopukuta miromo nekunze kweruoko vachitaura kunge vange vaina tateguru nezuro manheru. Nyaya yavari kutaura ndeyokuti tiri kungotenderera. Tiri kutenderera nekufashaira mudumbu rechibarabada nokuti kwatakabva kune nyaya. Kana kwatinoenda kune nyaya zvakare! Saka tinoramba tichitenderera nokuti nyangwe kuzorora kunotityisa. Unozorora sei usati wawana mhinduro nedonhodzo? Ngatirambe tichitenderera nokuti pamwe tingaone nzira yokubuda nayo mubotso ratiri kutamba kudai. Dambudziko redu ndere nhafu, kuba nekungoramba kunzwa mirairo yakanaka yepasi rino.
Chibarabada chaTinashe Muchuri itambo inoradanuka pabhobhiri. Pamwe – rungano rwatsuro nagudo. Pamwe-rwiyo rwepasichigare. Pamwe-kakova kaunonzwa kachirira murima kachirovera pamatombo kachifashuka kachidzika kugungwa isu tichisara tine nyota. Pamwe-ibembera rinoita kuti umbocheuka kuti: hapana here andiona ndichiverenga Chibarabada? Verenga chete nokuti ndiro basa rasara… Verenga! Usacheme!
published by Bhabhu Books, Harare, 2015
edited by Ignatius Mabasa
++ (For copies phone: +263 733843455)

 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Zimunya and Munhumumwe: a tale of two Zim poets


++ Recently (September 2015) Stanley Mushava did an interview with Zimbabwean poet Musaemura Zimunya, about both the kinship between Zimunya and the late Zimbabwean musician, Marshall Munhumumwe and their work as artists. I am convinced that this interview will be useful to all those who have an interest in Zimbabwean poetry and Zimbabwean music. I post it here, with the kind permission of both Stanley Mushava (SM) and Musaemura Zimunya (MZ).

      SM: How were you related to Marshall and how did your lives interact?

MZ: Sekuru Munhumumwe, Marshall’s father, was my mother’s eldest living brother by a different mother but born of the same father, VaKufera of Masvaure Village in Marange. 

  I did not know about the Munhumumwe branch of the Kufera family until I was well into my teens when Marshall’s brother, Peter Munhumumwe, turned up in Zimunya to visit my mother, his aunt.  We struck a good understanding and close friendship there and then and when he left, we would correspond through letters.  But I was not able to see Marshall until I was doing A-Levels at Goromonzi High when eventually I visited Sekuru Munhumumwe in Mahusekwa.  And because Marshall was a shy young man, though he was older than me, I was always closer to Sekuru Peter.  Then about 1975, when I was studying at the University of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), we were to meet regularly at the Mapfumo house in Harare (National).  It must be remembered that Thomas Mapfumo’s mother was accepted as the eldest child in the Munhumumwe family, though she was already born when her mother got married to Sekuru Munhumumwe.  Thus, my mother was her Tete, according to Shona custom and she was my Mainini.  By then Marshall was already a drummer playing with The Tutenkamen Band at Mushandirapamwe and staying with the Mapfumo family.  Still, I found him difficult to hold conversations with because he was shy and withdrawn, to the point of being almost mysterious.

SM: What are some of your memorable encounters with him?

MZ: As already mentioned, I recall my first encounter with Marshall at the Mapfumo homestead.  It was a cold winter morning just before sunrise and so there was a fire outside for everyone to warm themselves.  I had not seen Marshall the night before because he was playing drums at Mushandirapamwe Hotel.  He was quiet, as though he was in his own world – a spiritual world.

 

Soon afterwards I left for my studies overseas.  And although I came back in 1980, I did not get to see Marshall because he was no longer staying at the Mapfumo homestead.  However, I followed him and The Four Brothers through their music on the radio and on television.  I was astounded to think he could sing because there had been no evidence of this in his earlier life as an artist.  I was also surprised that he could present a charming face in his videos, given his introverted character.

 

I got reunited with Marshall through Biggie Tembo, who had been following my literary reviews and occasional poetry readings on Television and I had already met at Saratoga, under very odd circumstances.  It was at Rufaro Stadium on a day Dynamos were playing Black Rhinos and I was somewhere in the middle of the Vietnam section of the eastern terraces.  Biggie is the one that spotted me and invited me to sit with him.  Then he introduced Marshall to me and then he said “Mukoma Marshall ava ndimukoma Musa Zimunya and Mukoma Musa ava ndiMukoma Marshall Munhumwe.” There and then Marshall and I, delighted and embarrassed to be introduced by a stranger, rose and hugged and shook the energies out of each other.  Biggie could not understand until we explained.  We shared memories and forgot about the football match and exchanged contact numbers and addresses and Marshall invited me to Machipisa Nightclub to listen to The Four Brothers Band for free any day I chose. 

 

Thereafter I was not only to enjoy free entrance to the Night Club but also keep regular company with Marshall. He would invite me to accompany him to collect his royalties at Gallo, after which I would accompany him to pay his bills, buy home gadgets and then we would go drinking at shebeens in Highfield.  By this time I could see he was slightly less reserved than I had known   him to be in previous times.  And, of course, he was very popular on the streets of Lusaka.

 

I have many fond memories of Marshall, but two moments stand out in our interaction.  One was when I invited him to go upon a trip to Mahusekwa during which I interviewed him for an article for Praise Zenenga’s Sunday Observer Magazine.  What was special about this trip is that I spent the whole day with him, interviewing and discussing his artistic journey and creative methods while playing his music.  To-date, I doubt if there was ever anyone who did as deep an interview with Marshall as I did then. The second occasion was in 1998 during a break from performing at Kambuzuma Garden Party when I followed him to his car when he confided in me while he was reclining in his car that he had lost his appetite for everything – life, beer, music women and food.  And here I have used simple words to avoid offending readers.  It was a singularly chilling message. A few months after this Thomas Mapfumo called me to tell that Marshall had been admitted at Parirenyatwa Hospital.  When I visited him I found him in the initial stages of a stroke.  He could still speak.  One member of his band was evening pushing for Marshall to ensure the doctors released him for the weekend’s show.  No one had known that Marshall would never be the same again.  After several days he was never to regain his speech faculty, let alone his melodious voice.  My last memory of him is at his house, his body down to his bones, disabled and clinging onto my hands with tears rolling down his cheeks as his only means of expression and only his son to attend to his needs.

 

SM:  Did you exchange notes as artists?

MZ: There were many times I felt obliged to compliment him on his compositions on account of the originality of his beat, lyrics and melodies.  Of course he was once embarrassed about ignorantly using some of Mordecai Hamutyinei’s lines on “Vimbai” without seeking permission, but after admitting to copyright violation and paying compensation to the poet, he was never to use anyone else’s poetry for his music. He became even more determined that he did not need to plunder anyone’s talents to climb to the top.  What I also learned from him was that a lot of his music was inspired by voices on the street, what people said casually but was yet loaded with poetic and philosophical meaning relevant to all human beings and to society.  So, poets do not have to invent everything.  And he was one hell of a poet.  He also showed me his song book, where his pen literally carved every line and every stanza of every song painstakingly with rigorous clarity “in the early hours of the morning” – in his own words.                                  

SM: What about the version that you wrote songs for Marshall?

MZ: No.  Let me state very clearly that my support for Marshall and The Four Brothers never went beyond attending their shows and encouraging every direction they took in their evolution since the mid-80’s. For which they fully appreciated.  I never ever composed a single song for Marshall.  The story is one of those flattering myths about oneself, but purely based on guesswork.  It probably also comes from the fact that someone whispered to someone that we were related.  Like I often hear some say Marshall Munhumumwe Muzukuru was Thomas Mapfumo, whereas the truth is that it is Marshall who is Thomas’ Sekuru because he is Thomas’ mother’s brother.

SM:  Tell us the story of that trip to Marshal's original home to write an article on him for The Herald.

MZ: As mentioned earlier, I had been asked by Praise Zenenga of The Sunday Observer to do an in-depth story on Marshall for his Magazine series on Zimbabwean musicians.  He knew I was close to Marshall and could get more about him and his family than most.  So, I thought the best idea is for me to sponsor a drive to Chionana near Mahusekwa in Chihota which would really be one long and undisrupted experience.  We had also purchased grocery supplies for the family who would also be part of the interview.  It was a truly unforgettable experience culminating in that big article headlined: “Is Marshall also a Poet?”

SM: What do both of you represent in the canon of Zimbabwean arts?

MZ: Well, there are people better placed to judge my poetry, prose and criticism than myself.  All I can say without any arrogance is that I am proud to have been privileged to be involved in what I would call “The Golden Generation” of Zimbabwean literature in English in the ‘70’s who put Zimbabwean writing on the African continent and the world map.  Thereafter, since the ‘80’s I have been in the limelight of the literary sector in various capacities as Secretary General of The Zimbabwe Writers Union and Chair of The Zimbabwe Writers Association of late.  Marshall Munhumumwe is already a legend in the music that straddles mbira/Shona traditional and Sungura whose legacy stands as a bright beacon in the history of popular music in Zimbabwe and the outlying region.  His lyrics are mature and poetically moving whether you listen to “Rudo Moto” or “Rwendo Rwekudenga” or “Ndipe Uta Hwangu” or “Mudiwa Wangu” while his voice has that unique brightness that carries beauty like a crystal wave.

SM:  How did you become a writer yourself?

MZ: This is a question that requires an interview by itself.  However, I can tell you that I was a singer in the Methodist Church choir and had already begun to lead quartets, trios and duos to entertain fellow pupils in primary school.  I also had some compositions of my own at the time.  That was my first experience as a composer.  When I was a student at Chikore Secondary School we had a demanding culture of reading poetry and prose in Shona and English.  The school also had a publication called “Young Voice” in which my first poem in English appeared when I was in Form Two.  Thereafter, the late Toby Moyana, our English and English Literature instructor took a keen interest in my work and loaded me with books of poetry and prose to read for my own development.  He was such a mentor that up to the time I was at university in England his voice would always caution, condemn, command, advise and reassure me in whatever I did - including my attitude to the world.

SM: We have seen your pictures with a guitar? Are you a singing writer? How does music intersect with literature?

MZ: My father was a great mbira player who was murdered just when I had made contact with Grammar for him to record his songs.  He used to put me on his lap and play the mbira in my ear.  The sounds of the mbira gave me a tremendous spiritual and imaginative vision of the forests, mountains and rivers that linger on in my head to-date.  The tragedy is that my mother would not entertain my daring to learn to play the mbira for fear I would become a “rombe”.  But in the comfort and isolation of my days at the mission school I learned to play the guitar.  I entertained fellow students from about Form Three all the way to the University of Rhodesia via Goromonzi.  My greatest success was playing at Kent at Canterbury University for fun – either solo or with Olly Maruma or white students who shared our idea of fun.  The pictures you refer to were taken then.  I have composed my own songs and deep in my heart I have an undying wish to record some of these and perhaps show the world how poetry and music – and I mean music, not hohoho - belong together.       

SM: What are the rocks doing in your poems? Are you a fan of sculpture? Does it have any influence on your work?

MZ: My fascination with rocks began in my childhood, just fascination with what they are, how they came to be and there powerful presence in the form of boulders atop mountains or hills. Some of them have animal shapes, others human or strange forms. Their inability to speak confounds – their silence. We climbed rocks when we were young with my brothers for the fun of it.  But Great Zimbabwe was to transform my perception of rocks into something mythical, mysterious as well as a tool with which our ancestors built an impregnable legacy – footprints to inspire all future generations to remember there once treaded on this earth great African leaders and architects and cultural visionaries.

SM: And Now the Poets Speak must have been a landmark feat. How did you coordinate the project?

MZ: This collection was the product of an evening I shared with Mudereri Kadhani in Kent in the United Kingdom when we were exiled students back in 1979.  We had both been jailed for taking part in the 1973 “Ports and Pants Demo” at the University of Rhodesia.  We were looking for a cultural role in the Revolution and were determined to fill a void in our literature, that of poetry focusing primarily on the war of liberation.  As it so happened, once back in the country in 1980, we were the first to do poetry readings on television in the newly independent Zimbabwe, but by then we had already sent out a call for submissions of poetry for the collection.  The response was so overwhelming in terms of numbers of manuscripts, but also in the quality of hitherto unknown poets such as Chenjerai Hove, Carlos Chombo and Killian Mwanaka, Hopewell Seyaseya, Solomon Mahaka, Pathisa Nyathi, Lazarus Dokora, Vitalis Nyawaranda and Emmanuel Ngara. It was an amazing experience just sifting through the submissions.  And if you take a close look at this list, you can only agree that ours was an inspired vision.

 

SM: What are the landmarks of your writing career?

MZ: Briefly the following is an outline of the major key moments in my creative writing career:

-          1970 Received the Special National Poetry Award for the best folio of five poems in a multiracial competition run by the Poetry Society of Rhodesia.

-          1970 had some of the poems published in Chirimo Poetry Magazine

-          1971 Some of the poems from that folio were published in New Coin Poetry Magazine (South Africa)

-          1971-81 – regular contributor to the Poetry Society magazines, Two Tone (Quarterly) and Rhodesian Poetry (Annual).

-          1979 – First poetry publication Zimbabwe Ruins.

-          1981 – published And now the Poets – Co-ed Mudereri Kadhani

-          1982 – published Thought Tracks

-          1983 – published Those Years of Drought and Hunger (Criticism)

-          1993 – published Nightshift (Short Stories)

-          1993 – Conducted poetry readings at ……..and University of Washington

-          1987 – Attended the Contemporary African Writers Conference in Rome

-          1989 – Appointed to Panel of Judges of African Poetry for the BBC collection, The Fate

             of Vultures published by Heinemann.

-          1996 – Awarded distinguished Poet of Smederevo – Yugoslavia

-          2000 – Invited to the Medellin Poets of the World Festival (Poetas del Mundo), Colombia

-          2003 – Invited to the Durban International Poetry Festival

SM: Tell us about the Scribe's Scroll and what "public" criticism means for the book sector?

     MZ:  I am not certain as to who was the brainchild behind the long running Monday Book

      Review column entitled “Scribes Scroll” whose first editor was Tonic Sakaike who invited 

  me to write the first article for it and I obliged published in two parts. I think it was entitled “The Birth of Zimbabwean Fiction” or something like that.  The column itself was subsequently to run for more than a decade under various editors among whom included Davison Maruziva and Stephen Mpofu.  Throughout the period it ran, it provided a forum for book reviews, literary news, articles and information on books and The Zimbabwe International Book Fair. 

 

As for criticism, there is  no doubt that from time to time writers and books deserve scrutiny from expert readers and scholars who, at their best, open the eyes of the public to the treasures hidden within the covers of books or expose literary pretenders or charlatans.  All writers, new and old, need to be reminded of the good service they provide to the public as well as the disservice -   in some respects.  Of course, some of the contemporary book reviewers have no clue what a book review is.  But, ultimately, there is no such thing as “bad publicity”, though not all writers agree with these views.                                           

 

SM: ZIBF. What were the highs and lows?

     MZ: During my first term as Chairperson of ZIBF, the organization experienced vibrant growth 

    culminating in the re-launching of The ZIBF Bulawayo Book Fair and The ZIBF Mutare Book

    Fair in 201, followed by the first launching of The ZIBF Masvingo Book Fair in 2013. All of

    these projects were aimed at spreading the benefit of the Book Fair and its related activities

   such as exhibitions, workshops (mini-indabas), Children’s Reading Tent and  Live Literature

   to far-flung cities across the land in order spread the access to books to members of the

   public across the land.  In due course, we created The Digital Zone, an IT booth for, as a

  permanent feature to provide a guided digital experience for young and mature visitors to

  all our exhibitions.  From 2013 onwards, we also ran an event called The Literary Evening at  

  all our book fairs in order to give a platform to writers to come together and read and

  discuss their works.  Even most positively, my two terms at the helm of ZIBF saw a gradual

  process of integrating the book through cajoling and an inclusive approach to all our

  activities so that no sub-sector was marginalized from our programmes.  One of our projects,

 The All Stakeholders Anti-Book Piracy Workshop (2013) was a product of this vision of

 integrating the book sector to recognize that we are stronger together than as separate sub-

 sectors vying in opposite directions.   Of course, there is little one could do should some sub-

 sectors choose to stay away as ours is a voluntary association of willing players. 

 

One could say the biggest challenge ZIBF experienced came in the form of the severe depression that has affected the book sector over the first two decades of the millennium.  Of course, it may be apparent to the public that for decades, our publishing sector has been the mainstay of ZIBF because when the going is good, it has greater financial wherewithal than all the other sectors.  When you see empty bookshelves at the Book Fair, you can trace that to the depression in the industry.  It should be restated that this depression is a consequence of many underlying challenges, not the least of which are, the national economic meltdown at the turn of the millennium, the death of the reading culture triggered by the low purchasing power of the of the public or the downsizing of priorities by the buying pubic together with the rampant and vicious book piracy which has created a ready alternative market for books. Critically, when the international monetary crisis forced our major cooperating partners to drastically reduce funding for our activities, it was perhaps the lowest point of my time at the helm of ZIBF.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

  

SM: You grew up during turbulent times. What are some of your memorable encounters with the "system"?

MZ: In August 1973 we engaged in a big demonstration called “The Pots and Pants” Demo on the Campus of the University of Rhodesia in protest against sentiments that had been voiced by an RF backbencher called Simington (I think) who attacked black students at the university for being dirty, drunken and being a nuisance for the white students and challenging their legitimacy in the institution.  I remember the next day seeing a picture of myself on the  front page of “The Herald” epitomizing the headline “University Students Run Riot” or something to that effect.  About 157 of us were subsequently arrested and detained for 21 days while we attended trials culminating in various sentences ranging from 9 months mandatory prison with hard labour without the option of a fine.  Among that group were Witness Mangwende, Henry Dzinotyiwei, Andrew Wutawunashe, Dambudzo Marechera, Rino Zhuwarara, Cadmiel Wekwete, Stanley Kazhanje, Gwanzura, Misheck Nyamupingidza, Arthur Borerwe and many others.  Following release at the end of the prison terms, we were served with orders banning us from entering within a 10 kilometre radius of Salisbury (Harare) – which effectively meant we could not resume our studies.  That is how come we eventually ended up in universities across Africa and the United Kingdom.         

 

SM:  Why do Zimbabweans hang their pens early? You, for example. Elsewhere, artists write into their 80s/90s.

   MZ:  It is not true that I have stopped writing.  Those who spread the rumours that one is no

    longer writing do so for their own self-serving ends.  There are many times I have felt the   

    impulse to write about many ills affecting our society and found that voices of intolerance

    rendered in pathetic essays have choked the public space like the Chivero weeds. Any fisherman knows what I mean by this metaphor.  Further, for your information, I have   quantities of unpublished poems, short stories and even opinion pieces.  Sometimes when you have achieved a certain degree of accomplishment, you hesitate to publish things you are not completely satisfied with and you wait for precisely when you feel you have reworked everything to your satisfaction.  Sometimes when one is starting out, one is more preoccupied with one’s ego at the expense of perfection.  Sometimes it is also a matter of timing.  And temperament plays its part as well.  It is a complex thing.

 

SM: What do you have to say about the current literary scene?

   MZ: I am eternally amazed at the literary talents our small country is endowed with, talents that  are eternally blooming from every possible nook and cranny. The pity is that our book

  industry is down on its knees.  People do not read.  Books do not make sense if they do not

 find their way into the hands, minds and hearts of readers.  So, on the one hand, we have all this talent, at the same time, we have no readership to nourish it.  It is a situation which could easily lead back to the drought and hunger of earlier times – or a variation thereof.

 (The End)