IMBWA YEMUNHU, By Ignatius MabasaPublished by Bhabhu Books, Harare, 2013
To buy: +263772278171
first reviewed in the Shona by Tinashe Muchuri
and the review was translated into English by Memory Chirere
In Shona traditions, you do not strike the rival once and just expect him to fall and die. Ignatius Mabasa has returned with yet his third blow in the form of beautiful tapestry of ideas. Those in search of a good story will benefit.
You do not rush to punish the child for the first or second offence but on the third, there is bound to be trouble. If you missed Mapenzi, Mabasa’s first novel or Ndafa Here, his second, you will surely not miss his third offering, Imbwa Yemunhu. This one is the ultimate Ignatius Mabasa sermon.
In Imbwa Yemunhu you come across Musavhaya or Musa in brief. Usually Musa becomes jelly kneed when he comes across beer and beautiful women. This time he even wants to grab someone’s wife. She is called Juli. Juli’s husband is an ordinary lay about and petty trader called Richard who is not fazed by his noncommittal ways. Richard seems ready to allow his marriage to collapse. Imbwa Yemunhu revolves around Musa and Juli, occasionally touching the extended family and those characters from the various entertainment joints.
Imbwa Yemunhu, is a novel that demonstrates Mabasa’s unparalleled ability to reveal the ordinary people’s daily struggles. Musa is pressed by his own mother and elder brother to marry Hazvi when he has no any feelings for the girl. He plays up in order to silence his community which expects him to get married. Ironically, Richard does the same by marrying Juli just for the sake of it. This shows how people get into relationships in order to meet societal expectations.
The resultant regret forms the bedrock to Mabasa latest offering.
But what comes out of regret? Juli wishes she had a man like Musa instead of Richard. But she is stuck with Richard! Hazvi wishes she had not had the misfortune of knowing her father. Richard wishes he had not fallen into this marriage with Juli because it is an apparent trap. One key politician’s wife wishes her husband had employed white aides instead of black ones because then, she could have been saved from meeting Musa who has brought hell into her life. The late musician, Simon Chimbetu (who is a character in this novel), wishes he had preached about God during his sojourn on earth. Musa’s brother, Hamu wishes he had not pushed Musa into marrying Hazvi because that could have saved him the embarrassment that comes from the arranged union.
Why are all these people full of regret?
Imbwa Yemunhu is the story about failure to come face to face with the results of one’s choices. Musa is unable to quit the bottle. If you ask him if he was forced into beer in the first place, his answer is no. In fact, the first time he tasted beer, he even found it bitter and unpalatable. But he kept on trying until he became addicted. Self inflicted troubles! Here you also read about fake love. There are also the silent and undeclared divorces between partners. There is utter dog behaviour, sadness, drunkenness, prostitution and that hunger for happiness.
Mabasa does well in coming up with a story that delves into the human thought tracks. You are able to travel with Musa to places that you have been, once upon a time. There are also places and situations that you have come across in your private life. You mourn alongside Musa because his troubles are similar to yours. You are persuaded to spare a thought for girls who go into forced marriages with men they do not love. You feel for girls who are raped by their own parents or relatives. You find sympathy for women who throw themselves at men who they do not love just for the sake of getting married.
Imbwa Yemunhu exposes how family members behave when there is a rapist in their midst. Hazvi’s father rapes Hazvi’s mother. Hazvi’s mother is threatened with death and in the end Hazvi faces the same fate and nobody in the community lifts even a finger!
At the centre of this thrilling novel is Musa’s journey in pursuit of salvation. Through Musa’s journey, you note that this novel is not your ordinary roadside sermon where an overzealous preacher pesters you into joining their particular church and not this or that church.
We are all sojourners, fighting against numerous physical and spiritual forces. For whom is it well? That is Ignatius Mabasa's fundamental question. Maybe that is why the character Old Bob cries each time he listens to the classical Rhumba track, Shauri Yako.
As soon as you pick Imbwa Yemunhu, you come face to face with the image of a sad dog on the cover. Looking closely, you notice that this is a dog with a human face! It may mean that; when a man looks after a dog in the home, the dog begins to resemble the master or the master the dog! That is in tandem with the funny dream Musa has in which he is sitting amongst countless dogs of all species in a bar at Chikwanha shopping centre. And, when he embarks on a kombi; there are only dogs of all varieties in there playing all sorts of dog games and he chants‘Humbwa nehumbwa pamusoro pehumbwa.’ (A dog inside a dog inside a dog!)
The use of dream and madness allows Mabasa a lot of creative entrance into what could be considered taboo territories. Nobody can prohibit other people from dreaming. This is what carries Musa ahead and offers him opportunity to experience what hell is like. Only in the dream does Musa hold hands romantically with the prominent politician’s wife! There are no bounds in dreams.
+ Tinashe Muchuri is a Zimbabwean author, journalist and storyteller.