Sunday, January 1, 2023

KwaChirere reviews Starfish Blossoms by Vazhure


 

Title: Starfish Blossoms

Author: Samantha Rumbidzai Vazhure

Publisher: Carnelian Heart Publishing, 2022

Hardback: isbn: 987-1-914287-27-5

Paper back: isbn: 978-1-914287-28-2

E-Book isbn: 978-1-914287-29-9

 

I am hoping to refer to Samantha Rumbidzai Vazhure’s latest collection of poems, Starfish Blossoms, as a multi-tasking anthology.

It often occurs to a poet that one of her books may carry pieces from the many different periods of her life, ably reflecting continuity and change of the poet’s vision and methods over time. This is the essence of a multi-tasking collection. 

Through such a book, the poet makes definitive statements on a wide range of themes and subjects under one cover. Later in life, the poet herself may actually sit back, like any other reader, and re-read her own book in search of the growth of her own philosophy of life and the development of her craft.

As a result, Starfish Blossoms is a festival of sorts. Many of these poems ring with the unmistakable clarity of biographical information from the life of the poet herself; the ups and downs of life, the poet’s discoveries, the poet’s mental experiments and the poet’s acute personal memories. You could draw the poet's graph, underlining your favourite pieces and flipping over others for further reading.

I may want to call this book a diary anthology, too.

What is however clearer to me than my other observations is; this collection is decidedly based on the firm foundations of the wisdom of one’s female ancestors, both in mythical and real time. This book can be read as an archive of women's thoughts and sweet secrets from one generation to the other.

In these pieces, there is the hovering presence of the persona’s paternal grandmother, vaChivi. She is the spirit of the lioness, hunting relentlessly for game in order to feed her pack of cubs. VaChivi is more vicious and runs much faster than her lazy and redundant male counterpart. Hunting is not sport. It is a matter of life and death.

There is also the maternal grandmother, aChihera, the woman of the Shava Eland totem. Charwe Nehanda of the first Chimurenga is amongst the strong Chihera women of Zimbabwe. They are renowned in Shona lore for their resilience and sometimes they are known to be strong headed, fighting harder than their fathers or their husbands!

These two archetypes VaChivi and aChihera demonstrate that this poet is coming to the world stage already armed with ready-made stories of the brave women from her own community. She is not looking for new heroes. She already has the blood of heroines running through her veins. She is only looking for a broader audience. For me this is Samantha Rumbidzai Vazhure’s greatest achievement.

In the very first poem the persona recalls her time with her grandmother out in the countryside. It is a return to the stable source and to roots that go deep.

Grandmother hides her monies everywhere; inside her crimpling doek, under the reed mat and even inside her G-cup bra. Meanwhile the corn is roasting by the fireside. When she asks her granddaughter to count her money, the younger woman says, “but you can’t see the money even if I were to count it for you!”

And the elder answers: “These eyes can see what they want to see.” Meaning I would not have asked you to count the money if you were not a trusted fellow. This poem is a story about the easy camaraderie between women from across generations.

In the poem Hanyanani, the poet goes even deeper into the Shona mythology. An old woman lives in the drought smitten district of Chivi in a year when the famine is at its bitterest. There is danger that the many-many orphans that she is keeping in her homestead may actually starve to death. VaChivi goes up and down amongst her neighbours and she finds no food to cook. But the orphans gather around her crying louder and louder...

VaChivi comes up with a plan which has become legendary amongst the Shona people. She lights a fire as if everything is alright and puts a pot full of water on the fire. There is still nothing to cook and VaChivi picks pebbles from the bare ground and throws them into the pot and she tells her grandchildren that she is now cooking something and she will make soup out of it. She dishes out the ‘soup’ eventually. It is the mere hope amongst these children that the hot water that they are taking in is real soup. That saves their lives;

And there’s an old woman from Chvi

who cooked stones and drank the soup.

She did not swallow the stones.

Did she not know that those

who swallow stones do not die?

 

The Chivi woman’s story is about intense hope and resolve. In the same area there is a contemporary tale about Hanyanani, a ghost that goes ahead with its ghostliness without thinking about what people say about her as a ghost. Sometimes Hanyanani terrorises wayfarers who walk the paths in the middle of the night from beer drinking binges.

The daring drunkards even think s Hanyanani is a fresh new prostitute from more urbane place like Masvingo, Harare and Bulawayo and on being taken to her home, the men fall into deep sleep. When they wake up they find that they are actually resting in the graveyard! In a more contemporary period, Hanyanani is often reincarnated as Peggy, the other terror ghost of the other Zimbabwean towns of Chiredzi and Triangle.

These are stories about woman triumphalism retold in poetic form. Vazhure does not exactly rewrite these myths but her allusions to them through her poetry are powerful and strategic. Vazhure uses local materials to talk about global issues.

The story of the girl, Fatima, in the title poem Starfish blossoms, is retold by a girl child narrator. Fatima works for other people looking after their home and children. Fatima uses herbs in order to elongate her sexual organs and improve the general fecundity of her body. She is aiming at attracting one powerful suitor. The result is tragic but Fatima does not collapse and cry. Her spirit of resistance remains in the mind of the girl narrator who tells this story. The narrator wants to avenge Fatima and create a freer version of her. Fatima, Just like the widely spread starfish flower in blossom, has some overarching influence on other women including the persona.

In one transcendental poem, My mother aloft a raging fire, the persona sees mother way before mother is born. That recalls the Shona proverb chisionekwi humhandara hwamai, it is impossible for anyone to meet their mother during her girlhood! But the persona is that rare seer who has powerful visions of her own mother’s girlhood. She was there before and during her own mother because she is a fellow woman:

In my dreams of mother, rare as true love

she looks nothing like the end, but rather, the beginning

before I was born – a vivacious stunning queen…

Afro glowing like a golden halo…

 

In her youth, which no son or daughter can ever see, mother was a terrible beauty. Strangely, when mother tries to pass on the cooking stick, like a baton in athletics, she is raising it by the wrong hand and the persona runs away from receiving the cooking stick! Presumably, the daughter is running away from the seemingly disabling traditional women’s duties. But is clear that in her wild and speedy flight, the daughter persona runs with no baton, tripping and falling along “abysmal tracks” of athletics and wakes up very tired and exhausted.

This poem challenges us to see the womanly duties differently. You may choose to see slavery in women’s domestic duties but beyond that, the caring duties of motherhood have actually sustained generations.

 

Woman’s duties have been a subject of heated debate. If you perform them you are damned, if you don’t, you are damned too. The life of a mother appears to beg for a more careful reading. There is pain in a mother’s life but there appears to be life at the end of mother’s pains. We have come this far because of our mothers.

 

Down the pages, in a more cryptic poem, the poet clarifies her position: “An abused mother is too sore and too drained to nurture her children the way Mother Nature intended her to.” As confirmed in Barbed crowns, suffering should not be the crown of thorns that a woman should continue to wear. Women should rebel from oppression but should not refuse the natural task of suckling and healing the whole nation.

 

Samantha Vazhure’s poems are a useful addition to the rich tradition of Zimbabwean poetry. Her views on how women ought to proceed from the concrete local foundations as they grow globally, are going to provide space for discussion amongst scholars and theorists. Samantha Vazhure studied Law and Business Administration at the University of Kent. She works in the UK as a regulatory consultant in financial services. She has published various collections of poems and short stories in Shona and English.

-   Reviewed by Memory Chirere

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

The return of Andrew Chatora...Harare Voices and Beyond


The UK based Zimbabwean author, Andrew Chatora, has yet another new novel on the way! This is the third novel in three years from the fast rising writer from Mutare. It is called Harare Voices and Beyond.

This story is based on the troubled lives of a white commercial farming family who dramatically lose both their very active father and their farm in Mazowe to jambanja. The term jambanja is Shona for fast and sometimes dramatic activity. Jambanja became the other term for the recent occupations of white farms in Zimbabwe.

After such a loss, the Williams drift reluctantly to their house in a posh northern suburb of  Harare but soon inactivity and poverty set in. The two white boys; Rhys and Julian Williams start to drift away physically and mentally. They go south of Robert Mugabe Way, into the traditionally poor black territory of Harare in search of survival, beer, dangerous drugs, easy sex and other things. Meanwhile, their mother, Doris, becomes a sitting duck. She floats mentally and the sudden fall of fortunes leaves her close to being an invalid. 

The boys are gradually 'going native' as they become involved in spaces and activities not usually associated with the well-heeled white masters of Zimbabwe since occupation. They are newcomers to a world of lack that they had only watched from a safe distance. There is always a price to pay when one falls from privilege. In colonial discourse, the term “going native” means the white man is becoming one with the 'savages' or the natives, to the extent of eating what they eat and eventually feeling as they do… 

When the worst comes, this family is caught up in a wave of loud misunderstandings amongst themselves and in the subsequent melee, the mother and one of the boys allegedly kill the younger of the boys by accident and in fear, they secretly bury his body in their home, until it is eventually discovered.

This is, to my knowledge, the first fully fledged novel by a black Zimbabwean writer to look at the setbacks suffered by white folk during the Zimbabwe land reform. Andrew Chatora searches delicately for the place and scope of the white community in post independent Zimbabwe.  Being a pathfinder of sorts, many may find this novel either unsettling or satisfying, or both.

Many critical questions shall be asked. How do you write white people effectively when you are a black writer from Zimbabwe? Would that tantamount to speaking on behalf of the enemy? Would you be able to show that their loss is as a result of complex events within and beyond Zimbabwe? The author’s real test was in tactically navigating this very contentious terrain.

Chatora has chosen a subject that is emotive and well followed across the world; the land reform of Zimbabwe. Was the reform right? Was the land reform necessary? Was the process, right? Was Mugabe right? Should Mugabe be bashed all the way for leading this land reform? What should the white people have done to come out unscathed? Have we ever seen a reform of a similar scale in all post independent Africa? How does jambanja echo the earlier process of white occupation of black land a century earlier?


But Harare Voices and Beyond does not disappoint.

The fast track land reform phase brought Zimbabwe into the international media, arguably much more than the liberation struggle for Zimbabwe itself. In a widely circulated website interview with Nordiska Afrikainstitutet of (February 2004), Zimbabwean writer and literary scholar, Robert Muponde, argues that ‘Land is the text of Zimbabwean History and Literature.’ He is referring to the centrality of Land in the earlier seminal Zimbabwean literature texts set in Rhodesia. Some of them are Waiting for The Rain, Dew in the Morning and Without a Name. In all these novels, land is either an issue in the background or is a side show with varying degrees of prominence.

As I come to the end of Chatora’s novel, I recall that Robert Muponde adds: “…the writer who a year ago was urging the politician to seize land, even factories and shops belonging to white people (as suggested in Mujajati's Victory of 1993), in the name of the people, now finds that the politician has not only outdone the writer in shouting the presence of inequalities in society. The politician has gone further. He has left the writer with two stark choices: the writer must endorse the politician's and war veteran's actions because that is what he (the writer) was urging in his poems (in the case of musicians, in their songs), or he must condemn the actions as reckless, etc.”

As I think about that, I realise that perhaps, a big take away from this novel is the author’s ability (which may surprise Muponde) to skillfully showcase and dramatize to the reader that the land reform in Zimbabwe has its sharp and irreconcilable contradictions. There are many versions of the land reform story of Zimbabwe, depending on who is telling which part of the broad story, where... and who is listening!

In many ways this is a detective story narrated through Rhys and Marina, two prisoners at the Chikurubi Prison as they recount their personal life stories which have brought them to their present realities. They are a crucial link to the mafia style underworld of Harare. In the dead of the night, Harare crawls with the least expected liaisons between the rich and the poor, black and white and at every corner, there is a surprise meeting between rivals. In this space you meet perverts, street people, hard core criminals, politicians, preachers, drug pushers...

Chatora is now a master at delicate subjects. In his first novel, he shows us the trials and tribulations of a determined black teacher from Zimbabwe who tries to teach English to white children in England. His second novel is about a native who leaves the periphery (Harare) for the centre (England) due to economic reasons, but later returns to the periphery (Harare) and returns to London once more!  

Harare Voices and Beyond is published by Chicago based Kharis Publishing – an imprint of Kharis Media LLC and is released on 1st February 2023. Copies will shortly available to order in digital, paperback and hardback format from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, Walmart, Target Christian books and other online book retailers.

The book adds on to Andrew Chatora’s growing stable of contemporary fiction/migrant literature as it is a welcome addition to his cannon, two other books: Diaspora Dreams and Where the Heart Is are also published by Kharis Publishing and available from  Amazon.

 +Preview By Memory Chirere, University of Zimbabwe

  

Friday, October 7, 2022

New book on Dendera music


 Musambo WeDendera, by Biggie Chiranga

Published by EssentialBooks Publishing Co. Norton, Zimbabwe, 2022, pp105

Isbn: 9781779209443 for copies phone: +263786626048

 (A review by Memory Chirere)

This book is a sweet little thing written in easy Shona. It does many crucial things that no other book on Zimbabwean music has ever done. Let me go gradually and haltingly before I forget all the things that I want to say.

This is the first complete book on the history of Dendera music. It is elaborate; beginning with the brothers, Simon and Naison Chimbetu down to the subsequent successor Dendera musicians.  This book is a gift to those who are into the history of music genres. You see here the interconnectedness of the Dendera music genre with other music genres of Zimbabwe, making this one a book about both our sad and happy days as a nation. 

This book is the first one to follow astutely the life of a Zimbabwean musician; beginning with his parents in Tanzania, going into how and why they left Tanzania down to all the sons and daughters they beget and all the grandchildren who continue to come.

This one is the first book to pursue individual Dendera songs, slotting them into clear categories: Love songs, songs about death, songs with bird motifs, songs with animal motifs, songs in Swahili, songs in English, songs in Shona, songs in Ndebele.. on and on… This book is a bank of sorts.

This book goes into the functions and purpose of each of Dendera guitars and how they relate with the lyrics. It also goes into voices. The intricacies!

This is the first book to list the number of awards won by Dendera musicians starting with the founder, Simon Chimbetu to the latter day Dendera chanters.

This is the first book to carry all the pictures of Dendera band leaders and those of their band members.

The technique used by the author is to show how his own life intertwines with Dendera music over the years. Through that he searches for the meaning of Dendera. You may say that this book is Biggie Chiranga’s diary. Chiranga is a renowned Shona poet and educationist who had opportunity to come very-very close to Simon Chimbetu.

But this is not a perfect book. Not at all! It still needs much closer and more active proof reading and a more edifying cover in its second edition. Some of the photographs may need a total recast. There may be need to make an English version of this book as a matter of urgency because this book has to reach a wider audience.

This book answers many of the questions that you may have had on Dendera music and other musical genres of Zimbabwe. I hope that you can also see that I love Dendera music so much.

I wish we could have more other books like this one on Zimbabwean musicians.

Shona version:

Bhuku rino unotove mudyandakasungwa zvawo! Rakanyorwa neShona yakareruka ichitsvedzerera pakuverenga.

Bhuku rino rinoita zvinhu zvandisati ndaona zvichiitwa nechero bhuku zvaro munhooroondo yose yemabhuku emuZimbabwe.

Regai ndidome zvishoma zvacho ndisati ndakanganwa.

Rino iri ndiro bhuku rekutanga kunyorwa pamusoro penhoroondo yemusambo wemumhanzi  weDendera kubva paunotangira naSimon naNaison Chimbetu kusvika pauri nhasi.  Bhuku iri chipo chaicho kuvanhu vanoita zvenhoroondo yemimhanzi. Unoona bhindepinde revanhu veDendera nevamwe vaimbi vakawanda veZimbabwe, mukufara nemukusuwa.

Rino bhuku ndiro bhuku rekutanga kutevedza hupenyu hwemhuri yemuimbi kubva kuna baba naamai vachiri kuTanzania kusvika kuvana, kusvika kuvana vevana vavo- zvichingodaro... Unobva watoona kuti mhuri yekwaChimbetu iri kubva apa ichienda apo, ichienda apo. Kunge rwizi rwuri kuyerera…

Rino ndiro bhuku rekutanga kutevera nziyo dzose dzemusambo weDendera richidziisa muzvikwata. Dzerudo padzo, dzerufu padzo, dzine mhuka neshiri padzo, dzehondo padzo, dzerurimi rweSwahili, Chirungu, Ndebele neShona padzo…zvichingodaro zvichidaro. Kureva kuti bhuku rino ibhangi zvaro.

Bhuku rino rinopinda mumaimbirwo eDendera nehurongwa hwemagitare acho. Ihochekoche.

Rino ndiro bhuku rekutanga kudonongodza mibairo yose yakawanikwa nevaimbi veDendera kubva munguva yaSimon Chimbetu kusvika nhasi.  

Ndiro bhuku rekutanga kutakura mifananidzo yevaimbi vose veDendera zvose nemifananidzo yevanhu vavanoridza navo.

Bhuku rino rinoshandisa chidobi chokutipa nhoroondo yokuti munyori Biggie Chiranga anosangana papi muhupenyu hwake nenziyo dzakasiyana siyana dzeDendera, zvakare nziyo idzi dzinorevei kwaari.

Bhuku iri tingariti dhayari raiye Biggie Chiranga.

Hazvireve kuti bhuku iri harina mhosho dzaro. Pavachaita edition yepiri, ngapagadziriswe zviperengo nemavara akamheyama pano nepapo. Bhuku iri dai raiswa muchirungu kuti risvike nzvimbo dzakawanda.

Ukaverenga bhuku rino uchaona richipindura mibvunzo yako mizhinji pamusoro pemumhanzi weDendera nemimwewo mimhanzi yeZimbabwe. Ndinofunga kuti matoona kuti kana neni ndinoda musambo weDendera. Dai tikawana mamwe mabhuku akadai pamusoro pemhanzi yemuZimbabwe.

Memory Chirere, University of Zimbabwe, 2022

 

Friday, September 30, 2022

The man who wrote Marechera's letter!


                                                 Austin Kaluba

The so called Dambudzo Marechera’s letter to Samantha, which has gone viral on many websites, was not written by Marechera! It is actually a work of art by Zambian writer, Austin Kaluba. Kaluba wrote it as part of a 2011 project in Marechera’s memory. That is the fact! Often you see it written in many places that (the letter) was written by Marechera “to his white ex-girlfriend, Samantha, after Marechera had been expelled from Oxford University.” Many ordinary readers and scholars have taken the bait.

Austin Kaluba was born in northern Zambia in 1966 and studied journalism at the prestigious Africa Literature Centre in Kitwe-Zambia. He then joined the national newspaper The Times of Zambia as a features writer. He studied creative writing at different institutions in the UK. Kaluba’s poetry has appeared in the black UK newspaper The Voice and his short stories have been published in magazines in Europe.

KwaChirere recently interviewed Austin Kaluba about the sensational letter. We also replay the letter here just after the interview.  

 KwaChirere: Austin, is it true that you wrote the so called Marechera’s letter to Samantha, Yes or No.

Kaluba: Yes,

KwaChirere: When did you write this letter exactly?

Kaluba: It was in 2011 when I was living in Oxford in England. I did write the piece which is in epistolary form. At that time I was living in Oxford where I was studying Creative Writing at a Diploma level at Oxford University (Department for continuing education). I was frequenting several pubs where Dambudzo used to hang out when he lived in the university city. The pub is City Arms along Crowley Road. It is a real place. One old guy who knew Dambudzo likened my character with that of the Zimbabwean writer. I used to hit the bottle quite hard, was argumentative, anti-social and writing as my spirit dictated.

KwaChirere: Why and under what circumstances did you write the letter?

Kaluba: Ivor Hartmann, a Zimbabwen writer, came up with an idea of cerebrating Dambudzo's posthumous 59th birthday in 2011 and thought of putting together an ebook anthology entitled "Remembering Marechera," consisting of essays, reviews, short stories and poems to be published by StoryTime Publishing. He invited submissions until the 6th of April 2011. If my memory serves me well I think American-based Zimbabwean writer, Emmanuel Sigauke,  was to write some poetry while another Zimbabwean writer, Tinashe Mushakavanhu, who had studied Marechera at Phd level, was to do an essay. The Nigerian literary critic, Ikhide Ikheloa, offered to do some reviews on the late writer while Ivor Hartmann was to do some short Stories. The project was aborted and I thought of posting my piece online.

KwaChirere: Do you by any chance know how and why the letter went viral?

Kaluba: Not at all. I was just surprised to read about the avalanche of positive response the story generated in Zimbabwe and among Zimbabweans in the diaspora. Many believed it was written by Dambudzo. The response even crossed to academicians who thought the letter was written by Dambudzo himself. I had read works by the late Zimbabwean writer and tried through extensive reading on his life to understand his troubled upbringing in colonial Zimbabwe, his years in England and his bohemian life-style that could have qualified him to be some kind of black Oscar Wilde.

KwaChirere: This is very close imitation of what has been known as Marecherean language. Do you write your own works using this kind of language?

Kaluba: Sure, I identified with his anger and indignation at the corrupt world. I would say the Dambudzo in the letter has some characteristics that are purely mine. I agree with him at so many levels though I didn’t experience what he went through in life.

KwaChirere: When one looks at your letter, it comes close to real details in Marechera’s life, his expulsion from Oxford, his having had relations with white girls, his constant fear of being deportation back to Rhodesia etc. What is your comment?

Kaluba: Yeah, I had to get it right by not leaving any detail that summed up the life of the shamanic writer he was. His vulgar language and mistrust of any other person who did not share his views about the crooked world had to be crammed into the story. Dambudzo thrived on shocking people using sexual symbolism and other unconventional ways of driving his point home. I had to get all this right. I also ensured the story worked at two levels; Dambudzo representing Africa, explaining himself to his white girlfriend who is representing Europe. In short the story is about the damage Europe has done to its former colonies.

 

KwaChirere: What do you think you have achieved through this?

Kaluba: I though writing about Dambudzo was daunting. I had to go out of my way by getting into his character. I had to act like a method actor who sheds his self to enter into the character he is depicting. The success of the story to me lies in the reaction from people who knew Dambudzo personally and the other group that read his works. If the two groups can see him in the letter, then that is an achievement for me.

KwaChirere: May you please speak briefly about your own individual life and life as a writer.

Kaluba: I am an introvert who is highly opinionated and bohemian. I write poetry, short stories and do translations. One of my translations Frown of the Great in English was previously published as Pano Calo in ci-Bemba (the commonest language in Zambia) It has been re-published in Zimbawe by Mwanaka Media and Publishers as a bilingual collection. Tendai Mwanaka, the publisher has published a number of my poems in his anthologies promoting African languages. I am also working on a collection of short stories Mensah’s London Blues and Other Stories, to be published in England. The collection has two stories with Zimbabwean characters A Dream Deferred and Maria’s Vision. The latter has been made into a movie by Tendai Mudhliwa, a UK-based Zimbabwean film maker. The movie stars Memory Savanhu and a cast of UK-based Zimbabwean actors like Goodwin Ngulube, Lydia Nakwakilo, Ashley Majaya, Belinda Majego and Kudzai Manyeku. So you see Memory, my love of Zimbabwe has not ended with writing about Dambudzo but contributing a movie to Zollywood.

I have also translated John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress into ci-Bemba.

The letter itself below:

Dear Samantha

I think by now you have heard what happened when those hypocrites in administration chased me from their white university giving me an option between being sectioned or expelled. I chose the latter, a decision which shocked them out of their warped wits. I have forgiven them because together with you they thought as an African student from some remote Southern African country I was privileged for receiving tertiary education at Oxford, a learning institution they have overrated as a citadel of knowledge just like Cambridge or Harvard. It is such  academic mad houses that  keep on churning out arrogant, snobbish, hypocritical and pea-minded bastards who enter the world with the superior airs of holier-than-thou, we and them attitude calling themselves Doctors, Professors or any stupid titles to distance themselves from other ordinary folks whom they look down on as dunces.

 

These idiots have done little in changing the world for a better place. If anything, they have contributed in making it worse by joining their counterparts in the right-wing maggoty camp influencing policies that worsen this Babylon called earth. They wear gowns and mortar boards receiving degrees from pink-faced old blokes who shake their hands and congratulate them for entering the world of knowledge.

 

I am glad I never graduated to attend the graduation ceremony which I find nauseating. If I had, I vow I would have dressed in my blue jeans with a T-shirt or overall, just to show how stupid the all fucking thing is.

 

I had the same experience at the University of Rhodesia which was normally attended by middle class white boys when those white buffoons in administration kept telling us black students how lucky we were to receive education at the institution of higher learning.

 

You always accused me of being strange, eccentric, bohemian or even mad. I can assure you that I am as sane as any bloke right-thinking people consider as being normal whatever that means.

 

Do you remember the night you took me out on Valentine’s Day or some other stupid celebration at City Arms along Cowley road in Oxford and you kept on hanging on me and kissing me like we were movie stars. You were hysterical that I was not returning your love as you expected. I am always annoyed when a white person starts showering too much love on me. I am less angry when you people are hostile against my race or even blatantly racist to the extent of calling me Nigger, Kaffir or even monkey. I wouldn’t fight back or take much offence as some blacks would do. A white person fawning over me never fails to arouse sleeping demons in me that are hypersensitive to hypocrisy which I have been encountering since my childhood in Rusape shortly after my father died.

 

I have had so much of this sympathising from my school days at the mission school and university back home when those hypocrites felt they were doing us a favour by civilising our cursed lot. I am almost paranoid when it comes to racism masquerading as colour blindness.

 

Remember how mad you became when I even rubbished the idea of marriage as another form of societal hypocrisy. I see no difference between marriage and fornication, whether one is sanctioned by some holy man claiming to represent God, here on earth or two, horny fools deciding to copulate in the back of a car, on top of an office table or in some dark alley. Whenever I tried to explain to you things that have shaped my life, my childhood problem of stuttering nearly came back scaring the shit out of me.

 

I have elected to write you this letter long after we have parted just to explain some of my views on life. I know I am anti-social, but I feel most people who readily classify me to be equally anti-freedom of an individual or even mad. I live outside their narrow and provincial world just as I consider them outsiders in my world that is hinged on freedom of an individual.

 

My physical and mental insecurity that have dogged me since my father died have made me a stranger in a world where hypocrisy, lying and dishonesty reign supreme making anybody calling the perpetrators of these vices broods of vipers, an odd one out or a dissident.

 

Since coming over here, I have gone through several stages of identity crisis, self-hatred, self re-examination, excessive Afro-optimism, excessive Afro-pessimism, reversal racism, escapism and alienation. Maybe it is a manifestation of these conflicting mental feelings which made the authorities think of sectioning me.

 

After living rough in Oxford where I pitched a tent near the Uni shortly after being expelled, I am hanging a lot with my good Rasta friends in London. I am somehow in tune with these rootless, ganja-smoking pseudo-ideologists. We agree on many issues like the world being Babylon-the western influenced materialistic, oppressive, manipulative, and capitalistic. There is too much ganja and reggae music which I find soothing. I don’t however agree with some far-fetched ideologies of my Rasta brothers of revering Haile Sellasie, that dictatorial midget in Ethiopia as God. I also don’t agree with their excessive promotion of blackness which I find hypocritical and escapist.

 

Samantha, they say writers are show businessmen trying to interpret the world on paper unlike their counterparts in music who use music. There are two musicians I find interesting. It is Bob Marley and Jim Morrison. I connect with both of them in my lifestyle and telepathically. Both were shamans who died young and only received recognition when they were six feet under.

 

I have a premonition that I will die violently or young. I don’t care because I don’t feel I belong to this world. I am like an Abiku child in Yoruba mythology, a spirit child who is fated to a cycle of early death and rebirth to the same mother. Sometimes I dream of living in another age where I was a griot who was burnt at a stake for lambasting some tyrannical chief. At other times, I dream that I lived in another era as a poet who was drowned by the chief’s henchmen for refusing to apologise for an insulting poem he had read in a village arena against injustice.

 

Do you remember how Mrs Brown reacted when I wrote a short story on how I worked in a chief’s palace as a pussy shaver shaving the pubic hair of the women in a harem? I still remember the opening of the story. It read: ‘My job in chief Molokolo’s palace, who, all along thought I had been castrated, was to shave the pubic hair of his wives at the palace. The story ended with me bedding some of his wives and paying the ultimate price of death. You remember how white Mrs Brown turned when I read the story? She screamed that I was mad. Well, the morality of the story is that many leaders in power think their subjects are blind to their excesses in urinating on people’s rights. They think we are castrated until we rise up and unmask their hypocrisy or demand for justice.

 

I might go back to Zimbabwe because I can’t continue living like a tramp. I have already seen the inside of British Police cells twice or thrice. I have to finish the book I am writing first. It is called House of Hunger. I have destroyed several manuscripts of other books that I have attempted to write because I don’t feel they capture the message I am trying to communicate.

 

However, as a citizen of the world, a polyglot, I feel going back home won’t calm the demons in me that cry for a just society where the freedom of the individual is paramount. What I am reading in the Papers on Zimbabwe seems to be miles away from that ideal world which, both the repressive white regime of Smith or the popular nationalist black government of Mugabe, are miles away in realising a society I dream of.

 

Many African societies which benefited from the wind of change in the sixties have already failed to cut the umbilical cords of colonialism that connects them to their former masters both economically and socially. Nationalism might even be a guise of deep envy of the lives colonialists live. Many African leaders just introduce follow-fashion-monkey societies that emulate the system they replace.

 

You see Samantha, this thing called colonial mentality eats at the core of your heart or soul like a cancer. Many nationalists, and even academics, are both irredeemable victims of colonialism whether consciously or unconsciously. They don’t realise how entrenched the problem is in their makeup like DNA. They achieve what they call independence ( from what?) and change flags and national anthems but fail to establish new home-grown societies based on their cultures, values and norms.

 

Many erroneously think it is getting independence that is the most difficult stage in the freedom attaining process. I feel to the contrary that what is difficult is establishing a nation that is compatible with modernity. It is like having a baby. Every fool who has a healthy dick can impregnant a woman with no intention of having a baby. It is raising a baby that is the trickier part since you have to nurture the baby to young adulthood.

 

I know a number of my African intellectual friends who reject everything European in favour of everything African or black. These idiots need psychoanalysing by God himself since this is an extreme manifestation of self-hatred highly masked as race pride. Though I abhor most western things, I am equally nauseated by most things African. The Nigger who sang Say It Loud, I am Black and Proud was in actual sense saying Say It Fucking Loud, I am Black and Ashamed. Oh, yes isn’t it Louis Armstrong, hailing from the same shabby background who honestly complained in song that the colour of his skin was a sin?

 

Apart from my name Dambudzo, I don’t think Samantha you remember me revering Africanness or blackness. Most whites are racists, including you and several so called liberals, who shower us poor souls with love when they are consciously or unconsciously pitying us for being black. As I said earlier Samantha, a white person expressing excessive love for a black person is simply saying you are also a human being which is worse than any racist insult.

 

I remember my English teachers both at St Augustine’s Mission School and the University of Rhodesia praising me for getting good results by saying ‘well done Charles. You are such a brilliant black boy’. A brilliant black boy? Fuck! I could have killed those sons of bitches for not praising me because I was a brilliant pupil, and not a brilliant black boy. I know you would argue, Samantha, that I was being oversensitive, but what do you expect from someone whose race has received numerous insults since blacks and whites came into contact?

 

That’s why even now as I strive to establish myself as a writer, I don’t want the title to go with the adjective ‘black writer’. Fuck even other demeaning terms like black, Negro, coloured or African. A writer is just that, a fucking writer! Period.

 

Knowing how condescending you are, just like many of your kind, you will quickly find a word in your language to define me. Strange, bizarre, eccentric, bohemian, unconventional, odd or even mad. It is your language. I wish I could describe whites in Shona - that is deep Shona with idioms and proverbs that would elude even the most educated white linguist in my language. However, I associate the language with backwardness, provincialism and even the squalor.

 

I might link up with you when I come back to Oxford. Meanwhile, I am still squatting with several friends.

 

Yours

                              

Charles William Tambudzai Dambudzo Marechera.