Thursday, December 30, 2010

some more African Stories brought to you by Dike Okoro

Dike Okoro(ed):Speaking For The Generations: An Anthology of Contemporary African Short Stories, 2010, Trenton, Africa World Press, pp218, isbn: 1-59221-719-2
Speaking For The Generations (edited by Dike Okoro) reminds me of this sharp but inexplicable feeling that I have had since coming across Grace Ogot’s and Barbra Kimenye’s short stories many years ago. I have always appreciated the enduring quality of an African story that can be detected even when rendered in non African languages. It is about the uncanny ability to tell a story in a very simple way, without the inhibition of jawbreakers and complex plots. The story depends on the narrator's belief that what he is telling is no story but reality itself, as you find here for example in Akoli Penoukou's The Fury of The ancestors. A feeling that you are listening to this story by the fireside, with the owls hooting a mile away.

My Mother Dances in The Night by Jackee Budesta Batanda is my best story in this book. It is a swinging story which ends up rolling and tumbling like blues and jazz. A mother practices her dances in the night, unaware of her child's eye. She is both a spook and a jilted woman, and you wonder why women with souls like hers tend to float by themselves in this life. This story reminds me of Langston Hughes whose short-shorts I carry everywhere I go.

These African short-short stories trickle like threads of streams, rolling down the rocky hill like tears, and the bus you are driving in will not stop to allow you a closer look: A dead father visits a suffering child to deliver useful counsel and the poor boy cannot tell if this is dream or reality. A woman thinks that there is something in her that all the black men in her life fail to get to. A crippled man tries to tell his son that human beings will never be able to fly and that they have always wanted to fly.

Then if you are interested in issues Zimbabwean, you may not avoid Emmanuel Sigauke’s A Long Night and Eresina Hwede’s Doomsday.

In Joseph Obi’s Just A Moment, an African man is surprised that he is dying in a huge European airport public and no one will notice! You want to laugh at this story but you end up tittering uncomfortably because death is neither near nor far.

After reading one or two, or three (of these 48 stories from across Africa), you may want to look for an easy chair and decide to spend a day indoors, with this effortless book from AFRICA!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dambudzo Marechera's 'dissertation' on language

Language is like water. You can drink it. You can swim in it. You can drown in it. You can wear a snorkel in it. You can flow to the sea in it. You can evaporate and become invisible with it. You can remain standing in a bucket for hours. The Japanese invented a way of torturing people with drops of water.The Portuguese in Angola and Mozambique also used water to torture people. The dead friend Owen, who painted the mural on my wall, used to dream about putting LSD into South Africa’s drinking water. It seems inconceivable to think of humans who have no language. They may have invented gelignite but they cannot do without water. Some take it neat from rivers and wells. Some have it clinically treated and reservoired. Others drink nothing but beer and Bloody Marys and wine but this too is a way of taking your water. The way you take your water is supposed to say a lot about you. It is supposed to reflect your history, your culture, your breeding, etc. It is supposed to show the extent to which you and your nation have developed or degenerated. The word ‘primitive’ is applied to all those who take their alphabet neat from rivers, sewers and natural scenery – sometimes this may be described as the romantic imagination. The height of sophistication is actually to channel your water through a system of pipes right into your very own lavatory where you shake the hand of a machine and your shit and filthy manners disappear in a roaring of water. Being water you can spread diseases like bilharzias and thought. Thought is more fatal than bilharzia. And if you want to write a book you cannot think unless your thoughts are contagious. ‘Do you still think and dream in your first language?’ someone asked me in London. Words are worlds massively shrunk:

In yonder raindrop should its heart disclose,
Behold therein a hundred seas displayed.

When thought becomes wisdom, the scholar can say:

I came like water, and like wind I go.

And the believer can only sing:

Celestial sweetness unalloy’d
Who eat thee hunger still;
Who drink of thee still feel a void
Which only thou canst fill.

The languages of Europe (except Basque, Hungarian, Finnish, Turkish) are descended from one parent language which was spoken about 2500 to 2000 BC. This indo-European group of languages – in their modern form has been carried (by colonization, trade, conquest) to the far corners of the earth. Thus the Indo-European river has quite neatly overflowed its banks like the flood in the Bible has flooded Africa, Asia, America and all the islands. In this case there does not seem to have been any Noah about who built an ark to save even just two words of all the languages and speech, which were drowned. Literacy today is just the beginning of the story. Words are the waters which power the hydro-electricity of nations. Words are the chemicals that H2O human intercourse. Words are the rain of votes which made the harvest possible. Words are the thunderstorm when a nation is divided. Words are the water in a shattering glass when friends break into argument. Words are the acronym of a nuclear test site. Every single minute the world is deluged by boulders of words crushing down upon us over the cliff of the TV, the telephone, the telex, the post, the satellite, the radio, the advertisement, the billposter, the traffic sign, graffiti, etc. Everywhere you go, some shit word will collide with you on the wrong side of the road. You can’t even hide in yourself because your thoughts think of themselves in the words you have been taught to read and write. Even if you flee home and country, sanity and feeling, the priest and mourners, if any, will be muttering words over your coffin; the people you leave behind will be imagining you in their minds with words and signs. And there will be no silence in the cemetery because always there are burials and more burials of people asphyxiated by words. No wonder it is said:

In the beginning was the Word,
And the Word was with God.
And the Word was God,
All things were made by him;
And without him was not any thing made
That was made.

No wonder too it was said:

Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into dust descend;
Dust to dust, and under dust, to lie
Sans wine, sans song, sans singer, and-
sans end !

Suddenly the other side of the world is only an alphabet away. Existence itself becomes a description, our lives a mere pattern in the massive universal web of words. Fictions become more documentary than actual documentaries. The only certain thing about these world descriptions is the damage they do, the devastation they bring to the minds of men and children. You do not become a man by studying the species but his language. The winds of change have cooled our porridge and now we can take up our spoons and eat it. Go, good countrymen, have yourselves a ball.
*** This is just my favourite passage of all Marechera literature. It is from 'The Black Insider'

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Dear Fellow Writer, Colleague and Stakeholder

The Interim Committee of the proposed new umbrella writers organization of Zimbabwe, in line with the mandate granted to it on 27 August 2010, is inviting you all writers who have been supportive of this initiative from the beginning as well as all other willing writers of Zimbabwe to a meeting on 4 December, 2010 at the Zimbabwe Film and Television School of Southern Africa at 57 Mazowe Road, Harare (Close to Parirenyatwa Hospital and opposite The Sudanese Embassy) from 08:30:00hrs to 13:00hrs.(Photo: Some Zim writers)
The major business of the day will be (a)tabling The Draft Constitution for discussion and adoption, b)adopting the name of the organization and c)mapping the way forward.
On 29 July 2010, on the sidelines of the Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF 2010) 33 Zimbabwean writers who attended a Workshop at the Zimbabwe German Society to discuss the status of writers and their organizations in Zimbabwe unanimously agreed to form a new national organization that serves to unite the various associations in one voice where their common welfare is concerned. A few notable experiences may serve as useful examples in this regard:
- The Charles Mungoshi situation
- Ruzvidzo Mupfudza’s problem and subsequent death
- The Unicef-Longman Project
- The National constitutional consultative exercise
- Contractual rights with publishers
- National policy on literature in schools curriculum
- National Book Policy Crisis
- Copyright issues
- Other problems and grievances impacting negatively on writers’ welfare.
In the end, a Steering Committee was set up to consult widely with other writers not present, approaching publishers to provide names and addresses of those writers who were not present at the meeting; enquire if individual writers’ organisations would support the idea of a new national writers’ organisation and if so, what kind of organisation they envisaged and report back to plenary on 27 August 2010. On this date an Interim Executive Committee was elected and given the mandate to:
- Draft a constitution for the new organization
- Raise funds for the initial operations of the organization
- Call a General Meeting to for tabling, discussion and adoption of the Draft Constitution
- Registration of the Constitution with National Arts Council
- Go on a membership drive in preparation for Elections of substantive Executive Committee to subsequently take over from the Interim Committee by end of February, 2011.
To this end The Draft Constitution is now in place and will be put before the members during the meeting of 4 December 2010. The agenda is as follows:
DATE: 4th December, 2010
(Close to Parirenyatwa and opposite The Embassy of Sudan)
08:30 Arrival and Registration
09:00 Opening Remarks - Dr Rino Zhuwarara
09:15 Minutes of 27th August, 2010
09:25 Introductions and Report Back(Interim Committee)
10:00 Tea Break
10:15 Discussion of Draft Constitution
11:30 Way Forward
1l:45 Closing Remarks - Mrs Tawona Mtshiya
12:30 Lunch and Networking
Yours Sincerely
Primrose Dzenga
(Secretary, Interim Committee.
Members of the Interim Committee: Mr. Musaemura Zimunya(Chairperson), Ms Primrose Dzenga(Secretary), Ms. Beatrice Sithole(Treasurer), Mr. Memory Chirere, Mr Dakarai Mashava, Ms. Karukai Ratsauka, Mr. George Mujajati(Members)

(Photo: Some Zim writers)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bongwi the baboon...

A haunted soul put under ban,
A hunted beast that has to roam,
The voiceless image of a man
With neither speech nor home-
Upon the summit of the height,
Where only wind-swept lichens grow,
Bongwi, lit by the dawning-light,
Watches the plain below.

Fierce eyes, low brow, protruding mouth,
Short hands that twitch and twitch again,
The hairy gargoyle of the South-
A man without a brain;
Upon the highest krantz he waits
Dim-lit by golden streak of dawn,
Guarding the interests of his mates
Who wreck the fields of corn.

Far down the mealie-gardens lie,
And he, a patient sentinel,
Shouts, ‘Boor-hoom!’ to th’ offended sky
To show that all is well.
A white fish-eagle sails along,
His mighty pinions harping tunes,
Till dawn throbs with Aeolian song
And, far below, the brown baboons

Look up and note the paling East,
The fading moon, the stars that wane,
And, gorg’d, they quit their stolen feast
And seek the open veld again.
And Bongwi sees. But turns his view-
Brown-eyed – towards the breaking morn,
And gazes through the soundless blue,
The golden distance of the dawn.

(By Kingsley Fairbridge)

Monday, November 1, 2010

‘The short story pricks like the doctor’s needle’: Somewhere In This Country and Tudikidiki by Memory Chirere

On 25 October 2010,'The Herald' of Zimbabwe published a piece in which Edmore Zvinonzwa interviews me. Some of you said you could not get to it on The Herald site. Here it is:

Zimbabwean author Memory Chirere enjoys reading and writing short stories and some of these are published in No More Plastic Balls (1999), A Roof to Repair (2000), Writing Still (2003) and Creatures Great and Small (2005).

He has also published short story books: Somewhere in This Country (2006), Tudikidiki (2007); Toriro, his Goats and Other Stories (2010) and together with Maurice Vambe, compiled and edited a critical text on Mungoshi, Charles Mungoshi: A Critical Reader.

Chirere has poems published in Tipeiwo Dariro (1994).

Beyond his creative work, Chirere has compiled and edited various other short story books; Totanga Patsva (an all-women short story book), Children Writing Zimbabwe (a book of short stories for children by children).

Alongside Ignatius Mabasa and Christopher Mlalazi, Chirere is one of the more visible young writers writing from within Zimbabwe today.

He has won various national literary prizes.

Memory Chirere writes with a certain playfulness and sense of mischief and employs satiric humour. The titles of his stories, Three Little Worlds, Jazz, Beautiful Children and Sixteen are enigmatic and enticing. In this interview with our writer, EDMORE ZVINONZWA (EZ), CHIRERE (MC) speaks about Zimbabwean writing in general as well as his own works in particular.

EZ: Would you like to briefly tell readers about yourself and how you evolved into the creative writer that you are today?

MC: It is difficult to tell. I know that I enjoy reading and writing.

EZ: Who and what would you consider as the biggest influences to your writing? Maybe there were different influences for each distinct work?

MC: There is the Mozambican short story writer, Luis Bernardo Honwana. I keep going back to his smallish collection of short stories, "We Killed Mangy Dog". I also keep going back to Charles Mungoshi’s book, Coming of The Dry Season. I also cannot avoid Luanda by Viera of Angola. I have come across many better and bigger books but those three are important to me.

EZ: Having been a student of literature in secondary school (I guess I am right) and at the University of Zimbabwe, that meant you had to read. Did you like reading before university or you became a reader then out of necessity.

MC: It all went on and still goes on, side by side, reading and writing.

EZ: In an interview with Ignatius Mabasa sometime, he mentioned you, the late Ruzvidzo Mupfudza, Eresina Hwede, Zvisinei Sandi, Emmanuel Sigauke and Nhamo Mhiripiri as some of his contemporaries. How exactly did this partnership impact on your development as a creative writer?

MC: It was the best of times under the tutelage of very able people, the likes of T. K. Tsodzo, Rino Zhuwarara, Chenjerai Hove, Musaemura Zimuya and others. We had the opportunity to read literature in the context of a very wide variety of ideas and theories. We have grown into many different directions but I think we still dialogue through what we write.

EZ: What would you finger as the major challenges to you as a writer?

MC: I believe people should be allowed to write what they like. And conversely, the writers should allow people to say what they like about what they write. I do not think we have struck that balance.

EZ. Zimbabwe’s literary landscape in general? Have Zimbabwean writers been able to tell the Zimbabwean story to the world?

MC: There is a lot of good writing going on inside and outside of Zimbabwe by Zimbabweans. Ignatius Mabasa is intriguing. You think you have got the best from him but he comes back the following day, like a furious in-law, with even better work. With his latest novel, Ndafa Here? he has outdone even the feminist writers. Wonder Guchu’s stories are amazingly simple that you realise they were not simply written. Then you wish you had all day to talk about Noviolet Bulawayo, Christopher Mlalazi, Petina Gappah, Brian Chikwava, Emmanuel Sigauke among others. The Gods have opened a floodgate in Zimbabwean literature!

EZ: Why is it that not many Zimbabwean writers have been able to survive or live on their works or writings? You were at ZIBF 2010 and must have heard Deputy Minister Lazarus Dokora’s comments on Charles Mungoshi.

MC: I am also always asking myself the same question!

EZ: What would you like to see happening in the book industry? Also how would you describe the relationship between writers and publishers?

MC: If you happen to have a publisher who really respects you, you can go very far. The publishing industry in Zimbabwe is reawakening very, very slowly. A book wins a national prize but it is never seen on the shelves. Now that is crazy! I hope one day writers can be able to live on their writings.

EZ: You have written in both Shona and English and it appears the short story is your favourite genre. Which language are you more comfortable with and why do you seem to like the short story?

MC: I have always preferred reading and writing short stories over anything else. Short stories prick like the doctor’s needle. You read and re-read until you do not know whether you are still just reading or are now recreating without the author’s permission. On the issue of language, it is a real blessing to be able to create and publish in more than one language.

EZ: How would you sum up the major concerns of your writings?

MC: In Somewhere in This Country, I had no specific focus because these are stories previously published in very many different places. They were brought together into one volume (now called Somewhere In This country) by the then series editors of Memory and African cultural Productions at UNISA Press, Maurice Vambe and Abebe Zegeye. These stories are about little individuals caught up in various very personal circumstances.

EZ: I find one of your stories in Tudikidiki, Roja Rababa vaBiggie a captivating read? What made you write that satirical piece?

MC: In Bindura where I was staying, an angry lodger went up the towerlight and threatened to fly down to his death. He held to the pillars clumsily and demanded justice from his now shell-shocked landlord and it was painful to watch.Tudikidiki, as the name of the book implies, is a collection of short short stories. With it I was experimenting. I wanted to do stories that would appeal to both the old and the young readers. Each story had to be short enough to be read in one sitting.

EZ: In an article, Beavan Tapureta says of all the writers of your generation, you use laughter most. Tell me about it.

MC: I laugh a lot myself. My characters laugh a lot, too. But they also laugh when they should be crying. I want to do a story that teases the reader by occupying the territory between poem and short story.

EZ: Do you think Zimbabwean writers are producing enough books for children?

MC: Due to the economic hardships even children’s literature has suffered.

EZ: Any comment on Zimbabwe’s writers’ unions — Zimbabwe Writers Union, Zimbabwe Women Writers, Budding Writers Association of Zimbabwe, among others? I remember National Arts Council director Elvas Mari pointing out one day that literary artists are lucky in that they have a distinct advantage over other artists — they are literate. Their associations, unions do not seem to tell the same story? Any recommendations?

MC: Writers in Zimbabwe are in the process of reconstituting their various organisations. We had become very weak on the ground.

EZ: What picture do you have of the future of Zimbabwean writing?

MC: Great.

EZ: Any advice to aspiring Zimbabwean writers?

MC: Do what you can when you are still around.

EZ: Any other comments you may like to make?

MC: The love for a good story will never die.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Kakuwe kedu kaye-e

(from left to right:Ignatius Mabasa, Memory Chirere and the late Stanley Ruzvidzo Mupfudza in the early 1990's)

Taseka kakuwe kedu kaye-e kane tunhopi;
Zvichangopera paya togadzikana,
Tanyarara, nyama dzendangariro dzodzoka,
Ndinotya karunyararo – karufu here?
Kandisingazivi kuti ndodii nako.

Kana zviya ndakukwidza chitima
Kana chogojona sebenzi
kana zviya ndaringa divi
Ndonanaira ndodzokera kwatambenge tiri tose
Ndinotya dima rezvichauya uri kure neni.

Kana zviya takuviga, pfuchepfuche,
Takukanda mukanwa mevhu mawakabva
Ndinotya njere dzinonditokonya, dzichiti:
“Zvinorevei kumbove tose, hochekocheko,
zvizobatsirei kana wondisiya ini ndichikuda?”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thaph’ uluju!

Title: Thaph’ uluju: Iqoqo lezindatshana, Ilifa lakho
Author: short stories in Ndebele by written by various authors
Editor: by Barbara C. Nkala, 2010
Publisher: Radiant Publishing Company, Harare, 2010
Pages: 275

(A preview by Jerry Zondo)

How I got my stories included in the new Ndebele short story anthology, Thaph’ uluju: Iqoqo lezindatshana, is both a sad and good story.

I attended the Zimbabwe Book Publishers Association Prize giving on a day in 2007 at the Crowne Plaza in Harare and there were winning entries for English and Shona but there was nothing for Ndebele. On asking why, we were all told that there had been no entries for Ndebele in all of 2007. So no literary texts had been published in Zimbabwew in all 2007! That was not enough because another warning came: If Ndebele writers continued to sit on their laurels, they would be nothing again in 2008, 2009 and 2010!

As Ndebele writers, we all felt sombre and started reflecting a lot. We talked at the foyer and resolved that we would do something about it. I had never written a short story before. I had by then published one poem only in Giya Mthwakazi 1990. All my other poems were in school texts books between form 1 and form 4 and in the web site Poetry. A friend would ask me to write a précis on Ndebele Literature and on a couple of prominent authors in Ndebele for his blog and I would agree. I even got an offer to do a chapter for a book on Zimbabwean literature in Ndebele. But writing a short story? A story for someone else to read and review!

The publishing houses in Zimbabwe do not seem to want poetry in Ndebele, and that is where I do well! Thulani Moyo said he would write a novel manuscript and send it to one publisher. I said I would compile short stories for the other publisher and children’s stories for yet another publisher. Eventually it did not work out well with all these publishers. One of them said they had no Ndebele editor in 2007-2008.

Eventually, Virginia Phiri convinced Barbara Makhalisa to use her Radiant Publishing company for a Ndebele publication. Makhalisa took up the challenge and invited short stories in Ndebele. She would only accept stories from the 2008 to 2010 experiences… the economic melt down, the queue culture, the empty shelves, getting petrol through coupons form the UK and many more.

That is how my six short stories came to be part of the Thaph’ uluju manuscript!

I wanted my stories to be different. They probably are, and may provide that element that Ndebele writing has always missed. Short stories in Ndebele have come from Isaac Mpofu in his anthology UMaweni. From Ndebele students of the 2005 stream at UZ on Hiv/Aids. They present the scourge from the sociology and psychology of the student. From Zimbabwe Women Writers organization with 2005’s Vus’ Inkophe edited by Makhalisa. The Zimbabwean Women writers express their views on diverse issues but with an additional voice of advocacy for women’s rights and the democratization of economic, political and social spaces for women in Zimbabwe.

Thaph’ uluju consists of 27 stories in 275 pages, the largest copy in Ndebele to date! The stories are from five men and thirteen women authors, new and established. They look at a wide range of Ndebele experiences (and some sound so actual) connected with the years 2007 to 2010. There will be the story that will of course look at events before that period, like “Ngubani Iqhawe?” (Who is a hero?) which is based on the Zimbabwean liberation war.

Various authors now place incidents and events within specific time period. Actual dates are mentioned, a departure from Ndebele writing where publishing houses have been in the past hiding the year of the story (for example by deleting dates on letters written to protagonists or antagonists - leaving the letters timeless for an unknown reason!). The stories now fit and sit in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 bringing a new realism and concretisation of themes in Ndebele.

The story writers are now moving to specific areas of concern that have led to the Diaspora experiences, “Lakanye langenza iphawundi” (The pound has put me in a fix) with the consequent dislocation of family life and the liaisons between maids and husbands when wives have gone to the United Kingdom and the United States of America – “Siphepheli;” the harsh realities of working in foreign lands in fear of arrest and deportation, are painted in lurid and distinct forms that hit the reader with the hard and stubborn impact that draws the reader to the sorry aspect of economic hardships on the Zimbabwean scene.

The slave like toil of the woman against the demands of those “at home” for a satellite dish, is an ironic and filthy relationship that spells out the fate of ‘economic refugees’ in foreign lands. The filth is local too as the city of Bulawayo in “Amarabisi Mpthu!” (Utter rubbish!) with its piles of uncollected rubbish, smelling and polluting the ‘scenery’ is depicted by Makhalisa as the very epitome of utter rubbish. Human actions and decisions have turned into rubbish as males choose rubbish partners in the city with their lawful and wedded wives languishing somewhere in a forbidding country home.

Makhalisa specifically shows a transformation in her narration and a departure from her earlier forms of story telling. The anthology offers this time, a set of mature readings which are providing Ndebele readers with a new aspect to Ndebele thinking and writing.

While the anthology has leaned a lot on the 2007 to 2010 period, a few stories draw inspiration from the war in Matebeleland in the early 1980’s. The Ndebeles express their concern at the kind of world and the kind of people that should occupy it - in “Xolela inja yakho baba” (Please forgive your dog father) schools should work and teachers should commit themselves to their noble calling, (readers will feel a slight discomfort in Mpofu’s short story; Mdluli wants to change the attitude of lazy and incompetent teachers, but he does not seem to see the root cause of their behaviour in the whole of Tsholotsho! The story might underline some now accepted stereotypes on Zimbabwean teachers!) in “Uyisalukazi yini wena baba?” (Are you an old woman dear sir?) Bulawayo City Council should get its water back on track for ratepayers to enjoy that civic privilege.

The anthology Thaph’ uluju provides opportunity for the maintenance of mature and committed writing. When readers and critics of Ndebele complained yesteryear because of the absence of mature reading materials, they can not do so now. The challenge set by Thaph’ uluju is for a new responsible writing that can only mature into the compelling works of literature that spell out a new world with its new order of commitments. Radiant Publishing has introduced a whole new world of short story writing and the short story will never be the same again in Ndebele!

A critic of Ndebele writing will want the anthology Thaph’ uluju to be the pall bearer for new Ndebele writing that will catapult Ndebele to the next level; it is fulfilling that a project of this nature has been successful. The 2011 Book Publishers Association competition will have and entry after all!

I am only glad that I have contributed in my small way towards the development of that enterprise.But, we Ndebele writers are largely responsible for what may or may not happen to Ndebele literature, wherever we are and in whatever circumstances!
** Jerry Zondo lectures in Ndebele Language and Literature at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

do you remember Gabriel Marquez?

'One Of These Days'

Monday dawned warm and rainless. Aurelio Escovar, a dentist without a degree, and a very early riser, opened his office at six. He took some false teeth, still mounted in their plaster mold, out of the glass case and put on the table a fistful of instruments which he arranged in size order, as if they were on display. He wore a collarless striped shirt, closed at the neck with a golden stud, and pants held up by suspenders He was erect and skinny, with a look that rarely corresponded to the situation, the way deaf people have of looking.

When he had things arranged on the table, he pulled the drill toward the dental chair and sat down to polish the false teeth. He seemed not to be thinking about what he was doing, but worked steadily, pumping the drill with his feet, even when he didn’t need it.

After eight he stopped for a while to look at the sky through the window, and he saw two pensive buzzards who were drying themselves in the sun on the ridgepole of the house next door. He went on working with the idea that before lunch it would rain again. The shrill voice of his eleven-year-old son interrupted his concentration.



“The Mayor wants to know if you’ll pull his tooth.”

“Tell him I’m not here.” He was polishing a gold tooth. He held it at arm’s length, and examined it with his eyes half closed. His son shouted again from the little waiting room.

“He says you are, too, because he can hear you.”

The dentist kept examining the tooth. Only when he had put it on the table with the finished work did he say:“So much the better.”He operated the drill again. He took several pieces of a bridge out of a cardboard box where he kept the things he still had to do and began to polish the gold.


“What?”He still hadn’t changed his expression.

“He says if you don’t take out his tooth, he’ll shoot you.”

Without hurrying, with an extremely tranquil movement, he stopped pedaling the drill, pushed it away from the chair, and pulled the lower drawer of the table all the way out. There was a revolver. “O.K.,” he said. “Tell him to come and shoot me.”
He rolled the chair over opposite the door, his hand resting on the edge of the drawer.

The Mayor appeared at the door. He had shaved the left side of his face, but the other side, swollen and in pain, had a five-day-old beard. The dentist saw many nights of desperation in his dull eyes. He closed the drawer with his fingertips and said softly: “Sit down.”

“Good morning,” said the Mayor.

“Morning,” said the dentist.

While the instruments were boiling, the Mayor leaned his skull on the headrest of the chair and felt better. His breath was icy. It was a poor office: an old wooden chair, the pedal drill, a glass case with ceramic bottles. Opposite the chair was a window with a shoulder-high cloth curtain. When he felt the dentist approach, the Mayor braced his heels and opened his mouth.

Aurelio Escovar turned his head toward the light. After inspecting the infected tooth, he closed the Mayor’s jaw with a cautious pressure of his fingers. “It has to be without anesthesia,” he said.


“Because you have an abscess.”

The Mayor looked him in the eye. “All right,” he said, and tried to smile. The dentist did not return the smile. He brought the basin of sterilized instruments to the worktable and took them out of the water with a pair of cold tweezers, still without hurrying. Then he pushed the spittoon with the tip of his shoe, and went to wash his hands in the washbasin. He did all this without looking at the Mayor. But the Mayor didn’t take his eyes off him.

It was a lower wisdom tooth. The dentist spread his feet and grasped the tooth with the hot forceps. The Mayor seized the arms of the chair, braced his feet with all his strength, and felt an icy void in his kidneys, but didn’t make a sound. The dentist moved only his wrist. Without rancor, rather with a bitter tenderness, he said: “Now you’ll pay for our twenty dead men.”

The Mayor felt the crunch of bones in his jaw, and his eyes filled with tears. But he didn’t breathe until he felt the tooth come out. Then he saw it through his tears. It seemed so foreign to his pain that he failed to understand his torture of the five previous nights.

Bent over the spittoon, sweating, panting, he unbuttoned his tunic and reached for the handkerchief in his pants pocket. The dentist gave him a clean cloth.

“Dry your tears,” he said.

The Mayor did. He was trembling. While the dentist washed his hands, he saw the crumbling ceiling and a dusty spider web with spider’s eggs and dead insects. The dentist returned, drying his hands.

“Go to bed,” he said, “and gargle with salt water.”

The Mayor stood up, said goodbye with a casual military salute, and walked toward the door, stretching his legs, without buttoning up his tunic. “Send the bill,” he said.

“To you or the town?”

The Mayor didn’t look at him. He closed the door and said through the screen:
“It’s the same damn thing.”
***By Gabriel García Márquez

Sunday, September 26, 2010

27 - 29 Aug 2010: SADC Poetry Festival: people and moments

My friend, the festival in Gaborone had its people and moments

(Above)Zimbabwean poet, Nqobile Malinga and Lesego Madingwane of Botswana started by rehearsing a long and sad poem (in Ndebele and Tswana!)and as they went on and on, they actually broke down and cried real tears! For me, this was the climax to this festival. And below, I too had moments to be merry and crack jokes. What else can you do when you are amongst very inspiring people? Jairos Kangira and Tinashe Muchuri are born actors.
I honestly think that the most outstanding poet from this festival was Botswana's Kaone Koka (below) You see, in Botswana they have some kind of communal poetry which is just amazing. They gather together in a semi circle and sing, breaking in between to allow Kaone to do some of the most heartrending recitations that I've ever come across. He chants, he croons and cries, twisting and turning like a man who must die now-now! Ah, Kaone Koka! And you Batswana, look after this genius. Its a command!
At the end of each poem they actually have to mob Kaone and calm him down back to reality.
(Below)Award winning poet, Tania Tome of Mozambique is just something else. Her poetry is like a roll of drums! Then suddenly she becomes musical. She makes you feel/think that the soul is a fruit. Tania is a volcano. I could not have enough of her and I do not want to forget her.
*** pictures by Zanele Muholi and Joseph Molapong

Sunday, September 12, 2010

How they would wish to be remembered

Just before I could unpack my bags after the Sadc poetry festival 2010 in Gaborone, two dear souls departed. An uncle and two days later, a great friend's mother.So I hit the road and could not post anything here (and I could not say anything about the great people I met for the first time at the festival; the likes of Mozambican poet, Tania Tome and Botswana's Kaone Koka (oh, what a voice and emotion!) Instead, i will post below David Mungoshi's poem about death. As you put the dead to rest, you reflect on how they would wish to be remembered.

How They Would Wish To Te Remembered
The old woman - wrinkled and wry
Spoke in a tremulous voice
And made her wish:
Lay me down
At the passing of my days
Against the polished earthen bench
Where once rivers of my blood
Signalled new lives.
Let my eyes caress
One last time
That old fading sun
And when my eyes
Smart from the smoke
Feed the fire with munhondo faggots
Then fan it and let it blaze
Like the passion that once filled my breast.
Let no one stand by the door –
I must bid a last farewell
To the blades on the grass
The leaves on the trees
And that stony path
I have walked so often.
Sit by me quietly if you can
As the strains of the song
Of the laughing dove
Nod me gently
Into the unseen world of my fathers
Till at last you put me to rest
Under the ancient wild fig tree
Where the spring bubbles.

The vivacious woman – vibrantly alive-
Glowing with life’s red embers
Spoke with feminine exuberance:
If ever I should be remembered
Let it be as one
Who lived and loved
When she would –
One whose laughter and sighs
Have blended with the wind
And the breeze
In a felicitous song of life.
All my life
I’ve done what I know best –
I’ve been a woman!

The lonely leper full of disfigured zest:
Freedom and flight
Sustain his pavement and bus stop existence.
The words he spoke montage of harsh experience:
Let me be remembered
As one who threw off the shackles
Of social indifference.
No one would shake my hand
Or share a meal with me.
I became a stranger in the land
So I left, to struggle and be free
In the hot sun
And the biting cold.
I am one from a rare breed –
A professional survivor
Quite at odds with greed
But comfortable with the laws of survival
My epitaph?
He too loved to cuddle
And drown in woman’s blissful embrace.
He too would have driven a Bluebird
If he could –
And reclined in the effeminate softness
Of those cushioned seats
But life threw him to the pavements
Where he found a paradoxical kind of freedom.

The old man – battered and bald
Shaking finger pointing at me
Blessed me with the wisdom of the ages:
Young one, walk with care
For your road leads to where I am.
One day you too will be willing
But your flesh will be weak
They look more beautiful each day
But you cannot retrace time though you would
When it’s all over for me
Remember me as one
Who could have done great things
Had time been on his side?
*** By David Mungoshi

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Sadc Poetry Festival 2010

Tinashe Muchuri

The Sadc Poetry Festival 2010, organised by Artsinitiates-Southern Africa will be held in Gaborone, Botswana at Alliance Francaise de Gaborone from 27 to 29 August 2010. This year's theme will be My Voice, Your Hand while the festival, which is funded by Prince Claus Fund, will explore poetry-art or Ekphrastic poetry. Poetry-art is where poets and visual artists work together either basing each other's art work on the poem or a piece of visual art. The festival that was launched in Windhoek last year will this year attract a visual artist and a poet from each Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, South Africa, Angola and several from the host country, Botswana. Zimbabwean journalist and author, Wonder Guchu is the founder of this festival.

Zimbabwe will be represented by four poets; Tinashe Muchuri, Batsirai Chigama, Bhekumusa Moyo and Siphosethu Mpofu

Batsirai Chigama



16h30 – 17h00 Arrival of participants

17h00 – 19h30 Welcoming and Introduction of participants

19h30 – 20h15 Performances

20h15 – 20h30 The role of Arts in the integration of the region (15 minutes)

20h30 – 20h45 Official Opening of the event (15 minutes)

21h00 – Open MIC/ refreshments


09hh00 – 10h00: Presentations on the state of poetry country by country reports (to be facilitated by Memory Chirere)

10h00 – 11h00: Exploring the visual arts and how they function: are they a technique or an art? (to be presented by Raphael Chikukwa)

11H00 – 11H30 BREAK

11h30 – 1230 Practical session with

1. Bandile Gumbi
2. Pam Dlungwana
3. Donna A Smith

12h30 – 13h00: Open Discussion

13H00 – 14H00: LUNCH

14h00 – 15h45 Exploring possibility of networks between poetry and visual arts.

15H45 – 16H00 BREAK

16h00 – 17h00 Readings (with Joseph Molapong)

17h00 – 19h00 Break

19h00 – 21h00 Recitations (with Memory Chirere)

29 August SUNDAY
09h00 – 13h00: Taking the art to the people – recitations around selected venues in Gaborone (with Joseph Molapong)

13H00 – 14H00 LUNCH

14h00 – 15h30 Closure of festival

09h00 - Breakfast and departure

Saturday, August 14, 2010

from Emmanuel Sigauke with love

Emmanuel Sigauke

By the time Brutus stabbed me, Mukoma had already left to fight with the Mhere boys. Earlier in the morning, at home, he had told me that he just wanted to hear my English, and to see if I had the right gestures for it, adding that he was not interested in the prize-winning ceremony that would follow the big performance, nor did he care about meeting my teachers to discuss my progress. I don’t think when he left I had finished dying because even before Mark Anthony arrived on the scene, half the audience had left the play and had gone to watch Mukoma’s fight. At first, I had no idea what was happening, until Miss Mukaro, the teacher who had directed the performance, signaled Mark Anthony, acted by Chari, to stop talking, walked to where I lay dead and whispered, “Caesar, your big brother.” I sprung up and looked where Mukoma had been standing and saw that he was gone…

**** so goes the first paragraph of my favourite story in Emmanuel Sigauke’s forthcoming collection of short stories. Right from the first line, you get hooked and the story races with you in its jaws. I like the concept of ‘a fight inside the insides of the fight’ used in that story. Emmanuel Sigauke may not admit now, but when it finally comes out, this collection of short stories tentatively called ‘Mukoma stories’ is going to be his major project to date. He has been at this script for years now and I think he is close to releasing it…. The stories revolve around a teenage boy and the escapades of his roguish elder brother (mukoma). The boy has had to become a thinker and not a boy, in order to survive because mukoma is as unpredictable as his mortar mouth. These pieces come very close to the skin, akin to the short stories of Marechera, Chinodya and Naipaul. Manu, let go! You have an extremely exciting script.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Zimbabwean gunner and helicopter technician writes fiction on the Congo war

Title: A Fine Madness
Author: Mashingaidze Gomo
Publisher: Ayebia Ckarke Publishing Limited, UK
Isbn; 978-0-9562401-4-9
When an excited friend brought to me the manuscript of Mashingaidze Gomo’s A Fine Madness, at first I thought that there was something unfinished (and spooky too) about it as the jagged lines ran and ran seemingly incongruous. But I began to sense that the script was deceptive and I could have been fooled into dropping it. I started reading it in the middle of the night and I was alone and I never went to sleep afterwards. I felt that the room was peopled by all the heroes and traitors we read about in African History.

The other time when a work of art had slowly dragged me to its depths was with Brathwaite’s The Arrivants. The second time was with Cesaire’s A Notebook of the Return to My Native Land. The third was with Armah’s Two Thousand Seasons. You pick a book, saying, ‘What do we have here?’ Then – gone!

With such works of art, the act of reading becomes a long and wide dream in which you are taken through the paths of human joy and agony, ending in a whirlpool of emotions. You want to curse. You want to laugh. You want to revenge. You want to walk about the room. You want to go away and be mad. You want to forgive and be forgiven.

Immediately after, I asked to see the author because I had been told that he was a gunner with the Airforce of Zimbabwe. I wanted to see him in order to believe that he had indeed written A Fine Madness. Then the man I saw was a soft spoken gentleman. It was really an anticlimax! Later, I was to conclude that the Mashingaidze Gomo case is interesting in so far as he doubles up as a man of action and a philosopher. He lives at the cutting edge of history but he is able, meanwhile, to reflect on the African condition.

Then I gave the script to a colleague, a professor of Zimbabwean literature. He threw the script among his old papers saying, ‘We will see.’ He was used to many pretenders over the years that showed him things that they called stories. Things that ended up eating up one’s time for nothing. Then one day the professor came to me in the morning with red eyes and said, ‘I didn’t sleep, last night’. It was because he had made the mistake of reading the first pages of A Fine Madness. He was not able to stop!

We were both agreed that this script should be published because A Fine Madness is a charmed, mad and maddening prose poetry in which an armed man snoops into Africa’s history of deprivation and strife to do the painful arithmetic. Meanwhile, the Congo civil war of the late 1990’s rages on like a monstrous fire, eating and allowing brother and sister to get eaten by the syphilis of the West’s relentless desire to plunder. At the centre of this story is the anger and the question why the West is always at the centre of African conflicts, siding with one side and arming it against the other, as in the 1998 civil war in the Congo.

The narrator who is out at Boende in Congo sometimes reflects on his relationship with Tinyarei, an African beauty back home in Zimbabwe:

"The woman I am missing now is a beautiful woman
An older woman aged in beauty
A beauty that hangs on even as age takes its toll
Lingering on like a summer sunset… reluctant to go
A beauty digging in…making a last stand around the
eyes where her smile is disarming.
I missed Tinyarei with a wretchedness that was like
A very fine and enjoyable madness
And it always feels pleasant to miss a woman
Sometimes it is even better to miss than to be with her
And at Boende, it felt nice to miss Tinyarei..."

But, Tinyarei is a lover, a mother, a trophy to be won and sometimes she stands for mother Africa herself.

Sometimes the narrator watches the Congolese men, women and children dance to Ndombolo and wonders why poverty sucks and stinks and erodes self confidence. The Congo war which pitied brother against brother and neighbor against neighbor, gives Mashingaidze Gomo opportunity to listen to human voices and messages from the Congolese flora and fauna and come up with multifaceted pan African philosophies. He also wonders why we often give in easily, why we think less about our dignity, why we are turned against the real substance and asked to take in abstract values, why we don’t wonder why we are considered ‘the whiteman’s younger brother’… and why… and why?

I agree with Ngugi Wathiongo when he says (in the preface) that this prose poetry book is not only about ‘the horror and loneliness of war; but also the beauty of resistance’ and that Mashingaidze ‘can yoke the most contradictory into a searing insight.’ And yet I do not agree with Ngugi that the emergence of postcolonial dictatorships and their actual relationship to the Western corporate bourgeoisie’ can always be explained better by always taking a class perspective. This book’s forte surely transcends explaining the emergence of postcolonial dictatorship in Africa. A Fine Madness dwells on the varied patterns of the relationship between the North and the South from before colonialism to date.

A Fine Madness is the best book that I have read this 2010!

(Reviewed by Memory Chirere)

Monday, August 2, 2010

New writers organisation formed in Zimbabwe

One of the major highlights of the Zimbabwe Book fair 2010 was the formation of a new umbrella writers organization of Zimbabwe at a writers' meeting/workshop which was held at the Zimbabwe German Society. It was attended by 33 writers. It was a long day of emotional discussion.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the status of writers and their organisations in Zimbabwe. Although the meeting was scheduled to end at 1pm, it only ended after 4pm - demonstrating that the matter at hand affects many writers of Zimbabwe. What is good is that at the end of the day, there was a tangible outcome - the writers unanimously resolved to form an umbrella national organisation representing the rights and welfare of writers in Zimbabwe because the current situation of sectarian organizations was not effective in championing writers’ issues in Zimbabwe.
This decision was arrived at after it had been considered to revive the Zimbabwe Writers Union (ZIWU). The idea to revive ZIWU was shot down after the writers noted that there was a risk of inheriting ZIWU and its problems. Also, it was noted that there was need to respect ZIWU and treat it in the same manner as other sectarian organizations like BWAZ, ZWW, ZANA, ZALWA and WIN ZIMBABWE . These existing organizations and their members are also free to affiliate to the new Umbrella organization.
In the end, an interim committee was put in place to consult with independent writers, publishers and writers organisatiions
The names of the members in the interim committee are:

1. Malvin Sithole

2. Vivien Lucas

3. Primrose Dzenga

4. Blessing Musariri

5. Beatrice Sithole

6. Tinashe Muchuri

7. David Mungoshi

8. Musaemura Zimunya

9. Virginia Phiri
The interim committee will meet on Monday 2 August 2010 at the Zimbabwe German Society at 1430hrs to 1600hrs to map the way forward. From 9am to 1pm, Friday 27 August 2010, all writers interested in the new organisation for writers are invited at the ZGS for a plenary session.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Stephen Chifunyise Thatre Arts Festival

The 'Stephen Chifunyise Theatre Arts Festival' held at the University of Zimbabwe’s Beit Hall on 6 July 2010 to celebrate Chifunyise's work was a wonderful idea. Chifunyise has been involved in top Zimbabwe drama for over three decades now. For me, his major works are Two Angry Young Men, Wedding Night, Intimate Affairs, Muramu,Waiting for Constitution and Heal the Wounds. The last two are currently on a national tour after showing at the Theatre in the Park.There was enactment of excerpts of key scenes from a cross section of Chifunyise drama and various testimonies by people who have worked with the playwright and scholar. The man sat there, humbly and quietly picking his teeth with what appeared like a matchstic.Many thanks to the Theatre Arts Department (UZ)for coming up with this idea.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Zimbabwe International Book Fair 2010

THEME : “Promoting Cross Cultural Dialogue ”
ZIBFA invites all interested parties to participate in the special six-day event as follows:

“EXHIBITION” Venue: Harare Gardens, Julius Nyerere Way

ADMISSION FREE!!! to the Exhibition
Dates: 29 July – 31 July 2010
Time: 1000 – 1700hrs

“INDABA” Venue: Crowne Plaza Hotel : By Registration

Day 1: 26 July 2010 0815 - 1700hrs

 Constitutional Rights and Culture……………………………...
 School Syllabi, Technology and Culture……………………….
 Publishing and Marketing…………..…………………………..
 Intellectual Property and Copyright …………………………..

Day 2: 27 July 2010 0830 - 1700hrs

 Globalisation, Media and Culture…………………………….
 Language, Literature and Cross Cultural Dialogue…………
 Medicine and Culture…………………………………………..
 MDGs Religion and Culture…………………………………...

“Young Persons Indaba”!!!
Date: 28 July 2010 By Registration
0900 - 1700hrs at Crowne Plaza Hotel

Will focus on developing the skills of authorship

If you wish to participate please register for the workshops by 20 July to avoid disappointment!!

1000 - 1600hrs 29 July – 31 July 2010 ADMISSION FREE!!!

For further details contact us at ZIBFA on: 04 702104, 704112, 702108and 702129 Email :

*** NB: This note has been inserted by the ZIBF events coordinator in Harare

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

More pictures from the book donation

Virginia Phiri in the library boardroom
Zimunya gives a vote of thanks as Ms Chimuka and I listen

Library and academic staff at the book presentation

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Virginia Phiri donates copies of her books to University of Zimbabwe library

On 1 July 2010, Zimbabwean writer, Virginia Phiri donated copies of all her books (including the latest, Highway Queen) to the University of Zimbabwe library. It was a brief but memorable session attended by some library and academic staff members including poet and University of Zimbabwe lecturer, Musaemura Zimunya. Ms Y.Chimuka, head of the library Reader Service division, received the books on behalf of the library(above)

The Zimbabwe International Book Fair Indaba draft program for 2010

The Zimbabwe International Book Fair Indaba draft program for 2010 (below). As usual, the INDABA will run along the major Book Fair from Monday 26 July to Saturday 31 July. The ZIBFA Indaba is an annual Conference which is the major forum for debating critical issues to the book industry in Africa. It is also a unique national platform for networking and collaboration among stakeholders.)



THEME: Promoting Cross Cultural Dialogue

08:00 - 08:30 Arrival & Registration
ZIBFA Secretariat

Chairperson: Greenfield Chilongo

08:15 -09:00 Welcoming Remarks and Official Opening: ZIBFA Chairperson

Chair: Ruby Magosvongwe

09:00 - 09:45 Key note paper on the THEME: Promoting Cross Cultural Dialogue.

Speaker: Mrs Angeline S. Kamba

First Session: Constitutional Rights and Culture

Chair: Pathisa Nyathi

09:45 - 10:05 Justice Rita Makarau (JA)

10:05 - 10:25 Emmanuel Magade

10:25 - 10:45 Discussion

10:45 ? 11:15 TEA BREAK

Chairperson: Ruby Magosvongwe

11:15 - 12:00 OPENING CEREMONY
Culture Fund representative
Minister of Education, Arts, Sport and Culture
British Council
Norwegian embassy

Second Session: School Syllabi, Technology and Culture

Chair: Prof Rosemary Moyana

12:00 - 12:20 Pharaoh Joseph Mavhunga

12:20 - 12:40 Ellen Machingaidze

12:40 - 13:00 Dr. Xavier Carelse

13:00 -13:15 Discussion

13:15 ? 14:15 LUNCH BREAK

Third Session: Publishing and Marketing

Chair: Murray McCartney

14:15 - 14:35 Ndai Nyamakura

14:35 - 14:55 Jane Katjavivi / Akossi Afori Mensah

14:55 - 15:10 Discussion

15:10 - 15:25 TEA BREAK

Fourth: Session: Intellectual Property & Copyright

Chair: Greenfield Chilongo

15:25 - 16:45 Witness Zhangazha

16:45 - 16:05 Sara Moyo

16:05 - 16:30 Discussion

16:30 Closing Remarks
Cletus Ngwaru


27 July 2010 DAY TWO

08:30 ? 08:45 Registration
ZIBFA Secretariat

08:45 - 08:50 Welcoming remarks
Prof Z.Gambahaya

Fifth Session: Globalisation, Media and Culture

Chairperson: William Chikoto

08:50 - 09:10 Prof. Helge Ronning

09:10 - 09:30 Dr. Dumisani Moyo

09:30 - 09:50 Dr. Rino Zhuwarara

09:45 - 10:00 Discussion

10:00 - 10:20 TEA BREAK

Chairperson: Jerry Zondo

Sixth Session: Language, Literature and Cross Cultural Dialogue

10:20 - 10:35 Prof. Herbert Chimhundu

10:35 - 10:55 Dr. Ali Mathonsi

10:55 - 11:10 Dr Itai Muhwati

11:20 - 11:40 Dr. Reuben Chirambo

11:40 - 12:00 Discussion

Seventh Session: Medicine and Culture

12:00 - 12:20 Dr. Duri

12:20 - 12:40 Dr. Chirenje

12:40 - 12:55 Discussion

12:55 - 14:00 LUNCH BREAK

Eight Session: MDGs Religion and Culture

Chairperson: Nondo Simon

14:00 - 14:20 Dr. Charles Mugaviri

14:20 - 14:40 Mr. Fred Gweme

14:40 - 15:00 Prof. Ezra Chitando

15:00 - 15:20 Prof. Maurice Vambe

15:20 - 15:45 Discussion

15:45 - 16:00 TEA BREAK

Ninth: Session: Indaba sum up : Rapporteur

16:00 - 16:30 Musaemura Zimunya

16:30 Closing Remarks
Ruby Magosvongwe

18:00 - 20:00 Book Merit Awards managed by the Zimbabwe Book
Publishers Association (ZBPA)

Wednesday 28 July 2010


Venue: Crown Plaza

Chairperson: Stephen Chifunyise

09: 00 - 09:10 Opening remarks: ZIBFA Chair person Cletus Ngwaru

09:10 - 09:45 Keynote Speakers: Shimmer Chinodya and/ Barbara Nkala

09:45 - 10:00 Discussion by Panel

10:00 - 10:30 TEA BREAK

10:30 - 11:45 Break Away Groups

Theatre: E. Vutuza
Short stories:
Novel: Ignatius Mabasa
Script and Film: Tsitsi Dangarembga
Performance Poetry: Albert Nyathi / Chirikure Chirikure
Writing Poetry:
Indigenous literature: Elvas Mari

11:45 - 13:00 Report back and Plenary Discussions

13:00 - 14:00 LUNCH BREAK

14:00 - 16:30 Theatre in the Park: to stage of the two plays by Stephen Chifunyise -
Heal the wounds and / Waiting for a new Constitution?

16:30 Closing remarks & END

Friday, July 2, 2010

Virginia Phiri's new book: 'Highway Queen'

‘Highway Queen’ is a collection of five short stories (in English) which are individual but related as in Miguel Street. It was published by Coral Sevices in Zimbabwe this 2010. Virginia Phiri chronicles the trials and tribulations of women cross boarder traders of Zimbabwe during what has become known generally as ‘the Zimbabwean crisis’. You find here desperate women at the boarder posts, scheming and scheming. Sometimes they are ensnared and raped for a free ride on the long distance trucks. But on a good day, they snatch little but sweet victories in order to feed their unsuspecting husbands and children. They bail out families from hunger and certain death. ‘Desperate,’ Virginia’s first book, in which a woman bites and chews a rival's ear in a love triangle, was published in 2002. Her second book ‘Destiny’, a story about a hermaphrodite girl, appeared in 2006. Virginia’s works include co-authoring Zimbabwe Women Writers anthologies in both fiction and non fiction and in various Orchid journals. She was writer-in residency at Le Chateau de Lavigny, Switzerland in Summer 2006 and Villa Waldberta in Germany in Summer 2008. She is also an Accountant by profession and is also an African Orchid expert. Orders:

Sunday, June 27, 2010


(By Robert Muponde)
Her voice, he had bound
He had strung, her voice
Her voice, he had strangled, strangled, strangled…
When she spoke of his
Binding, binding, binding her
When she spoke of his
Strangling, strangling, strangling her
He broke her voice with a pick axe …
Smashed her being … for years
Crushed her consciousness … for ages
And enslaved what remained of her spirit
Worked her hard by day
That his fields grew greener each year
Toiled her by night
That stout-limbed children were born
By the bound, strangled, crushed woman.

But one day in a hundred years
As a shadow she came
One day in a thousand years
She rose from her living death
And demanded back her voice
This one day, she spoke with the voice of freedom
The man heard the terror speak
In his mind he saw his green fields deserted
Weeds choking the rich green
Hunger … hunger crunching at his children’s health…
No… no… no…

Rope in hand, he flew at her
To bind, to strangle her again
But the shadow, the slave, the woman
Had unbound herself
Horror seized his reason
When he saw his one time slave-woman about to flee
In wild desperation he called for more rope
For more hands to bind her …
But the ropes, in their thickness
Had become too thin to bind her anymore
In her eyes were the spear and sword of her freedom
To him for the first time she said,
“I’m the woman you’ve been killing for ages, ages, ages …”

**Robert Muponde is Associate Professor of English in the Department of English and Assistant Dean for International Affairs and Partnerships, Humanities, at University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He holds an interdisciplinary Ph.D in Childhood studies. Muponde is also Co-editor of numerous works, including Versions of Zimbabwe: New Approaches to Literature and Culture; Sign and Taboo: Perspectives on the Poetic Fiction of Yvonne Vera; and Manning the Nation: Father Figures in Zimbabwean Literature and Society.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Recipes from a Shona world

'Kubika Machikichori' Shona for preparing delicious meals, carries traditional recipes from Goromonzi, about 50 km out of Harare. This book was compiled by founding member of Zimbabwe Women Writers (ZWW), Colette Mutangadura and edited by Keresia Chateuka. Read about how to prepare pumpkin soup powder, how to prepare mealie rice in peanut butter, how to make puddings from figs or watermelon, how to make porridge from the baobab fruit, how to make coffee from okra seed, how to make jam from guava fruit and many more! Some of the contributors are Colette Mutangadura herself, Claudia Muzembe, Plaxedes Kaseke,Shirley Gumbodete and others.For querries and orders phone: + 263 042925688 or +263 0712525228

Saturday, June 19, 2010

'Toriro and his goats'.... the real-real thing

It is now out...and watch this space for details!

"Chirere has successfully taken the traditional art form... and emerge with universal lessons of love, pain, fear, innocence and guilt with such dexterity that it escapes no reader's notice."
-Edmore Zvinonzwa- The Herald, 14 June 2010.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The ground that African women stand on

'The ground that African women stand on'
(the reflections of sister Achola Pala)
So many of us have often accepted the notion of African “traditional culture” as if it were the enemy of women, and the word “Western” as if it contained women’s rights. Perhaps we should substitute the word “original” for “traditional,” meaning the ground we stand on is rooted in African millennial cultures that supported us long before the arrival of colonial conquerors with patriarchal religions and political systems.

As a young woman growing up in the village culture of west Kenya, for example, I knew that we had a bill or rights and a human rights code by which we lived long before colonization.

The idea of the sanctity of personhood and human agency was enshrined in everything we did. As children we were taught to play together and accept defeat honorably if you lost a game. In principle and practice, human rights were the cornerstone of life and a good mind.

Every human being—child, woman, man, stranger and foe—had the right to be and to be heard. Therefore consultation was at the heart of decision-making. My culture forbade wanton killing of people and violation of people, including children and women. We were taught to treat each other with respect, protect the rights of persons with disability and include them in all activities to the best of their ability.

A widow had the right to choose the man to be with after the death of her husband and she had the right to ask him to leave if the relationship proved unsatisfactory. And a married woman had the protection of her favorite brother-in-law, referred to as the “leopard skin” to denote his critical role in protecting and supporting the sister-in-law from danger or exploitation.

Quarrelsome men who treated their wives with disdain were not respected in the community and were often chided in gatherings for their unbecoming conduct. A woman who married out of the community still kept her family ties in her place of birth. My mother inherited several goats from her mother and always went back to visit her family where she enjoyed enormous respect until her death. And today, my sisters and I (all married with our own homes) continue to have access and use of our mother’s house and a freedom that far exceeded that in cities where women were often forbidden in public places by law on the grounds that women must be “loitering” and must be prostitutes. My sisters and I were educated in the colonial version of education, but equally with my brothers because my parents understood we would need the protection of education and jobs as much if not more.

If we look into our cultures even today, wherever we are in the continent, we will find the ground we are standing on and how to build new viable institutions and equality norms going forward.

As a young anthropology scholar, my early work led me to conclude that African women, by and large, had greater recognition, more rights, greater security of tenure in land and protection, and greater control over their reproductive lives under their original political and economic systems than under the systems adopted from European colonial models.

Even a cursory analysis of the period preceding colonization—looking at matrifocal societies like the Ashanti of Ghana, for instance, or the Bemba of Malawi, that had complementary roles for men and women—points to great strengths of the leadership of women in Africa’s economy, politics, spirituality and arts.

It’s not surprising that the patriarchal colonial gender regimes deprived African women of identity (at marriage, the requirement to drop her own name for that of her husband), livelihoods (communal authority over land became reinterpreted as individual men’s rights) and human security (women became commodities to exploit, prostitute and violate in slave trade, trafficking, tourist commerce and war).
In 1880, when European powers sat down in Berlin to divide Africa into pieces they would colonize regardless of the interest of African peoples, the result was the nation-state. The colonial structure served to separate indigenous communities, language groups and families by artificial borders often drawn with the purpose of dividing and controlling people. Indigenous populations became non-people under the law, and women were even more marginalized.

As violence against African people became normalized, a new culture of violation of women’s rights became part of the overall plan of forced relocation and concentration of indigenous people in marginal lands.

The colonial economy legitimized the destruction of African biodiversity and natural resources, food base and environment through logging, commercial hunting, alienation of communal land, imposition of new intellectual property rights and patents over common goods and communal medicinal plants and vegetables. Chemical fertilizers began to deplete soil fertility and destroy drinking water sources. The shift undercut indigenous farming systems over which African women held considerable expertise and power.

At the same time, forced and under-remunerated jobs took men away from their home communities, truncating family livelihood strategies. Men working in far away cities and mines had little or nothing to send home to their villages. The separation was exacerbated by commercial laws establishing ‘legal’ boundaries between rural ‘reserves,’ commercial plantations and towns—which in Kenya, as in Zimbabwe, redefined gender relations through the restriction of movement and social interaction between ‘tribal’ and urban spaces.

Before the 1880s, borders between language groups had been porous, and a cooperative gift and barter system allowed groups to build trust by exchanging seeds, products and tools. African women played a pivotal role in this economy, especially during periods of scarcity. Imposition of ‘reserves’ disrupted an economy that appreciated cultural diversity, erecting an ideological barrier of ethnicity in its place, which was to become an incendiary nightmare in the 20th Century.

In addition, the colonial need for urban spaces both divided Africans from Asians and Europeans by law and excluded and disenfranchised women. Women could enter the wage economy only informally, in the outskirts of towns and later as domestic workers and nannies. The criminalization of their presence in towns as prostituted women devalued women as a group, and many more were trafficked in the emerging commercial urban sex industry. For women, the rule of law was almost entirely punitive, depriving them of development opportunities and perpetuating social inequalities and violence.

The effects of these policies and laws rippled across Africa and were felt even more acutely in the countries of Algeria, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar, Namibia and South Africa. As opposed to West Africa, these “settlement colonies” were structured around a small immigrant white population invited in and subsidized to exploit the colony for their motherland. The settlers could acquire large tracts of arable farmland and create black squatter populations to serve as labor.

Today Africa pays the price of embracing colonial structures ill adapted to our well-being. Countries face a paradox in which the “rule of law” is touted as a panacea for good governance but often flouted in ways that undermine citizens’ ability to rely on judicial institutions. Laws that are incoherent and fragmented result in opaque and corrupt judicial practices, and justice is not easily assured for ordinary citizens unable to buy the services of a lawyer. For women, the burden of inequality is often worse.

In many countries we are still stuck with this dichotomy.
No wonder the success of the African state, today, as a protector of citizens is a mixed bag. In some cases, the state is developing as a defender of majority interests, and women are over or close to half of parliaments in countries like Mozambique and Rwanda. In Tanzania, women hold key ministerial posts. Yet in others, heads of state maneuver state apparatus to extend their terms in office. In a number of cases, my country of Kenya included, we have seen failed elections—hints that citizens may be unable to muster the necessary might to exercise rights even where these may be entrenched in a nation’s laws and constitution.

Along with this turmoil, we have seen an unprecedented rise in violence against women, some of it state-sponsored. So we do have to ask ourselves what is driving this change towards violence against women? And what is the kind of state responsibility we want to see in our region?

The common belief is that a rights based approach comes to us from a more universalistic and therefore more legitimate realm of thought, and African culture has come to be regarded as the enemy of women. But we must understand how gender based violence became normalized in the context of colonialism and that the Human Rights approach is essentially a Eurocentric paradigm born out of an expansive phase of capitalism marked by economic competition, slavery and invasion of territory.

What we as African women must do is to identify those aspects of our own political, economic and cultural history that make African women great, and ensure that those are incorporated as rights within the emerging structures of our countries. That is the ground we stand on.
** Dr. Achola O. Pala is a Kenyan feminist researcher, writer and educator

Sunday, June 6, 2010

PROVERBS from the Great Temple Complex of Amun

Wisdom from the Great Temple Complex of Amun of Karnak in Thebes, Ancient Egypt:

•If you would know yourself, take yourself as starting point and go back to its source; your beginning will disclose your end.

•Know the world in yourself. Never look for yourself in the world, for this would be to project your illusion.

•If you would build something solid, do not work with wind: always look for a fixed point, something you know that is stable ... yourself.

•If the Master teaches what is error, the disciple's submission is slavery; if he teaches truth, this submission is ennoblement.

•The first concerning the 'secrets': all cognition comes from inside; we are therefore initiated only by ourselves, but the Master gives the keys.

•Man must learn to increase his sense of responsibility and of the fact that everything he does will have its consequences.

•The kingdom of heaven is within you; and whosoever shall know himself shall find it.

•The body is the house of God. That is why it is said, "Man know thyself."

•Popular beliefs on essential matters must be examined in order to discover the original thought.

•To know means to record in one's memory; but to understand means to blend with the thing and to assimilate it oneself.

•A man's heart is his own Neter (God).

• A house has the character of the man who lives in it.

•The first thing necessary in teaching is a master; the second is a pupil capable of carrying on the tradition.

•The man who knows how to lead one of his brothers towards what he has known may one day be saved by that very brother.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

“I am right handed but left footed” : BRIAN CHIKWAVA

The UK based Zimbabwean writer, Brian Chikwava won the Caine Prize for African writing, Africa's highest literary award for his short story "Seventh Street Alchemy". In February 2010 his debut novel, Harare North won the Outstanding First Creative Published Work category in Zimbabwe’s National arts Merit Awards (NAMA). In March 2010 Harare North alongside Petina Gappah’s An Elegy for Easterly was among the books selected for the Orwell Prize longlist.

The weaverpress website describes Chikwava’s debut novel: Fearlessly political, laugh-out-aloud funny and with an anti-hero whose voice is impossible to forget… When he lands in ‘Harare North’, our unnamed protagonist carries with him nothing but a cardboard suitcase full of memories and a desire to find his childhood friend, Shingi. In this astonishing debut novel, Caine Prize winner Brian Chikwava tackles head-on the realities of life as an asylum-seeker. This is the story of a stranger in a strange land – one of the thousands of illegal Zimbabwean immigrants seeking a better life in England. But our narrator has a past he is determined to hide. From the first line the language fizzes with energy, humour and not a little menace.

Below is the interview that I did with him. I really wanted to take him to the basics and find out what makes him tick.

Memory Chirere: At the Oxford Harare North launch in May 2009, I asked you from the audience, “What do you anticipate to be the kind of response to your book back in Harare?” You said, “Laughter.” Now, Harare has responded and you have won a NAMA award. Congratulations. I was in the audience during NAMA and there was a huge applause as somebody received the prize on your behalf. I didn’t know you had so many fans and readers in Harare. Any special messages?

Brian Chikwava: Was very pleasantly surprised and must thank the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe for the good work they are doing. Such surprises make writing a bit more bearable.

MC: To the reading public, you first appeared with the short story ‘Seventh Street alchemy’, in Writing Still, 2003. There is no trail of you before that. How were you made?

BC: I started off trying my hand not at fiction but visual art reviews. That was after I joined the short-lived Zimbabwe Art Critics Association. After learning how to write a review, I thought I may as well try the short story and poetry. I had to ditch poetry quickly because I feel shockingly well off what was acceptable.

MC: It is also reported that you were ‘once a member of the now defunct Zimbabwe association of Art Critics’. What was all that about?

BC: The Zimbabwe Art Critics Association had the noble hope of getting more art enthusiasts to engage with art. Those who felt moved to try their hand at art reviews were given a guiding hand and sometimes with the help of Barbara Murray, then editor of Gallery Delta Magazine, ended up with their work in the Herald or the Daily News.

MC: It is said that you collaborated with some of Harare’s upcoming Jazz musicians then. Who are these musicians and what instrument do you play?

BC: Oh yes, we did mess about trying overly ambitious experiments that we had to abandon in exhaustion. A number of the experimentally inclined people who are now scattered across the globe leapt in; the likes of ex-Luck Street Blues Pascal Makonese; Noble Mashawa, briefly of Andy Brown’s Storm; the long-suffering Luka Mukavele who kindly gave us use of his recording studio, and his Mozambiquean compatriot, drummer Suleiman Saide.

MC: You recorded and released Jacaranda Sketches. What is this about?

BC: I sometimes think it was only a platform for trying out new things in the then new London environment. But for a number of reasons, I’m increasingly terrified of even listening to it now since it demonstrates to me how capricious good judgment can be – one year you think you have, and the next you are shocked by the choices you made.

MC: You are a Science major, writer and musician. Is this a mixed quest? Are you ambidextrous?

BC: Unfortunately not. But I am right handed but left footed.

MC: So far I have seen all your stories in group anthologies: Seventh Street Alchemy, Zesa Moto Muzhinji, Fiction, Dancing To The Jazz and His Goblin Rhythm (my favourite) and others. What is your relationship with the short story form and should we expect an anthology?

BC: I’ve been thinking about an anthology but somehow feel terrified of making a start. That’s because I find stories a bit of a tight rope walk. Hopefully I will rediscover the courage.

MC: Harare North, your debut novel has been applauded for ‘experimenting with language’. Ikhide Ikheloa says you use ‘pretend-language’, back in Harare, Irene Staunton says you use ‘patios’. My students wonder what you wanted to achieve because “Zimbabweans are well known for their ability to speak English.” In what circumstances did you decide to abandon the standard English language you used in the short stories?

BC: I tried standard English and it just didn’t work. The manuscript read stilted and the character had inhabit. That’s when I thought of – is it Achebe, I can’t remember? – who talks about bending the English language in order to make it carry the weight of the African experience. The language that I use in Harare North is not a true language in the sense that it is not spoken on the streets of Zimbabwe, but I believe it expresses the Zimbabwean sensibility better than standard English.

MC: Harare North has been referred to as being ‘fearlessly political’ and for being laugh-out-loud funny’. What did it take to maintain the various balances that one finds in this novel?

BC: I think you can properly inhabit a character, a lot of things fall into place and you cast aside the eye that constantly makes judgments and concentrate on only making it a decent piece of art.

MC: This might be too personal, but at how many points, if any, does your path and that of your main character come together?

BC: No, not at all. The story genuinely crystallized after I met an ex-Lord’s Resistance Army guy on the street. We had a chat and he told me how he missed his past life, how he missed holding his AK47. At first I thought it was all a joke but quickly realized he was serious. More than anything I was struck by his stance, knowing how un-pc it is to confess to loving the LRA. So I though, well, why not create a Green Bomber who comes to London and is just as unyielding in his beliefs.

MC: In Harare North the characters go through stubborn pride and ironically, shame and self loathing too. Is this the psychology of exile?

BC: In the right dose, stubborn pride is good if one is an exile, I think. But what I also did not want to do is to fall into representing Africans in exile as objects of pity, which they commonly are in the media. As for self-loathing, I guess that can be the price one pays for a rigid approach to life.

MC: Again the students wondered whether you are saying home is better than exile in spite of the sociopolitical and economic challenges in Zimbabwe? In Harare North, the diasporans are clearly marooned. The kusina amai hakuendwe (foreign land is hostile) message is very clear but the dzoka uyamwe (home is best) message is missing.

BC: Yes, that message is missing because I could not do that without being didactic. But I also think that the question of home vs exile is complex and requires a nuanced approach.

MC: What have you learnt from doing and reading Harare North yourself?

BC: I’ve probably been demoralised to realize how much I’ll have to do before I can write a book that is anywhere near perfect.

MC: What should we expect from you soon?

BC: Ndiriku wunganidza tunhu twangu – miseve, pfumo, nembwa. After that, chamuka inyama. (I am quietly putting together something.)