Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pasi Pengoma

Pasi pengoma
(NaMemory Chirere)

Nyangwe zvangu ndirini ndaida Lucy, ndini wokutanga kuti, “Remmie, wati waona here kasikana katsva kakauya munaNyathi?”

Takaita mazuva tichingodarika nemugwagwa tichiita setaive tisina hanya nezvaive pamba paanaLucy asi tichipakanda maziso. Iye Remmington akatomboti, “Biggie, haikona kutambisa nguva yangu. Seiko musikana wacho asingaoneke panze chero musi mumwechete?”

Takazoti tichibva kuChiwaridzo rimwe zuva ndipo pandakaona zvangu Lucy ari panze patsangadzi achicheka nzwara. Ndakangobaya Remmington negokora kuti azvionere zvandakanga ndaona. Remmington akangoti, “Vakomana! Saka ndiye?” Ndakagutsurira musoro ndichinyemwerera. Tadarika, Remmington akati, “Akanaka kunge mukati mendege.”

Ini ndikati, “Aiwa, watadza. Ita 'akanaka kunge zai riri pakati pezvingwa zviviri.'”

Remmington akati, “Kana kuti akanaka kunge nyenyedzi.”

Takaramba zvedu tichingodaro dakara Remmington ati, “Ini ndamuda zvangu, saka toita sei?”

Mapaona zvino? Kuti ndichizopikisa ndichiti ndini ndainge ndichida musikana ndakabva ndatadza. Ndakanyarara. Hamheno kuti ipapo ndakatyei. Ndakangokwanisa kuti, “Chimupfimba asati aonekwa nezvimwe zvimagora zvemuno.”

Ndaisaziva kuti ndainge ndatozvipa basa. Ndakabva ndanzi, “Ndiperekedze izvozvi.”

Takasvika Lucy achiri kucheka nzwara. Akaramba achicheka nzwara. Ndakati, “Mhoro Lucy. Ini ndini Biggie. Iyi ishamwari yangu inonzi Remmington.”

Lucy akasimudza musoro. Ipapo ndipo pandakaona kuti ndainge ndairasa. Kurega Remmington achitora musikana akadaro! Ndakasuduruka ndokuenda kuheji kuti zvisare zvichipedzerana. Asi ndisati ndabata kana shizha zvaro reheji kuti ndivarairwe ndakanzwa musikana oshevedzera, “Amai! Amai! Pano pane munhu ari kundinetsa!”

Ndakati cheu ndokuona Remmington achibuda pagedhi, achitiza. Vakomana!

Ndakadududza ndokusvika panaLucy ndokuti, “Nyarara mhani, munhu uyo ari kutokuda, ndikuudze.”

Asi ndakazobuda pagedhi ndichizvituka: Ndarasikirwa nemumwe mukana zvakare. Ko, ndadii ndasara ndichiti ‘ndini ndinokuda musikana’? Vakomana, ndiri kumboita sei? Ndiri benzi here ini?

Kana zano rokuti Remmington anyore tsamba yerudo kunaLucy rakabva kwandiri! Ndakatoinyora ini tsamaba ndichitaura twose twunotapira! Ndini. Remmington akabva atya kana kuenda nayo. Takasvika pabhini repaana Lucy, Remmington achibva atanga kugwagwadza.

Ndakatozoitora tsamba yacho ini pachangu ndokupinda pagedhi. Ndakawana painechembere yakabva yandigashira nemubvunzo, “Tokubatsira nei?”

Ndakatya asi ndakangogona kuti, “Ndingawanewo Lucy?”

Zvikanzi, “Pota kuseri. Ari kuwacha mbatya pasingi.”

Ndakatenderera nemba nokunopa Lucy tsamba. “Yabva kushamwari yangu iye. Anokuda zvokuti dhu.” Ndakabva ndafambisa ndokutenderera nemba ndokuenda. Ndipo pandakairasa ipapo! Ndakadii ndakaivhura ndocheka pakanzi Remmington, ndonyora kuti Biggie. Kana kuti Big-boy Chiseko? Dai ndirini mukomana vaLucy nhasi!

Kana pakasangana Remmington naLucy patower-light kekutanga manheru ndini ndakatoudza Remmington kuti sanganai patower-light.

Ko, vakazomboita nguva vasati vapengesana here?

Tsamba dzavo ndini ndaidzifambisa sepakutanga. Ndini ndaihwanda seri kwebhini ndichidongorera kuti ndione kuti Lucy aivepo here pamba pavo? Ndini ndaimira nechekure ndichicheuka kuti pasawane aiuya kuzovavhiringa vasingafungire patower-light.

Asi nhasi ndiri kuseri kweheji ndichiti ndione kana mai vaLucy vouya ndanzwa iye Lucy achiti kuna Remmington, “Ko idzo dzinohwanda kuseri kwebhini neheji dzine chiso chinenge pasi pengoma, ndedzepiko idzodzi?”

Remmington aseka ndokuti, “Chimwe chimupfanha changu!” Vabva vaseka vachiumburuka patsangadzi vachinombora jamhu ranga rabiwa mumba maamai vaLucy naLucy.

Ndabuda muheji mandanga ndiri ndichiridza tsamwa vachibva vatonyanya kuseka. Ini: "Hoo – nhai!"

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I am looking at the stars: David Mungoshi

David Mungoshi

David Mungoshi whose new novel, ‘The Fading Sun’ won Zimbabwe's National Arts Merit Award (NAMA)in the Outstanding Fiction category last week, is a happy man. (You may remember that on January 14 2010, I reviewed the book here). I caught up with David recently and talked about writing and life.

kwaChirere: Congratulations, David, for winning the NAMA.

David Mungoshi: I never thought I'd hear those words from anyone! The award has made a lot of people other than myself very happy: my wife Elizabeth and the children and everyone in the Mungoshi clan. My younger brother in Canada has just ordered a copy of The Fading Sun (TFS)for himself with Man, I am very happy.

kwaChirere: You have not published a major work since your ‘Stains On The wall’ in 1992. Reasons?

DM: But I never stopped writing.

kwaChirere: Mary, the central character in ‘The Fading Sun’ has cancer and other various maladies. What inspired this story? What did you want to get at?

DM: I have always been gender-inspired. I remember writing a pretentious little story many years ago in which I was examining the question of Lobola. Pretentious because I was still just early into my teens and obviously quite green in such matters. Anyway I called the story,’ She’s a Commodity.’ I don’t remember what happened to it.It’s a story of how a woman rises higher than her husband in the party of liberation and how the husband can’t handle that and starts getting physical. In Stains on the Wall, the women are also treated sympathetically. When I wrote The Fading Sun I was responding to a request from a friend to see if I could write that kind of story. I guess I am trying to show the resilience and versatility of women, how they conquer extraordinary odds because make no mistake, Mary conquers. I guess I am also saying that for people like Mary death can never be a tragedy and it can never vanquish them.

kwaChirere: I know that we write books ‘for all readers’ but with TFS, what type of readership did you have in mind?

DM: I was writing for everybody, to affirm womanhood and show how a woman is the very apotheosis of life itself. I wanted all males to do a bit of introspection as well and perhaps get to discover that there’s more to life than the trappings and the image and upward mobility.

kwaChirere: I suspect that the major talking point with TFS will be on how you as a male writer went for various ‘deep’ women’s experiences. Why did you do it? Will you do it again?

DM: As I said before, a friend challenged me. I was a little hesitant to start with and then one day I was talking to Yvonne Vera about just this problem of writing intimately about matters that may not always come naturally to one if you are the opposite gender. I have never forgotten what Yvonne said to me, it was at one of the Book Fairs in Harare, she said the imagination is the freest space and that all things were therefore possible. The rest, as they say, is now history and the deed is done. Will I do it again? Most probably yes. At one of the readings I did from the book quite recently, a lady said to me that there was a lot of passion in the story and in my reading of it. Another said she thought that I liked women and I said yes because I do like women. They are the most beautiful people that I know and I am not just talking about appearance here. So, yes, I shall probably write another story in the mould of TFS. But for now I am just fine-tuning my next offering which I hope will show the depth and variety in my approach to writing.

kwaChirere:Various people who have read TFS (Emmanuel Sigauke, Ivor Hartmann, Rubie Magosvongwe etc) like chapter seven very much. They say it is episodic, green maize cobs are roasted and the hyena laughs. Any special reasons why you wrote that chapter the way you did?

DM: I think I wanted to try and achieve what one of my lecturers during my undergraduate years, Antony Chennells at the then University of Rhodesia, called the ‘immediacy of the experience, the intensity of the experience.’ It was quite exciting trying to do what I did in that chapter. I am still wondering whether or not that kind of innovation can carry a whole story. Perhaps we should soon find out soon, in another year or two, after I empty my creative tray of what’s currently in it. I am thinking of writing something along those lines. The theme is there already and I am working on the plot, the way that I always do, in my mind!

kwaChirere: There is a strong sense of living history to this novel; events, places and people. Comment?

DM: Yes, that’s because I believe very strongly in the efficacy of history. To quote a reggae group, ‘Misty in Roots,’ “if you have no history you’re like a cabbage in this world.”

kwaChirere: The script that began as TFS, like any other, must have some history. You know that scripts disappear, scripts are abandoned, some scripts are ill fated and some are effortless. What is the peculiar history of this script?

DM: I guess TFS was just a little ill-fated. It was always praised to high heaven but somehow didn’t see the light of day until Sarudzayi Barnes came along. She’s a fantastic person, lots of vision and grit.

kwaChirere:Every artist imagines himself reaching a certain level with his art. David, where are you going and how will you get there?

DM: I am looking at the stars. I want to go out with a bang, at the end of my earthly sojourn. So there will be more perceptive, innovative and engaging writing to come, poetry, short stories, more novels, the lot! I want to write things that can unsettle people but also make them feel good. Sounds paradoxical doesn’t it? I assure you it can be done.

MC: Which writers influence you?

DM: I remember reading a poem by Tafirenyika Moyana in Parade Magazine in the late 1960s. He called it ‘A God’s Error.’ It was my first real contact with evocative poetry. Moyana’s imagery was just fantastic and his sense of bathos quite unparalleled. He is most probably among my very early influences. Then of course Ernest Hemingway. Charles introduced me to Hemingway. But when it comes to a sense of the epic I still think Milton’s Paradise Lost ranks among the very best. When I read Achebe’s Arrow of God I couldn’t believe what the man had achieved. I wondered if I could do it. Conrad’s ‘Under Western Eyes’ was also a great read for me. Now I am hooked on Kahlil Gibran and I guess I try and do some of his stuff here and there.

kwaChirere: People will definitely want to hear about this: Charles Mungoshi, your brother, is a fellow writer. How do you relate as brothers and as writers?

DM: We relate quite well. We have always been brothers and friends. We began writing at about the same time and were both first published in African Parade in the 1960s. That’s a long time ago. Charles has always believed in my writing despite the fact that for me recognition has taken its own sweet time to come. Our styles and our concerns are different and so is our ideology. In my younger days I was avidly leftist. Perhaps I still am deep down but the realities on the ground have perhaps dictated some adjusting without necessarily compromising on any of my progressive stances such as those on gender and collective justice. How would you classify my story, ‘Seventy-Five Bags?’

kwaChirere: Any comment on Zimbabwean literature? Any aspect of it?

DM I love much of it, love it to pieces. There’s a lot that is also of interest and significance in the new writing from the younger writers of today. But I don’t subscribe to the fallacy that you’re necessarily progressive because you’re young. Some of the most conservative people I know are much younger than I am. We need to take critiquing very seriously. The performance poets in particular are sometimes getting away with murder

kwaChirere: What have you learnrt from doing TFS?

DM: I think I can say without hesitation that I have learned the value
of research and empathy. There is no way I could have written a story
like 'The Fading Sun' without these two attributes. The book has also
taught me to be patient and to understand that when its time is due a
work of art will get due recognition. The writer, like the actor, must
be 'in character.' This is where the empathy comes in. That way you
achieve appeal and authenticity. These are usefulk lessons i think.

kwaChirere: If your wishes were granted, which of your fresh scripts would
you publish next and why?

DM: 'Catalogues.' It is a story in which I try to do quite a few things
including the use of magic realism and the grounding of my plot in a
universe that has historicity.So I strive to write so evocatively that the reader who has roasted groundnuts or green maize can experience the delicious smell
and feel the taste in his mouth. The immediacy and the intensity may be such that the reading becomes a lot more than just a vicarious experience.Perhaps the one thing that Iagree with the Russian Formalists about is the whole concept of defamiliarization. I like taking a lateral view of things.

kwaChirere: Mlalazi, another Lion Press writer, was one of the two runners-up
to you in your category, and Mabasa (also Lion Press) won the Oustanding Children's Book award, Any messages to Lion Press?

DM: Yes, thank you very much Lion Press and thank you Sarudzayi Barnes. You're great, guys and it feels good working with such a discerning Publishing House.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The 9th Nama Literary arts winners are...

Last night the 9th 'National Arts Merit Awards' (NAMA) from Zimbabwe's National Arts Council, were announced at a colourful ceremony in Harare. From the Literary category, David Mungoshi's The Fading Sun won in the Outstanding Fiction Book sub category. Brian Chikwava's Harare North won in the Outstanding First Creative Published Work sub category. Ignatius Mabasa's The Man, Shaggy Leopard and the Jackal won in the Outstanding Children's Book sub category.*** You may remember that on January 14 2010, I reviewed David Mungoshi's 'The Fading Sun' here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Zimbabwe Women Writers org turns 20

Today at the Zimbabwe Arts and Culture Indaba in Harare, the Zimbabwe Women Writers director, Audrey Chihota Charamba, reminded me that her organisation is turning twenty this year!

“Twenty?” I asked, “Is it already Twenty?”

Formed in 1990, the Zimbabwe Women Writers (ZWW) is an arts and culture trust, concerned particularly with the promotion of women’s literature in Zimbabwe. The idea has been to groom women writers and publish them or help them publish.

To date, ZWW has published over fifteen books in various subjects from creative writing, scholarly books and even recipes. Some of these books have been incorporated into the local Zimbabwe school syllabi while others are reference texts in institutes of higher learning across the globe.

For sometime now they have been winning national literary prizes, sometimes ahead of some very established authors and established literary houses. These include Zimbabwe Book Publishers Awards (ZBPA) and the National Arts and Merit Awards (NAMA).

For instance they won the NAMA Best Published Research work on Arts/ Culture with their book A Tragedy of Lives in 2003. In 2004 their collection of short stories in Shona, Masimba was recognised as one of ZIBF’s 75 best books. Their collection of poems, Ngatisimuke won the 2005 second prize in the ZBPA literary Awards for Best fiction Award. Their Totanga Patsva won the 2006 National Arts Merits Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Fiction category. The same book also won the ZBPA 2006 Best Shona fiction Awards

Some of the founding women are prominent Zimbabwean writers like Barbara Nkala, Tawona Mtshiya, Chiedza Msengezi, Collette Mutangadura and Virginia Phiri. Even women from abroad, then resident in Zimbabwe, helped a lot. These are writers like the Ghanaian, Ama Ata Aidoo, the German scholar, Flora Veit-Wild and lawyer, Mary Tandon.

One of the earliest ZWW books is the series called There is Room at the Top (1995 to 1999). This five-book series, that targeted lower high school readership sought to explore the biographies of women who had scored firsts in male dominated spheres. This project was key in building role models for the girl child in a context that she can identify with.

Then there are short story collections; Masimba (Shona) and Vus’inkophe (Ndebele) both of (1996). They were compiled in acknowledgement of the Convention of Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Among Women (CEDAW).

There are also anthologies of poetry of (1998); Nhetembo(in Shona) and Inkondlo( in Ndebele). ZWW had to reprint, revamp and recast the Shona poetry Nhetembo into Ngatisimuke in (2004) so that it could be more user- friendly for O level students. Masimba, and A Tragedy of Lives, have been made school set books in Zimbabwe for O and A level up to 2008, respectively.

ZWW also published a special book called Women of Resilience(2000). For this book, ZWW interviewed women combatants and non-combatants from the Zimbabwe war of liberation. They set out to write the history of the liberation struggle from a women’s perspective and also to portray women not only as collaborators, but as actual participants at the battlefront.

One of the major highlights of the book is the stigma that the women who went to war have had to live with after the war. While the men are celebrated as heroes, the women tended to be ostracised because somehow it is thought that they ‘went beyond femininity’ by joining the struggle. It is amazing and encouraging that almost all the interviewees in this book seem to concur that 1980 was not a destination, but perhaps the starting point for women’s struggles in other areas in life.

A Tragedy of Lives is a book that tells the experiences of some women prisoners in Zimbabwe. ZWW members, through various experiences with prison in different capacities, felt that prison was an untapped area. They set out to explore society’s attitudes towards a mother, wife, daughter- in-law and sister who had been incarcerated A Tragedy of Lives is generally considered to be ZWW’s most successful book.

ZWW have seen spin offs from the book as a project. Through it, they have persuaded society to look at the driving force behind crimes generally committed by women. Partly as a result of this book, the conditions in prison (which by the way, were designed for men) have been reviewed. Women prisoners’ children who in the past, would literally serve the sentence with their mothers, have since begun attending a play centre, which was constructed by a Christian organisation on reading our book.

ZWW is, arguably, the most successful and prolific writers’ organisation in Zimbabwe if one considers the impact of their publications and their membership, which comes from nearly every sector of the Zimbabwean community. They have given a platform to a lot of marginalized women to voice their opinions. More than a thousand women have attended writing skills workshops organised by ZWW.

I understand that there are plans to do a mini conference on Women’s writings in Zimbabwe to mark ZWW birthday number 20. ZWW Head offices are at number 2 Harvey Brown, Milton Park, Harare. Phone: 263 042925688 or cell: 263 913286242

Friday, February 12, 2010

Monica Cheru's 'Full cupboard'

"Full cupboard"

(By Monica Cheru)

“Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak.” Danny opened bleary eyes and in the moonlight that filtered into his bedroom, he saw a sight that made him vow to go easy on the bottle in future… a rat with a note in its mouth going to the back of the cupboard by the wall.

This was too much for Danny’s drink and sleep-saturated brain. He rolled over and went back to his snore-punctuated slumber.

In the morning, Danny had the vague notion that there was something that he ought to check on, but for the life of him, could not figure out what it was. A flick through his notebook revealed no clues. Surely if it was important it would be in the notebook. But if someone had let escape some vital clue at the beer-hall, he would not have written it down then. That would be giving the game away. He would remember the information.

He was a cop first and last, even when roaring drunk, no criminal was going to get away just because Constable Daniel Munyenyi was plastered one night. No sir! He would go back to the same bar tonight and sit with the same crowd as last night. Whatever had been said last night would be repeated again tonight. He would bet his mother’s life on that. (Never mind that his mother had already lost the valuable asset).

Deep in thought, Danny took his uniform from the top of the cupboard where he had carefully placed it late in the afternoon the previous day. He absently patted the cupboard and silently blessed his predecessor for leaving that one piece of furniture in his room. Being single, Danny was used to being stationed in rural and oft remote places at a very short notice.

He tended to travel light, only needing his uniform, sleeping bag, a few civilian clothes and minimal cooking utensils. When he found the cupboard in his room at Chivi Growth point and was told that the previous guy had failed to find space for it on the moving van, he was pleased. The cupboard became the center of his existence. On the top he kept his books, his few cosmetics and laid out his uniform. In the cupboard itself he kept his meager provisions and his few utensils. Even his few clothes had found space in the cupboard. It was a largish kitchen cupboard with several shelves. It was rather ugly but Danny was not concerned with its aesthetic qualities. The practical use was all that he needed from the cupboard.

As per plan, after duty Danny went to the same bar and sat with the gang from last night. He was pleased to note that all the suspects were present. In the course of the evening the guilty party would reveal himself. No doubt about that. Meanwhile, Danny would have just one beer to merge into the scenery. If he sat there not drinking, his quarry would be spooked. He nursed his first beer for along time but finished it before anyone showed any inclination to reveal their deep criminal secrets. So he had another one with the same result. Not even the slightest twitch on his in-built cop antenna. So he had another one, another one, and another one till he had lost count. He got so totally into his cover that he became just another guy quaffing the waters of wisdom with familiar guys in his regular bar.

By the time he staggered the short distance home in the late hours, Danny was well in his cups. His condition was just as bad if not worse than that of the previous night. When he got to his room, it proved too much of an effort to get into his sleeping bag so he simply dumped himself on top of it and started snoring in bliss.

He dreamt of a mouse that vomited money and told him that he was now so rich that he could buy the national airline for cash from the poverty-stricken state.

Then his grandmother, in black from head to toe, stood in his way and stopped him from picking up the money. “Riches that you have not worked for will always be paid for in blood. Turn your back on this evil wealth and live on what your ancestors grant you. We are always on the look-out for you,” she cautioned him.

Danny woke up abruptly, his mind quite lucid. He pondered on the dream for a while then drifted back to an uneventful sleep.

In the morning, Danny recalled the dream in vivid detail and wondered what it meant. Did it mean that he must no longer accept presents from grateful clients when he granted a few harmless favors? But what would be the point of being a cop if one did not take bribes? Of course he had his principles and never accepted bribes from serious and violent offenders. It was only those with minor cases, such as stealing a few things from an employer, which he let go. After all it was often the employer’s fault for failing to remunerate his employees adequately. If he, Danny, had been well paid, he would have done his duties more diligently and would have accepted no bribes. Given a chance, even Judas Iscariot could have justified selling Jesus down the river for a few coins as a matter of principle.

That day poor Danny collected no presents and as a result had no cash for even a single beer. He opted to stay at home and read a crime novel by an American best-selling author.

Why were these Americans so determined to convince the world that AIDS had started in Africa? Everyone knew that patient zero was American and had died twenty years before the scourge ever hit Africa. And, surely there would have been a village in central Africa where people died before the deadly disease spread from the towns and cities were the natives mixed and slept with foreigners? He dozed off with the light still on and the book on his chest.

Shortly after midnight, a squeaking noise startled him awake just in time to see a rat go behind the cupboard in the room. Even as he asked himself if he had really seen what he thought he had seen, the rat re-emerged and scampered out through the half-open door. “That was a rat carrying what appeared to be money. Not useless pieces of money printed copiously by some demented and deluded guy but real notes, bearing the legend ‘In God we trust.’” Danny mused to himself.

Pragmatic, fearless and with a wish to be rich, that was Danny. The first two traits are often sadly lacking in most of us but the last is inherent in the majority of earth’s population. Danny got up and hauled the cupboard from the wall. Lo and behold! A big, fat pile of American dollar bills! Danny gave a whoop, jumped into the air and danced in jubilation. The end of poverty and the beginning of life as it should be lived. Move over Diaspora moguls. Here comes Danny, the rat millionaire.

As he bent over to gather his windfall and check that it was really genuine, Danny recalled his grandmother’s warning in the dream and froze in mid-motion. He spent a timeless second bent over, one hand on the cupboard, the other one stretched out to take the money. Greed and caution fought a bitter war inside the man. The money, if it was genuine would end all his earthly troubles. He could even become an honest cop once again as he would not need to take any bribes. Or he could just chuck the job and concentrate on enjoying his fortune. But what if the goblin then started killing off his family? The hand hovered in mid-air.

Caution won the day. Slowly, with pained reluctance, Danny straightened up and pushed the cupboard back against the wall. He then searched the whole house but failed to locate the rat or even a hole that it could have disappeared into. Unsurprisingly, sleep proved elusive and Danny spent the rest of the night trying to read his novel, but, dollar signs tended to superimpose themselves on the pages. He was also on the look out, just in case the rat would be bringing some more loot. In the cold light of day, Danny checked behind the cupboard again to make sure that he had not hallucinated in the night. The pile of money was still there, as undisputable as an eight-month old pregnancy. And it sure did look genuine.

Resolutely, Danny closed the door and went to the officer-in-charge’s house to report the rat. His superior wasted no time in calling her deputy and accompanying Danny to see the evidence. On seeing the cash the two turned on Danny and urged him to come clean and confess his crimes in full. Who had he murdered and robbed? “It will all come out, son. If you tell us now maybe we can help you,” offered the deputy in a fatherly voice. In his head he was already calculating the cut he might reasonably expect for helping Danny get away with whatever it was that he had done. Danny eventually managed to convince the two superiors to hold on until the night then sit up with him to await the wondrous rat.

Right on cue, a few moments after midnight, the rat came in squeaking, a hundred dollar bill in its mouth. The three stayed deathly still as the rat deposited his burden then departed. For a long while no one spoke. “The rat belongs with the cupboard and there is a problem attached to owning it. Why else would Museve have left such a gold-laying duck? Tomorrow we must track him down and make him come and collect his problems.” That was the officer-in charge declaring as she realized that her deputy was going to suggest that they take the money.

Museve was never found. By the time they tracked him to his rural home where he had retired to in ill-health; he was practically dying and could not even speak. He died a few days later and on the same night the cupboard burnt down mysteriously. Danny had since vacated the house, which now stood locked and empty. When the fire was discovered no one could explain how it could have started. The flames burned greedily and consumed the cupboard. No one was willing to put out the fire which died of its own accord when the cupboard was no more. No ashes or any other sign of the combustion was left behind. It was as if there had never been a cupboard or money in the room.

Danny is still a police officer and occasionally accepts ‘gifts’ from minor offenders. He views these as the dues from his ancestral spirits. He has no regret for having let the rat and its wealth go. If I had been there, I would have taken the money and run, leaving the rat to its cupboard. Come to think of it, perhaps not.

*** You may contact the author:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Chenjerai Hove's amazing narrative(s) in Ancestors

I have been re-reading Chenjerai Hove’s novel of 1996, ‘Ancestors’. I think it continues to fascinate me (and I hope not for the wrong reasons.) For me, Ancestors is about ‘narrating the narratives of a non narrating narrator’.

Mucha, the immediate narrator, tells us his story and the story of his family as it moves from the Tribal Trust lands to the Purchase Areas in colonial Rhodesia. He continues up to the time his mother is divorced with her second husband. He proceeds until the family migrates to Fanwell’s place. That first narrative strand ends with Mucha, now a fully-grown man, sitting at his deceased father’s home for a memorial ritual. This first strand of the narrative is the family story as Mucha consciously knows and remembers it.

The second strand narrative is the subterranean narrative. In this one Mucha narrates the family story from the point of view and spiritual instruction of Miriro. Miriro is a female ancestor who was born and lived deaf and dumb! She dies tragically when she hangs herself because she has been forced to marry a local drunkard. Through Miriro, Mucha sees and recalls the past before his own birth. Miriro appears to Mucha in dreams and sometimes in some kind of trance akin to spirit possession.

While Mucha’s own reminiscences capture events at the level of realism, Miriro’s give to Mucha (and the reader) first hand details of what happened in the family before Mucha was born! In addition, Miriro’s voice acts as the all-seeing force that tells Mucha the immediate thoughts of family members, in the present and in the past. Combined, Mucha and Miriro’s family experiences span a period of about a hundred and fifty years.

This makes Ancestors rather challenging to read, as the reader must constantly determine the exact speaker at any given time. Sometimes Mucha speaks for himself and yet sometimes he is listening to what Miriro is saying about herself or other people.

But that is not enough: Mucha has insight into other family members’ narratives. For example, Mucha becomes privy to the personalized narratives of his mother, Tariro and even his father’s. These are parallel stories within a story, told by one person as he tells an individual story and that of of one ancestor who lived and died deaf and dumb!

The narratives here are ‘blind.’ They go very haphazardly across the ages and generations from 1850 to 1989 to 1960 to 1920 to 1970… creating a very hypnotic and complex maze.

Adding on to this charm is the fact that Miriro, who remained deaf and dumb throughout her short life, is telling us what she ‘heard’ during her lifetime. She remembers the sounds of birds and animals, people’s songs and conversation. She remembers all things that are normally not available to those who are deaf and dumb.

However, it is important to stress that she can only ‘hear’ the sounds of the old world NOW, “many years after I have died…” and “Many years later, after I have died, I can speak. I can tell my story to all hearers. I can say all the words of the world… My joys and sorrows cross all the rivers of time and distance, hearing voices from across generations of families and homes. I hear voices of young women courting before I was born.”

Hove has written a number of novels: Masimba Avanhu (1986), Bones (1988), Shadows(1994) and Ancestors (1996) Bones won the “Noma Award for Publishing in Africa” in 1989 and has remained Hove’s most prominent publication.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Charles Mungoshi: A Critical Reader

This book is the first substantive critical work that discusses almost all of Charles Mungoshi's fiction, poetry, drama and short stories. Some of the essays in here are by Zodwa Motsa, Antony Chennells, Kizito Muchemwa, David Mungoshi, Ranka Primorac, Robert Muponde, Bevelyn Dube, Vitalis Nyawaranda and others. The book is available in Harare (Zimbabwe)at Prestige Bookshop, Second Floor: Gickom House, 22 Kaguvi Street. For orders, email LILLIAN MBENGO: or PHONE: +263 11408946 or +263 04 771578 or +263 912949667

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My friend in the other country

My friend in the other country
(by Memory Chirere)

When my friend went abroad
at first he missed me sorely
and I could see the teardrops on his letters.
And I cried too
Then he gradually began to sound
very clumsy and calm
like he was writing to the man next door.
Finally, he began to pick faults with me
Like: “You think life is easy?”
And then in one letter all hell broke loose:
“You need to be serious about life!”
He once queried: “What are you still doing over there?”
I cried again
And now he writes only
to confirm news about a death in the family
or to say his wife is expecting again.


(naMemory Chirere)

Ushayewo chaunotadza, mukoma?
Inga waimbondishaya pachihwande-hwande
uchitozofara ndaridza huwi?
Ukasapotsa nzou utadze kupotsa tsuro?
Potsa, tisekewo, tirerukirwe
Mukoma, washaya chawashayawo
kuti tikunzwirewo tsitsi?
Zvakawanda zvaungatadze, tsvaga!
Kotama, tionewo nhongony’a yako
Gomera, tinzwe panobva izwi rako
Zvambararawo, tichiona, tipime
tizive urefu hweguva rako paunozofa.