Monday, March 29, 2010

How Sam Mtukudzi came to play the guitar

Picture:Oliver and Sam Mtukudzi performing together.

Afraid that his father would disapprove of his desire to become a musician, Sam taught himself to play in secret, sneaking the use of one of his dad’s guitars when Oliver was traveling. Asked to perform at a school concert, he again “borrowed” the guitar without permission, only to look up while on stage and realize Oliver was sitting in the audience. Sam’s story gives a glimpse into the heart of this joyful, talented, and dedicated young man who was taken far too soon. Below, Sam Mtukudzi tells JENNIFER KYKER of Tariro Hope Organisation on about the day his father saw him play the guitar in public for the first time.

“I remember: I think I was about ten. I was asked to play guitar at my primary school’s Christmas carols concert night. I had been learning how to play this instrument for like five years, you know? And now I was ready to do performances. I had been performing in small chapel services back at the primary school. So, you know, my headmistress and the music people there knew that I could play guitar. So when this concert came up, they asked me, “Can you use your instrument?” I didn’t officially have an instrument. You know, I just used to pinch my dad’s guitar that he just used to always leave at home. So, I asked for transport from the school. So they actually gave me the school’s minibus. We went off to the house, took that guitar, and a little amplifier, just a little combo, loaded it up, went to school. In about a week from then- you know, my dad had been out, so he had just come back. Well, I didn’t know that the school had sent invites to the parents back at home for all the boarders! So, my parents got their invite. So… they came to the concert. We played. It was beautiful. When my time came to actually do my ultimate performance, I hadn’t seen my parents or anything, so I stand up there, and then I play. When I’m done with the performance, I’m taking a bow and I’m thinking, that guy looks like my father. And oops, the woman who’s sitting beside him looks like my mom! You know, I walked back stage, and, I’m there and I’m thinking, “What if it is?” You know? What if it is them? And everyone is clapping, clapping, and it was the last song. We get dismissed, we go outside, and, you know, there I am, I’m carrying my stuff back to the dorm and I’m bumping into my dad, thinking, “Hi dude.” And he actually didn’t react in any negative way. He was quite surprised, he was thinking, when did I start learning? How did I get there? I mean, you know, I was playing and singing at the same time! How did it happen? You know? So he’s like, “No, no, well done, well done, well done. Since you didn’t have a guitar, that one’s now yours.” And I was like, “Whew! Thank you! Thank you!” I was really happy. That was my first instrument, and, you know, it was an honor to have.”

Monday, March 22, 2010


(by Garikai Kamanga)
Desire is a fire that burns unattended
With nothing to burn-
Desire is a river that never runs dry
With no fish to swim in it.
Desire is the finest black fruit in
an unseen valley
With no one to pick.
Desire is the bluest sky
With no colourful wings to caress.
Desire is the itching in the heart
Scratching cannot cool that down.
Desire and its cousin dreams
Was all we had
being black and poor.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

'Two Prominent Ndebele authors' by Jerry Zondo

(one of the huts at Old Bulawayo)

Two prominent Ndebele authors
(A short essay by Jerry Zondo)

Mayford Sibanda, 1955-1978, died young. In the short period of his writing between 1974 and 1978, he produced some of the most outstanding pieces of Ndebele writing to date.

His Sesitshaye Kwazwela (1981) and UMbiko KaMadlenya (1981) provide a deep and committed Ndebele language which can only be operative at a highly formal and dignified level. His vocabulary is attractive with the reader learning a new word from every page.

In various ways, Sibanda operates at a similar level to Mthandazo Ndema Ngwenya, his contempoorary. Ngwenya was born in 1949 in Nkosikazi, Nkayi. While Sibanda was born in Siphepha Tsholotsho, the vision of both authors is frighteningly similar. Their lives and deaths are equally similar, leading to most Ndebele scholars identifying them and talking about them under one breath.

For example both contribute extensively to the anthology Inkundla Yezimbongi (1979), and it is apparently here where they have the only obvious and real contribution in Ndebele poetry writing. Sibanda has 19 poems to Ngwenya’s 12. The poems in both experiments introduce new words and attempt at term creation. Both poets offer some of the most outstanding amalgams for the Ndebele sociological and cultural terminology.

What derives a further similarity is that both trained together at Gweru Teachers College, both taught at Lower Gweru Mission and both entered for the same competitions for the Literature Bureau. Both then died in a similar manner in car accidents in South African cars. Sibanda though, died in South Africa while Ngweya died in Zimbabwe. Ngwenya though, lived a little longer, went on to teach at the university of Zimbabwe, got involved in drama for television in the series UTshaka and Kukhulwa kokuphela.

Sibanda and Ngwenya have made tremendous contributions to Ndebele ethnicity and nationalism, redefining it first within the backdrop of a colonially denying environment and then within the “surprising” independence era. Sibanda identifies Ndebele nationalism within the Lobhengula opposition to white domination, and the Ndebelehood that he defines as distancing itself from the Zansi (original Khumalo Nguni group to migrate with Mzilikazi), or “South African original identity” which is the pride of Mbiko kaMadlenya and the Zwangandaba regiment (which rebelled against Lobhengula in order to put up a Nguni-Zansi government).

Sibanda argues for Ndebele ethnic identity based on the new emergent nation consisting of Kalanga-Nambya, Tonga, Sotho-Venda, Nyubi, Shona, and the variegated clustering of Mzilikazi/Lobhengula followers. The defeat of Zwangandaba and the rise of Lobhengula is seen by Sibanda as the success of a Ndebele project of a broader and more engulfing base that is as cosmopolitan as it is forward looking.

Ngwenya looks at the renewal and resurrection of the fledging Ndebele ethnic confidence shattered by the negative experiences of a military defeat. He uses, just like Sibanda, language as a tool for socio-political and economic revival. If the Ndebele could get in touch with her beautiful language, she could get to gain access directly to her political, economic and social advancement.

Both authors visualise a connection with the Ndebele past as another link that the Ndebeles have dispensed with to their detriment. In a near nostalgic connection with and recreation of that past, the two authors revisit the Ndebele, expounding new levels of sensibility and reassignment of duties and responsibilities in terms of the dictates of that past. Something a bit unnerving in that proposition, the Ndebele might have to deny the present in order to live in the past – or it is a misinterpretation; the Ndebele will forge ahead only after she has understood the past! Both authors provide a necessary cog in the wheel of Ndebele fortunes and misfortunes that will be necessary in the redefinition of the Ndebele psyche and in the plotting of the Ndebele future. *** Talk to Zondo +26311628022

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Toriro and His Goats & Other Stories

(Cover: by Kudzai Chikomo of Bulawayo)

Now, some good news. I have information from Sarudzai Barnes of Lion Press in Coventry, UK, that the adolescent version of Toriro has been published. We hope to do the children's version soon. I cannot wait to go through the proof copies. Every new book gives the author a totally unique feeling.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


(Jerry Zondo)

Sihlezi sibheke empumalanga silezifiso
Silangazelela ingqubo lempumelelo,
Sibheke ingekusasa yodulo lenkazinkazi.

Sazi ubuhle ubuntu lokuthembeka.
Sifuqa igunya sizikise ukuzinikela.
Asibufisi ubusela, ubugovu asibuqhelanga.

Hawu! Uvelele phi lo phakathi kwethu,
Okhuluma ulimi lwethu, owazi amasiko ethu,
Ohlala phakathi kwethu osesithi siphile njengabafo!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Running with the hares and hunting with the hounds?

Author: Collette Choto Mutangadura,
Title: Rutendo: The Chief’s Granddaughter, 2009, Harare,
Publisher: Zimbabwe Women Writers,
pp154, isbn: 978-0-7974-3745-6


Rutendo, the most promising daughter of the village comes home on holiday from a whiteman’s college to find her grandfather, the chief’s homestead guarded by white soldiers. It is during the bitter war of liberation in Rhodesia.

Suddenly Rutendo's romance with the liberation movement in the village seems compromised as her heart wonders off into a white soldiers’ tent. She falls in love with the white soldier, Barry!

Rutendo is in a dilemma. What will the village say? What will her grandfather, the chief say? What will the other black vigilante youths (vanachimbwido navana mujibha) say? Does she proceed to join the struggle or marry the white soldier and be ostracized by both the black and white communities of Rhodesia?

This novel works around the notion that love knows no barrier. Meanwhile, Barry comes dangerously closely, visiting Rutendo’s bedroom hut, going into the forest with her to pick fruit and follows her up to college with groceries. He is obsessed with her. He has never seen such beauty among the white folk.

Ironically Rutendo’s famous grandmother Ngonya had an affair with one Jan, a white man who impregnated her with a coloured child. Jan didn’t ever care to see either Ngonya or the child.

Published in several anthologies mostly by Zimbabwe Women Writers, Collette Choto Mutangadura was born on 19 March 1945 in Hwedza and has a lot of work accredited to her name. Mutangadura’s first novel Rinonyenga Rinhwarara – ‘A beggar humbles himself’, published in 1983 by Mambo Press in association with the Literature Bureau is another love story. The author is one of the founders of Zimbabwe Women Writers (ZWW). Formed in 1990, (ZWW) is an arts and culture trust, concerned particularly with the promotion of women’s literature in Zimbabwe.

***ZWW Head offices are at number 2 Harvey Brown, Milton Park, Harare. Phone: 263 042925688 or cell: 263 913286242 to order this book.

A précis of Zimbabwean Literature in NDEBELE (By Jerry Zondo)

Jerry Zondo: in picture

NDEBELE writing starts in the 1950’s with authors who previously had been educated in South African colleges and universities. They became inspired by the efforts of South African writers like R.R.R. Dlomo, Sibusiso Nyembezi, Petros Lamula, B.W. Vilakazi and A.C Jordan, among a host of pioneer black writers in Zulu and Xhosa, in the Shuter and Shooter stable.

Inevitably, the first literary effort in Ndebele was published through Shuter and Shooter, in Ndabaningi Sithole’s Umvukela wamaNdebele (1956). That was followed by Peter Mahlangu’s UMthwakazi, (1957), D.E. Ndoda UVusezindala, (1958), Isaac Mpofu’s Akusoka lingelasici, (1958), and with the first poetry compilation coming in 1959 in the anthology Imbongi zalamuhla layizolo.

Shuter and Shooter went on to publish Amon Mzilethi’s Uyokhula umfana in 1961, Lassie Ndondo’s Qaphela ingane in 1962 and Ndabezinhle Sigogo’s USethi ebukhweni bakhe in 1962.

Most of these books would later be republished by Longman and Green (Pvt) Ltd. after the dissolution of the Shuter and Shooter link. Most of the effort of Ndebele writing has been on novels and novellas with a limited drama texts and poetry anthologies. To date, there are 19 drama texts, 15 poetry anthologies, 4 anthologies of short stories and an endless supply of novels.

Ndebele writers have, in writing prose, poetry and drama, expressed the human and cultural aspirations of the Ndebele within the initially confined space of colonial domination to the more open but still limiting space of post-independence experiences.

Much of the earlier Ndebele writing leans on history and is heavily influenced by oral literature tracing from the Nguni background to the Kalanga/Shona/Nyubi orature that has later on shaped the Ndebele experience. Novels and poetry especially, have been written with the izinganekwane (folk stories) and izibongo (praise poetry) in mind, thereby limiting character and plot development in novels as well as generating a more laudatory adulatory and extravagant verse in keeping with odes and epics that have marked the Shakan Mzilikazi era into the Lobhengula period.

The earliest Ndebele writings through Shuter and Shooter in South Africa are by writers who went to school in South Africa or were influenced by colleagues who had been to South Africa. All these authors are products of mission schools like Thekwane, Inyathi, Matopo, Mtshabezi, Dombodema, and Cyrene. Some of the earlier writers have been influenced by South African writing generating the “tsotsi” in Mpofu’s works, in Mzilethi, in Ndondo; where the corrupting effects of the town as well as the stay in South Africa are looked at negatively.

The very earliest books trace the Ndebele nation or specific families or clans (Mahlangu, Sithole) in their movements from South Africa to Mambo land. Sithole, in part, uses the Ndebele wars of 1893 and 1896 as the basis for his writing. He portrays the revolution and its aftermath, the struggle against white domination and the Ndebeles’ inherent will to influence their destiny, physical aggression and the spear being used to try and win back Ndebele control and independence thereby re-establishing dignity and a sense of national organisation after king Lobhengula’s disappearance.

A major influence on Ndebele writing is the Southern Rhodesia Literature Bureau founded in 1959 sponsoring manuscripts and clearing them and helping publication through Longman, Mambo Press, College Press, Zimbabwe Publishing House, (the Bureau after independence is referred to as simply the Literature Bureau). Encouraging one religion, Christianity, moralistic writing; discouraging political writings and Ndebele religion, the Bureau would then generate the themes of good versus evil, urban versus rural, “eGoli” versus Bulawayo, the young versus the older generation, Christianity versus Ndebele religion, the modern versus the conservative; giving rise to the literature of the first phase.

The first phase dwells on the break up of the rural home, and the extended family, the flight of teenagers into urban settlements and their subsequent corruption, the renewing powers of rural areas, the healing effects of Christianity, the harshness of fathers, the tolerance of mothers, the civilising mission school, the value of western education, and the denigrating effects of alcohol. The first phase further deals with prostitution, drug taking, theft and murder as common social ills.

The element of dislocation, discomfort and disintegration, slips through in some of the novels. Because of censorship, veiled attempts are made in the works to deal with the colonial issue. E.M. Ndlovu is outstanding in presenting a potential challenge to white rule outside Sithole’s more forceful work in opposing white rule.

I. Mpofu strikes a similar measure of opposition using Mlahlwa. Mzondiwa and Mlahlwa are celebrated in their opposition to white domination. Still, collaboration with whites occurs in such characters as Nyembezi, Nkanyiso, and Sibonile; where adherence to white control is seen as right. The inspirational works of Mayford Sibanda, Mthandazo Ndema Ngweya, Geshom Khiyaza, in both novels and poetry, are just outstanding in Ndebele writing as opposed to the anti-Ndebele feeling that creeps out of some of Sigogo’s, Pathisa Nyathi’s, E. Hleza’s and Magagula’s pro-establishment works.

The Ndebele human condition has still not been fully explored. There are missing gaps in Ndebele creative works where key periods in Ndebele experiences have not been covered at all. A lot of silence obtains on the sad developments of the 1980’s, the Diaspora experiences, the years of economic depression and the subsequent hunt for decent survival and the need to restore dignity and ubuntu in the whole enterprise of existence.

Short stories have not been fully covered with only a few texts, women writers having written more short stories than anybody else. Only two poetry anthologies, a product each of a single author, have been published in Ndebele so far. All Ndebele works have suffered from the manner of production of much of the literature-sponsored works. Most works are a product of the rules of the sponsorship, which in most cases limits creativity, the range of themes, and the level of operation. With the drop in sponsorship after independence, only a few works have been published between 1983 and 2007. As the economic crisis deepens, the texts become even fewer.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dambudzo Marechera’s Shona writings!

Dambudzo Marechera’s Shona writings!
(A review by Memory Chirere)

Many Zimbabweans who care dearly about books have read Dambudzo Marechera. They keep some of his copies on their shelves. Usually there is a dog-eared copy of House of Hunger; the most well known and most referred of his books. Reading it is actually a rite of passage of sorts. Then the list extends like a path in the forest; Mindblast, Black Sunlight… These are works with a delicious intensity which is aided by a deliberate use of loaded English.

Then when you have “worshipped” Marechera for a while, you begin to wonder if he ever wrote in his own mother tongue - Shona! You realise that some of Marechera’s contemporaries and buddies have actually written convincingly in both English and Shona and have even won prizes in both languages.

In an interview with Flora-Wild, Chenjerai Hove states that for him the choice of language to use in a particular story or poem is actually determined by the experience being captured in the story or poem. “The experience tells me that this would be captured in Shona and sometimes the experience comes in English, and if I wrote it in Shona, it wouldn’t be the same.”

In an “interview” in which he interviews himself, Marechera declares his relationship with the Shona language. He had asked himself if he had ever thought of writing in Shona. He answers:"It never occurred to me. Shona was part of the ghetto daemon Iwas trying to escape. Shona had been placed within the context of a degraded, mindwrenching experience from which apparently the only escape was into the English Language…"

That statement is provocative! And the responses to it are equally provocative. One school of thought says here is a proud fellow who has lost a centre and who looks down upon his own language. Another says here is a willing victim who admits that he has been swallowed by colonialism.

In later interviews, Marechera tried to qualify his 'diatribe' against Shona. Something like: He was only against the kind of Shona narratives churned out then - with the manipulation of the establishment - which had the sole purpose of trapping the unsuspecting black reader into thinking that his rightful space was only the reserve and that the city was alien to him. Marechera also admits that the lowly status given to Shona by the colonial system resulted in people like him “taking to the English language the way a duck takes to water.” He also admits that his was a form of “mental colonization.”

But it occurred, at least once' to Marechera to write in Shona. He wrote a Shona play published posthumously in Scrapiron Blues (1994). The play is entitled “The Servants’ Ball” and it is a sequel to “The Toilet” published a decade earlier in Mindblast (1984) “The Servants’ Ball” was actually translated into English by two Zimbabweans, Leonard Maveneka and Richard Mhonyera. The English and Shona versions of this play appear side-by side in Scrapiron Blues.

It is not difficult to place the “The Servants’ Ball.” Other than being in Shona, it is in the mode of the Mindblast plays like “The Toilet”, “The Coup”, “The Gap” and several others.

Written in scintillating, almost perfect Chiungwe, a dialect of Shona dominant in Marechera’s Rusape, “The servants’ Ball,” like the Mindblast plays, is an attack on the corruption of the newly independent Zimbabwe society. It captures the anger and apprehension caused by that whole era around the Willowgate scandal which netted some very prominent politicians.

References to primitive accumulation of gadgets and lack of moral principles in the mind and actions of the newly independent Zimbabwean elite run through this play.

The setting is a servant’s quarters where a number of garden boys, nannies, cooks and some tramps are drinking, reflecting on their lives, independence and the impeding Christmas season. The description of the setting is amazingly realistic that it seems to skip from the page. The action of the play is carried through by the typical Shona banter, chants, songs and philosophies of the characters. For instance the anti-Muzorewa sentemints of the times are evident in one of Bonzo’s statements:

Bonzo: Ndiani ari kutaura mazwi andisikunzwa? Ngekuti
ndikaanzwa, dzakutsaku riri kutaura izvozvo
richandiziwa zvakanaka. (Who is mumbling things I
can’t hear? If I catch the sellout who is
talking that rubbish I shall fix him.)

One of the house-girls, Sarah, stands up and drunkenly sings a song that takes a swipe at the so called “minimum wage.” In her song she also touches on how mundane and demeaning house-keeping can be:
Mapureti ndageza
Murungu avhaya
Imba ndatsvaira
Misisi adhakwa
Chorus: Ndipei minimum yangu!
Imba yachena nyika yafamba
Ndipei minimum yangu
Ndati ndipei minimum yangu
Hamunzwi here, ndati
Ndipeyi minimum yangu
Ndipeyi! Minimum yangu
(I have done all my house-keeping duties so
Please, give me my minimum wage.)

Read properly in context, that song is serious protest. The Ministry of Labour had stipulated the “minimum wage” so that the abuse and underpaying of domestic servants could be curtailed.

Sarah goes on with her song and her drink-mates sing along:

Sara: Toireti ndageza
Bathroom ndaporisha
Imbwa ndaifidha nyama
Mapreti ebreakfast ndabvisa
Imi hamunzvi here
Nditi ndipeyi!
All: Minimum yangu!

These revelers also lampoon the new black employers for running away from paying the workers:

Bonzo: Awo ndisingadi mashef echibhoyi,
anokuseenzesa fanike uri n’ombe
mumunda. (I don’t like black employers
who abuse you like an ox).

Mbuya Beri: Ndewekutongwarira wayawaya.
Unopedza mwedzi mitatu usati
wapeyiwa. Futi vanounza hama
dzavo dziyadziya dzisingaziwe
Kushandisa toilet. (Be careful of
these people. You might never
be paid! In addition they bring
along their relatives who can’t us
the toilet properly.)

There is also a silent competition for the audience going on between Bonzo, the mbira player and Majazi, the guitar player. They are subtly juxtaposed maybe to portray the fight between tradition and modernity in the newly independent society.

At one moment Thomas rudely orders Bonzo to silence the mbira: “Iwe shamwari, imbonyaradza kanhu kako!” (My friend stop playing your little thing!)

Moments later, the reverse odder is given: “Iwe, imboridza kanhu kako! Mbira yakagadzirirwa kuridza.” ( You, play the mbira! It is actually for playing)

Both Bonzo and Majazi improvise tunes that are relevant to the contemporary set up. Singing and playing on the mbira, Bonzo reflects on the history of colonialism:

Bonzo: Hii-iiye vakoma imi
Varungu vafa tatora nyika
Hii-iiye-iiye nyika yaenda
Ngatiende kuhondo
(Hii-iiye friends, we have
defeated the Whiteman and
taken the land through war)

In a more illuminating moment, Thomas rushes to receive beer from his white employer in the main house and when he comes back, he declares in English that all this free beer is part of neo-colonialism. His colleagues do not take this lightly. If Thomas is with an all-Shona audience, why does he speak in English, they argue. The mbira player, Bonzo actually scoffs at Thomas:

Bonzo: Taura neShona kana wakagara nemaShona! Taura
Chirungu kana wakagara neVarungu. Izvi
Zvekudada hazvifambi nikisi. (Talk to us in Shona,
there are only Shona people here!)

Ironically,this could be perfect criticism on Marechera himself who never became prominent for writing in this mother tongue when this play shows that, in fact, he could. It took someone else to include this play in this posthomous publication. Unfortunately, this Shona play is buried way inside the book, in-between plays in English.

Maybe business forces were at play. There seems to have been a ploy, by publishers in general, to either portray Marechera as a writer of narratives in English only or they thought it was simply unorthodox to do a book in two different languages.

According to Flora Wild’s editorial remarks accompanying Scrapiron Blues, Marechera had “originally submitted it (The Servants’ Bull) as part of the Minddblast manuscript, intending it to come after “the Toilet”, but the publishers omitted it.

In matters of plot, “The Servants’ Ball” is rather stagnant, not covering visible or linear ground. There are visible influences from the theatre of the absurd. Some of it is the singing of songs that have no immediate concordial agreement. Alfie’s song is a good example:

Alfie (sings): Hwahwa inyenyedzi m urwizi
Bvisai bhutsu pindai mukariba
Garwe chidhakwa raruma chironda changu
Yoweee ndaona chiutsi chemheni
(Good beer is like the image of a star
in the river water. Take off your shoes
and get into Kariba (dam)

There may be legitimate temptation to think that the absurdist tendencies of the play offer Marechera space to explore the yawning discrepancies of Zimbabwe’s new era of independence.

The old Rhodesian leader is not spared either. In one of her songs, Sarah refers to Ian Smith: “Smith ari kugeza muKariba!” (Smith is taking a bath in Kariba Dam) This could be reference to the the Rhodesian Prime Minister's losing out to the Nationalists.

“The Servants’s Ball” has its limitations if one were to imagine it on stage. As it is, it can only be fully appreciated by an audience with good command of both Shona and English because the characters sometimes go for long stretches speaking either in English or Shona. I remember discussing this matter with Tinashe Mushakavanhu when this play was staged at the recent Marechera celebrations in Oxford. (We were also agreed that the garden boys and house girls in the Oxford version of the play were too well dressed to be typical.)

The other and even bigger challenge, however, would be some vulgar words spoken by some characters in Shona. Whilst these could be easily said in English, in Shona these words may deeply offend. A good example is: “Apo mafunga nekushure ambuya”. (Grandma, you are reasoning with you behind)

This play suggests, ironically, that Marechera felt that Shona would capture best the changing times as perceived by ordinary Zimbabweans and that such nuances could not be truly captured in English alone. It is unfortunate that Marechera did not find it viable to write more and more in Shona.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sekai Minda Tave Nayo (By David Mutasa)

This is a fascinating new novel on the Zimbabwe land reform. Contact the author for orders:
Mutasa is the author of 'Nyambo DzeJoni', a novel that left many laughing and crying at the same time.