Sunday, April 25, 2010

Tudikidiki By Memory Chirere

Below are three articles/reviews on Tudikidiki:

1.It would be very easy to read many meanings (probably all of them my own!) into Memory Chirere’s short - short stories (some of which are really vignettes) and I suppose the writer could be laughing down his throat at the mental gymnastics of even the most well meaning readers as they try to ‘interpret’ these ‘little things’.

As I read them I am at times persuaded not to try to find any meaning in some of them but to simply read, read, and enjoy – or be frustrated.

Both enjoyment and frustration arise out of the realization that Chirere’s characters (and maybe the reader as well?) are involved in a very serious mind life games. A mixture of a kind of madness, a passion for unreason and a stumbling in the darkness of sheer ignorance but with always a hope (groundless?) of a light at the end of the grotto. A kind of natural intelligence which is also mixed with unadulterated innocence?

Take the story ‘Mwana’ – what is the writer trying to say? Is it about how we wish for something dearly, then our wishes become obstacles and at the end we have to run, with nothing, into worse situations?

The story ‘Amai nababa’ shows the innocent wishes of a child who is dying to see her parents together, in love, (and herself included in this love?) and she achieves this in her own way but behind it all you are worried about the presence of other forces that have nothing to do with the three characters.

‘Roja rababa vaBiggie’ – could this be vintage Chirere? This ‘roja’ looks the acme of decency and diligence in the local community. He seems to be an assert to his landlord, (or his owner?) baba vaBiggie. People envy baba vaBiggie for having such a quiet and hardworking lodger.

How wrong can we be! The man, this ‘roja’ is cooking up something. Baba vaBiggie owes the ‘roja’ and now the roja wants his money back. To get his money back, he climbs up to the top of the tower light and tells the world that it is his money or he is going to throw himself down to his death. The man performs monkey dances on the tower light. He shouts and he has got everyone’s attention. He is in charge today. He is in full control and the people are looking up there, in awe, enthralled, in fear, as if he were – God? And he seems to love it. He is reveling in it. (I have a feeling that he has never felt such strength, such power, in him before and he wishes it could go on forever, this moment of total control).

When he finally agrees to come down, after baba vaBiggie has paid, to a trusted third part, one feels the tragic moment, the fall of a God.

‘Chichena chirefu chinonhuwira’, ‘Pikicha’ and ‘Pamuroro wemwana’ again have ‘something’ which is haunting. People create situations over things they don’t understand, and the end result? Panic. Chaos. Very small things which could have been resolved quietly or peacefully become big issues that lead to the cracking up of personalities and the breaking up of communities and institutions. People become victims of their own actions.

We have the painful heartbreak in ‘Ariko’. A broken, unconsummated relationship, the unsaid deep pain of parting, the imagery cuts to the quick.

‘Mumwewo munhu wausingazive’ has a very strange nostalgic effect on the reader, especially this one. How can you not suffer if you live, daily, with the uneasy, unresolved thought that somewhere out there among the denizens of the world there is someone who has a heartful load of love for you, someone ready to die for you? (It is rather a mischievous short story, designed to play havoc with the reader’s emotions!)

‘Ndikakuregedza handizokuoni’ verges on the – magical? Too good to be true. Our own emotions, intentions, dreams – our individual lives – align with God’s designs and we feel responsible for the salvation or destruction of whole nations. This story, as in many others, seems to reveal some dark mystic? – definitely spiritual-religious compartments in this writer’s psyche!

All in all, Memory Chirere’s Tudikidiki is an enjoyable collection. I sense a new direction in the Shona short story, releasing it from the usual hidebound traditional oral rungano, to throw it in line with its written counterpart in the other, international languages, but the flavour is strictly here, now, homegrown and home brewed. Even though a few of these stories left me feeling that they verge on the obscure, I still have a nagging feeling that maybe it is my own lack of access to the writer’s artistic lexicon. Whatever the case is, these stories don’t fail to tickle your rib, if not riddle your mind. These are serious adult stories (despite appearances to the contrary) written with a poet’s sensibilities.
(By Charles Mungoshi, The Sunday mail, December, 2007)

2.Memory Chirere’s second book called Tudikidiki is a good Christmas and New Year’s present for all the connoisseurs of Zimbabwean literature. Reason: save for the multiauthored collections by Zimbabwean Women Writers, the short story in the Shona language is almost non-existent.

The space is heavily dominated by the poem and novel and yet the short story in English is on a massive rise in Zimbabwe.

Tudikidiki is heavily influenced by Chirere’s first book, a collection of short stories in English called Somewhere In This Country. Here as in the first book, these stories are flittingly short. Reading, you remember Flannery O’Connor: ‘A short story should be long in depth and should give us an experience of meaning’.
Coupled with very high entertainment value, the whole booklet can be read on a bus trip from Mbare to Murambinda! Each story stands out clearly and the experience is akin to toying with one crisp biscuit after another, after another, in one’s watery mouth!

Some of these stories are teeming with both serious and petty fraudsters. The lesson is: Do not be too engrossed only in the big struggles of survival. Turn your head over your shoulder to check what the next man or woman is doing. You are being invited to pay close attention to the little matters of life -Tudikidiki - and to laugh at yourself, if you can.

Mandiziva, a character in the story by the same title, is a township old man who walks up to any home and plays at being a no nonsense long lost old relative from the rural areas. As a result he is entertained like a king. When the neighborhood wakes up to the truth, Mandiziva is long gone, well fed and comfortable.

‘Mamboonawo Mhuri Yangu here?’ is an Aesopean tale about looking for someone who could be looking for you! And when you get to where he was, he is where you were, and because you put so much faith in speed and accuracy, you might never meet with the person you so much want to meet!

In ‘Roja Rababa vaBiggie’ a township lodger teaches the whole community a lesson that they will never forget. More stinging blows come in Pempani Pempani, Pikicha, Pasi Pengoma and many more. The laughter generated by these stories is corrective. The journey of life is portrayed as both awkward and funny and the man or woman who listens carefully to her soul, wins. Chirere’s wit is honey coupled up with grit and the conversations are dreamlike and childlike.

As Ignatius Mabasa warns in the introduction to this book, these stories are not for children, but are about children. So they can even be read by both adults and young adults. Yet you come away feeling that the word ‘children’ is more complex than meets the eye. The struggles in life bring out the most basic instincts, making us all children.

Memory Chirere is at his best with stories with subterranean meanings and you might be caught reading and rereading these stories for their various levels of meaning and wit. I have come across this in the few stories of Langston Hughes.
(Reviewed by Jairos kangira, The Herald, 10 January 2008)

3.Chenjerai Hove recently read Memory Chirere's short story collection "Tudikidiki". He made the following observation, shared in an email to both Chirere and me. Hove has stated repeatedly that the current state of writing by new writers in Zimbabwe makes him proud, especially considering that he has been a mentor to most of these contemporary writers. Chirere, for instance, was in the class Hove taught during his days as the writer-in-residence at the University of Zimbabwe.Other writers like Ruzvidzo Mupfudza, Ignatius Mabasa, Cleopas Gwakwara, Nhamo Mhiripiri and wife, Thabisani Ndlovu, Eresina Wede, Zvisdinei Sandi and others were part of this group. I too had the priviledge of learning from the master in those days, and every now and then we spend time on the phone discussing literature and our common homeland, Mazvihwa, a place rich in history and memories. Hove is currently based in Miami, Florida.

Below are some of his comments on Memory Chirere's "Tudikidiki", reproduced here with his permission:

Chirere's talent is his capacity to capture character and landscape in most apt way, with a phrase or a simple comparison. He is one of the most observant writers ever to emerge in our cruel, beloved homeland. When he compares something like 'semugoti wepanhamo', the images are vivid and he is able to interconnect them into building a strong character in such a short space of language and time. Poetic juxtapositions like, 'chawaitanga kuona pana pembani idzoro rake rainge nhanga, wozoona marengenya' are just breath-taking in creating a compendium of physical looks and the poverty that went with the character of Pempani. If you also look at Pempani's bio brief, it is wonderfully done as the way in which rumours often paint a complex character is used to show the Pempani's complexity as a person and as a piece of social upheaavals. Then the narrator says in his own assessment of Pempani, 'Ini ndaingoti zvese zvaiita,' without validating or refuting any of the pieces of speculative portrayals.

Chirere has this subtle sense of detail, a poetic quality which makes his writing uniquely his. For example, if you look at how he portrays the manner in which music inflitrates the human consciousness, in 'Kamwe karwizi', you will be amazed that I think it is the best Shona description I have come across of how the body and soul of humans absorb and are consumed by music. It is not the same as simply saying 'I enjoyed the music.' Chirere is able to trace the whole flow of music into the human body, and trance-like, shape how individuals are given visions by a single piece of music.

With the contemporary Zimbabwean writers "at it like this", Hove believes that "we will soon see another literary boom more exciting than the 1980s and early 90s."

Memory Chirere has told me that he is working on a translation of Tudikidiki, but has admitted that it is not an easy task as translating some of the Shona nuances is challenging. Having enjoyed the Shona version, as well as the Chirere's English collection, "Somewhere in this Country", I look forward to the translation.
(Article from Emmanuel Sigauke's

Tudikidiki,Winner of Zimbabwe's National Arts Merit Award: Literature section 2009,
published by Priority Projects Publishing,Harare.
Orders can be made through Sam Mutetwa:
( +2634775968.

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