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