Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Remembering late writer, Reuben Pakaenda

On 27 May 2008 I did an obituary on a young and very promising writer, Reuben Pakaenda. It was published by The Herald in Harare. This week I remember his passing on and I reproduce (below)the obituary as it was then. May his soul rest in peace.

Writer Pakaenda Dies
by Memory Chirere
Young writer Reuben Pakaenda has died. His friends in the Budding Writers Association of Zimbabwe (BWAZ) across the country will sorely miss him.

Rarely do young men and women leave their beer and fashion shows and hole themselves up in the lonely business of writing. Writing in Zimbabwe does not pay. It fares very badly when put against the lure of selling five litre pitchers of petrol by the road side.

But Reuben would not quit. He knew the power of art as a tool. In 2004, he eventually published 13 brilliant poems in the ZPH anthology called Zviri Muchinokoro Kunaka! alongside his heroes, Ignatius Mabasa and Chirikure Chirikure.

He wrote about the joys of friendship and the frailty of the human soul. The book is now on the Advanced Level school syllabus.

That publication gave Reuben intense joy and confidence. At writing workshops in Chiredzi, Mudzi, Abre Acres, Chinyaradzo . . . you would see the glitter in his eyes as he volunteered to perform new and old poems. He liked and respected the late great Mordekai Hamutyinei and loved to talk about his troubled relationship with the elderly poet. Well before he was through with his Ordinary Level studies, Reuben had written a letter to Hamutyinei in Gutu, asking if he could show him a collection of poems.

It is said Hamutyinei took out his red pen and marked Reuben's letter for spelling errors until it bled red and wrote on the flipside: "Kana muchivhiringa kunyora tsamba chaiyo, muchiri kure Changamire."

Reuben kept the letter all his life. He had learnt a lesson that all young writers learn in the long run. The need to perfect one's art. Now a published young writer, Reuben never looked back. You would see him with novels like Jekanyika, Kutonhodzwa KwaChauruka, Feso, Tambaoga Mwanangu and many more.

He wanted to specialise on the old world novel, he said. Three days after his burial, a local publisher said they had received an old world novel manuscript from one Reuben Pakaenda entitled Hameno Kuti Sei. It is a well neatly typed and bound script in a folder with cream seams.

Reuben knew that good writers are wide readers. He liked Mungoshi's Ndiko Kupindana Kwemazuva especially moments when Rex Mbare introspects.

He liked Steibeck's Tortilla Flats and The Grapes of Wrath. On his deathbed at Parirenyatwa he said he had discovered Hemingway's Old Man and The Sea. He talked about the old man's famous question: When I was away, was I missed? Reuben liked the struggle between man and fish in that story. We told Reuben that he was now like the old man in the story and must talk to the "disease" so that he could get well and come out of hospital. But that was the last time we talked books with him. He died on Friday May 16 just before the evening's visiting's hour.

His closest friend and fellow writer, Tinashe Muchuri says towards the end of his life Reuben had developed a kind of responsible haste especially where his writing was concerned.

Friends at Sharon School in Milton Park where he worked as a clerk receptionist, say he was an understanding man who loved the arts in general.

And when the largely Christian gathering almost forbade Trust Mutekwa from playing the mbira at the funeral, Reuben's mother helped out and doused the altercation.

"Gwenyambira, mwanangu, huya zvako uridze mbire," she said amid laughter and celebration.

As mbira played her mother cried out: "Ndizvo zvaaida izvozvi mwana wangu." As Mutekwa played you looked in the fire and the winter night resonated with mbira.

Reuben will be remembered for his never-die attitude to life and his art. BWAZ workshops will never be the same without him. He believed in its founding concept and whenever he stood up to make remarks, he would speak with animation and the director, Dudziro Nhengu's voice would ring out with caution, "Ndakunzwa Reuben. Thank You Reuben".

He would go out into the lobby to take a quick cigarette.

Reuben Pakaenda is survived by his wife Joyce Gwiza. He was buried in Hoyuyu Resettlement scheme in Mutoko.

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