Saturday, July 28, 2012

David Mungoshi pays tribute to Omar Salem of Lybia

In one of his most evocatively epigrammatic lines, Goethe the revered German poet wrote ‘Wait awhile: soon you too will rest.’ Without doubt this line defines the existential human condition in its essence and totality. Perhaps Omar Salem had indeed waited awhile and indeed come to rest. Perhaps too he only rested in order to continue his journey into eternity and must soon bask in cosmic glory.

I met Omar Salem for the first time in November 2006 in Accra and although I could not have known it then our timely meeting was in fact a ‘hallo-goodbye’ phenomenon. He met me with his characteristically calm and warm smile at Accra’s Kotoka Airport as I arrived to fulfil an international task on behalf of the Pan African Writers Association (PAWA). We were to spend the next week in peaceful camaraderie and artistic communion.

Whenever Atukwei Okai, the Secretary General of PAWA is asked where he comes from, without exception he always answers, ‘I come from Africa and I live in Ghana.’ This stance defines Pan Africanism in its truest sense and I have no doubt in mind that this was also Omar Salem’s abiding philosophy. How else could he have come up with such a felicitous collection of poems on Ghana?

Omar Salem loved Ghana unreservedly and wholly. Even a casual perusal of his anthology, ‘Ghana Reveals Her Secrets,’ will confirm this. He loved the people of Ghana and was fascinated by the faces that he encountered during his stay in the country. And because of his keen sense of undiluted history, Omar Salem’s understanding of and respect for Ghana’s founding father, Kwame Nkrumah, readily equals that of all other true African patriots. Not surprisingly, one of his most evocative and resonant lines come from a poem in which he pays tribute to Kwame Nkrumah. The poem, ‘STILL ALIVE IN EVERY STREET: To the Great Spirit- Kwame Nkrumah’ ends with the poignant affirmation and celebration of African womanhood:
The face of Mary is
My moon tonight

As I am intoxicated
By the rhythm of
The dance without legs.
My hope and prayer for the family and friends of Omar Salem as well as the people of the Great Arab Socialist Jamahiriya of Libya is that they can take comfort from knowing that his was a life well-lived and that he was well-loved and appreciated by those who knew him.

Friend, brother, poet and African patriot, Omar Salem, I shall always treasure the copy of your poetry anthology on Ghana that you so generously donated and autographed for me.

As we say here, in the part of Africa where I live, ‘FAMBA ZVAKANAKA- GO WELL.’

David Mungoshi

Friday, July 27, 2012



Venue: Crowne Plaza Monomutapa Hotel

08:15 to 08:55 Arrival & Registration: ZIBFA Secretariat
08.55 to 09.15 Performances: Albert Nyathi, Moreblessing Size
09.15 to 09.30 Welcoming Remarks
Chair: ZIBFA General Council Chairperson Mr Stephen Chifunyise
09.30 to 10.15 Keynote Address: Professor Bhebhe
“African Literature In The Global & Digital Era”.

10.15 to 10.30 Tea break

Opening Ceremony
Chair: ZIBFA Executive Board Chairperson Mr Musaemura Zimunya
10.30 – 10.45 Norwegian Embassy, Culture Fund, Kopinor
10.45 – 11.00 The Honourable Nelson Chamisa, Minister of Information and Technology
11.00 – 11.25 The Honourable Lazarus Dokora, The Deputy Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and
11.25 – 11.40 Discussion
First Session: African Literature and Criticism
Chair: Dr. Rino Zhuwarara
11.45 to 12.05 Professor Maurice Vambe “The Absence of Proliferated Obstacles In Zimbabwean
12.05 to 12.25 Mr Advice Viriri “Ubuntu Philosophy and African Identities”
12.25 to 12.45 Mr Tavengwa Gwekwerere “Rethinking Identity Crisis in Literature and Culture”
12.45 to 13.00 Discussion

13.00 to 14.00 Lunch
Second Session: African Literature and Digitisation
Chair: Dr Hikwa (NUST)
14.00 to 14.25 Rudo Nyangulu “Writing, Publishing and Reading In The Digital Era”
14.25 to 14.45 Mr Fungai James Tichawangana “Writing, Publishing and Reading In The Digital Era”
14.40 to 15.00 Mr Kay Shiri “The Digital Divide and the African Reader”
15.00 to 15.30 Discussion

15.30 to 16.00 Tea break

Third Session: African Literature and Digitisation
Chair: Dr. Thinkwell Ngwenya
16.00 to 16.20 Ms Mandi Chikombero “Teaching Literature and Humanities in an Online Environment”
16.20 to 16.40 Mr Collence Chisita “Which Way Zimbabwe National Bibliography? Challenges of Enforcing Legal Deposit in the Context of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT’s)”
16.40 to 17.00 Mrs Sifundo Nkomo “Social Media and Children’s Literature”
17.00 to 17.20 Discussion
Fourth Session: Identity and Literature In Africa
Chair: Mrs. R Magosvongwe
08.40 to 09.00 Professor Katy Khan “Before the Arab Spring: Voicing, Female Narratives in Post-Colonial North African Context”
09.00 to 09.20 Dr Chitepo “Art and Social Change”
09.20 to 09.40 Mr Mangeya and Mr Tagwirei “Rethinking Identity and Crisis”
09.40 to 10.00 Dr V.G Chivaura “Language, Literature and Development in African Literature”
10.00 to 10.40 Discussion

10.40 to 11.00 Tea break
Fifth Session: Copyright, Access To Books and Piracy In Africa
Chair: Mr Nda Dlodlo
Respondent: Mr Trond Andreassen
11.00 to 11.20 Mr Blazio Tafirei “The Publisher, Bookseller and Piracy In Zimbabwe”
11.20 to 11.40 Mr Greenfield Chilongo “Digitization and Legal Access To Content”
11.40 to 12.00 Mrs Sibongile Jele “The Enforcement of Copyright Law: The Bulawayo Case”
12.00 to 12.30 Chief Superintendend, Ever Mlilo “Copyright Violations: The View from the Police”
12.30 to 13.00 Discussion
13.00 to 14.00 Lunch
Sixth Session: The Threat of Globalization To African Culture and Languages
Chair: Professor Z. Gambahaya
14.00 to 14.20 Mr Felix Moyo “The State of Ndebele Literature”
14.20 to 14.40 Dr Edgar Mberi “State of Minority Languages”
14.40 to 15.00 Mr Ivan Bachisi “Zimbabwean Literature from the Diaspora: Economic and Family Dynamics”
15.00 to 15.20 Ms Tendai Mangena “Africana Womanism”
15.20 to 15.40 Dr X.F Carelse “The Political, Social and Economic Role of the Diaspora”
15.40 to 15.50 Discussion
15.50 to 16.00 Tea break
Rapporteur’s Presentation
16.00 to 16.45 Ms Effort Chingono (NUST) “Rapporteur’s report”
16.45 to 17.30 Discussion and Closin


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Exploring the Rhodesian soldier literature

It was Stanley Nyamfukudza who argued in 1993 that, it was becoming clear that those who study Zimbabwe’s 1970’s war literature risk narrowing down to pro-guerrilla literature only – something to that effect. The grave danger was to deny oneself opportunity to get to know how the ‘man in the opposite camp’ viewed the same war, Nyamfukudza continued. He was reviewing former Rhodesian soldier Angus Shaw’s war novel, Kandaya: Another time, Another Place.

With that in mind, one gradually noticed a lot of Rhodesian soldier literature in; old book-shops, old libraries, flea-markets, treasure shops, old school cupboards, former nannies and kaddies’ suitcases… Rhodesian soldier literature is everywhere and we side-step it every day as we look for bananas, flowers or brightly coloured magazines.

Jeremy Ford’s 1975 book of informative poems called Hello Soldier! is not a book you may consider going through when you come across it. It is a ‘hastily’ put together and illustrated ‘book of sketches and poems of a Rhodesian soldier’s life’ published by Graham Publishing in Salisbury. But when you realise that this could be one of the small but useful windows into the Rhodesian Front call up, you read it for pointers and insights. The book is a thin trail in and out of ‘the bush.’

Carrying fifty-seven poems, Hello Soldier! is passionately dedicated ‘To my wife, Florence.’ It is a Rhodesian soldier’s diary in poetry form. Able-bodied Rhodesians went to ‘Call-Up.’ Meaning that they were obliged to train and serve in the Rhodesian army for specific periods during the 1970’s war which they often refer to as the ‘bush war.’ The African nationalists refer to the same as ‘the war of liberation.’

In the title poem ‘Call-up’ the persona who is out on call up addresses a girlfriend back home. His reason for going to war is rather understated:

“Think of all the love we had,
Girl, sometimes think of me,
Now I’m just a soldier in
A war to keep us free.”

Free from what, you ask. The answer: free from Communism! You read on and that very contentious issue is given a soft touch in the poem:

“Girl, I am just a soldier with
A rifle and a pack,
Girl, you got to keep your heart
For me when I get back!”

To the initiated, Ford’s work lends itself to comparing and contrasting with the black nationalist guerrilla poetry by the likes of Freedom Nyamubaya and Thomas Bvuma where the war is actually “the real poetry” and the bush and struggle are “that open university.” This is a case of one war and two contrasting worlds.

For Jeremy Ford’s persona, call up is portrayed as duty, something you can go in and out of. It is a rite of passage and an initiation into manhood. It is no further than a physical experience. In ‘Fit Enough’ the doctor insists on the mere physicality of the venture and from the point of view of that poem, the war is not associated with clear-cut ideals:

“The Doctor says I’m fit enough,
They say he ought to know-
Two feet, two hands, a steady gaze
To carry on for days.”

If you are looking for the Rhodesian soldier’s ideals in this anthology beyond ‘keeping us free,’ you are bound to be disappointed. The poems are about ‘training’ only as an external experience. However, the sense of thrill such poems could instil in a boy-reader cannot be over-emphasised. As mobilise genre; this book must have been very useful to the Rhodesian cause. It is a book that can drive any boy to the barrack. There is here a lot of ‘wheeling,’ ‘marching,’ ‘muttering’ in these poems and at the end of the day; there is always ‘time to eat.’ The sense of picnic in the Call-Up barrack is portrayed as over-powering:

“Now Army food is not too bad
When you’ve been out all day,
For then you eat what they dish out
In lumps upon your tray.
The weight of it is quite enough
To keep a man content,
It weighs him down like many tons
Of healthy grey cement.”

There is a mixture of both the Spartan and ‘soft’ adventure. The comfort strikes a direct opposite with the hunger and disease of the ZANLA and ZIPRA camps in Mozambique and Zambia, respectively. One senses that the ‘Rhodesian war’ depended on a regular fat bill. The illustrations to this collection (by Harry Wilkingson) show young white soldiers in pretty tunic, fitting caps, barrack beds, well oiled guns and the occasional acoustic guitar.

Interestingly, there was time to write letters to ‘Dad, mum, Pete and Joe back home.’ Mum and Dad could even come visit. There was time to listen to radio Jacaranda’s ‘Favourites in the Forces,’ a programme on which girl-friends would phone in or write to tell Jack to ‘give the terrs a hard-time.’ Or one could phone in to pass ‘all my love to Frikkie du Toit – somewhere in the bush.’

One’s duty in this war was ‘timed’ and one marked the passing day on the barrack calendar. You ‘did your bit’ and went back home or to college a true patriot. This was a leisure trip and when it ended, one turned one’s back and moved on. One thought that one was only ‘a rifleman’ who received money on pay-day:

“Pay checked and found correct sir!
Is what they make you say,
And that’s enough to last you till
It comes to next pay day”

But then, throughout, you don’t find a black face in this one hundred and twenty three paged book of poems! But one knows that the cooks and care-takers in these white barracks were black. The black characters have been very unskilfully erased from the whole picture. This is however part of the well known Rhodesian lie or myth – that the black man is not worth seeing. This is not only evident in Rhodesian literature. It is also the same case in Rhodesian paintings. In 1995 Tim McLoughlin was to write: “This point becomes clearer if we compare landscapes (paintings) by white painters like Alice Balfour and others who are fascinated by the vast unpeopled spaces which they see (and not people). Much attention, particularly in water colour painting, goes into the brush-work details of long winter grass or aloes… (and not
people), contorted shapes of branches…”

There is, in Jeremy Ford’s poems here an excitement and confidence with the self. The none-but-ourself syndrome. And even after the training, the young soldier persona is not portrayed as properly defining his (guerrilla) enemy. At best the man on the other side is a monkey:

“We’re leaving in a week or so
To go and earn our keep
Away there in the valley where
The monkeys lie asleep.”

Towards the end of this amusing book of poems, one comes across the only contact in a poem called ‘Contact.’ You think - now I will ‘see’ the guerrillas. But the guerrillas are not given shape. There is a single guerrilla gun-shot and before the Rhodesians respond, the guerrillas disappear:

“We all skirmished forward
And sank to one knee
As they ran away through
The forest of trees.”

The guerrillas remain simply as ‘they’ and their association with the bush and darkness have been typical portrayal of black characters in white literature as far back as Peter Halket of Mashonaland. Typically, the African guerrillas rush back into the unchristian bush where they belong. The young Christian Rhodesian soldiers remain and continue to preserve their ‘freedom.’ Part of Ian Smith’s U.D.I. document does not mince words:

“We have struck a blow for the preservation of Justice,
Civilization, Christianity and in the spirit of this belief
we have this day assumed our sovereign independence.
God bless you all.”

As Jeremy Ford’s soldiers go deeper and deeper into their country, they get lost in it! They say, ‘We are miles away from nowhere.’ They miss ‘a smoke, a wash, some good hot food and a sleeping tent.’ They are stranded until an army helicopter finds them. The “bush war” remains an adventure until the young soldiers return home.

Although the Rhodesian soldier literature, music and culture have retreated from the public sphere, it is very much alive as some active web-sites continue to receive such poems from Zimbabwe, South-Africa, Canada, Britain, Australia and New-Zealand. Stanley Nyamfukudza was right. There is a way of reading the 1970’s war somewhere, running parallel to the mainstream one and the earlier we allow them to dialogue, we come away more informed.
(By Memory Chirere)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My first kiss

By Moreblessing Size

Heart beats like an African drum
Stars light up the sky like bright city lights.
Words fail to come out of my mouth
dry from intense emotion.
I wonder if I should smile or frown
My feet are rooted to the ground
like they don’t belong to me.
His eyes seem to reach into the very core of my soul.
A dozen butterflies flutter in my stomach
as he walks slowly up to me
Our eyes locked like magnet .
Brown skin smoothly covers his bones.
He smiles and my cheeks warm up to his smile.
As he comes closer my breathing becomes ragged
the room seems smaller.
His hand reaches for my cheek
and my eyes close on their own accord.
Shivers of excitement run down my spine
I anticipate, relish his scent.
Sweetness meets my lips as he kisses me soflty
a sigh escapes my lips.

Moreblessing Size is a Zimbabwean poet

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The return of David Mungoshi

(David Mungoshi)
Title: The Fading Sun
Author: David Mungoshi
Publisher: Lion Press LTD, Coventry, UK
Date: 2009
Pages: 230
Isbn: 978-09562422-3-5

(Reviewer: Memory Chirere)

David Mungoshi’s latest novel, the Nama award winning, ‘The Fading Sun’ is about both living and dying. Very few novels from Zimbabwe will come close to it as regards exploring a miscellany of human emotions and experiences in one breath. Here is sadness, bottomless joy, puzzlement, memories, regrets, fear… the whirlpool goes on.

A woman in menopause stops in her tracks to take stock of her life. From the leeward side, Mary has more than her fair share of maladies. Mary’s skin is wrinkled. Mary suffers from bouts of migraine and arthritis. Mary has had each of her three deliveries by caesarean section. Mary has lost one of her ovaries early in life. Mary has a thyroid problem which has led to thyroidechtomy. Mary has lost one of her breasts through mastectomy and she wears the breast prosthesis.

Sadly, the surviving breast is also deteriorating and the pain is just unbearable. Mary’s sun is slowly fading.

She makes you realize that much of living, and dying too, go on inside of the individual. Towards the end, she becomes very mystical like that woman who charms and is charmed in return by the spider in ‘A Passage to India’.

You may contrast that with Mary’s belching middle class husband, Moth. Mary and the children nickname him Moth, an abbreviation for ‘Man of the house’ and it is said ‘he wore his dubious title like an invisible dog collar.’ Mary thinks that Moth is a heavily stupid fellow. You see him playing golf endlessly in serene terrains. He spots trendy cross belts. He has too flat a tummy for a man his age and means and he has never seen the doctor in all his life!

You may want to think that from Mary’s point, this story is a tragedy. But you may see that she has also had the best of times.

Mary has a solid countryside background. She has roasted maize cobs by the fireside. She has heard the hyena laugh. She has bathed in rivers amongst some of the most physically well endowed African women. She is one of the very few first black Rhodesian women to pursue education up to university level. Subsequently, she is the first woman to own and drive a car in her village. She ends up watching the sunsets from a verandah of her house in a posh suburb. Above all, she feels deeply about who she is. Her mind wanders across the ages and if you want to reminisce, then she is your soul mate.

Midway, you realize that this is a novel that you cannot take all in, with a one off reading. The layers are many; history, geography, anthropology, politics… This novel must have taken David Mungoshi lots of meditation (and fasting too) that when such a script was finally released, he must have felt like collapsing from the sudden release.

In addition, David Mungoshi uses rigorous language and you may suggest that this story must be sung with the accompaniment of an instrument. This book pitches much higher than what Mungoshi achieves with his debut novel, ‘Stains On The Wall’ (1992). It is the kind of English language with the rigor you can only associate with the other good non English writers writing in English, like Joseph Conrad and Ayi-Kwei Armah.

Maybe the more complex issues in this novel happen in the realm of the unsaid. Mary is certain that her Moth is fast becoming indifferent and contentedly growing away from her. Mary (unconsciously) envies and subsequently, loathes her husband for not ageing as fast as her. Yes, a partner's non stop good health can be unsettling!

But is Moth to blame for being able to move through life, eating and drinking and carrying on like the devil’s machine? Should he be condemned for gradually losing passion for the woman who is now very different from the girl that he fell for (many years ago)?

This novel leaves you with the question: How much married are all married people?

The cover (designed by Ivor Hartmann) is multi dimensional. As you meet it, you think it crawls to life! And the eyes (of a woman?) glance back into your soul from a faraway place, near the setting sun beneath which two elephants move together (or towards each other). And you realize that nothing will ever beat an African countryside at sunset. Maybe that is why Mary thinks that ‘the world is most beautiful as you leave it.’ Indeed, this is much more than a cancer story.

David Mungoshi was born in Bulawayo in the enriching vicinity of some of the key exponents of township Jazz music of Zimbabwe. Some of his major literary works are Broken Dream and other Stories and Stains on The wall. His forthcoming novel is called Catalogues. Currently he holds the post of Lecturer in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Zimbabwe. The Fading Sun is available in all Innov8 bookshops across Harare.

Monday, July 16, 2012

ZWA goes to Bulawayo

(Stephen Chifunyise, Musa Zimunya, Mashingaidze Gomo (in white cap) and David Mungoshi (brown cap)during the ZWA meeting of 7 July 2012, Harare.)

ZWA goes to Bulawayo

The Zimbabwe Writers Association (ZWA) is having an outreach meeting in Bulawayo on Saturday 21July, 2012 at the Bulawayo Art Gallery at 09:00 - 12:00. Leaders of writers associations and individual writers who may or may not necessarily belong to literary associations around Bulawayo are all invited to this get-together.

Our outreach would take the shape of introductions of associations and individual writers, followed by an open exchange of problems, challenges, ideas etc as the basis of consultation. On our part, we shall introduce the idea of ZWA and its constitution to Bulawayo and what we have managed to achieve thus far and how beneficial it has been to writers. In other words, it is really an open ended occasion.

The Zimbabwe Writers Association (ZWA) is the newest writers Organization whose formation started in July 2010 leading to the AGM of June 4, 2011. Zimbabwean writers have taken the initiative to coordinate themselves to form an organisation to represent them and defend their interests. ZWA was registered with the National Arts Council in January 2011. The birth of ZWA was a culmination of self initiated efforts and activities taken by Zimbabwean writers of diverse backgrounds.

Our contact person in Bulawayo is Raisedon Baya.

Inserted by Musaemura Zimunya:0772334919
Chair, Executive Committee, The Zimbabwe Writers Association

MEMBERS: M B Zimunya(Chair) E Hwede(Deputy Chair) T Muchuri(Secretary:0733843455)
B Sithole(Treasuer) K Ratsauka(Resource Mobilizer) D Mashava(Ordinary
Member) M Chirere(Ordinary Member)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mother writes Yvonne Vera’s biography

(Yvonne Vera)
Title: Petal Thoughts: Yvonne Vera
Author: Ericah Gwetai
Publisher: Mambo Press, Gweru, Zimbabwe, 2008

Reviewer: Memory Chirere

Imagine your mother writing your biography! What would she say or leave out and why? If you were a prize winning author, would your mother’s book on you clarify certain key moments in your writings? Or, would it complicate them?

The late write Yvonne Vera’s mother, Ericah Gwetai nee Mugadzaweta has written a very enlightening biography on Yvonne Vera. It is called ‘Petal thoughts: Yvonne Vera: A Biography.’ More than anything, this amazing book shows that there are highly biographical elements in most of Yvonne Vera’s literature.

Did you know that ‘Yvonne was a result of an unwanted pregnancy’? Ericah Mugadzaweta, a Luveve girl, discovered by accident that she was two months pregnant when she felt dizzy and passed out at Lobengula Street bus terminus. Ericah was seventeen and the man responsible was one Jerry Vera who worked as a waiter at the Happy Valley Hotel in Nguboyenja township of Bulawayo.

Ericah eloped to Jerry and they even tried unsuccessfully to terminate the pregnancy because Ericah wanted desperately to go for a nurse training course. Readers of Yvonne’s Butterfly Burning will remember that there is such an anguished woman in the novel.

The girl, Yvonne moved constantly with her mother to various teaching posts in Bulawayo, Harare and Tsholotsho.

Yvonne’s parents parted ways in December 1970 after a huge quarrel when Jerry lost his job. Jerry found it hard to find another job and ‘he became aggressive’. Ericah and Yvonne eventually left for Tsholotsho where Ericah met and fell in love with one Lambert Gwetai. The girl Yvonne fell in love with butterflies out there in the countryside.

In 1984, during her teaching practice (from Hillside Teachers’ College) at Njube High School, Yvonne met a Canadian Maths teacher, John Jose and they fell in love. They were married in 1987 in Canada. They remained married until Yvonne’s death in April 2005 although they sometimes lived in separate locations because of Yvonne’s insistence that she kept in touch with her Zimbabwean writing base.

This biography shows that Yvonne’s life and writing culture were dramatic. For instance during one of her visits to Zimbabwe from Canada in 1994, Yvonne read a story from The Chronicle about a woman who had strangled her baby with a necktie. Yvonne immediately disappeared from home. Her people even reported her missing with the police. She returned home six days later with a manuscript that was to become ‘Without A Name’.

There are indications in this biography that Yvonne was headstrong and had a temper too. When she left for Canada in 1987 to marry John she just left without saying goodbye to her mother.

And more interesting Yvonne’s mother writes: “In 1996 Yvonne was going to interview some female artists who did woodcarving. It was in the evening and I told her that it was not safe for women to travel alone… We argued about that. She bolted out of the house and stood in the middle of Matopos Road. She wanted to commit suicide by being run over by a car… but when cars screeched and swerved to avoid her, I realized that she was determined to do it…”

This book will surely open windows into Vera literature. It also contains testimonies by scores of people close to Vera like her best and long time friend, Kupukile Mlambo (to whom Vera’s first full novel, Nehanda is dedicated), her editor and publisher, Irene Staunton, friends: Flora Wild, Terence Ranger, Virginia Phiri and others.

The late Yvonne Vera could easily be the most outstanding woman writer from Zimbabwe writing in English. Her acute experimentation with prose and female character has drawn lots of attention.

She specialised on abominations and those subjects that harm the woman’s body and mind like rape, abortion and suicide. These are subjects that Zimbabwean novels rarely spend their maximum length on. Vera’s women are come out of it hugely scathed and with a statement that woman’s meaningful space is very difficult to find in this world.

Why Don’t You Carve other Animals (1992) is a collection of short stories that portray women in various circumstances that force them to step out of their ordinary roles as mothers and wives. In the background is the war of liberation of the 1970’s.

Nehanda(1993), Vera’s initiation into hypnotic prose poetry writing is based on the Zimbabwean legendary liberation fighter from the 1890’s into the Chimurenga of the 1970’s. This novel is centred on fictionalising some central aspects of this world-renowned heroine. This novel was short listed for the Commonwealth Prize of 1994.

Without A Name (1994) is the most talked about of all Vera literature. Like Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Vera’s story is about a woman who travels across society, from one lover to another, in search of love, freedom and fulfilment. Her innocence is shattered much early in life when she is raped by a man in uniform. The touching moment in the text is when she kills her newly born baby and straps the corpse on her back and boards a bus back to her rural home.

Under The Tongue (1996) marks the maturation of Vera’s style and maybe that is why it is considered as her amongst her ‘difficult’ novels. It is generally the story of a child who has been raped by her father and who, as a result, loses her mother. There are suggestions that the mother kills the husband on discovering his crime and due to death or imprisonment, leaves the child (Zhizha) with her grandparents. This is a novel with a very haunting quality to it. It won the 1997 Common Wealth Writers Prize (Africa Region, Best Book).

Butterfly Burning (2000) is about a girl, Phephelapi who meets an older man, Fumbatha, in Bulawayo during the 1940’s. Their relationship offers the girl a certain measure of comfort but her pregnancy shatters her desire to become a nurse. A resultant abortion ruins her relationship with her man. After her second pregnancy, she kills herself by dousing herself with paraffin and setting herself alight because again, the pregnancy is connected with her failure to join nursing. This excruciating novel highlights the plight of ambitious women in a colonial set up.

The Stone Virgins (2002) won Vera the Macmillan prize for Africa in 2002. In 2006 it won the Aidoo/Snyder Prize, two years after its publication. Set in the outskirts of Bulawayo, this novel explores the trials and tribulations of very close sisters, Thenjiwe and Nonceba during and just after the war of liberation. It opens up the effects of the counter warfare between government forces and dissidents on the lives of ordinary people.

Ericah Gwetai should be commended both for her courage and ingenuity. It is interesting to note that she even studied some of her daughter’s books for her degree in English with the Zimbabwe Open University!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Interesting Times in Zimbabwean Literature

The reflections of Emmanuel Sigauke
(with permission from
It seems that one thing gained in Zimbabwe's lost decade (2000-2010?), is the courage to write on diverse issues. And courage is just a preliminary step, a useless one unless you begin to write; and even then, a beginning is only a beginning. But the new crop of writers in Zimbabwe is doing more than beginning, it is now writing with courage and commitment.

This is an interesting time in Zimbabwean writing. And a voice says, "What time hasn't been interesting?" Granted, all times have been interesting, some too interesting to yield any useful literature. Another voice says: "Useful literature?" Yes, a literature that speaks immediately to the world, with great themes, concerns and thrust. "Say what?"

Zimbabwe's lost decade woke a lot of us up, took us out of a state of comfort. This statement is a lie, of course, because for as long as I can remember, there have always been things--big things--happening in our country. By 1990, I was already writing poetry of serious change:

Zvakauya hamawe takadekara,
Yakauya nahwo uso hwainge chikara
Tikati nako kugwagwadza
Ura kuungana mudumbu mogwadza.

Actually, that was 1992. I was a suffering temporary school teacher, waiting to go to some college or other, but I remember a society waking up to confusion (captured in the stanza above), some unable to believe this was their beautiful Zimbabwe, changing so much. Of course, we experienced long queues, and somehow, I liked to stand in them, to catch up on my reading. But in everything I wrote, which I didn't do much with--lack of knowhow on publishing/marketing--, I was chronicling these hard hours in some carthatic way. These were big themes, although I didn't know it then: economic adjustement programmes were shocking people in many African countries and elsewhere.

Perhaps a real sign of the times was how as writers we were seeking empowerment. We formed organizations like Budding Writers Association of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Women Writers, and Zimbabwe African Language Writers Association, and we attended all kinds of meetings, including those of the main organization, Zimbabwe Writers' Union. We read our works, showing our dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in our country, in our world. We were doing our best to depict what was happening around us, we were being artists at work. But I doubt that most of us were dreaming big then. I, for instance, pursued my writing as something I ought to do, whether or not I would publish the work. I can say that those writing today, including me of course have good reason to dream big.

Writing after Zimbabwe's lost decade (a phrase I hate because no amount of time is ever lost...), writers have begun work with high expectation (of success, of fame, of sharing something they have to say); there is, or should be, amped up level of courage, but this is not to say that most know what to do with their writing yet, considering that they often have other more immediate concerns of life. I could safely say, then, that the little we are seeing, that which is emerging in different places of the world, is just a small fraction of the courageous writing going on in Zimbabwe.

Back to the poem above; it is the first stanza of a poem called "Yauya Shanduko", written between 1990 and 1992, and performed in public from 1992-1996. I made a few appearances on ZBC Radio 2, hosted by the courageous writer Aaron Chiundura Moyo, and by then I had written other companion pieces like "VepaSpeed", documenting scenes of police-vendor chases, which would become common again in the troubled decade. I used to produce these poems for performance, and sometimes for recording. I also travelled a lot on writing business, as the national secretary of BWAZ. At each meeting where I was the guest or coordinator, I would perform some of these poems about that decade (the 90s). The poems captured the era:

Zvakauya hamawe takadekara,
Yakauya nahwo uso hwainge chikara
Tikati nako kugwagwadza
Ura kuungana mudumbu mogwadza.

I began the poem by stating that the change caught us by surprise, brought dreadful chaos. And indeed, people were not ready for the changes brought by the structural adjustment programmes. One major event then was the restructuring of companies and the civil service; workers waking up to find out they had no jobs, and failing to understand, even where it was explained, why they had lost their jobs. I observed people seeking to spiritual or religious explanations, going to spiritual healers or prophets to seek solutions, and in most cases, ending up losing the little they had saved, paying for the services rendered by spiritual healers. I was involved with a spiritual church then--1992 being the last year I attended it--, and I saw church members seeking solace in what spiritual advice the church would give, as they were supposed to do; yet there was another level of understanding that these people either avoided or ignored.

Most of us wrote about these changes, but we didn't take the process a step further. Or, being yet unskilled, we did not always produce high-quality work, although my friends and fellow writers swore I was the best at the time. And some important names came out then; we had writers like Yvonne Vera, whom we would sit with at the Book Fair--she had just come out with Nehanda, and Why Don't You Carve Other Animals. She had been in the Diaspora, and some of us thought good writing was connected with living in the Diaspora. Dambudzo Marechera, our idol, was still being published posthumously,and we awaited each work with a huge appetite. Chenjerai Hove, Shimmer Chinodya, Nevanji Madanhire, they were publishing, they were the ones we associated with publishing, and we listened when they talked about writing and publishing, about craft, when they came to run our workshops, when we went to eat chicken at their book launches.

We liked the idea that we mixed with them, and we admired that they seemed to always go to conferences overseas. But it was also very easy to observe that some of us did no writing, that we just enjoyed being among the published writers of the nation. We were budding writers, which showed promise, although among us were also spuds, those ineffective fellows with no desire work hard for their craft. Still, there was a balance, that was the balance, and we seemed to enjoy our writing lives as they were. But the writing of now demands that we all dream big; there is a certaining urgency in telling the stories of the lost decade, and of other issues we that resonate with us.

I wasn't there to see the decade losing itself, but I felt the tremors, in a big way, whether it was by constantly sending money back home to many members of the extended family, or losing money to people who were supposed to be helping me do this or that project; or it was through the loss of a relative because of lack of medication and timely care.

And when you are away in another country and your country is always on the news, you don't always have good days; you are asked questions you can't answer, partly because you are not there, or just because you figure it's not their business; but then it is, because they are also players on the global playing field, so explaining becomes not only your responsibility, but an imperative, in some cases a form of carthasis. I told people that the writing about the decade hadn't started coming out yet, wait until the writers and poets catch up with the era and you will get a sense of the complexity of the decade.

And now, this is the time. In the next few years we will see big works from Zimbabwe. Some will emerge on location in the country, others in places like the USA and Britain. This is already happening: we have seen Petina Gappah, Irene Sabatini, Brian Chikwava, Valeria Tagwira, Tendai Huchu, Christopher Mlalazi...but this is just the beginning (and beginnings can be infinite); in a few months we will see more works. I am quite appreciative of NoViolet Bulawayo breaking into the U.S. market. We will get a sense of how the US market reads Zimbabwean literature. We have seen the influence this market had on Latin American, Asian (especially Indian), Afghan, and other literature. It's a huge market, and it can mean a lot for the Zimbabwean writer.

The story that the world tends to associate with Zimbabwe is too simplistic; one version being that the presidentof that country woke up one day and chased white people from their farms; then he started to kill his own people...and ZANU PF is bad, MDC is good. Other versions focus on how grim life is in Zimbabwe, how everyone is unemployed and starving, and so on. While that's how the media works, it barely is how literature works. If you are seeking entertainment, go to the media, if you are looking for complex coverage of life, go to literature.

But some writers try to imitate the media, and focus, in very simplistic terms, on the same perspectives covered by the papers, televisions, and the internets... Perhaps there is a lasting audience for such material, but the material itself is never satisfactory to an incisive reader . This is the reason literature tends to lag behind the newspapers in covering events. In fact, literature does not cover events; it captures life.

The short story in Zimbabwe has played a major role in depicting the interesting decade. The only weakness so far is that some of the collections were agenda anthologies, driven by need to cover certain, timely themes, and when you read some of the stories, they tend to repeat that which has been covered by CNN or BBC, with the only difference being that in most cases the writer of the short story lived the situation, and hence related to it in a deeper sense than the BBC journalist reporting Zimbabwe from South Africa. You find that the act of a journalist report one country while based in another is itself better literature.

Now back to the stories that have reported what the author experienced, or saw. Some of them would work best as memoirs not as fiction. One thing to understand about literature is that the writing experience filters that which communicates with the human soul and has a durable impact. Even in memoir, the fact that something horrible happened to you doesn't mean that it's important to the reader. A quick example is that of a story of a young man who lost his virginity at the age of twenty; and the writer presented this story as the greatest on earth, a story that every reader would find intriguing. Losing virginity was so important to the narrator that he spent inordinate amounts of time talking about it; and the effect of reading that story was boredom. Was there a seed of a story in that piece? Yes. Is losing virginity important? Yes. But does that subject alone--experiencing sex for the first time--interest everyone? Not always, or not at all, except to elicit a weak, "Good for you." So then what should the writer do here? Look at the material for your story and think hard about why you should tell it to me. What is in the story that makes it worth sharing with the reader? Did it transform you in some unusual way? Did the narrator discover something in the act that could not be obvious to the reader? But most importantly, how will the story transform and reward the reader?

Because it all boils down to technique in whatever genre you are exploring, I say to Zimbabwean writers you have lots of stories to tell the world, and please tell them, but work on technique. And some of you are already damn good with technique, you have learned it all, and you are unique innovators. So perhaps let's spread the influence, have those with technique teach those without. Yes, technique is something you can acquire, creativity is someting you can already have within you. Often then, there are these writers walking around with seeds for stories but lacking in technique. Learn. Read. And read. You will see how others have handled technique, and you might even discover that you can writer about anything and make it interest readers (the understanding here is that you are not going to satisfy all readers, but those you can satisfy, satify them well; make the experience memorable). Soon, you may be recognized by your signature style, and your readership will grow, yet you never finish learning, which is why you have to continue reading, writing, and teaching others.

With the proper training and support systems, plus resources for publication, Zimbabwean writers are in a good place and time to shine.

++Emmanuel Sigauke is a Zimbabwean writer based in Sacramento , California where he teaches English at Cosumnes River College, and Creative Writing (on a part-time basis) at the UC Davis Extension. He has published poetry and fiction. He has plans to be at this 2012 Zimbabwe International Book Fair in Harare.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Up-Close with Chirikure Chirikure

(I interview Chirikure Chirikure)
At a literary evening organised by Pamberi Trust and hosted by the Spanish Embassy on the 25th of June,2012 Memory Chirere (Zimbabwean writer and poet) interviews Chirikure Chirikure who was in the country for three weeks from Germany where he currently resides. Later on,Gerald ‘Synik’ Mugwenhi, Ticha Muzavazi, Chiwoniso Maraire and Okay Machisa performed with Chirikure Chirikure.We bring you here the full interview transcribed by Batsirai E Chigama. ++ A version of this interview also appears on:

The Interview

MC:Memory Chirere
CC:Chirikure Chirikure
MC: Good evening to you all. Many thanks to those who invited me to interview Chirikure Chirikure, with the view that my contribution may add value to this programme.

Our guest tonight, Chirikure Chirikure, was born in 1962 in Gutu. He is a poet, writer, actor, cultural consultant and translator. A graduate from the University of Zimbabwe, Chirikure is also an honorary fellow at the University of Iowa, USA. He worked with one of Zimbabwe’s largest publishing houses, College Press as an editor for 17 years until 2002. Chirikure has been based in Germany for the past year after being selected to be part of the DAAD Artist in Berlin fellowship which has seen him performing across Europe and lecturing. Chirikure went on a two week poetry caravan tour of Indonesia, with poets from all over the world as part of the DAAD exchange initiatives. His poetry in Shona is now translated into languages which include Indonesian, Chinese, German, Dutch, Spanish and French.

His works include the shona poetry anthology, Rukuvhute(College Press, 1989), Chamupupuri(1994), Hakurarwi published in Shona with English translation(1994), a children’s book Mavende akiti(1989). Chirikure has also written Zimbabwe Junior Certificate Revision book (1989), co-authored Zvirimuchinokoro, published by ZPH in 2004. He now has a new poetry anthology Aussicht auf eigene schatten with poetry in Shona, English translated into German. The book comes with a recorded poetry on CD.
One of Chirikure’s recent achievements is the decision by the Vienna airport, Austria to display one of his Shona poems “Kuenda, Kudzoka” in their departure lounge with effect from June 2012.

He has also been involved in music and his musical recordings include Napupekeni(2002), a fusion of mbira and poetry. He was also involved in the Ray of Hope compilation, a Rooftop production. Chirikure has worked with many artists in Zimbabwe including Oliver Mtukudzi, Chiwoniso Maraire, Albert Nyathi and bands like Uya Moya and Detembira. His latest cd is called Chisina Basa.

I first met Chirikure exactly twenty years ago. I had accompanied Ignatius Mabasa (from our student base at the University of Zimbabwe) to the ZBC radio 4 in Mbare where Ignatius was going to read his poems for airing on Chirikure’s programme, ‘Vanyori vamangwana’. I ended up reading a few poems of mine as well at the instigation of Chirikure. He invited me to submit poems for an anthology he was compiling, which later got published later on as Tipeiwo Dariro. Since then we have become familiars. Today we exchange roles and I will interview the man who interviewed me on air during our first meeting.

Chirikure, how has been your stay in Germany? What have you learnt in Germany and what have you taught them in return?

CC:I was stationed in Berlin. It has been 12 months, the program is well arranged and designed and quite flexible. They network for you such that you end up doing more travelling than staying in Berlin, travelling in Germany and surrounding countries like Austria, Switzerland and sometimes to the UK as well. The good coincidence is I had the book published in June for which the contract was done before I was even awarded the fellowship. By the time I got to Berlin the publishers were in touch with DAAD, so from the onset the publishers and DAAD were working together arranging the program for me; readings, lectures, performances, collaborations with Zimbabwean musicians based in Europe as well as European musicians and musicians from other parts of the world. It was quite an experience in that you are on the road for two, three weeks in a row, moving from one hotel to another, one country to the next to the extent that you end up getting confused as to where you are exactly. My son who is at university in South Africa kept on sending emails saying I was living like a rock star which is quite a unique opportunity in performance poetry. Also I got the opportunity to collaborate with artists across all the genres; I had opportunities to contribute to films, documentaries and audio recordings. I did a beautiful collaboration with a German beat-boxer fusing poetry and beat-boxing, we recorded one of my poems from the new book, a 4-minute recording. Quite interesting and fascinating experiences is when you are invited to a hip-hop festival and you are asked to perform with hip-hop artists and initially I would say, O my God, so you go on the internet and try to listen to hip-hop, trying to see how best you can be meaningful to the young audiences…

MC:…and what have you taught them?

CC:Teaching them is a very difficult thing to say…

MC: I mean; What did they say they like about you and the way you work?
CC:What I tried to do, first and foremost was carry the Shona language as much as possible and carry workshops talking about the Zimbabwean Culture but I also did a few things with young children, primary school kids doing story-telling, tsuro nagudo, but also got the opportunity to perform with mbira and do my humble dance just to share the rhythms of southern Africa and Zimbabwean culture. You wouldn’t say you are teaching as such but you are sharing a little bit of what you can carry on your shoulder as a son of Zimbabwe and I think it’s up to the listener to say they have picked one or two things out of it…

MC:I asked that question because more often the impression when one goes abroad among some people is that this person who is coming from Africa to Germany, is just going to benefit, just imbibe what is there and there is nothing he is going to teach and leave behind… which can be dangerous…There is a title poem, from your book here, Rukuvhute (reads the poem). Chirikure, is there anything about yourself that you think is left out whenever you are introduced to an audience?

CC:The internet has come in a very dynamic way in the sense that sometimes you feel very naked and highly exposed like the saying they have, is it in the Ibo language…the higher the monkey climbs the more it exposes…(applause)

MC:…itself , the parents are here…
CC: (laughs) So in a lot of ways people have so much information about you but the funny side of things is that most discussions end up drifting into the political environment of Zimbabwe and very few people really bother to ask the simple things like how many meals you have a day…simple things.

MC:Chirikure Chirikure, what is your relationship with this name? (applause) What have you lost or gained through it? What have you noticed through this name?

CC:My mother is here as my witness, the name I have is a genuine name. (applause) It was given me at birth, but, like the average human being, when I got into my teens, I was ashamed of the name and I adopted the name Carlos.(laughter all round)

MC:Carlos who? (laughs)

CC:Carlos Chirikure, it was cool, really cool. (laughs)Later on as you get to university you get to appreciate the honour bestowed on you by your parents to be given your family name as your first name; you feel you are carrying the whole family. It gives you stamina, not just intellectual stamina but identity. A lot of people think it’s a stage name and most of the times you get invited to festivals they say, please confirm whether this is your real name before we send your ticket. Now I feel it’s an honour to carry this name and I am proud.

MC:Chirikure, what would you put down as the Chirikure Chirikure brand.
CC:To use the Shona language to talk, day to day, international, local and immediate issues instead of using the Shona language as a cultural relic where we use the Shona language to do traditional praise poetry; those things are important and part of our lives but I think we are living in a society which is on a constant transition and our language should be able to interrogate all the issues any other language of the world can interrogate. I have tried my best to use my poetry in the Shona language to interrogate issues…

MC:Why have you made this huge investment in a language that is only spoken by ± twelve million people in the whole world?

CC:I think the language itself has invested so much in me that I’ve to pay back. It’s not a free loan, by putting as much as I can into the language, into the culture, I am giving honour to those who taught me this language as well as my society. To share that with the rest of the world gives dignity to my people, to myself and make others appreciate our language.

MC:Do you feel pity for the Shona language?

CC:Nooooo, not at all…

MC:What do you mean?

CC:Pity means probably the language is dying…

MC:Why are you carrying this cross, some people would ask. You go to Germany to perform in Shona, you do well and you go to London and perform in Shona and you do well… what is the problem with Chirikure, some people may ask.

CC:Germany and London saw me doing things I do in Harare, in Gutu, Masvingo and that is what they loved, then the connection goes on and in a lot of ways it’s a mark of respect of the work that I am doing.

MC:They loved you for your performances in Shona and therefore you want to carry on?

CC:It’s much more than the language itself, I think it’s a lot of what you talk about with the language and also the respect you have for your language that makes other people respect your language too…

MC:…and in turn respect you as well…

CC:I don’t feel like I am carrying a cross as such or rescuing a language, I am giving honour to something that I was given by my fore-bearers and I am celebrating the beauty of the language, the beauty of philosophy in my own language, the beauty of the rhythm. I don’t think it would be a mission to rescue something, it’s a mission to give honour to something which already has honour, a mission to say hey, look at what we have here…

MC:Rukuvhute, the anthology, is generally about a sense of belonging. Do you still feel like that? Don’t you feel like a man of the world,now that you’ve travelled a lot?

CC:I’ve travelled a lot and it’s a big honour…

MC: (recites)‘Handisi dombo, huku kana mhepo kwete,’ powerful first line from the title poem. Do you still feel like that?

CC:If you are travelling and are not living from any particular base I don’t think you can travel very far because you need to have a reference point and say, I left from Harare airport and people ask where is Harare and you explain. It’s unlike coming from the blue…I don’t know if I am making sense?

MC:You are.

CC:In a lot of ways one cannot forsake their own background and if one makes that mistake, I don’t think you can go anywhere in life. One has to continue respecting where you come from, continue honouring those who gave you the skills, those who gave you the opportunity to be what you are. I think people wouldn’t feel comfortable inviting you and working with you if they feel you don’t belong anywhere.

MC:Are you boasting?

CC:Well, well…

MC:Tinobhomba, I like this one, I read it and say why didn’t I write this one.

CC:You know what can I make a request Prof, we had agreed with Chiwoniso and friends that…

MC:…I am not going to read it now. It’s in your latest book and the question related to Tinobhomba is this one, get ready: Although you perform, one could sense the literary tone behind your work in that it lends itself to being studied. I also note that you are very much connected to the spoken word artists here in Harare. What relationship do you have with them? I remember Musa Zimunya, who also writes, being asked the same question a year ago at the Book Cafe. Chiri, do you feel threatened by the young spoken word poets? What is your relationship with them?

CC:That’s three parts there…

MC:Yes. Although your poetry can be performed, it also lends itself to being studied. It can also be read quietly and therefore; what is your relationship with spoken word artists, do you feel you are complementing them? Are you competing against them? I don’t remember how Zimunya answered the same question a year ago.

CC:It’s quite a big honour when you can put down words. I remember when Rukuvhute came out we had a few problems with some professors who were saying it’s not the kind of poetry that can be taught in schools or colleges because it didn’t fit into the pattern most people had been taught about what poetry should be.

MC:They were lying because so many articles have written about Hakurarwi…

CC:…but that was the first few years in the 90s when Rukuvhute came out but with time, people realise what you are trying to do and the connection between performance poetry and the written and published poetry. It’s also good that the books are being studied now which is a good opportunity. In terms of the spoken word environment in Zimbabwe, I have worked with so many fellow colleagues in the spoken word field and also try to connect most of them with other international and local initiatives.

Threat? I don’t feel threatened at all because if one can be honest I’ve pretty much done my fair share and probably started at a more difficult phase of our historical development as a country, with limited resources, limited connections and a lot of intolerance in terms of the environment as well. Now I think things are much easier. It was a big honour for me to take poetry right in front of an audience so it’s so much of a big honour when I see younger poets coming on stage and we work together in the Poetry Slam for example at the Book Cafe for which they have been generous enough to accord me as the patron of the program. I work with a lot of them through the HIFA poetry spoken word program so it’s much more complementing each other than being threatened. It’s that when you are building a wall you lay down the foundation and someone comes and adds two rows of bricks and cement and you see things growing and I hope things will continue that way, that we continue working together and complementing each other.

MC:What is the real value of poetry in a society like ours? What is the real value of poetry beyond reading for the exam? Can a poem build a house? Can a poem build a blair toilet?

CC:I think a poem builds the brain which then builds the blair toilet.(laughter all round)In a lot of ways, I think poetry is a very crucial part of our society. Art in general helps us shape our minds, shape our vision, share our sorrows, dreams and our passions. It makes our society much more cohesive and it opens doors for discussion. Look at the past ten/fifteen year in Zimbabwe for example, we were so very politically divided it was either you belong here or there, as artists we have always tried to open platforms for people to debate, to negotiate and share your own feelings and I think any society that doesn’t communicate with itself is doomed and I think Zimbabwe was heading in that unfortunate direction. You look at poetry performance the world over, in primary schools in Zimbabwe, at festivals, people move out of those shows discussing and debating and I think it’s a contribution to the global growth of a society and I think Zimbabwe needs as many spoken words as possible to help the nation move forward. We need a lot of healing…

MC:Chamupupuri came out in 1994, and it has short-sharp poems. the title poem refers to British Prime Minister MacMillan’s words during his address to the South African parliament on 3 February 1960. The speech acquired it’s title from the now famous quotation embedded in it. Macmillan said “the wind of change is blowing through this continent whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a fact.” Chirikure, what did you want to achieve with Chamupupuri both at the level of style and content? Did Chamupupuri blow up the people? Chiri paiko chamupupuri ichi?

CC:That was 1994, do I remember what was happening?

MC:ESAP was beginning to bite and so on…

CC:Like you said, the reference to the British Prime Minister’s words and analysis within the context of a continent which is evolving and addressing a South African parliament at a point where we were also hitting hard against the British society, politics and colonial baggage was also a risk and gamble on my part in the sense that you are…you know what I am trying to say. On the other hand the bottom line is where there is wisdom we should accept words of wisdom whether they are coming from a mad man or not or whether they are coming from your enemy or not and try and learn something from whoever is saying something meaningful. In terms of my vision I also saw our society going beyond what MacMillan was referring to, he was talking of the winds of change in terms of moving from colonialism to independent Africa but I tried to look further, the majority of African countries after independence lot’s of other issue came in, more like the whirlwind. The winds of change turning into whirlwinds, picking up more speed and destroying their own more than the enemy so I tried to stretch Macmillan’s vision into a more futuristic…in terms of style; how does the poem go I can’t quite remember…

MC:I like the poem 'Pfungwa dzebenzi', are you going to perform it tonight? You can read any other that you are not going to perform tonight.

CC:I am very honoured to see that the University of Zimbabwe has this book(referring to Chamupupuri that Memory Chirere was holding).

MC:Ja, we have it and you can read it now. Tell you waht,I like that poem a lot.

CC:(Reads Pfungwa dzebenzi)

MC:Maybe a young poet would be sitting out there in the audience saying, 'Well you (Chirikure) are a poet, a musician, and the question is Chiri, what have you achieved through your artistic work? Ungoriwo rombe here? Chii chinobatika chaunoita namabasa aya?'(applause)

CC:In terms of material things?

MC:Just shoot in any direction because the youngsters are always asking this question, whether you are a musician, whether you are a poet. They are always asking us, 'Chii chamakazowana pazviri?'

CC:Ah, ndozonetswa mumbhawa ndichinzi tenga doro. (laughs)

MC:I want you to volunteer whatever you want to volunteer. It’s very important. You are actually a role model and some of the people here are the youngsters who admire you. They want to know kuti zvinombopei? Shamwari dziri pano, vabereki vari pano. just be careful.

CC:I will be as careful as possible, I have been fortunate in that I’ve always had other jobs, full time jobs. I was working as a publisher for years. I was working just down the road for HIVOS up to last year as a Programme Officer for culture. And the writing and performance side of things were always coming in as things I would do after hours but the artistic side of things has opened so many doors for me including being invited to do copy for advertising. There, I would get quite a bit of money, doing translation work for NGOs like UNICEF over the years, doing a lot of stuff for radio and television and newspapers. This is all because people identify that you have a bit of ability to work with language and in the process I have managed to give the family at least three meals a day for all the past years, which is a big honour…

MC:That’s an achievement.Sadza rinonetsa.

CC:Sadza rinonetsa and also to pay school fees for the children and buy uniforms and once in a while bring my father and mother a packet of sugar. My son is at university at Rhodes. I have never been given the opportunity to be given the Presidential Scholarship to send my son. I have been paying from my poetry and from my work as a publisher.

MC:Mazvinzwa here imi, mamwe marombe imi? Hurombe hwedu uhwu, kwanza hunobhadhara! (laughter all round)

CC:Also I have friends like you, Tuku, Chiwoniso, Machisa and others who are here tonight. We work together, collaborating, contributing lyrics and through that you also get a little more than what you would get from performing. You know when we started performing at the Book Cafe, Chiwoniso here is my witness, we would be given a plate of sadza and two beers then we would go home. But after years, people started appreciating what we were doing and slowly agreed to pay to get into our shows.

MC:Zvaingonzi sadza nehwahwa izvi, zvonzi- hamba?

CC:I think the bottom line is the passion and the drive, I think eventually if you keep holding on you will get something out of it. Shimmer (Chinodya)my good friend over there can be my good witness, Chiedza Musengezi, Virginia Phiri. You work so hard over night, sleepless nights, it’s very easy to give up actually. You look at others driving nice cars, they did accounts at university and you decided to do Shona and Divinity and you say ok, where did I go wrong. Eventually when you see things adding up like that you also enjoy the little you are making and the things you are doing. It’s a big, big blessing to make a living out of what you enjoy because a lot of people I know go to their offices and curse themselves everyday, jump into a combi kuenda kubasa and when the day is done they go kubhawa to get past the fights they had with the manager manje isusu naChiwoniso tikaridza apapa tonakidzwa hedu whether we make a cent or not, basa redu kufara nekufadza vamwe whilst enjoying.

MC: Thank you Chirikure. Thank you all. Please, do not go away because Chirikure and friends are now going to perform.