Saturday, December 28, 2013

ZIBF 2014 THEME announced

Dear Stakeholders

The Executive Board of The Zimbabwe International Book Fair Association with the approval of General Council has identified the following as our Theme for ZIBF 2014: Indigenous Languages, Literature, Art and Knowledge Systems of Africa.

 In arriving at this Theme, we were guided by a few factors, among which are:

ü   The overwhelming submissions on the subject of African languages, literatures, heritages and knowledge systems whose majority were unfortunate to be turned down for lack of space in the just ended ZIBF 2013 Indaba Conference Programme;

ü   The enlightening presentations in the ZIBF 2013 Indaba on patterns and benefits of the use of African medicines and the dangers of losing valuable health practices due to prejudice and official neglect and the timely movement to beneficiate African heritages through the tourism economy;

ü   The compelling indications from the ZIBF 2013 Writers Workshop regarding the urgency to recognize African languages, literatures and art forms as creative media and repositories of knowledge systems deserving as much attention as languages and literatures conveyed in English and other Western languages;

ü   The necessity to recognize and celebrate the vast literary and academic productions and publications in and about African languages in Zimbabwe and other countries across the African continent;

ü    Sending a message of support and encouragement to authors, readers, researchers and publishers in these language media that their efforts play a vital role in intellectual growth, national and African continental development;

ü    Embracing the hitherto marginalized languages of Zimbabwe that are now legally recognized under our new Zimbabwean constitution which have a potential to transform our understanding of our national identity and the importance of tolerance of ethnic diversity; and

ü    The vast potential for creating a truly festive atmosphere through the participation of African folk artists, readers folk artists and performers as part of the activities of our 2014 Book Fair.

We would like to advise all interested presenters and participants to expect our substantial Call for Abstracts by the end of January, 2014.

We plan to run our traditional Book Fair events such as The Young Person’s Indaba, Traders Day, The Exhibitions, Live Literature, Writers’ Workshop, Children’s Reading Tent and Meet the Author and hereby advise you to make a note of the following important dates:-

·         The Bulawayo Book Fair             28 – 29 March 2014

·         The Masvingo Book Fair             30 – 31 May 2014

·         The Harare Book Fair                  28 July – 2 August 2014

·         The Mutare Book Fair                 26 – 27 September 2014

·         The Gweru Book Fair                   24 – 25 October 2014

 Your continued support is fully appreciated.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


Musa Zimunya

Chair, Executive Board, ZIBF

Telephone: +263 4 702104, 702108, 705729,  707352

Tel/Fax: +263 4 702129

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

My key moments in Zimbabwean Literature 2013

(Chiwundura Moyo, T.K.Tsodzo, Chinodya, Mabasa and Chirere during the Harare launch of Mabasa's Imbwa Yemunhu.)
For me the highest point in Zimbabwean Literature 2013 was the new section of the Zimbabwe International Book Fair called the ‘Literary Evening’ which was held at the Book Café, Harare alongside the Book fair in September.

We were used to reading about Dangarembga, Chinodya, Chiundura Moyo and Ticha Muzavazi but suddenly these four had been selected for this outing and were indeed were here with us. We were not reading their books but they were reading passages from their books to us! We sat there and slowly sipped our drinks and listened. We could even ask them questions. We could ask for their contact details.  This was a rare moment for reader and writer to directly interact.

Did I know that Tsistsi Dangarembga possesses such a clear performing voice or that; for some time now, she has been trying her hand at children’s literature?

Shimmer Chinodya has a broadcaster’s voice. He has such a beautiful teacher’s baritone that he needs to move on and read some of his stories on the radio, especially from Can We Talk and Other Stories.

I never thought Aaron Chiundura Moyo played the pen-whistle like Spokes Matshiyane! I didn’t know that he has the gift of the gab and could reminisce on his work and eventful life, deep into the night. I thought all about him was books and books! 

I came away from the evening even more convinced that Ticha Mazavazi will continue to be my favourite Shona poet. And elsewhere, I indicate that “Muzavazi is aware of the infectious force of the Shona verb more keenly than any other Shona poet that I have read to date.”

Maybe the least talked about event of the year (because it eluded the local media) is when David Mungoshi was invited to be guest speaker at a state function on November 12 in Minna, Niger State, Nigeria. The occasion was the third MBA National Literary Colloquium. Writers are rarely invited to officiate at state occasions. This was quite an honour.

I came across four very significant books by Zimbabwean authors in 2013 and I notice that each of them occupies a special place on my mind.

As the year 2012 drew to an end, I read Spiwe N Mahachi- Harper’s Footprints in The Mists of Time from abba press in the United Kingdom. What first struck me was the sheer size of the novel. I quickly made an estimate count and found a whopping 181 008 words. This outruns Wellington Kusena’s novel of 2011; Dzimbabwedande, which is the longest Shona novel at 108 264 words. Mahachi Harper’s becomes the longest novel by a Zimbabwean, I declared and there was no refutation from any authoritative quarter.

 Footprints  is a 419 broad paged historical novel, tracing about four generations of workers of Malawian origin, beginning with Bhaureni Nyirenda’s journey from Nuhono village in the Nkotakhota District of then Nyasaland in 1899 to settle at Southern Rhodesia’s Patchway Valley Mine in Gatooma District. You move from Bhaureni to his son Masauso, through to grandson Chakumanda and great grandson, Mavhuto (in the present day) and their wives, children and neighbours who are variably from Northern Rhodesia and Mocambique.

Although I have come to know the author more and more, I have felt that this was the clearest show of sheer immense narrative tenacity and talent in the past year!

Even Reserve Bank Deputy Governor of Zimbabwe, Kupukile Mlambo took note of this book and did an illuminating review which was widely read in the media.  The Deputy Governor wrote: “The novel, which is essentially about labour migrations in Southern Africa can be read through multiple lenses. There is an extended debate, often couched in broader economic, political and social terms, on the causes and effects of migration on the receiving and sending countries.”

Later on, NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names came out to become the most celebrated novel by a Zimbabwean in 2013. I had harbored great expectations because I had known that the first chapter to this novel, ‘Hitting Budapest’ won No Violet Bulawayo the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing when it was presented as a separate short story.

The novel’s central character, Darling is always looking at foreign territory with eyes of home and glancing back at home through the teary eyes of new experience and beginning to re-read ‘home’.

The pregnancy of detail that you find in this novel, like the descriptions of the onset of Operation Murambatsvina, is one of its strengths:

“…the bulldozers appear boiling. But first before we see them, we hear them. Me and Thamu and Josephat and Ncane and Mudiwa and Verona are outside playing with More’s new football, and then we hear thunder. Then Ncane says, What is that? Then Josephat says,  It’s the rain. I say, No, it’s the planes. Then Maneru’s grandfather comes sprinting down Freedom Street without his walking stick, shouting, They are coming, Jesus Christ, they are coming! Everybody is standing on the street, neck craned, waiting to see. Then Mother shouts, Darling-comeintothehousenow! But then the bulldozers are already near big and yellow and terrible and mental teeth and spinning dust. The men driving the bulldozers are laughing. I hear the adults saying, Why why why, what have we done?”

The novel plunged the Zimbabwean literary scene into celebration as it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. It was also to appear on the Guardian First Book award shortlist and eventually won the South African Jenny 2013 Book of the year Award. The novel does not spare the establishment in Zimbabwe. It  does not spare even the pretentious western world. This is a novel that demands very careful reading and, do not be quick to feel attacked or praised. To read NoViolet Bulawayo's new book is to take constant departures and arrivals, inside out and upside down until you lose count because she is constantly very aware of the numerous points of view to the subject of going away from Zimbabwe and the actual politics. She is also aware that the phenomenon that she is working on is actually in motion and that Zimbabwe will one day rest on any of her many intriguing sides. 

Then there was the biggest surprise of the year - Charles Mungoshi’s Branching Streams Flow in the Dark, published by his family. The prize winning author of Coming of The Dry Season, Waiting For The Rain and Kunyarara Hakusi Kutaura? who had been ‘silent’ ever since his major single publication, Walking Still in 1997, had chosen a special way of returning. As his wife, the acclaimed actress Jesesi Mungoshi states in the dedicatory note, ‘it took Charles over 20 years to write this book and he was still perusing through it when he fell into a coma on the 30th of April, 2010’.

During her darkest and loneliest moment, when her baby dies of AIDS and her husband runs out of the house and her mother is virtually unkind, Serina Maseko sees through herself and others, as if she were beyond pain and reproach. She is floating because during this period, before the advent of Anti Retro Viral Therapy use in the management of the Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), being diagnosed as having the infection is an automatic death sentence.

University of Zimbabwe lecturer Josephine Muganiwa had this to say about Mungoshi’s new novel: “Loving hurts but... it also thrills! Meeting and parting is also part of the game. This book answers the classical questions: Is it possible for a man to love two women at the same time? What is love? Is it possible to fall in love with the idea of being in love? What is the place of polygamy? What is marriage? Is marriage the church certificate or the intertwining of lives? Is it possible to have a soul mate; the kind of relationship between MaDube and Serina’s father? This story is fluid and it carries you along like a river. I can still hear Saidi playing his sax in the sky, at the Great Conference. A must read for all!”

Those not adequately acquainted with Mungoshi literature beyond Coming of The Dry Season or Ndiko Kupindana Kwemazuva were left wondering if this was really Mungoshi’s pen even when Jesesi Mungoshi told them that she has the whole original script in Charles Mungoshi’s long hand. The long, elaborate and reflexive sentences that (over)ride on the comma and conjunction are typical and are there for all to see:


“… If you were looking at Mother looking at Father, then Father appeared to be dirty, uncouth, uncivilised (Mother’s favourite word), backward – and you found yourself lost in seeing him like that… you would convince yourself that this was your original observation of him... on the other hand, if you were looking at Father looking at Mother, you saw shame and falseness right through everything, starting first and foremost, with the highly out - of – key voice shrilling for attention so that it jarred on the nerves like a child running a razor blade through velvet skin… Mother would not hear Father. She would simply see her poor husband, Samuel Maseko, as an also-ran, second-hand sort of lost soul…”


Who could have the temerity to write a book and claim that it was written by Charles Mungoshi?


Then before the year 2013 really ended, veteran Shona novelist, Ignatius Mabasa struck with his offering entitled, Imbwa Yemunhu. Here you come across Musavhaya or Musa in brief.  Usually Musa becomes jelly kneed when he comes across beer and beautiful women. This time he even wants to grab someone’s wife. She is called Juli. Juli’s husband is an ordinary lay about and petty trader called Richard who is not fazed by his noncommittal ways. Musa is pressed by his own mother and elder brother to marry Hazvi when he has no any feelings for the girl. He plays up in order to silence his community which expects him to get married. Juli wishes she had a man like Musa instead of Richard. But she is stuck with Richard! Hazvi wishes she had not had the misfortune of knowing her father. Richard wishes he had not fallen into this marriage with Juli because it is an apparent trap. 

For me, Imbwa Yemunhu is the most experimental offering of the year. It is dream and reality. It flows like a jagged river. You find here, to your amusement  some real life characters of Zimbabwe like the late Simon Chimbetu, musician Albert Nyathi, writers Shimmer Chinodya and Tsitsi Dangarembga, talking and being talked about. They are all beautifully engineered that you stop breathing until you come to the very end.

I notice that as I write, the year has not really ended. But if it ends like this, some good books of 2013 will spill into 2014. I know that there is something cooking at Booklove in Gweru. Emmanuel Sigauke, and your editor, Makadho, can you hear me?

By Memory Chirere, 26 December 2013.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Zimbabwean literature deifies land: Tapureta

Beaven Tapureta

kwaChirere brings you this exclusive and wide-ranging interview with veteran journalist *MOSES MAGADZA and BEAVEN TAPURETA, a well-known Zimbabwean poet and arts organiser. Tapureta is the founding Director of Win Zimbabwe, an organisation that networks Zimbabwean writers through the internet and through workshops and readings. He was one of the key staffers at Budding Writers Association of Zimbabwe (BWAZ) when it folded a decade ago. Tapureta is a trained journalist.

Moses Magadza: You were one of the longest serving officers at Budding Writers of Zimbabwe (BWAZ). What would you put down as its major achievements?

Beaven Tapureta:  BWAZ was like an academy where some writers of my generation were initiated into the real world of writing. It is no secret that some of my friends who are now recognised as poets or fiction writers passed through BWAZ and I think that’s one of its achievements.  It confirmed our passions as new writers. There is Lawrence Hoba, now a published writer, Tinashe Muchuri, an established poet and journalist, Mbizo Chirasha, a renowned performance poet, Tinashe Mushakavanhu, now an editor, critic, and academic, others and myself who are products of BWAZ one way or another. There is this generation of us now doing different things but in the same literary arena.  

Moses Magadza: Why did it fold when it did?

Beaven Tapurata: From my own experience, BWAZ faced funding problems just like any donor-funded organization. While some organisations like Zimbabwe Women Writers had at least produced anthologies from which they were earning royalties, BWAZ had none to sustain itself. BWAZ did not publish royalty-earning anthologies or books apart from the print magazine and the first journal on the burning land issue.

Moses Magadza: You formed Win Zimbabwe to network all Zimbabwean writers at home and abroad. How feasible are your goals?

Beaven Tapurata: I am realizing that the international aspect of WIN Zimbabwe is opening up new forms of networking for published and unpublished writers in Zimbabwe and the diaspora. We have played the middle person in linking local unpublished writers with published Zimbabwean writers abroad or vice versa through our various platforms such as the blog. A conversation has been created at least and we hope that in the end, it’s the unpublished writer who must learn and benefit from the networking.

Emmanuel Sigauke is in USA but he is daily discussing literary issues with unpublished writers via our newly created WIN-Zim Whatsapp Group.  Unpublished writers in South Africa or elsewhere abroad have connected themselves with what’s happening for them at home in the literary field through WIN Zimbabwe’s online platforms.

Not only have we connected with Zimbabwean writers at home and abroad but also with different literary organisations abroad.

Moses Magadza: Why did you form Win-Zim instead of going into formal employment?  What is in it for you?

Beaven Tapurata: I worked at the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe when WIN was already in existent. I had a short stint at the Zimbojam before I got ‘swayed’ by some mighty hand to pursue full time the seed of my heart. I am content, I am happy with my job. It is a formal job despite it taking long to pay off.

But this is also where the problem is, that writers are not taken as workers in our country or Africa.  Until Zimbabwe, or rather Africa begins to take its artists as workers, then shall we approach arts as a profession.  

No wonder the disinterested position being taken by people and law agents in stopping daylight book piracy demonstrates the general lack of knowledge that writers are workers and that therefore they deserve what they earnestly earn.

I am sure this is where Dambudzo Marechera quarrelled with people; nobody took him as someone who had a serious job, a job he so much loved. I am in formal employment as it is, but society looks at it from a different point of view. The accepted thought is that no one survives on writing alone in Zimbabwe. We could start another debate on whether one can be a full-time writer or not in Zimbabwe. But we have Shimmer Chinodya, for example, who is a successful full-time writer.

 Moses Magadza: Is it true that Win Zim is another BWAZ minus the leadership of Dudziro Nhengu?

Beaven Tapureta:  That’s totally not true. It would be unfair to someone who has started his own new project from scratch and passion.  Nhengu led BWAZ to where she led it and I will lead WIN to where it is destined.  May I candidly say some of WIN Zimbabwe members were once with BWAZ. They were lost and confused when BWAZ folded and I could not turn them away because their gifts belong to neither WIN nor BWAZ but to God. This membership composition does not however make WIN a shadow of BWAZ. I have always not wanted to engage in competition with the BWAZ aftermath or any other writers’ organization because I inherited nothing but skills and experience from my previous employment.  Do you know that the now dead Zimbabwe Writers Union (ZIWU) somehow gave rise to the formation of BWAZ and ZWW but these organisations had different missions?

Or a simpler example, would we say ZWA is another ZIWU minus its former leadership? I don’t think so. ZIWU vanished due its own failures and ZWA has its own different mission although it seemingly operates on the same level that ZIWU did and has members who were once with the now defunct ZIWU.

Moses Magadza: What does the future hold for Win Zim? I see that Win zim blog was nominated for a NAMA twice?

Beaven Tapureta: The future is promising and we are determined to move on although we know challenges are always there along the way. We are optimistic we will push through.

Actually the blog was nominated this year at the 12th NAMA Awards. The blog, among other programmes or activities, has grown to be an inspiration  to our members and on a larger scale, to all writers who can access it. We have utilized it to promote local literature and there have been good results.

We use the internet to promote development of our literature.

Moses Magadza: What are your views on the idea that young prize-winning authors of Zim simply chronicle the misdemeanours of Africa in a sell-out way?

Beaven Tapureta: ‘Chronicle’ and ‘sell-out’, to me, are frightening words when speaking about writers. Real writers do not chronicle but create. In a sense, they simply creatively raise the ‘banner’ of the misdemeanours high so that everyone can see and judge for themselves.

The ‘banner’ is seen from different angles by readers and it is normal that a book receives all sorts of commentaries and criticisms.

A book on serious issues affecting Africa published outside the author’s country, widely reviewed outside, and probably awarded outside Africa, runs the risk of being labelled sell-out literature. Yet Africans should be critical readers of their own literature but if these internationally appreciated books by African writers are not available to the majority of the people to whom they must appeal then we also run the risk of judging the book by its internet cover.

Moses Magadza: What are your views on the new Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture in Zimbabwe?

Beaven Tapureta: It’s a positive move. It was long overdue. I hope the new Ministry engages the book sector and other related sectors so that the arts and culture are not reduced to ‘the music industry’. I am saying music alone does not make the arts and culture. The Ministry should promote balance.

 Government, through the Ministry, should increase support to the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe which should then complement the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe in supporting the arts and culture sector. National Arts Council should be granted capacity to fund arts and culture sector like they once did with the Artists Development Fund.

Moses Magadza: What are your views on the idea that ZIBF is stagnant and needs a young leadership?

Beaven Tapureta: While I agree with the freedom of opinion of those who think young leadership at ZIBF is the way forward, I disagree with them if they think bringing young people in ZIBF solves all. The issue is about funding.  Age is not the matter here. Does it mean that if WIN starts under-performing due to lack of funds it means then that WIN should look for an old person to replace me? The idea of proposing a young leadership for ZIBF is simply a matter of hair-splitting. The real issue is about funding.  ZIBF has had various directors and each drove ZIBF according resources available.

Moses Magadza: How would you reframe ZIBF?

Beaven Tapureta:  In terms of structure, I would say, as an international book fair, it must have international branch offices, so that Zimbabwean writers and publishers are assured of representation abroad. I know this could be a far-fetched dream but it is achievable.

On the other hand, such a big organisation ought to have departmental offices at its Headquarters. Thus should funds permit, for instance, I would agree with some who have suggested that ZIBF needs a PR, Accounts, Information Technology, Marketing Departments and so forth…but these divisions of labour have to be few to avoid a cumbersome staff.   

 Moses Magadza:  What do you think has been the relationships between Zimbabwean writers and the governing ZANU PF and their relationship with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)?

Beaven Tapureta: I don’t know for sure. Writers, like other artists, are citizens and I think it is a personal phenomenon whether one is related or totally not related to any political party in Zimbabwe.

Moses Magadza:  What is your evaluation of current writers’ organisation in Zimbabwe at the moment?

Beaven Tapureta: The existent writers’ organisations are working so hard but there’s not enough funding going towards them. If our reading culture is to improve there’s need to support  existent organisations which are closely connected with communities. 

Zimbabwe Women Writers has done so well in promoting women voices, Zimbabwe Writers Association (ZWA) is also playing its part. We in Win-Zimbabwe are playing ours. The non-academic writers (ZANA) are moving on.  There are other writers’ organisations looming up and hopefully we all contribute to the growth of our literature.

 Moses Magadza:  What are your views on Zimbabwean literature and the land reform?

Beaven Tapureta:  Zimbabwean literature has always deified the land; you can read (Chenjerai) Hove, (Charles) Mungoshi and others whose novels are sometimes set in the rural area where the relationship between man and his land is more defined. But regarding the land reform that was done by the government I must say our literature took a nosedive on the land issue as the issue became a political conflict between Zimbabwe and Britain. The artist’s failure to objectively write about the fast-track land reform issue  at the time when it happened may have largely been caused by the burning politics surrounding it and therefore writers were possibly faced with the age-old question about the role of the artist in politics.

However, there is published literature about the land reform from different perspectives.  For instance, The Trek and Other Stories by Lawrence Hoba and before that, BWAZ published an epistolary journal called Exploding Myths about Zimbabwe’s Land Issue: The Budding Writers’ Perspectives in 2004.

It could be true that writers wouldn’t want to record history in a journalistic or propagandist way; they are probably still thinking how creatively they can write about it.  

*Winner of the SADC Media Award (2008) and nine other awards, Moses Magadza is a Zimbabwean journalist and editor. He is broadening his mind in the School of Postgraduate Studies at the University of Namibia.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Writivism 2014 Creative Writing Workshops

picture: Monica Cheru
The Writivism 2014 workshops will be held on the 8th of February 2014, simultaneously in five different African cities. The one-day workshops are planned for Abuja, Harare, Kampala, Nairobi and Cape Town. Applicants will attend workshops in the cities closest to their residence.

The Abuja workshop will be facilitated by Ukamaka Olisakwe, Kampala; Beatrice Lamwaka, Cape Town; Rachel Zadok, Nairobi; Okwiri Oduor and Harare; Monica Cheru alongside other writers. 

The workshops will include a short master class on fiction writing, a reading and writing exercise. Each participant shall be assigned a mentor at the end of the workshop, with whom they shall work on a flash fiction story to be published in newspapers and a short story for submission to the Writivism African Short Story Prize.
The workshop aims at identifying emerging African writers. 
Application Guidelines

·         Applicants must be resident on the African continent;

·         Applicants must not have published a book before; 

·         All application material must be put in the body of the email; no attachments whatsoever; 

             ·         Deadline for submission is 31st December 2014 midnight, East African time;

·         Applications must be made to;

·         Those accepted to the workshop will be notified by 20th January 2014;

·         The workshop is non-residential and participants are responsible for the transport to and from the venue; 

·         Application Email subject should read ‘Writivism 2014 Application’;

·         Include Address (including phone contact), Country of Residence, Full Legal Name, Gender, a 100-word maximum bio and a 400-700 word writing sample in the application; 

·         Participants in past Writivism workshops can apply if they have since not published a book; 

·         The writing sample must be fiction. 
Keep checking and the Writivism Facebook Group for more updates.
Contact Monica on 0773 025 623  -

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

from Emmanuel Sigauke... with love

By the time Brutus stabbed me, Mukoma had already left to fight with the Mhere boys. Earlier in the morning, at home, he had told me that he just wanted to hear my English, and to see if I had the right gestures for it, adding that he was not interested in the prize-winning ceremony that would follow the big performance, nor did he care about meeting my teachers to discuss my progress. I don’t think when he left I had finished dying because even before Mark Anthony arrived on the scene, half the audience had left the play and had gone to watch Mukoma’s fight. At first, I had no idea what was happening, until Miss Mukaro, the teacher who had directed the performance, signaled Mark Anthony, acted by Chari, to stop talking, walked to where I lay dead and whispered, “Caesar, your big brother.” I sprung up and looked where Mukoma had been standing and saw that he was gone…

**** so goes the first paragraph of my favourite story in Emmanuel Sigauke’s forthcoming collection of short stories. Right from the first line, you get hooked and the story races with you in its jaws. I like the concept of ‘a fight inside the insides of the fight’ used in that story. Emmanuel Sigauke may not admit now, but when it finally comes out, this collection of short stories tentatively called ‘Mukoma stories’ is going to be his major project to date. He has been at this script for years now and I think he is close to releasing it…. The stories revolve around a teenage boy and the escapades of his roguish elder brother (mukoma). The boy has had to become a thinker and not a boy, in order to survive because mukoma is as unpredictable as his mortar mouth. These pieces come very close to the skin, akin to the short stories of Marechera, Chinodya and Naipaul. Manu, let go! You have an extremely exciting script. (Kwachirere, 14 August 2010)

Thank you VaChirere for these encouraging words. I am now sitting back, since the manuscript is now in the hands of an editor. Hopefully they will like it. But you are right, I care so much about these stories...and it was almost hard to let go...

2.                 NoViolet Mkha BulawayoAugust 19, 2010 at 9:11 PM
I couldn't agree more with Chirere. I've seen bits and pieces of the project here and there, and I await with a restless hunger. That narrator... so alive and raw and stunning in his naivety and sometimes hard circumstances, and the writer's voice just on the right note and effortless. Either way you are drawn in, and I know we are in trouble when the project drops.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Ignatius Mabasa's 'dog inside a dog inside the insides of a dog!'

IMBWA YEMUNHU, By Ignatius Mabasa
Published by Bhabhu Books, Harare, 2013
To buy: +263772278171
first reviewed in the Shona  by Tinashe Muchuri
and the review was translated into English by Memory Chirere

In Shona traditions, you do not strike the rival once and just expect him to fall and die. Ignatius Mabasa has returned with yet his third blow in the form of beautiful tapestry of ideas. Those in search of a good story will benefit.

You do not rush to punish the child for the first or second offence but on the third, there is bound to be trouble. If you missed Mapenzi, Mabasa’s first novel or Ndafa Here, his second, you will surely not miss his third offering, Imbwa Yemunhu. This one is the ultimate Ignatius Mabasa sermon.

In Imbwa Yemunhu you come across Musavhaya or Musa in brief.  Usually Musa becomes jelly kneed when he comes across beer and beautiful women. This time he even wants to grab someone’s wife. She is called Juli. Juli’s husband is an ordinary lay about and petty trader called Richard who is not fazed by his noncommittal ways. Richard seems ready to allow his marriage to collapse. Imbwa Yemunhu revolves around Musa and Juli, occasionally touching the extended family and those characters from the various entertainment joints.

Imbwa Yemunhu, is a novel that demonstrates Mabasa’s unparalleled ability to reveal the ordinary people’s daily struggles. Musa is pressed by his own mother and elder brother to marry Hazvi when he has no any feelings for the girl. He plays up in order to silence his community which expects him to get married. Ironically, Richard does the same by marrying Juli just for the sake of it. This shows how people get into relationships in order to meet societal expectations.

The resultant regret forms the bedrock to Mabasa latest offering.

But what comes out of regret? Juli wishes she had a man like Musa instead of Richard. But she is stuck with Richard! Hazvi wishes she had not had the misfortune of knowing her father. Richard wishes he had not fallen into this marriage with Juli because it is an apparent trap. One key politician’s wife wishes her husband had employed white aides instead of black ones because then, she could have been saved from meeting Musa who has brought hell into her life. The late musician, Simon Chimbetu (who is a character in this novel), wishes he had preached about God during his sojourn on earth. Musa’s brother, Hamu wishes he had not pushed Musa into marrying Hazvi because that could have saved him the embarrassment that comes from the arranged union.

Why are all these people full of regret?

Imbwa Yemunhu is the story about failure to come face to face with the results of one’s choices. Musa is unable to quit the bottle. If you ask him if he was forced into beer in the first place, his answer is no. In fact, the first time he tasted beer, he even found it bitter and unpalatable. But he kept on trying until he became addicted. Self inflicted troubles! Here you also read about fake love. There are also the silent and undeclared divorces between partners. There is utter dog behaviour, sadness, drunkenness, prostitution and that hunger for happiness.

Mabasa does well in coming up with a story that delves into the human thought tracks. You are able to travel with Musa to places that you have been, once upon a time. There are also places and situations that you have come across in your private life. You mourn alongside Musa because his troubles are similar to yours. You are persuaded to spare a thought for girls who go into forced marriages with men they do not love. You feel for girls who are raped by their own parents or relatives. You find sympathy for women who throw themselves at men who they do not love just for the sake of getting married.

Imbwa Yemunhu exposes how family members behave when there is a rapist in their midst. Hazvi’s father rapes Hazvi’s mother. Hazvi’s mother is  threatened with death and in the end Hazvi faces the same fate and nobody in the community lifts even a finger!

At the centre of this thrilling novel is Musa’s journey in pursuit of salvation. Through Musa’s journey, you note that this novel is not your ordinary roadside sermon where an overzealous preacher pesters you into joining their particular church and not this or that church.

We are all sojourners, fighting against numerous physical and spiritual forces. For whom is it well? That is Ignatius Mabasa's fundamental question. Maybe that is why the character Old Bob cries each time he listens to the classical Rhumba track, Shauri Yako.

As soon as you pick Imbwa Yemunhu, you come face to face with the image of a sad dog on the cover. Looking closely, you notice that this is a dog with a human face! It may mean that; when a man looks after a dog in the home, the dog begins to resemble the master or the master the dog! That is in tandem with the funny dream Musa has in which he is sitting amongst countless dogs of all species in a bar at Chikwanha shopping centre. And, when he embarks on a kombi; there are only dogs of all varieties in there playing all sorts of dog games and he chants‘Humbwa nehumbwa pamusoro pehumbwa.’ (A dog inside a dog inside a dog!)

The use of dream and madness allows Mabasa a lot of creative entrance into what could be considered taboo territories. Nobody can prohibit other people from dreaming. This is what carries Musa ahead and offers him opportunity to experience what hell is like. Only in the dream does Musa hold hands romantically with the prominent politician’s wife! There are no bounds in dreams.
+ Tinashe Muchuri is a Zimbabwean author, journalist and storyteller.