Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My old man, Marquez is gone: Barbra Manyarara

OBITUARY: Gabriel Garcia Marquez (27 March 1927- 17 April 2014)
By Barbra C. Manyarara
The news of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s passing on Thursday 17 April 2014 quickly filtered down to me although I was far away from media access. Two of my undergrads sent me messages of condolences, followed by another two from family overseas. They had been purchasing most of my study material on this writer, seeing as Amazon will not deliver to Zimbabwe. Each of the messages started with, “Mama, mudhara wenyu afa.” (Mom, your old man is dead.) Another of my callers was my own hubby telling me, “Your old man is gone,” to which I retorted, “I thought you were my old man!”

To all these concerns I made the gentle reminder that Gabriel Garcia Marquez has only been promoted to a better place without pain because authors do not die, they live on through our reading of their works. All these messages recognise the special relationship I have with Gabriel Garcia Marquez for I have spent the last three years studying his representations of sexualities in several of his works.  

Literarily, I first met Gabriel Garcia Marquez when I was recovering quite unsatisfactorily, (according to my doctor), from a life-saving op and running out of satisfying reading material. In the end it was a choice between a lame copy of Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) or Voltaire (without the benefit of even schoolgirl French). My copy of One Hundred Years clothed with the usual Penguin austerity starts with page 377, so I meet Jose Arcadio at a moment when he has taken up with children in a relationship whose significance at this point, I have no idea of at all. Still I am intrigued and flip through to discover that after page 422, there is page 41. From page 41, I could now read through to the end, that is, back to page 422 again. Despite missing that poignant first sentence, “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice,” I was fascinated!

Once I was back on my feet, it was imperative that I find a complete copy and was fortunate enough to be loaned a Harper Perennial, complete with the Buendia family tree. Finally able to satisfy my curiosity and typically an academic mercenary at heart, I did a quick paper on a linguistically determined understanding of the concept of time in the novel One Hundred Years. It did not stop there. With quiet but steady fascination, I began to “eat, drink” and “sleep” Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The result: I am studying for a D. Litt et Phil on this man’s representations of sexualities in some of his novels. Studying Garcia Marquez’s works privately was just not possible. All good things become better when shared; I soon introduced the author to undergrads.

It was at the Catholic University in Zimbabwe that I sneaked Garcia Marquez’s The incredible and sad tale of innocent Erendira and her heartless grandmother (1972) into the course, African American and Caribbean literature, and got away with it. Although I would have liked Isabel Allende to keep Garcia Marquez company, geophysical specificity of the course boundaries prevented such an adventure. I have yet to design a course that can justify the inclusion of the two magical realists and those of Africa and the rest of the world, that is, where the magical exists alongside the ordinary. This tale made the students rather sad, perhaps they over-concentrated on the sadness of the story’s title, the grandmother’s cruelty and perhaps the reality of commercial sexual exploitation of children but they still enjoyed it and were talking of hunting down its film version(s).

For me, the value of Garcia Marquez’s work will always lie in his metaphoric representations of thematic concerns in modes that are accessible linguistically and stylistically. His use of metonymy balances his expression of ideas that ordinarily might be thought offensive in some way. From this point, Garcia Marquez’s works regularly grace my reading lists for literary theory or any other courses open to his inclusion whether on the basis of period, region or any other category. Thus Garcia Marquez ignited my fascination for Latin American literature and in turn, a better appreciation of literatures from nearer home and from rest of the developing world.
And for this gift I say, “Rest in eternal peace Gabriel Garcia Marquez.”
++Barbra C. Manyarara is Lecturer in 'English Language and Literature Teaching' at the University of Zimbabwe.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Chenjerai Hove reminisces about what April 18, 1980 meant for him

(pic: teacher Chenjerai Hove in the early 1980's)
I wake up on election day in April 1980. Black Zimbabweans are learning to vote for the first time. It's early in the morning. With no experience of voting, I reflect on the risk of spoiling the ballot paper. I feel like a child going to school for the first time. No one I know can give me an idea of what a ballot paper will look like.

Triangle Sugar Estate in south-eastern Zimbabwe can be a lonely place. It is just you and a few familiar faces, fellow teachers and cane cutters who are usually covered in black soot from the burning sugar cane.

When they cut cane, they don't talk. Layers of black ash cover their faces. Perhaps they feel humiliated by their appearance. It is better to meet them in their clean states, not in sugar cane cutting gear. You just wave at them and leave them to meet their daily tonnage of harvested sugar cane. The stacks of cane they cut decide their earnings. There is no monthly salary. It is hard labour.

My friends and I have asked the company for permission to campaign for the Patriotic Front. It is granted, but on one condition: if the party of "terrorists" loses, we will all lose our jobs. We take the risk, print party T-shirts with party slogans for sale, and raise enough money for our fragile campaign.

In our small cars, we go from section to section, campaigning, making house visits and small speeches. No rallies. We walk and whisper the new political wind of change into all ears.

Then the day of the rally comes, and the big men arrive: Dzingai Mutumbuka, Dzikamai Mavhaire, Nolan Makombe, Basopo-Moyo, Nelson Mawema and other previously banned politicians.

A new destiny
There are speeches, and more speeches, and promises. Then there is spontaneous dancing and singing, men and women in a frenzy at the possibility of freedom, a new destiny.

With our poverty haunting us, hiring buses is a luxury out of our reach. People walk long distances to Gibo Stadium. That is the first rally of the "terrorists", as the sugar company calls them. Thousands pack the stadium, singing and dancing. It is a joyous occasion.

It is the arrival of our dignity, freedom, a new self, a new nation, a fresh map of our destiny written in our own ink, even if that ink might be our blood.

Soon after that, on a Tuesday morning, I am at the garage to get my car fixed. The young white lady serving me has a small radio on her desk. She is slow to serve me. It is news time.

She fiddles frantically with the radio knob to get the best reception to listen to the election results before attending to me. She tells me that "Bishop" Abel Tendekayi Muzorewa is going to win. "Such a holy and gentle man," she says.

But, in a few minutes, the British election official belts out the results.

The woman breaks down, crying. I try to help her up, to console her, as she shouts: "Terrorists! Terrorists! The British have let us down! Terrorists! I am leaving! Terrorists!" As I try to calm her down, her boss enters and takes her away. He thinks I have offended her. I tell him it was the election results. He nods and makes out my receipt. I pay and get my car keys.

A few days later, on April 18, the party does not seem to have come to an end. Far off, in Harare, Bob Marley graces the independence celebrations overseen by Robert Mugabe and Prince Charles. It's an event of two Bobs and the Wailers.

My friends and I are no longer enemies of the sugar company. We are the new heroes. The threats of ­dismissal are rescinded.

We are invited to all the formerly prohibited venues for celebration. The sugar company buys all the chickens available from local butcheries. Cows and bulls are donated to the festivities. And the party goes on for what seems like eternity.

The dancing! Oh, the dancing! The eating. The music! The orderly chaos! One man, a Mr Chikanga, challenges anyone to a chicken-eating contest. He devours five large roasted birds in a few minutes.

Another man, primary school teacher Mr Chidhumo, the father of infamous convicted murderer and robber Stephen Chidhumo, dances until he breaks his leg. He ignores the pain until we call an ambulance and he is forced to abandon the party for the hospital.

He insists on taking his whisky glass with him to the hospital, but the ambulance driver will have none of it. The driver grabs the glass and drinks it himself. It is celebration time, and no one wants to be left out. All is forgiven.

April 18, the day a new national flower was born, still lingers in my imagination.

It was a day of hope and pride, the arrival of a new self, a new being, a fresh flower of our human dignity. Prime Minister Robert Mugabe's "swords-to-ploughshares" speech enkindles our hope further.

Like the Bulawayo statue, we "look to the future" with an incisive sense of aspiration in our hearts.

The birds of hope have deposited new eggs in our hearts of hope, a new destiny is possible, we say to our silent but smiling hearts.


Friday, April 11, 2014

The day Jesesi Mungoshi met Charles for the first time...

Jesesi, who featured in the Zimbabwean film Neria as the main character Neria, narrated touching episodes in the life of her family and the great writer at a Zimbabwe Writers’ Association organized writers’ gathering themed ‘Writers’ Family Reminisce’ held on Saturday, April 5, 2014 in Harare. Read the whole article by Beavan Tapureta here:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

'Falling Short' by David Mungoshi

So often
The person and the image
Do not merge.
So often
We are lured by an illusion
And we see what may not be there.
So often
We fall short of our ideals
And the expectations that others have of us
But, as they say,
Warmth is a divine attribute
While cold is fiendish
When you truly love someone
You cannot but adore them
For you they are the apotheosis of all that is lovable
And you cannot help doting upon them.
But somehow, despite all the good intentions, we fall short
And hurt the ones we should never hurt
We can be so callous and unfeeling
Until the depth of our loss hits us
In the end though
We are forgiven by the Almighty
And hopefully by humankind too
Despite our turning out to be such a bad copy
Of the original
When all is said and done
I too have been such as I detest
I too have been such a glaring paradox
And I deserve it all:
The contempt and the cold shoulder


Life, oh life,
What a ‘drag’ it is falling short!
by David Mungoshi
(A poem written in the small hours of the night
When sleep wouldn’t come)



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Invite to the Zimbabwe Writers Association (ZWA) meeting: April 5, 2014

The Zimbabwe Writers Association (ZWA) is confirming that the Harare members meeting is going to be held on Saturday April 5, 2014 from 12:00 to 4:30pm at the Centre for Applied Social Sciences (CASS), 5 Aberdeen Road, Belgravia (next to the Egyptian Embassy.)
We remind you that the topic is FAMILY REMINISCE and the presenters are going to be - son Felix Mutasa: on Nobert Mafumhe Mutasa, brother George Kahari: on Solomon Mutsvairo and sister Florence Marechera: on Dambudzo Marechera.

 This is also opportunity to discuss the state of ZWA and renewing your $10 subscriptions.
Tinashe Muchuri, ZWA Secretary
0733 843 455/