Thursday, April 18, 2019

Call for Book Chapters on Musaemura Zimunya

Call for Book Chapters on Musaemura Zimunya
Proposed Title: Reading Musaemura Zimunya: Critical Reflections
Editors: Tanaka Chidora and Sheunesu Mandizvidza (Department of English, University of Zimbabwe)
Prospective Publisher: TBA
Musaemura Bonus Zimunya is regarded as one of the leading modern Zimbabwean poets writing in both English and Shona. He is usually read in universities alongside the likes of Okigbo, Okara and Mapanje who are also regarded as pioneers in the development of modern African poetry. He broke into print gradually in the early 1970s in periodicals like Two-Tone and Chirimo. Later, he appeared more emphatically in group anthologies like Kizito Muchemwa’s Zimbabwean Poetry in English (1978) and Gwenyambira (1979). Afterwards, the floodgates opened in such a record-breaking way for Zimunya. He published the following books of poetry: And Now The Poets Speak (1981) which he edited with Mudereri Kadhani, Thought Tracks (1982), Kingfisher, Jikinya and other poems (1982), Country Dawns and City Lights (1985), Samora! (co-authored in 1987), Chakarira Chindunduma (co-authored and edited it 1985), Birthright (1989), The fate of Vultures (1989), Selected Poems of Zimunya (published in a Serbian language and in English in 1995), and Perfect Poise (1993).
But that is just one side of Zimunya. He is also a pioneer in the history of literary criticism in Zimbabwe with his ground-breaking Those Years of Drought and Hunger (1982) setting the stage for a rich tradition of literary criticism in Zimbabwe, and becoming seminal in the understanding of Zimbabwean literature, especially those texts written during ‘those years of drought and hunger’ of the colonial period.
He has also written short stories and has been anthologised in various collections including his own, Nightshift (1993).
In the literature sector of Zimbabwe, Musaemura Zimunya has played an instrumental role, administratively speaking, with Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF), Zimbabwe Writers Union (ZIWU) and Zimbabwe Writers Association (ZIWA). Thus, what we are looking at here is a literary career that spans decades.
Such a career means that Zimunya’s creative, critical and administrative intervention in Zimbabwean literature cannot go unnoticed. Although Musaemura Zimunya has been featured in many critical works like Veit-Wild’s Patterns of Poetry (1988) and Teachers, Preachers and Non-believers (1992) and many journal articles, there is an absence of a full-volume critical work dedicated to Musaemura Zimunya like what we have in Charles Mungoshi: A Critical Reader (edited by Memory Chirere and Maurice Vambe, 2006)) and Sign and Taboo (a critical volume on Yvone Vera edited by Robert Muponde and Mandi Taruvinga, 1992). This calls for such a gap to be filled, which is where this call for book chapters comes in.
What we are inviting here are abstracts for critical writings on Zimunya’s creative works, meta-critical writings on his critical approaches to Zimbabwean Literature and critical reflections. This means the project is an attempt to have a cross-cutting approach to Zimunya which involves scholarly writings from academics who have interacted with Zimunya’s work (both creative and critical) and reflective pieces and testimonies from those who have interacted with Zimunya himself as fellow artists and readers. Such reflective pieces can include interviews and essays. Because the approach is cross-cutting, we have decided to have a laissez-faire approach to themes. The idea is that good abstracts that capture the essence of ‘Reading Musaemura Zimunya’ in any form, including a collection of his photographs that capture his art and his life, will be published! The photographs will be published in a separate section of this book and should be history making photographs. We happen to know that besides being a poet, he is a guitarist, farmer, fisherman and an avid follower of Zimbabwe’s Dynamos Football Club and England’s Arsenal!) Our aim is to give readers, students and teachers of Zimunya’s writings the world over a comprehensive critical and reflective volume that captures the diversity of approaches to Zimunya’s own life, history, poetry, short stories and critical works.
A 250-word abstract/proposal and a brief biographical note are to be sent to Tanaka Chidora (; by the 30th of August 2019. The deadline for submission of the article, of about 6 000 - 8000 words, is 28 February 2020

Friday, April 12, 2019

Stanley Mushava: Writing is a state of unrest...

Below, Phillip Chidavaenzi (PC) interviews award-winning author and journalist Stanley Mushava (SM) about Mushava’s creative methods and about his forthcoming poetry collection called Rhyme and Resistance. His first poetry collection, Survivors Café won The Outstanding Fiction NAMA award in 2018.
PC: How does you creative process work?
SM: I start with a feeling. Let's say love, sadness or settling scores with the system. Once I am aware of the feeling I want in ink, I become restless until it's captured. I am picturing Genesis 1:2. All the elements are in place but out of alignment and the Spirit of God is sweeping over the chaos, gathering beauty and order out the mess. That chaos, that's the cultural energy spread across my head which I must channel into a creation.
PC: So, this pushes you into a creative mode?
SM: Writing becomes a state of unrest until I have brought out this allusion, that double entendre, this rhyme, that metaphor to capture the feeling. Only then can my mind enter its Sabbath. These days, I take a meditative walk. By the time I sit down, I am no longer writing but just typing the poem or essay.
PC: You blend music and literature a lot. Where is the connection?
SM: Literature is state of mind; music is soundtrack of life. When I was in university, this brother at the house where I was renting would take a speaker with him into the garden and blast away as he worked all day in the sun. I wanted to know why he was such a loud neighbour and he answered that music was his way of taking his mind off unfulfilled dreams.
PC: You were tempted to try that out?
SM: Well, I had mine all figured out and I would be happy to be left out of his theory. Till I had to rummage through Gramma Records and YouTube for jit and sungura to help me cope with underemployment and alienation three years later.
PC: So that's how music ended up a part of your literary staple?
SM: My attachment to music could be habit-forming already, though I am still a good neighbour. When you look at my poetry, alienation is a sprawling theme and music is a sort of anti-depressant and also the underdog's reply to the system's post-truth stories.
PC: One also sees this thread in your latest publication...
SM: My new book, Rhyme and Resistance, is densely allusive to Zimbabwean music, Tembo, Mapfumo, Lannas, Skuza, Majaivana, Zakaria, Chimbetu, Zhakata, basically most genres from 1970s Chimurenga to 2019 Zimdancehall. That's because they are dope and I am celebrating them but this right here is a pun. The great Zimbabwean songwriters have much to say that connects with the alienated millennial condition. We need the music so that we don't feel the weight of the stones on our backs. More importantly, we need the music as we roll back the stones to the slavemasters.
PC: How do the two art forms relate in your works?
SM: I am into concept poems that I solidify by soaking up all the cultural materials available to me. When I wrote 'Oliver Mtukudzi', for example, I was waiting for my cousin in a beer garden, and the bartender was playing classic after classic by the legend as he had just died. So the scene spreads out in my head. Tuku isn't born yet. He is in Havilah, a heavenly city of the unborn, waiting to choose a country to get born in, and Masuku, Mapfumo, Madzikatire, Chimombe and Tembo are weaving in and out of the story as he decides. In a moment, I have typed out the story on my phone but it's actually nothing new. It's my pastiche of Tuku music, Mr. Nobody, the fantasy movie, Zimbabwean history and the Bible.
PC: Interesting...
SM: Zimbabwean music is important to my literature because I am looking for something I got that the rest of the world doesn't. Something to flaunt as my unique cultural ID. The Bible, critical theory, the English language, the Olympian Twelve, the Romantics, the internet, global entertainment, that's priceless and you can put a finger on my poem and trace samples back to all that...
PC: And you believe that gives you a unique cutting edge?
SM: Well, that wouldn't make my work different from say a post-modernist, Marxist or Christian writing in Europe or America. I have to foreground my own heritage which is why Sungura and Chimurenga are in your face when I am in my element. Also the reason why I have started reading African, but mostly Zimbabwean, histories, romances and oratures lately. With sungura, it's really effortless. I hardly got any memories outside sungura, from infancy to young love and broke days.
PC: From what you are saying, one can rightly say music has played an essential role in your development as a writer?
SM: I owe much of my development as a writer to music – my idea of when a line sounds just right, breaking down sizeable ideas into pop consumables, speaking to the powerful on behalf of the poor. All that my literature represents today.
PC: In your latest, 87-page collection of 37 poems, Rhyme and Resistance, you have several pieces that speak to Zimbabwe’s so-called “new dispensation”. Can the artist be politically neutral?
SM: That's the format I put out to protest State brutality during the events of January. I have since expanded and newly released the book. I am a devotee of politics but not of politicians. I can't see why an artist has to be politically neutral. I am biased towards the poor against the rich, towards the weak against the strong, towards the outnumbered against the privileged. In a world where the institutions that are supposed to be neutral are bloated with the excesses of power, I can't afford the luxury of being neutral, especially since I am poor myself. If I make heaven, though, this will be a different interview. I am sure there will be no Uncle Sam, New Dispensation, Silicon Valley, employers, puppetmasters, eunuchs, automatons, snitches, devil-kissers and uniformed murderers in heaven. So there will be no one to be biased against.
PC: You trace your passion for creative writing to primary school. What were your beginnings like? What and who were the influences?
SM: In primary school, I am the mission-bred introvert who would rather watch TV, make cuttings from the sports pages, read a novel or hire a movie than go out to play. I am terrible at chikweshe so I am mostly indoors. I like to micromanage content, buy notebooks with money for sweets and try books that I am not supposed to read yet. So I start soaking up culture, getting 'secondary' spellings right and thinking in English much earlier than my peers. In the house, there is a sizeable collection of novels and plays.
PC: What and who were the influences?
SM: I read Jekanyika, Sungai Mbabvu and Nhetembo in Grade 2 and never stop from there. Chine Manenji Hachifambisi, Kuridza Ngoma neDemo, Pfumoreropa, Rovambira, Tambaoga, Rurimi Inyoka, Ndinofa Ndaedza, the plays of Willie Chigidi and my uncle Janfeck Chekure's Rudo NdiMashingise are some of my earliest exposures so you can say I get my orientation mostly from crime fiction and old-world novels. And then the children's books, the folktales, the music, the Holy Childhood books from the Catholic Church, the crazy appetite for sports pages, the recitation of Ignatius Mabasa on closing day, the reverence for Renias Mashiri as I am starting to get serious with poetry. Whenever my father gets to drink a little, he likes to tell melancholic stories about how he overcame impossible poverty to become the first teacher in the family, how he got fined by the headman for flashing him with the village's first zinc roof. My mother is the neighbouring headman's daughter who got to witness stonings of puruvheyas during Second Chimurenga pungwes hosted by my grandfather and the persecution of her parents by Rhodesian soldiers.
PC: I can see the creative leanings began so early...
SM: Yes, and then it's still a thing for the sisters on the nurse-aide block to exchange Pacesetters and Shona novels and most get passed down to me. So I grow up overwhelmed by stories. From there my sister starts brings her Shona and Literature in English setbooks to holidays. In Grade 7 I start writing uncommissioned compositions, one rearranged off her copies of I Will Marry When I Want and Waiting for the Rain, one off Alexander Kanengoni's short story, 'The Loneliness of the No. 11 Player', and Zimbabwean refixes of newly imperial Nollywood. My composition book is taken to high school so that I am always meeting someone in disbelief of my age. From 2003 to date, I am always in anthology mode.
PC: Some readers feel sometimes your writing is not so easy to penetrate. Are you a "Marecheraen", so to speak?
SM: You know I could also write an essay called 'Me and Dambudzo', no homo. That's a defining influence on my work and, as with a number of fellow writers, I guess, my high school nickname. In 2004, my first year in high school, I am restless till I get my hands on a magazine I haven't read so that my father is always finding his things upside down. My biggest find is a prose poem extracted from The Black Insider by Moto, and the 'Dambudzo Marechera Was Bad' and 'Dambudzo Marechera Was Mad' columns by Chigango Musandireve (David Mungoshi) and Leonard Murwisi (I hope I remember the name right). That extract is photographically framed in my head and, along with Ikem's prose poem in Anthills of the Savannah, forms my bible of esoteric writing. It doesn't help that I soon meet more Marechera, Hove, Joyce, Eliot, poetry-writing Soyinka and other writers who tend to leave the reader out of their calculations at the Dewure High library. I love the cultural and philosophical intelligence in Marechera's work. He is the first writer from whom I branch out to other writers. In that regard, you could say I am 'Marecheran.'
PC: I love the way you use rhyme in your poetry, and still put across your theme strongly. Does this happen automatically or it’s something you have trained yourself to do?
SM: I started using rhyme in Form 3 as I was reading the Romantic and the Metaphysical poets. I was hearing that it's an English form that African writers had outgrown but all I cared for was the beauty and cadence it gave my poetry. My earliest surviving poems are Christian poems from A Level where I was, I think, comfortably using different rhyme schemes. I only resumed using rhyme in 2017 when I stumbled into the DAMN. album and became a rap initiate. I have tried originally patterning my own rhyme schemes, though I can't be too sure it's not something out there already.
PC: You have a publication titled Survivors Café? Why that title? What was the inspiration?
SM: My response to that keeps changing so I am probably not sure. It could be that I was surviving hard times when I wrote the book or maybe that just sounded nice to me. My most recent claim was that Survivors Café is a ghetto public sphere, which gels well with the Chitungwiza poems in the book and the vision behind my Underclass Books and Films label. Whichever way, I feel there is still something to retrieve from the title. Readers will probably do a better job.
PC: Is there a chance that we will see a novel from you, beyond the poetry and other short pieces?
SM: I try to write every now and then. Chapter 1 becomes a prose poem; Chapter 2 comes out weaker; Chapter 3 never happens. Since 2016, though, I have been sitting on a story outline that I hope to turn into a novel this year.
PC: You had a project planned with the comeback kid of local music, Michael Lannas. What became of it?
SM: We are working on something.
PC: Do you suppose projects of such kind, where writers and musicians come together to produce something, are feasible?
SM: Certainly. Some of the world's most influential literature is performance in transcript. Homer, Shakespeare, Tagore, Dylan... A case has been made about Illmatic and good kid m.A.A.d city being great American novels. When I listen to Lannas, Leonard Zhakata or Biggie Tembo, those are great Zimbabwean poets who happen to sing. There could just as easily write poems; and poets could just as easily write songs.
PC: Which artistes or writers have inspired you the most, and in what ways?
SM: That would be mostly writers and musicians. I can easily think of Alain Mabanckou for the sardonic tone in my political poems, Guy Debord for disaffection with the unreality of modern life, Leonard Zhakata for sustained opposition to the control system, Tocky Vibes as an example of hard work and original artistic vision, Bertolt Brecht for trenchant critiques of power that come across deceptively mythic. I can't forget my spiritual father, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, how he navigates conviction in a sea of complicated information. I guess it's the same reason why I got to be a K Dot stan.
PC: You describe your journalism as cultural. What does that mean?
SM: I decode culture and the transactions of power within it. My latest NewsDay piece, for example, marshals Marxism to analyse Zimbabwean love songs.
PC: What’s your take on the future of writing in Zimbabwe?
SM: The future is dope. Younger writers are naturally coming from a wider cultural base and have a lot to say about our condition. It's a pity our stagnant book industry and unrewarding economy suffocate new talent but we are pressing on. It's game on in the survivors café.
PC: Thank you, Stan. This has really been wonderful! All the best in your future artistic endeavours.
SM: Blessings.
© Phillip Chidavaenzi (2019)

Wednesday, March 27, 2019


The dates for the Zimbabwe International Book Fair have been set for 29 July - 2 August 2019. The Indaba Conference will therefore take place on 29 and 30 July 2019.  The theme of the 2019 Indaba Conference is “Footprints of the Book: Milestones & Opportunities”.   The many previous themes of the Indaba looked at the character and the future of the book in its various forms and looked too at important issues that affect the writing, publishing and sale of books like piracy, reading culture, pricing and the digital character of the book of today, etc. These, however, tended largely to bemoan the goings on in the book sector in Zimbabwe and Africa since 1980. We tended to be gloomy. It is the Association’s submission that a theme such as Footprints of the Book: Milestones and Opportunities, would give ZIBF an opportunity to look back and identify what stakeholders think are the milestones achieved so far, celebrate them as well as point out clearly how and where each milestone was achieved and what opportunities are should be exploited to bring back the renaissance. A case in point is to go back and see what caused the boom of the 1980’s (which saw the rise of Dambudzo Marechera, Charles and David Mungoshi, Barbara Nkala, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Yvonne Vera, Virginia Phiri, Chenjerai Hove, Musaemura Zimunya, Shimmer Chinodya etc) and find what facilitated it and how it could be triggered again.
Presenters are encouraged to submit their own innovative topics and abstracts that speak to the theme, “Footprints of the Book: Milestones & Opportunities”. The following sub-themes are meant to guide possible research areas although they may be used as research topics:
1)      Mutation and the Evolution of the Book
Ø  ICT and the Virtual Library – Moving into the Future
Ø  From Print to e-Books
2)      Forwards and Backwards: Reminiscing the Book
Ø  Indigenous Knowledge and Innovation – The Future of Africa
Ø  Triggering the  Renaissance of the writing and publishing of books in Zimbabwe, the Region and in Africa
Ø  Evaluating the economic contributions and impact of the bookselling sector
3)      Motivating Content Generation in the Digital Age
Ø  Pros and cons of e-publishing
Ø  Social media and e-publishing
4)      Creating Synergies in the Book Industry
Ø  The Nexus Between Books and People
Ø  Evaluating the Book Industry’s focus on Climate , Science, Medicine, Environment etc
5)      The Political Economy of the Book in Africa
Ø  Role of Libraries in the Transformation of African Societies
Ø  The Role of the Book in Achieving the SDGs, Women and Children’s issues
Ø  Intellectual Property, Copyright and Piracy Issues
We therefore urge and encourage contributors to the 2019 Indaba to come up with ideas that will benefit all participants in the book value chain.  
Abstracts of not more than 500 words and word-processed in Times New Roman script with 1.15 line spacing should be submitted by 15 April 2019 by email to with a copy to The abstracts will be reviewed by experts and authors of selected abstracts will be notified by 30 April 2019.  Presenters should submit the full papers and PowerPoint presentations of the full paper by 31 May 2019. Power-point presentations ARE REQUIRED and MUST summarise the full paper in bullet form and SHOULD ENABLE presenters to speak to the paper within the allotted time.  However, those that MUST READ the paper SHOULD summarise it and present within the allotted time.
Thank you
Mr Jasper Maenzanise
Interim Chair, Executive Board, Zimbabwe International Book Fair Association

Monday, March 4, 2019

Charles through the eyes of David Mungoshi

When I accepted the invitation to stand in for Charles Mungoshi, it was with the confidence of knowing that he would be glad to know that I had done so, but understandably, and in accordance with social etiquette, I shall, of course, have to report back to him what I have done in his absence and on his behalf. That is the only way to avoid an elder brother’s wrath! Fortunately, there is no real trepidation associated with this obligation. We have always got along just fine.
I am told that when I was a tiny little baby on my mother’s lap, Charles, then known as Lovemore, and a perspicacious little brat of some two years of age or so, insisted, for some strange reason, that I was a chicken that he could play with. It did not matter that I had no feathers on me! It seems to me now, with hindsight, that even in those tender formative years, Charles, or shall I say Lovemore, was already exhibiting signs of being a lateral thinker, seeing things somewhat differently from others. Charles, according to my mother, stubbornly refused to shift form his contention that ‘Dovoot’ (David) was a baby chicken. No effort to convince him otherwise made the slightest impression on him. Nascent creativity?
After attending lower primary school at All Saints Wrenningham in what was then known as the Tribal Trust Lands (TTL) of Manyene, somewhere on the outskirts of the ‘Republic of Enkeldoorn’ [present day Chivhu], Charles did his upper primary school at Daramombe Mission where he remained for the next three years. Daramombe stands in the brooding shadow of the mystic Daramombe Mountain, a place where people had to be on their best behaviour or risk punishment from the spirits of the land. Such punishment could take the form of confused wandering on the slopes of the mountain, for days on end. The mountain also served a utilitarian purpose in that herdsmen could stand on its summit and scour the surrounding countryside for lost cattle. In later years when I became a student teacher at the College of Christ the King, Daramombe, I could not help but wonder about the import of what to me sounded like the gruff and somewhat apocalyptic but evocative bark of the great baboon that ruled the troops on the timeless Daramombe Mountain. Later, the renowned enthnomuscilogist Dumi Maraire was to compose a choral eulogy with a lilting melody and epigrammatic lyrics that left vivid silhouettes of the russet and gold of early summer and the youthful freshness of village beauties etched enticingly upon one’s mind.
January 1963 saw Charles begin secondary school at St Augustine’s Mission in Penhalonga. St Augustine’s, popularly known as kwaTsambe or Santaga, was a prestigious Anglican Secodary School for African Children. To date, St Augustine’s has remained so highly revered as to be the motivation for a joke about how the people of Manicaland do not consider that someone has had a proper  education unless they have the good fortune to have been to St Augustine’s.
In 1964 when Charles was in Form 2 at St Augustine’s, I enrolled into Form 1 at what was then the only secondary school for black children in the city of Bulawayo, the Bulawayo African Secondary School (BASS). This school was known in township lingo as ‘eHigh School’. Predictably, those of us who had the good fortune to be ‘high-scholars’ could not help but walk around with a conscious little swagger. We probably had more than our fair share of attention. We were probably quite conspicuous in our blue ties and black blazers. The badge had the caption ‘vela mfundo,’ a Ndebele exhortation to aspire for a acquisition of knowledge and education.
At about this time, Charles and I began what was to become a veritable flow of correspondence between us, talking about everything and anything: music, girls, literature and, yes you guessed it, ‘writing.’
It was while at St Augustine’s that Charles discovered his creative urge and began to nurture the rich talent that we celebrate today. As far back as the Daramombe years, Charles had begun to furnish me with vivid descriptions of his schoolmates. I remember a boy with a unique and poetic name. At the time I was blissfully unaware of the semantic ambivalence of the boy’s name. The sexual connotations in the now late Zvokwidza Chirume’s name only occurred to me much later, after I had become a little more schooled in the ways of the world and its mosaic of discourse universes.    
In some of his letters, Charles described people like Mr. Darling, the science master, whom he appeared to be quite fond of and Father Pierce, his headmaster and teacher of English. Charles’s letters were packed with all sorts of ditties.
Often, when in Manyene during the school holidays, Charles narrated other anecdotes that made me wish I could join him at the illustrious St Augustine’s school. One such anecdote was about Mr. Darling, the science teacher, remarking enigmatically to some naughty boy, ‘Boy, if you wanna play the kid, I’m gonna play the goat,’ or words to that effect.
Borrowed pedantic phrases like ‘You are intoxicated by the exuberance of your verbosity’ became part of our verbal arsenal and our shared jokes. We were both enthralled by the sound of words and our letters to each other became more and more artistic and articulate as the days went by. Regrettably, none of these ‘masterpieces’ survived. I suppose we could not have known then that we might in future want to recall their content or that other people might wish to have access to them.
It was while still at St Augustine’s that Charles began to develop a liking for theatre. He was often to be seen participating in end-of–year school plays. Of note was his role as the rascally but immensely likable Mr. Toad of Toad Hall. Not surprisingly, as we now know, he was later to write plays and film scrips as well as take part in T. V dramas.
During most school holidays, Charles and I spent much of our time in Manyene, herding cattle, splashing about in the waters of the Suka River or fishing with primitive fishing lines and hooks bought at the nearby Chambara Township or some other such shop. Sometimes we just wandered around the wetlands picking and eating the fleshy and juicy hute, a wild fruit that came in all sizes, the biggest being about thumb-size. They also came in a variety of colours, from a light purplish colour to a sort of deep navy blue or black. If you squeezed or crushed the leaves of the mukute, they emitted a pleasant and rather exotic smell and if you chewed them, your breath would smell fresh. The hute juice left the tongue a little dyed and most children loved sticking out their tongues to show the colouring.
At times we indulged our fancies and went exploring the Manyene hills, where an old man accredited with rain-making powers lived. We were so attracted to these ancient hills that we never tired of going there. What with the mountain goats and the underground caves said to have been places of refuge for the locals whenever war broke out in the past. I must admit though that I personally never actually saw any mountain goats although sightings of their droppings often had us in a sort of frenzy, a frenzy based on the belief that we were getting warm so to speak.
The ageless but paradoxically surrealistic ‘bushman’ paintings imbued us with a strange sense of timelessness. In the right season we ate the sweet but cloying wild fruit called tsvoritsvoto, a fruit that grows on a tree with shiny hairy dark green leaves and when ripe, the bright yellow of the tsvoritsvoto is easily visible from a distance. If you eat too much tsvoritsvoto, the inside of your mouth would feel strangely acidic and your teeth would be on edge. But that is part of the fun!
As you might very well imagine, we constantly entertained ourselves with stories, things we had seen, heard or read. You could say that we were real chatterboxes. We talked incessantly, but sometimes much of our talk amounted to no more than just sweet nothing. We were, so to speak, just another pair of country boys enjoying the heat of life. Sometimes we sat on some flat rock (ruware] to weave whips form the fibre of the munhondo tree. We used the whips to drive and control the cattle of just for the fun of cracking them. How Charles could crack that whip, make it sing, almost! You could hear its lyrical echo across the forest. But try as I did, I never could crack the whip quite the way that he did, much to my disappointment. Sometimes we strengthened the whips with the entwined fibre [mukosi] of the mutsamvi tree. The bit made of mutsamvi fibre, the mukosi, would be at the tail-end of the whip. Those were days of rural innocence and children confidences.
Sometime around 1965-6, I met a girl called Rindai. She was a beautiful girl with an unusual name particularly when the name is viewed in the context of what was prevalent at the time-a time when it was fashionable to have so-called Christian names, names which, invariably, tended to be European or Biblical. I suppose that Charles must have been as enamoured of the name as I was of the girl, because many years later, he used it in his popular Shona novel Ndiko Kupindana Kwamazuva which has since been translated into French directly from Shona by the French Linguist and writer, Mishel Lafon. Ndiko Kupindana Kwamazuva is the gender-sensitive, completely original and fictitious story of Rindai, a sensitive woman through whom Charles executes a kind of psychoanalysis of his characters. In comparing and contrasting Rindai and Magi, Rex Mbare observes:
Magi was reminiscent of a benefactor who floods you all at once with wonderful gifts. Your happiness is, not unexpectedly, quite profound yet so fleeting. By contrast, Rindai revealed the depths of her bounty in small but delectable doses, surprising you in stages until you begin to wonder whether you can survive the onslaught. The sweetness just seems to go on and on...
In the 1950s through to the later 1960s and about the early 1970s, PARADE Magazine housed in Salaisbury (Harare) at Inez Terrace, published original short stories from aspiring authors each month. In those days, PARADE was more or less at par with  South Africa’s DRUM Magazine in terms of content and patronage. Both magazines contributed immensely to the development of literature in the region. Later of course, Zimbabwean magazines like MAHOGANY and HORIZON, both now defunct and one or two others also played a significant role in the realm of creative writing. People like Leon Lambiris and Tinos Guvi, of PARADE, deserve a pat on the back for having encouraged and nurtured some of what in time became Zimbabwe’s foremost writers.
I first become aware of the magic and the power of good poetry through PARADE  when I read Tafirenyika Moyona’s poem A God’s Error whose diction and imagery were riveting, poignant and evocative. In the poem, Moyana decries the paradox of dark beauties with a surfeit of ravishing beauty juxtaposed with abject ignorance. Images evoked by the ‘thin wasp waist’ and ‘screaming wild chest,’ lingered on my mind for years.
Lest you start wondering where all this is leading, let me tell you that the first ever story that Charles had published was called ‘Cain’s Medal’ and was published by PARADE  sometime in 1966, perhaps earlier, while Charles was still at St Augustine’s. Cain’s Medal was a murder story, written in the fashion of thrillers. The biblical allusion created some mystery in the story, making the reader keen to find out its relevance. PARADE later published many other stories from Charles. In the PARADE stories he used the pen name ‘Carl Manhize’. My hope is that the PARADE stories can be published one day so that we can have a fuller view of Charles Mungoshi’s writing career.
PARADE also published my one short story, ‘But Not Very Complimentary,’ in 1967.  Never having been published before, I was very excited indeed. All my friends soon knew who ‘Sunny Mupozho’ was. My PARADE story was about petty crime and romance aboard an overnight train. In those days of thrill-seeking, we were trying to come up with exciting little anecdotes in the fashion of western thrillers.
But willy-nilly, our literary journeys had begun!
I wish to make the instructive observation that Charles is a voracious reader and has always been. He has probably read most classics and more besides. Thinking about Charles the avid reader makes me feel that any writer who does not read has no business writing. This is as true of him today as it was yesterday.
In the early days, he and I and many other boys of the time read a lot of literature cowboy stories, romances, detective stories as well as serious literature. It was also the fashion to follow the exploits of the rock stars of the day: Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, Little Richard and others. Film too had its attractions. I remember Charles rhapsodizing about Tommy Steele’s The Duke Wore Jeans.
Our favourite detective story-writer at the time was Peter Cheyney. He created many colourful characters including Mr. Lemuel G.H. Caution, otherwise known as Lemmy Caurion, a tough, rough- and – tumble detective. We both found Cheney’s dark series comprising Dark Hero, Dark Interlude and Dark Bahamas, Dark Wanton and Dark Duet quite appealing. We read them again and again over the years.
In Dark Bahamas a black sailor on a fishing boat is always either whistling or singing a song whose naughty lyrics go:
Nut-brown baby
Yo got rovin’ eyes
Yo don’t day nuttin
Wi’ dem honey lips
But yo sure say plenty
When you swing dem hips
An’ I feed de knife in me breeches.
We still find much joy and camaraderie in these words!
However, and more importantly, I believe that it was in Peter Cheyney’s books that Charles and I first encountered the technique that Charles later perfected in Ndiko Kupindana Kwamazuva, a technique that made it possible for the reader to experience vicariously but vividly nevertheless, the intensity and immediacy of introspection in the lives of the characters.
Each chapter in Ndiko Kupindana Kwemazuva is named after a character. The story is then narrated form that character’s angle of vision. The final chapter ties up all the threads and makes the plot more artistically coherent and effective. Ndiko Kupindana Kwamazuva epitomizes the use of internal monologue, which Charles employs in a sort of running commentary comprised of the tension between reality and appearance. While the characters say one thing aloud, what they say silently is quite another! This technique reaches fruition in his enigmatically entitled novel, Kunyarara Hakusi Kutaura? (You also Speak When You Are Silent]. We see the likes of Chenjerai Hove in his own novel, Bones having recourse to this same technique.
So much has happened over the years that Charles may now only vaguely recall that his first attempt at writing a novel in Shona was when he wrote the manuscript entitled Handina Mwana Anozochema  (No Child to Tie Me Down) which never saw the light of day.
All his manuscripts in those days were written in long hand using the fountain pen, an all-time favourite of his. At the 2003 ZIBF Writers Workshop, Charles read an extract from a story written in ink using a fountain pen in long hand in an old coverless exercise book. If you want to put a smile on his face, give him a fountain pen and a bottle of ink on his next birthday, sometime in December.
Perhaps the greatness of Charles Mungoshi’s writing lies in its deceptive simplicity, its incisive vision and its witty dialogue. The maxim ‘to write is to read’ applies aptly to Charles. He is probably one of the best-read authors anywhere in the world. He reads, reads and reads. Then writes, writes and writes. In the course of all this, Charles has developed his innovatively distinctive style, a style that depicts the world in a  uniquely memorable way. My view is that his reading is at once his motivation and his tutor.
+Edited version of a speech delivered by David Mungoshi at ALLIANCE FRANCAISE at the launch of Michel Lafon’s French translation of Charles Mungoshi’s Ndiko Kupindana KwaMazuva, Harare, Friday, 17 September, 2003. The speech eventually got published in a book, Charles Mungoshi: A Critical Reader, pp273-78, 2006.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Charles Mungoshi dies

                                (Mungoshi 70th birthday pic by D. Maruziva)
It is sad that the world renowned Zimbabwean writer, Charles Mungoshi, is no more. He died in the early hours of the day today, 16 February 2019 at a hospital in Harare. Although he had been unwell for the past few years, there was hope that he would make it back to his writing desk. It was not to be.

At his 70th birthday on the 2nd December 2017, Mungoshi listened intently as we spoke about the day to day challenges and quipped: Kana rwizi rwakazara musaruedze negumbo. Siyai rwakadaro.  Rwuchaserera. (If a river is in flood, don’t dare cross. Wait until it subsides.)  That was quite a mouthful and very characteristic of him too to produce lines with subterranean meanings. In 2006 he wrote a short note: Put the lead on the handle but don’t let the handle rot in your hand.

Charles Mungoshi handled a broad range of literary genres and styles in a way that is very rarely surpassed by many in the so called Third World today. His literary profile is compact.  He was a novelist, poet, short-story writer, playwright, film scriptwriter, actor, editor, translator, and consultant.

Mungoshi wrote convincingly and continuously in both Shona and English where many of his compatriots tended to write in English or Shona or Ndebele only. In 1975 alone, for instance, Mungoshi published two books: Waiting for the Rain (a novel in English) and Ndiko Kupindana Kwemazuva (a novel in Shona). These two works exude separate amazing qualities that one wonders how they could have been written “back to back.”

That ambidexterity was no fluke because later, in 1980, Mungoshi repeated a similar feat, publishing Inongova Njakenjake (a play in Shona) and Some Kinds of Wounds (a short-story collection in English.)  It is as if Mungoshi writes simultaneously with two pens - one in the left hand and the other- in the right hand!

In fact and as shown below, between 1970 and 2000, a period of 30 years, Mungoshi made an average of one major publication in every one and half years and won a prize of sorts for each of them.

  1.  Makunun'unu Maodzamoyo (Brooding Breeds Despair) (1970)
  2. Coming of the Dry Season (1972
  3. Ndiko Kupindana Kwemazuva (How Time Passes) (1975)
  4. Waiting For the Rain (1975)
  5. Inongova Njakenjake (1980)
  6. Some Kind of Wounds (1980)
  7. The Milkmen Doesn't Only Deliver Milk (anthology) (1981)
  8. Kunyarara Hakusi Kutaura? (1985) (Silence is Golden?)
  9. The Setting Sun and The Rolling World (1987)
  10. Stories From A Shona Childhood (1989)
  11. One Day Long Ago (1991)
  12. Abide with me (1992)
  13. The Axe (1995)
  14. Gwatakwata (1995)
  15. Children’s Video Picture Book ((1998)
  16. Walking Still (1997)
  17. Writing Still (2004) an anthology in English with Mungoshi's poems
  18. Branching Streams Flow in the Dark (2013)

  1. International PEN Awards (1975 twice for both Shona & English and 1981)
  2. Noma Honorable Awards For Publishing in Africa (1980, 1984, 1990 and 1992)
  3. Commonwealth Writer's Prize for Best Book in Africa for The Setting Sun and The Rolling World (1988)
  4. Honorary Fellow in Writing Award in the Creative Activities of the International Writing Program by The University of Iowa (1991)
  5. USIA (United States Information Agency) Award for participating in the International Visitor Program (1991)
  6. The Setting Sun and The Rolling World was a New York Time notable book of the year (1989)
  7. Order of Merit Certificate Award by Zimbabwe Writers Union for winning in 1984 & 1992 the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa (1997)
  8. Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best Book in Africa for Walking Still (1998)
  9. Charles Mungoshi as 1998 winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize, he was to be received in audience by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. That year again the Queen graciously agreed to meet the winner at Buckingham (Tuesday 12 May 1998)
  10. Received 7 awards at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair's 75 Best Books in Zimbabwe for 7 of his books (2004)[5]

 11.  National Arts Merit Award (NAMA) Silver Jubilee Award (2006)


  1. One of Charles Mungoshi's poems has been curetted by the William & Melinda Gates Foundation as a  permanent display as public art at their new headquarters in Seattle, Washington, in the U.S. 2011

13. Certificate of Honor Award of the 30th anniversary of Zimbabwe International Book Fair for dedicated service (2013).

 14. National Arts Merit Award 2014.

Maybe the greatest strength of Mungoshi literature is the life-like feel he has for people.  He has sympathy for the under-dog, without over-writing. His characters belong to believable circumstances, place and time and are endearing. He says about writing parts of Waiting for the Rain: “I was living in it (the story didn’t happen in the past. It is a drum. It is happening, it is playing now.”
Mungoshi’s works have been translated to numerous non-European languages; Waiting for the Rain from English: to Hungarian (1978), to Norwegian (1980) and to Russian (1983) second, Coming of the Dry Season from English: to Russian (1985) Third, The Setting Sun and the Rolling World, from English: to Japanese (1995) Stories from a Shona Childhood from English: to Swiss (1996), to German (1988), Walking Still from English: to Swiss (2006).
Born to a rural farming community in Chivhu on 2 December 1947, Mungoshi has very humble origins and has remained down to earth despite his international stature. Until the time he fell ill recently, he had travelled across Zimbabwe, mentoring young and new writers, sometimes for no fee. Records at the Budding Writers Association of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Women Writers association can bear testimony. He has mentored  or directly influenced  younger writers, among them Ignatius Mabasa, Ruzvidzo Mupfudza, Albert Nyathi, Joice Mutiti, Lawrence Hoba, Chiedza Musengezi, Thabisani Ndlovu, myself and others.  His style of writing has become a brand.  In honor of his amazing ambidexterity and depth, the University of Zimbabwe – conferred an honorary doctorate degree (Doctor of Letters-DLitt) on him on Friday 14 November 2003. 
The essence of Mungoshi literature is about grappling with the issues of home, identity and belonging in the changing times. He is constantly asking key questions: Do we truly belong to this land? Is it possible to belong here and elsewhere? What must we change and what exactly must continue and why? Is there any space for the individual in our quest for collective glory? Are we right? Are we wrong? In this quest Mungoshi pens “The Accident” a short story from Coming of the Dry Season which seems to question and challenge the stance of a people living under minority rules – the book landed him in trouble and is banned in Rhodesia only to re-appear later and has been studied in schools ever since. Mungoshi’s writings have also tended to evoke that strong sense of Zimbabweaness. We shall sorely miss him. NB: for all funeral arrangements, talk to family spokesperson Tendai Madondo at +263 783837098
+By Memory Chirere, Harare