The ZIMBABWE Connection: Our Stories Our Future
29 January 2018
Firstly I would like to begin with a brief history of Charles Mungoshi, and then I will proceed with other authors who have made a mark in the minds of readers. This project is intended to connect the SADC region through story-telling, reading, promotion of literature and literacy in one of the most resource rich regions in the world. The resources are both human and material/mineral as well as environmental. This idea popped into my mind as I was doing research on Dambudzo Marechera, and this led to my reading up on some of his contemporaries. The work of Memory Chirere has been invaluable in this pursuit. The other ambition is the completion of my own book of essays, poems and stories which I call The House of Plenty.
The vision I have is not only to appreciate and promote the work of the Afrikan writers, but to also find other avenues wherein their personal and imaginative stories can come to life and perhaps help with the program of regional integration or the socioeconomic and cultural intercourse of Afrikan peoples, beginning with the SADC region, in particular South Africa, Zimbabwe and Swaziland. Let me start by offering a brief biography of one of the truly stellar writers, a Zimbabwean living legend, Charles Mungoshi. I am lifting this from Memory Chirere’s website.
Who is Charles Mungoshi?
“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 lands 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.”
+By Memory Chirere, Harare
In my essays and poems, I would like to explore what it really feels, looks and sounds like to be be Zimabwean. The first frontier is to learn the languages, beginning with Shona then Ndebele and the other Shona dialects. I have already bought the books but we all know the best way to learn a language is to immerse oneself into the culture, to be among and speak to the people as regularly as possible. The key is to listen to the Zimbabweaness. This will require me to slightly suspend other judgements because to be Afrikan also means to exist as a neo-colonial subject of empire.
In this quest to gain understanding of the people I am living among, I shall strive to look at phenomena through the eyes of Artists, Creators as well as ordinary people. But I will also don the spectacles of diplomats, religious and other public personalities such as the overtly optimistic and motivational radio DJ’s.
SUNDAY, JULY 23, 2017
Memory Chirere reading (from Tudikidiki) to a writing workshop audience on top of Chisiya Hill, Zvishavane 2016, October.
The Eloquence of Dancing Bottoms Where Everything Crawls Back to Art:
Prefatory Notes on LIVE LIKE AN ARTIST
By Robert Muponde, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
It is a life spent on carefully quarrying the soil and stones of experience for that blinding yet familiar insight (if you imagine the striking ordinariness of lightning and the terrifying deadliness of its familiarity).
David Sunny Mungoshi’s critical voice significantly shaped the republic of letters in Zimbabwe. At some point in his career, he presented his critical persona in the legendary garb of one Chigango Musandireve; a witty, robust and acerbic critic. The barbed but playfully scorching witticisms have now been recalled into service once again, but presented as a bouquet of poems that traces the broad and complex expanse of an artist’s imagination and life.
Sunny and dark, jovial and wistful, cantankerous and conciliatory, bombastic and sober; these poems are stories of a life lived fully in its contradictory, diverse and beautiful paradoxes. The yearning and despair, the nostalgia and scepticism, the harking on the past and the love of the present and the timeless; all are emotions and attitudes which are adeptly quilted in the very texture and intentions of the poems. The sense of urgency and quest for significant meaning is tempered with the cautionary tales about the new buccaneers in our midst, who seize the day (as everyone should) but blow up the ozone layer and leave us with bridges ambitiously laid over dead river beds.
The nostalgia for a golden past, whether personal or communal (the shared glory of a simplified and unified universe), is laced with a sense of urgent time (to rethink and reorient) and slippages of time (when poorly handled and misconstrued).
Nostalgia does not preclude pain and loss, disappointment and betrayal, and the “cold unfriendly days of your childhood”. It is viewed as the quest to travel light in a meaningful past and present. I am tempted to provide commentary on all the poems, but am mindful of the fact that I insisted on writing only one page, or a few paragraphs perhaps. It is not possible to capture the entirety of the experiences presented in this book, but a few examples might do.
Living as an artist, as someone not driven by profit but prophecy, not by revenue but revelation; the whole persona of the artist is imbued with an aura of creation, of origins, the coming-from-nothing (not in the sense of the much-touted rags-to-riches stories). The art does not easily sell because it is priceless, like life itself.
The quest for freedom (free-spiritedness) and happiness in “the riches of poverty”, whose cypher is the vagabond who has nothing to guard, is equally as intense as the expression of poetry embodied in “eloquent bottoms dancing/To a choreography that shakes the world”. With this primed contrast and juxtaposition, David Mungoshi jolts us into an awareness of different levels of aesthetic intellection, combinations and rhythms.
The voice is that of a versatile raconteur who has jostled with and surfed the cycles and turmoil of time; a key witness in how time ravages, repairs and recycles; and is himself both oppressed and quickened by the imminence of mortality, obsolescence and dereliction if, as in “A Poem About Time Going By”, he does not seize the moment and inspire significance in his own life and experiences. Living like an artist requires time itself to be experienced in multifarious ways. In this collection, time is experienced chiefly as a fad and a good, a heart-breaking occurrence that can start all over again, an insistent and repetitive memory; and a crutch, “time –insulating your sensibilities against memories”. The voice constantly reminds us that even for the poet, memories are “Our choicest pickings from best-forgotten episodes”.
His poetry, better appreciated as story, tends towards the expression of the delights of telling a story and the artifice of inhabiting one. When David Mungoshi throws around words like beau and belle, she-devil and Lolita, he is very much aware of the indelible footprints of cultures other than our own that have directed his reading and narrative pleasures. He is asking the reader to go with him to the ends of the world he has travelled imaginatively but with a sure and kind hand guiding him/her. What could have come across as an egregious exhibition of erudition in the poetry of other writers (such as Dambudzo Marechera) is experienced as a mellow and humane worldliness in which knowledge of other cultures is not only a good (pun intended) but a valuable accessory.
The story of time and cultures shapes the poetic expression; it is mythopoeic as in “The Legend of Sekwa the Lass” who was “too well-endowed for her own good”; prophetic and playful; caustic and cautionary; wise and jocose; serious and sentimental. Sometimes the pleasure of telling a succinct story invested with the power of an image is what is behind the imagination of pieces such as “The Green Door”. At other times it is the image, or a series of images that slip into the place of a poem and evoke powerful glimpses of epochs, mores, character and the configuration and uses of social mobility (see “The Twelve Bar Blues Story” and “Stories from My Picture Album”). Then, you have occasions when the poet wants to pontificate on human conduct and deficits such as in “Bang! Bang! Bang!” (where a woman experiences sex as a shotgun). The call to a moral compass is shrill.
I should say, in spite of the accessibility, educated jokes and puns; Live Like An Artist has its own fair share of shortcomings. Some of the poetic images in, say “Treat Me Like I Really Am Something” and “Peasant Woman’s Beauty”, are well-intended stereotypes that err on the side of caricature. Delectable belles, she-devils, lasses, studs and beaus, are meant to widen the archive and wordplay, but end up being mere idiosyncrasy on the part of the poet. However, the frame of reference is indeed wide (beyond these clichés) and adroitly incorporates musical genres, canonical literary texts, and fashion.
The poems are themselves a mixture of the purely narrative and the consciously poetic in terms of rhyme and line construction. The affectations of style and language are “all just for fun and effect”, I agree, and allude to the beautiful paradox that is central to the life of one who lives life like an artist where everything crawls back to art and, like eloquent dancing bottoms, raises chuckles and questions.”
About The Author:
Memory Chirere is a Zimbabwean writer. He enjoys reading and writing short stories and some of his are published in Nomore Plastic Balls (1999), A Roof to Repair (2000), Writing Still (2003) and Creatures Graet and Small(2005). He has published short story books; Somewhere in This Country (2006), Tudikidiki (2007)and Toriro and His Goats (2010).Together with Maurice Vambe, he compiled and edited (so far the only full volume critical text on Mungoshi called): Charles Mungoshi: A Critical Reader (2006) His new book is a 2014 collection of poems entitled: Bhuku Risina Basa Nekuti Rakanyorwa Masikati. He is with the University of Zimbabwe (in Harare) where he lectures in literature. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org