Saturday, December 2, 2017

Charles Mungoshi turns 70




(Mungoshi birthday pic by D. Maruziva)
 
Legendary Zimbabwean writer Charles Mungoshi turns 70 today 2 December 2017. Mungoshi handles a broad range of literary genres and styles in a way that is very rarely surpassed by many in the socalled Third World today. His literary profile is compact.  He is a novelist, poet, short-story writer, playwright, film scriptwriter, actor, editor, translator, and consultant.
While each of the other prominent writers of Zimbabwe like Vera, Marechera, Chinodya, Chiundura Moyo and Sigogo, have tended to write in English or Shona or Ndebele only, Mungoshi has written convincingly and continuously in both Shona and English. 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)
Awards

  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

 

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

14.  National Arts Merit Award 2014.

In the year 2004  Zimbabwe 75 best books, a project meant to come up with the best books ever to come out of Zimbabwe, Mungoshi appeared in the top 5 lists in both English and Shona categories – a feat completed by no other Zimbabwean writer.  The late Ruzvidzo Mupfudza, a short-story writer and essayist, even joked in The Daily Mirror of the same week that had any of Mungoshi’s works been translated to Ndebele, he could also have led in that category!
On 3 March 2006, Mungoshi appeared in the final list of the recipients of the Silver Jubilee Literary Awards, alongside Shona novelist Aaron Chiundura Moyo, pathfinder literary critic, George Kahari and Ndebele novelists, Ndabezinhle Sigogo and Barbara Nkala. He had beaten other hot nominees: fellow writers like Chenjerai Hove, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Mordekai Hamutyinei, Thompson Tsodzo, Pathisa Nyathi, Ben Sibenke and the late Dambudzo Marechera, and Yvone Vera.
As stated before, Mungoshi handles a broad range of literary genres and styles in a way that is yet to be surpassed by anyone in Zimbabwe. If the novel as in Makunun’unu Maodzamoyo (1970) or Waiting for the Rain (1975) offers the man a wider axis to explore and develop ideas, maybe his shorter bursts of inspiration find acute expression in shorter fiction as in Coming of the Dry Season (1972), Some Kinds of Wounds (1980) and Walking Still  (1997).  When that is done, the man does not linger long and suffer for he also broke into poetry in The Milk-man doesn’t Only Deliver Milk (1981). Feeling maybe trapped with traditional literary forms, he could, and as happened in 1992 with Abide with me, 1995 with The Axe and Gwatakwata, Children Video Picture Book 1997, get into writing for the screen.  Not apologizing for it, or looking back, he can go into acting itself. For instance he appears in plays as “the journalist” in Ndabve Zera, “the store-keeper” in Makunun’unu Maodzamoyo and as Trebonius in Julius Ceasar (produced by Andrew Shaw.)

When it suits him, he can also hit the road and present papers in Zimbabwe and across the globe.  The numerous invitations he has received are testimony to his status as an unofficial cultural ambassador of Zimbabwe. He has been Visiting Lecturer at the University of Florida in the 2000 Spring Semester and Resource Person at Netherlands’ Groningen Children’s Book Year Workshop in 1996. His profile shows that from 1980, 1990, Mungoshi did not go for a year without giving a paper in places like the University of Florida, Iowa, Durham University, Amsterdam, New Zealand, Australia, Cambridge University and many more.
Mungoshi is not very well known as a poet, arguably because he writes less poetry. However, his single poetry anthology, The Milkman Doesn’t Only Deliver Milk is deep and revealing. He refers to poetry in one interview as “only a sideline, a mere finger exercise” in his continuing endeavor to condense language to a spare state of fine precision. Mungoshi’s poetry exudes the styles and philosophies of his more celebrated prose.
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. With use of deceptively simple language and plot comparable only to Mozambique’s Luis Honwana’s and maybe South-Africa’s Ezekiel Mphahlele’s too, Mungoshi tells stories about things you didn’t quite know about people you know.
For Mungoshi, writing is not external. It is participatory. It is not a profession or hobby. It is life. 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.”
And maybe unknown to him, Charles Mungoshi helped introduce and popularize the techniques of psychological realism and stream of consciousness in Zimbabwean Literatures. At the attainment of Zimbabwe’s independence, African scholars in the Department of English of the University of Zimbabwe found Mungoshi’s quantity and quality of work very useful in arguing for a course on works by Africans in English language. The Rhodesian academics had often argued that there were not enough of such works to be studied in schools, colleges and at university levels.
A research conducted recently on the same department alone had very interesting revelations.  First, 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 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
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

'sermon' on the mount

Memory Chirere reading (from Tudikidiki) to a writing workshop audience on top of Chisiya Hill, Zvishavane 2016, October.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Munhu WekuZimbabwe (an extract) by Memory Chirere

Memory Chirere


Kutsvodana kwamuri kuita uku matumwa namufundisi saizvozvi

kwatuma zvakawanda mukati kati mangu iniwo pachangu.

Ndatanga kuvhura mapeji zviya zvinoita vanopengeswa nefundo.

Kutsvodana kwamuri kusimbirira imimi vanhuwe

kwaita ndizwe kuti heya zviye neniwo ndinotoriwo nenyama

neropawo mukati umu zvinopisa samaware masikati aGumiguru?

Muchitotsvodana zvenyu pavanhu zvitsvene tsvenewo saizvozvi

ndotoonawo muchiringwa chero nebete riri pakati perwendo

richitomira kuti riringe iro risati rasvika kuchengo kwariri kuenda.

Muchitosainawo henyu mubhuku rerudo ketekete nepenzura saizvozvi

zvaita kuti nditi heya pasi pano pachiri kuitwa zvibvumirano nhai

zvisinei nekupopoma kwemvura murwizi kana kushaika kwayo?

Ndichidhidha mumazwi emanja anorohwa nevanhu muchitsvodana

ndaramba ndichiona sendakafa kare asi ndichimupenyu kudai

kunge ndiri kutonderwa nevaye vaye vaimbenge vari panyika!

Muchitsvodana kudai matumwa namufundisi anenge gondo

ndatonzwa inzwi rehupenyu hwangu kuti rashoshoma seremushamarari

werwiyo rwusina mudaviri kubva ndaita sendiri kurota pamambakwedza.

Ehe, ndayambuka ndokuona kakokorodzi kapwa hako sekusina kunaya.

Hapasi ipo here apa pataidhidha vakomana nevasikana, ndabvunza?

Ndadairwa nani? Vanhu vemazuvano vachaziva mibvunzo nemhinduro?

Kuita zvako sewakashanya asi uchiri munyika yaamai nababa.

Ndozowana pakadzikira mujecha kuti ndichere nemawoko nyore nyore

kuti ndibate mvura yepasi ndinyavise huro yangu yangoti papata.

Ndadzoka ndokuwana muchitotsvodana ndobva ndaita chadzimira

sezvinoitika ndichimhoresana neshamwari inobva kare kare kwazvo

yobva yanditarisa nepamusoro pehope yangu yashanduka nekurarama.

Ndobva ndatoda kuziva kubva kushamwari iya yakare kuti

dzichiripo kare nzvimbo dziya dziya taienda tose paupwere?

Kusatoziva zvangu kuti chinosara kwenguva ndefu muhwezva

wemhuka ichienda ichimhanya kekupedzisa iro bara riri muhudyu.

Mukati kufa nekushanya zvakanyanyosiyana here nhai veduwe?

Kana zvimapepa zvandainyora sejaya inga wani zvine ingi

asi inenge yanezuro kupenya kwayo ichidudza mazwi andaiveza

ndotoona mazwi andainyora sejaya ndichionawo kupinza

kwainge kwakamboita njere dzangu ndisate ndave kungotenderera saizvozvi.

Pfungwa dzangu dzaimbenge dziri banga chairo rinocheka nyama.

Munzeve ndodzinzwa nziyo dziya dzataiimba vadzidzisi vakabata shamhu

mabhazi achidarika nemutara aine migoro netswanada newaya nemagejo

nemadhiramu kana nembudzi pamusoro pawo akananga kuDande!

Heya muchiripo imi vachati? Muchiri kungotsvodana pamberi pevanhu?

Munozivawo here nhai vana imi kunyura kwezuva madeko richiti

tsvuu sechaimbove chiropa vafudzi vachiti tsiyo tsviyo zvimiridzo

vachindovharira mazimombe anodai kugwedaira setsikombi isingavhevheke?

Heya muchiri kutovsodana zvenyu nanhasi?

Ndanga ndaenda kwandakamboenda nemotokari yangu yandaive nayo

apo tangi rangu ndainge ndazadza ndichienda kusina mapurisa.

Dai kuri kungopera kwemakasa andaichovha zvaive nani.

Uku kupera kwepeturu ndisati ndapedza mitunhu yandaifanira kupedza.

Ehunde, ndiri kunzwa tsvodo dzenyuka idzodzo

nekuyeuka kuti ndigere pano newandakawanana naye gochanhembe

musati mazvarwa nekuti vaizokuzvaraiwo ndivo mazera angu inini.

Mufunge, tichiri vapenyu nekuti hapana kana akafa!

Zvakare kune mbeu dziri kubuda muvhu nyoro riri panze apo

nekuti kuchine zuva rinokudza kana zvinhu zvakaringana saizvozvi.

Ahiwee, penzura yangu yave kupota ichitsvedza iyi!

Ndichazvirega izvozvi zvekungogaronyora izvi

imi muchingotsvodanawo chete muchiroverwa maoko nemhomho

inosanganisira vabereki venyu nehama neshamwari vasinganyare kutarisa.

Naivo havazive kuti tsvodo kusveta derere here kana kuti kuridza muridzo?

Vanenge vanofungawo kuti tsvodo ndirwo rudo nerudo itsvodo.

Dai pfungwa dziri badza dai ndatodirovera padombo mundima ino

kuti rimwe ivhu ridonhe ndiwane kucheka pasi nyore nyore izvozvi

nekuti benzi rino ndizvo zvarinogona chete zvekurima nebadza repfungwa.

Hezvo, muchiriko here uko vachati? Idi, munenge munodanana imi!

Dai ndanga ndauya nekabhotoro kangu ndamboti ka kuti ndidzoke.

Vana ndakabara nemusha ndikavakawo asi ndinoramba ndichinzwa

sekunge ndiri chidzenga chakazvarwa chembere dzabva kudoro.

Ungati hapanawo chandati ndapa vanhu kuti vatambirewo

nemawoko kuti vachengete pakanaka pasingasvike zhizha nechando.

Yaita zvayo mvura yauya kuzodzima tsoka dzako nedzangu.

Njombo dzangu pamukova weimba isina munhu mukati umo

ichapupu chekuti paimbove nemunhu aipfeka chinhu kugumbo.

Chokwadi shoko rose randakataura kupfumbuka here seutsi?

Mati ini ndiende kundosangana neuma here nhaimi vanhu?

Imi musingamire zvenyu kutsvodana matumwa naiye mufundisi?

Muchandipei kuti ndigozoramba ndichikuyeukai kwandinoenda?

Tsvoda aiwa nekuti inoenda nemuridzi wayo ndichisara ndiri ndega.

(naMemory Chirere from Munhu WekuZimbabwe (forthcoming))


















Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Chewing the pen

Memory Chirere. Chewing the pen is a difficult habit to beat...

Sunday, June 11, 2017

I am asking for the next poem!

Next poem, Memory Chirere. Asking for the next poem...

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Memories from Marechera Oxford Celebrations 2009


Memory Chirere, Tinashe Mshakavanhu (centre) and Brian Chikwava

Monday, May 1, 2017

David Mungoshi releases new book of poems

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 clich├ęs) 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.
Northcliff, Johannesburg, 30 March 2017
+for orders:mailto:david.sunny.mungoshi07@gmail.com
Phone or WhatsApp: +263775187608

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Charles Mungoshi undergoes successful operation in Harare

The good news from Harare, Zimbabwe is that veteran author Charles Mungoshi has been operated on successfully and is now at home. He has immediately asked to see recent books by his son and brother!The zimbojam has the full story. Follow this link: http://www.zimbojam.com/charles-mungoshi-undergoes-successful-operation-speaks-first-time-months/


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Tracing Nicholas Zakaria way back to 2006!





You cannot believe the excitement that I went through recently on coming across my article done way back on Tuesday, March 7, 2006! It was an article that I did for the Moses Magadza edited Southern Times. It is on Zimbabwean sungura musician, Nicholas Zakaria. It was entitled “Nicholas Zakaria release Chewa Hits.” I post it here for the benefit of those who have been following Zakaria since then. I know that he has released various albums ever since. I am just over excited. Never mind the changing times. Here it is below:
+Zimbabwe now has many highflying musicians who are well known throughout Southern Africa. Nicholas Zakaria is arguably the humblest and the quietest of them all. Always clad in modest attire, he talks less about others and his achievements.
            Six months ago, at Simon Chimbetu’s burial, in the absence of Thomas Mapfumo and Oliver Mtukudzi, he became the obvious spokesman for the Zimbabwean musicians present. A very tough looking introvert, Zakaria doesn’t begrudge his successful former students, the late System Tazvida and Alick Macheso. “Mbiri yavo imbiri yanguwo. I take pride in their fame,” he said in a recent interview. Even when Macheso complained about copycats Zakaria did not say “But you copied me yourself.” He only said if people copy you it means you are good. That was quiet an ironic sting.
            If you listen carefully you will realize that although Zakaria plays the same style as Macheso, his music is decidedly calmer, mature and more meditative. While Macheso’s Sungura is more innovative and appeals more to the nerves, Zakaria’s is soulful and finds you only with the benefit of a series of replays. His more popular albums include Mabvi Nemagokora and Ndine Mubvunzo.
            On stage Zakaria’s dance is not a dance at all. These are ordinary up and down rhythms of one who knows the source and centre of sound. He plays his lead guitar as if he has never listened to it himself and would rather go away and dig in the garden instead. But beneath it all you see a very private pride and that mischievous Chewa man’s satisfaction that says I play not because I have no other things to do but because I like it.
            Born at Zimbabwe’s Belgownie Estate in Mazowe farming area, Nicholas Zakaria's origins are in Malawi and he is fluent in Chewa although it is not established if he is Chewa. Although Chewa people have roots in Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania, they are now virtually in all Southern African countries. Outside their countries of origin, most of them are in Zimbabwe and South Africa where their parents or grand parents migrated as migrant labourers.
Because their general impoverished condition stems from the days of colonial conquest, the Chewa people have participated in many liberation movements in the region. Their names were found within the ranks of Frelimo, Zanla, Zipra, Anc and other such organisation. Their role in the politics, sports and arts of the region is very difficult to ignore.
However it is sad that their official population figures have not been properly established in a region where migrant labour was and is still a huge economic reality. Considered peripheral, they are generally a peaceful lot who have however kept in touch with their traditions through constant journeys back home or through song and dance. A true Chewa man is simple, generous, joyous, daring and resilient.
            Researches reveal that Chewa is interchangeable with Nyanja. Some documents reveal that “Chewa people speak a language called Chinyanja.” Their ultimate origins are the Luba-Lunda kingdoms in Zaire from where they wandered southwards. Sometimes languages like Ngoni, Nsenga, Nyasa, Peta, Maravi, Chikunda… are considered to be Chewa/Nyanja dialects. But the Chewa people have intermarried everywhere they have gone showing that Africa is their home
            It is in that light that Zakaria’s new album called ‘Chewa hits’ is very important. This is a compilation of twelve Chewa songs from Zakaria’s major albums of his music career. On most of his albums, Zakaria had always included several songs in Chewa. This has continued since his founding of the Khiama Boys arounf 1984. Macheso’s backing voice and baas guitar are very evident in this album since these songs were done while he was still at Khiama Boys.
            ‘Chewa hits’ is very historic in that it is one of the very few all-Chewa-song albums in Zimbabwean history. This despite the fact that most Sungura gurus like the Chimbetu brothers, Somanje brothers, John Chibadura, Amon Mvula, Ephraim Joe and others could sing fluently in Chewa even if some of them might not have been strictly Chewas. Most of these musicians, like Zakaria, grew up on the Zimbabwean mines and farms where their parents were ordinary labourers. Influenced by the Rumba rhythms from their countries, played by their parents, they evolved a kind of Zimbabwean sub-Rumba now known as Sungura.
            In Zimbabwe these young banjo-playing musicians migrated to Salisbury from the farms and perfected their guitar playing whilst working as the so-called garden boys. Wonder Guchu of The Herald has done an interesting research in which he discovered that these young musicians, including Zakaria almost always congregated in the African township then called Gillingham. Gillingham could have been convenient because of its proximity to Salisbury’s leafy suburbs where these lads found employment easily.The name of Gillingham is central in the development of Sungura and one day a more wide range research might be necessary.
It is no surprise that sometimes the Sungura drums and bass guitars are distantly reminiscent of the mbarure, the drums for the Gure Wamkulu. Sometimes the singing too as in Chimbetu’s Dyera and Macheso’s Mundikumbuke vibrates with the harmonies of some Gure songs and traditional songs common in Zambia and Malawi. Videos show John Chibadura twisting and cutting out his legs and performing the fast final circle the Gure way. It is important to realize the role of art in showing the syncretism of human traditions.
            In a recent interview Zakaria admits that he was once a Gure dancer and that nobody matched his dancing prowess. However he sadly thinks that he now ‘sees the emptiness and meaninglessness of it all’ because he is now a Christian. This is sad because Gure Wamkulu ‘the big dance’ is central to the identity and culture of Chewa people. Considered a secret society, the dance is only a tip of the iceberg because beneath it is a whole community coming together to learn about the traditions, wisdom, history, medicines, secrets… passed down the line since Luba-Lunda. The Gure is considered to be in mythical animal state when fully dressed, something akin to the egwugwu of the Ibo people of Nigeria. Of course the Gure has been both abused by some insiders and misconstrued by the condescending outsiders.
            Zakaria’s ‘Chewa hits’ album is generally prayerful and sometimes very sad. Although very implicit, these songs capture the loneliness of the migrant labourer far away from home, relatives and ancestors. The hottest one, which people in Zimbabwe will recall from yesteryears, is Zomveramvera meanung what you hear through rumours. In that song the persona calls for reunion with his ancestors and the source of his being. He feels thrown out of the family circle and even forsaken:
            Makoro anga rero rino mwanditaya
            munditayira chiyani, chifukwa chochoka mzomveramvera?
            Ine pokara ndichita ngati mwana wamasiye
            Ine kurira, kurira siku riri ronse.
            But the sadness does not end there, as this album is dorminated by the crying and weeping motif. The titles of the some of the songs here tell it all: Kudandaula, Ndili Kulila, Ambuye Yesu. In ‘Ndiri kurira’ the persona regrets the time he has spent looking for charms to improve his image and wealth. Maybe the most soulful song in this album, with the lead vocals by Alick Macheso, Ndili Kundandaura records the migrant labourer’s constant struggles with poverty and segregation. The sad thing is that even with or without the luck charms he cannot get out of the vicious circle. Chewa, like all African languages carries eternal poetry which can be enjoyed even for it sake:
            Ntawi imene ndinataya kufika pakari pano
Ndiribe kantu kari kose.
Ndine wosauka.
Azin’anga azin’anga
Mwanditayila ntawi
Ayeye ndiri kurira.
           
The idea that Zakaria is a devout Christian comes out clearly too as most of the songs seem to find answers in Christ and prayer. Zakaria’s music can easily pass as gospel music.
There is also belief in self worth and muman dignity – Uremu, which is the reason what most left home inorder to look for in foreign lands. There are teachings about establishing a family and building a home as in Bajna ,Akarongosi and Ayudhe.
It however remains to be seen how much Zakaria’s marketing will take advantage of the huge and widespread Chewa audience in Southern Africa. The greatest weakness with Southern African music is its failure to cross colonial boundaries. By Memory Chirere, Harare. 2006

Thursday, February 23, 2017

late writer SAMUEL CHIMSORO: a relative's tribute


SAMUEL CHIMSORO: A relative’s tribute  

Sam akanga ari muzukuru wangu, mwana wavatete vangu, hanzvadzi yababa vangu. (Sam was my nephew, my fathers’s sister’s son).

Sam was older than me by one year. In the early 70’s Sam and I played together as sekuru nemuzukuru. Sam was poetic and would write novels. He could also draw. I was a teacher with a deep interest in fine art. I lived at Zimbabwe Flats on Jabavu Drive in Highfields where I worked as an art  teacher at Nyarutsetso Art Centre.  In the 70’s Sam lived in Mbare with his parents.

Sam had a special interest in Jazz and Blues music by Champion Jack Dupree, B. B. King, Aretha Franklin and Lewis Armstrong, to name but a few. We would listen to this music trying by all means to derive meaning out of it. Sam would organise gigs in selected halls in Mbare where popular music would be played to entertain the young people. In those days, the Super60 was the state of the art in musical players and Sam had one. It was a status symbol to own such equipment.

We took time to look at art and to enjoy it and we drew pictures together. Sam was an ardent drawer as evidenced by the pencil drawings he did of his grandfather. The idea then was he would write the books and then I would illustrate and get the books published.

We took turns to visit each other and he would cycle from Mbare to Highfields and back. When I visited him at Mbare, we would listen to Blues and Jazz on his Super 60 Hifi musical system that produced super stereo vibes. Up to this day, I play music by B.B. king, Champion Jack Dupree and Lewis Armstrong. That was the other side of Sam Chimsoro. He was very influential in a very positive manner.    

We were young persons who were not too keen on girls and girlfriends, until he got hooked onto Winnet and I on Terry.

Sam was gifted at critical analysis and would delve into analytical geometry and metaphysics. We would exchange books on calculus where he encouraged me to study mathematics like the McLaren and Fibonacci numerical series. He encouraged me to read mathematics for fun. I began to understand some of the mathematical theories that I had not understood while at school. He was a man who could genuinely share his knowledge at all times.

I remember him giving me a thick manuscript of his to read and review. His narratives were deep and complicated. I remember Hovio neHohwa.

Sam was a vegetarian who enjoyed African cuisine like muriwo wemubora and well-cooked rape with sadza.

I do not remember him having a hair-cut. He grew his hair and left it in its natural state and that made him look well.  I will always remember the ever glowing smile on his face.

Sam Chimsoro truly left a legacy that will be cherished by all of us who shared space and time, interacting with him at some point in our lives.

By Thomas Karwendo Pasirayi... presented at the Samuel Chimsoro commemoration event on 18 February 2017, Harare.