Welcome to our tenth issue of the Win-Zimbabwe Newsletter. Please keep the pen rolling!
PUBLISHER MOOTS MARECHERA COMMEMORATIVE E-BOOK
By Beaven Tapureta
Newsday, Jan 18 2011
The late legendary writer, Dambudzo Charles Marechera (pictured), will be brought back to life through a commemorative e-book, whose publication will coincide with what would have been the eccentric writer’s 59th birthday.
Marechera died in 1987, but his works have continued to dominate the local and international literary canon. The e-book will be published by StoryTime Publishing, an online initiative by Zimbabwean writer, publisher and visual artist, Ivor Hartmann.
“To celebrate Dambudzo Marechera’s posthumous 59th birthday this year I will be putting together an e-book anthology entitled Remembering Marechera, consisting of essays, reviews, short stories and poems that follow this theme, to be published by StoryTime Publishing,” said Hartmann.
Editors for this project are Zimbabwean writers Emmanuel Sigauke, who will take care of the poetry and Tinashe Mushakavanhu who will edit essays while Hartmann himself will edit the short stories.
This memorial publication will add on to the endless accolades stalking the late Marechera, who has been described as the “enfant terrible of African literature”.
In the past, commentaries, conferences and poetry slams focusing on Marechera’s life have been published and held locally and internationally, with the biggest being the conference hosted by Oxford University in 2009.
The conference, attended by local writers Memory Chirere and Tinashe Mushakavanhu, was dubbed “Dambudzo Marechera: A Celebration”. Hartmann is calling for contributions in the form of essays, poems, stories, which must be sent before April 6 this year. The length of contributions is restricted to between 1 000-5 000 words.
While literary friends and academics continue to honour the enigmatic writer, less is known about the Dambudzo Marechera Trust that was set up after his passing in 1987 in Zimbabwe to promote the publication of Marechera’s unpublished works and to encourage young writers.
Marechera’s House of Hunger (Heinemann Educational Publishers, 1978), an incandescent anthology of short stories, won the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1979.
House of Hunger also made Marechera “the mouthpiece of that lost generation of young Zimbabweans who found themselves oppressed by the colonial regime, and who were either alienated from their own culture or subjected to an alien culture in exile”, according to biographer Flora Veit Wild, (1987.)
There is another forum for writers created last year called Writers International Network Zimbabwe.
WIN is headed by Beaven Tapureta, a creative writer and editor, who has contributed several articles on Zimbabwean literature and its writers to several forums including The Herald.
Last week, we published his moving obituary of the late Julius Chingono whose last public performance was at a WIN end of year gathering at the Book Café late last year.
Asked on the motive behind forming WIN when there are so many other organizations representing writers in the country, Tapureta said his organization was not duplicating the same functions as others.
“This is a network for writers across the divide and it transcends all groupings like gender. We are open to all Zimbabwean writers including those who are now foreign based and those who were born in this country,” Tapureta clarified.
With names like Emmanuel Sigauke, Christopher Mlalazi and Sarudzayi Barnes on top of the heavy weights, WIN has certainly made big progress in getting everyone on board.
They also have aspiring writers including schoolchildren and are looking at using the former group to develop the latter.
“We are saying that there is no need to re-invent the wheel. The established writers have gone through problems like finding a publisher and getting a script rejected.
There is no need for the emerging writers to fail to use the experience gained by those who have done it before to go straight ahead without repeating the same mistakes,” Tapureta said
Tapureta says that WIN further aims to help new writers get published and that they are planning on publishing an anthology this year.
“The money from royalties will help those contributing writers at the grass roots who really have no resource to develop their writing careers.
“We are losing a lot of talent through young writers who are discouraged from pursuing their dream in the field as they have to concentrate on other professions to sustain themselves,” he expressed one of the motivating factors behind the formation of WIN.
Asked on whether one could say that the lack of a reading culture in the country is the reason why the writing profession is not very lucrative for the majority, Tapureta strongly disagreed.
“That is not true. You cannot run away from the fact that Zimbabweans love reading. It is almost impossible to travel on public transport and not see at least one person immersed in a book of some kind.
“What is happening perhaps is that the readers seem to prefer foreign writers to the local ones. Instead of crying about how the West is stealing our market, I think the challenge is for the local writer to find out what makes Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum and others so popular and adapt that to our own writing.”
Perhaps this becomes a fundamental question as to whether a writer should write with the reader in mind or just express themselves and hope that the public will want to pay to read the final product.
Should writers view themselves as entrepreneurs who need to tailor their products to suit the market in order to increase sales or should they maintain the stance that they are pure artists who produce for the sake of the art and monetary gain is incidental?
This is a question that each individual writer can only answer on their own behalf but it is undeniable that fame and fortune are the ultimate goal of many.
The Board of WIN is made up of Josephine Muganiwa (chairperson), Edwin Mhandu, Phillip Chidavaenzi, Ivor W Hartmann, Sarudzayi Barnes, Tinashe Mushakavanhu, Emmanuel Sigauke, Christopher Mlalazi and Beaven Tapureta.
The late Julius Chingono was the tenth member and is yet to be replaced.
According to Tapureta, in the long run WIN looks at establishing an academy to train writers. And that makes sense.
Already the need for a film and TV script writing academy has been highlighted as most productions fail to come up to scratch with awful scripts being blamed for the problem.
Names like Aaron Chiundura-Moyo come to mind as some of the resource people who could pass on their skills in the writing category. He has proved himself an accomplished author with his novel Ziva Kwawakabva being a classic.
He successfully adapted it for TV besides producing other dramas that were well-received. When Studio 263 started airing with Chiundura-Moyo heading the script, it was a major success.
His departure from the soap seemed to mark its decline into the lackluster production that it has become.
Chiundura-Moyo’s own soap Tiriparwendo was well-known for its outstanding language usage and drama.
Should this organisation succeed in its goals, then the Zimbabwean writer and the reader all stand to WIN.
In life, Julius Chingono was an enigmatic, yet vibrant man. You would not help loving him as a fatherly poet. He was a source of knowledge. So approachable and down-to-earth was he that at a certain literary discussion in Harare I drew near to him to ask what poetry has done in his life.
“Muzukuru you should never ever give up. The money I used to build my house in Norton came from my writing…,” he said to me.
From then on, I knew I would also make it in the arts fraternity. To me, even in death, he continues to be an inspiration. An artist never dies and though we bade farewell to a ‘pen-master’ his voice lives on and will transcend from this generation to the next. His works are timeless and his word will continue to inspire us all.
Rest in peace, Sekuru, your words still ring in my mind. “You should never give up, muzukuru!”
Sympathy Sibanda is the author of the anthology ‘Matters of Life’, (Veriest Solutions International, 2010)
Chingono (kneeling) with young poets at a literary discussion in 2009 in Harare
The year 2011 rather started sadly for us and Zimbabwe at large with the loss of a writer and poet Julius Sekai Chingono early this January. He was also a very supportive Win-Zimbabwe Board member whom we shall collectively commemorate for a certain day to be announced in the future. Writers International Network Zimbabwe would like to announce that it will start its activities in April. By then, our calendar of activities will also be announced and sent to all our members. 2011 is the year of expansion, in mind and organisationally. Our year now runs from April to December unless we have a pressing activity that needs to be done earlier than April. Meanwhile, take care.
We publish an article about the late celebrated poet and writer Chingono which appeared in the Herald with additional information. Julius Chingono was/is an international writer as there are various works forthcoming featuring him.
Poet-To-Poet By Beaven Tapureta
The last time I visited Chingono it was in November 2010 to ask for some ideas about the 11 December Writers End of Year Get Together event and also to invite him for the Board meeting to discuss the same issue. I had just been published in a Chinese anthology of African poetry called No Serenity Here (World Knowledge Foundation, 2010). Excited I was about the book that I carried it everywhere. In preparation for the Get Together at the Book Cafe I had to go to Norton to drop an invitation at Vimbai High for the students and to see Chingono at his home on the same day. Even on the day, I patiently rode to Norton, dropped the letter at Vimbai High, and later made a beeline for Chingono’s home, with No Serenity Here exposed in my hand.
If you visit poets with a new poetry book, don’t expect that they will let you leave their house or office with the book. Such immediate magnetic power resides between their minds and words written as poetry.
Chingono congratulated me and asked if he can borrow the book for a few days. We agreed that the book will be returned on 11 December when we meet for the End of Year Get Together. Chingono wanted so much to involve Vimbai High in Win-Zimbabwe’s writing activities and as our Board member he had planned for this year to lead Norton as its resident writer.
Creative writers and poets performed, read, and discussed different topics on 11 December. Chingono read his poem much to the humor of all those who were present. Naturally everyone wanted the event to be an informal one, where all are free to free their potential. Chingono had to leave soon after he read his poem. He had a family function to attend that very same afternoon in Kuwadzana. Nobody thought about No Serenity Here as it was a busy day. He had sacrificed to attend the Get Together despite having another important function where he was needed.
Few days after 11 December, I called to find if he was fine, with Chingono apologizing for having forgotten No Serenity Here at home on 11 December. We agreed once again that I would visit him at his home, to review the wonderful 11 December event and also collect the anthology. Who was to know then that this would be the last phone conversation between us? The next call only came early in morning of January 3, but to say Chingono is no more. How hard for the heart, dear writer, to come home and find you not there, but only No Serenity Here!
Zimbabwe Loses Gifted Writer Chingono
By Beaven Tapureta
The Herald, 10 January 2011
Chingono, a second-generation writer in the local literary history, was a board member of Writers International Network Zimbabwe and served as a resource person at various local and international authors’ forums, including the Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam, Netherlands in 2004.
Writers who attended the WIN-Zimbabwe Writers End of Year Get Together on December 11 will recall a healthy Chingono rendering his humorous poem called ‘Dai’, which ridiculed “after-thoughts”.
Condolences have begun pouring in from various sections of the book industry with Amabooks saying they have been greatly saddened by Chingono’s death as they were recently involved in a project with him.
“As all those in the writing community will, we are shocked and saddened by this news. We have just finished a book of short stories and poems by Julius and John Eppel, titled ‘Together’ which will be co-published in the near future with the University of New Orleans Press. He was a special person who spoke up for the underdog,” said the Bulawayo-based publisher Amabooks.
Another publisher, Weaver Press, said they have been greatly shocked by Chingono’s death.
“It is very hard for me to believe,” said Irene Staunton of Weaver Press.
Writers International Network Zimbabwe, which he served as board member, said “We have lost a dedicated guide, a true father. Zimbabwe has lost a great writer just when Chingono had joined other writers in trying to change the writers’ situation in Zimbabwe. Ma his soul rest in peace and we are together in the grief with the family.’
Born in 1946 in Msasa in Rhodesia, Chingono spent most of his life as a rock blaster at mines.
His first and only Shona novel Chipo Changu was co-published in 1978 by the Literature Bureau and Longman Zimbabwe. Hi play Ruvimbo, published in 1980, investigates culture regarding disability in society. The play won 2nd prize in a writing competition organized by the Literature Bureau in 1975.
In 2001, Musa Publications published his collection of poetry called Kazwi with illustrations to the poems done by Hassan Musa.
In 2004, he attended the Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam, Netherlands, where he was involved in poetry readings and discussions on the poetry of Pablo Neruda and the poetic verses of the Bible.
It was at this conference that his poetry received world recognition, culminating in Chingono becoming one of the 160 poets selected from all over the world for the Poetry Jubilee CD box of recordings from 40 years of the Poetry International Festival.
The set comprised 15 poetry CDs featuring the best performances by influential poets from across the world. However, due to financial constraints, Chingono could not attend the official launch in Rotterdam.
Chingono also attended another writers’ conference at the University of Port Elizabeth where he presented a paper titled “Zimbabwe – Writing and Publishing”.
In 2006, Weaver Press published his Not Another Day, an English collection of short stories and poems which are “imbued with a clarity of language that achieves its intended effect upon the reader – realising humor in certain sad situations”.
For his primary education, Chingono went to Mabvuku School but it was at Nyatsime College in Chitungwiza that the writing bug caught up with him.
In an interview in 2009, Chingono said he came across Nzvengamutsvairo by Bernard Chidzero at Nyatsime and immediately fell in love with the pen. It was just the sight of Chidzero at the back of the book that made him realize that he can also be a great writer and he took his studies seriously.
Later, he spiced his reading list with books such as Patrick Chakaipa’s Karikoga Gumi Remiseve, Kenneth Bepswa’s Ndakamuda Dakara Afa and many other books written by first generation writers.
Chingono’s dream to assist upcoming writers came true when early last year Writers International Network Zimbabwe selected him to be one of the board members with a desire to promote writing and publishing in Zimbabwe.
A sensitive poet, sometimes humorous, Chingono’s Shona poems were published in early anthologies such as Nhetembo, Mabvumira eNhetembo and Gwenyambira between 1968 and 1980. The anthologies were popular to Shona literature students during the time they were selected as educational set books.
His English poems have appeared in various South African magazines with the recent publication being the anthology State of the Nation: Contemporary Zimbabwe Poetry (The Conversation Paperpress, 2009, UK) which was preceded by a small but powerful anthology called Intwasa Poetry (2008, Amabooks, edited by Jane Morris).
While Norton at one time reverberated with young poets raring to invade whatever platform they found, Chingono helped in the editing and publishing of a regular magazine called The New Voices Magazine together with another writer Aleck Kaposa.
He was the only accomplished poet among the editorial team of this magazine. The others were Melania Mancuveni and Peter Matangira. The magazine has since folded due to lack o funding.
With all this experience, Chingono stood out as one of Zimbabwe’s greatest poets who humbly followed their dream to see change in the literary sector.
Young poets who regularly meet at poetry functions at the Book Café and other venues will greatly miss such a loving, friendly pot who believed that age is nothing but a number.
The late Julius Chingono was laid to rest on January 5 at Norton cemetery. Various artists and organisations including Weaver Press, National Arts Council, Spanish Embassy and others, converged to pay their last respects to a man who entertained, befriended any writer regardless of different views or ages. On behalf of fellow Zimbabwean writers and poets Chirikure Chirikure performed a poem in honor of Chingono and described him as a writer who accommodated all poets in his life and the youthful poets who usually perform at the Book Cafe had nicknamed Chingono as "Mudhara Judza". This became his stage name even though it was un-legislated in the poetry circle.Writers International Network Zimbabwe joins in the celebration of Chingono's life, a life lived so well with others, knowing that there are lots of publications, local and international, in which Chingono was featured last year and will be featured in the future. All that is here is not all that we know him for, but these are some of the memories.
Listen with care
slide away with the air.
Talk with care
slip off the tongue.
Handle with care
this side up
Stand well away
when mouths open.
By Julius Chingono (Intwasa Poetry, AmaBooks, 2008)
CHINGONO’S CONTRIBUTION TO POETRY AND LITERATURE
By Beaven Tapureta
(First Published in The Zimbabwean, 2009)
Author and poet Julius Sekai Chingono’s fiction and poetry, although humorous, fearlessly tackle socio-political issues in Zimbabwe’s post-2000 era.
A sensitive poet, with many Shona poems published in anthologies such as Nhetembo, Mabvumira eNhetembo and Gwenyambira between 1968 and 1980, Chingono’s English poems appear in various Zimbabwean and South African magazines.
His stories in Not Another Day (Weaver Press, 2006) are imbued with a clarity of language that achieves its intended effect upon the reader – realizing humor in certain sad human conditions. Election violence, political hypocrisy, culture distortions, HIV and AIDS, child sexual abuse, etc, have rocked contemporary Zimbabwe and Chingono has dealt with these issues superbly in this collection of 10 short stories and 27 poems.
As Zimbabwe currently seeks international solidarity to hasten her economic recovery, it is worthwhile to question our own innocence and fairness when this solidarity comes in the form of aid. What is intended for the masses usually finds its way into the hands of a few in high echelons of power, or those connected to the political masters of that time. Beneficiaries are chosen on the basis of their political affiliation.
This situation is clearly illustrated in the story “An Early Supper” where a donation is made to the community to assist it fight the HIV and AIDS scourge. Publicity-hungry Minister of Health, Chipikiri, delivers a speech at the donation ceremony. But afterwards his words do not serve any purpose at all as he lures and attempts to rape one of his party’s cadre’s daughters in his office.
A group of four social workers in the short story “Tomorrow is not another Day” discover that they have done nothing while an orphan named Fungai, aged nine, dies of sexual abuse in the home of her abuser (vaHove). Orphans Fungai and her brother Masimba have been dependent upon the organization represented by the four social workers and yet their condition seemed to have worsened.
“Are we Together” expresses the hooliganism that was tied to fetishist politics. In the story youths are provided with beer at rallies as payment for unleashing violence upon innocent people. ‘Are-we-together’ becomes the name of a beer-guzzling militia man.
Buried amidst controversy
Universally, funerals are held in awe of the deceased and yet in some cultures the traditional conduct of funerals has changed due to modern influences. The deceased are buried amid controversies. Even in Western countries we have heard of arguments over estates, custody of children, etc. In Chingono’s story “Sister- in –Law”, relatives of the deceased, Tarisai and Shuva, are two snobs who want to control their mother’s funeral proceedings while at the same time harassing their sister-in-law Tracey who did all she could to be with their mother before she died.
Then the story entitled “The Funeral” depicts the disintegration of cultural values at such functions. Two camps emerge at the funeral with one arguing that the coffin carrying the deceased must be put in the big beautiful house bought for the deceased by her son, and the other arguing that, traditionally, the coffin with the deceased should lie in the kitchen. The pall-bearers are confused as relatives exchange bitter words. When the coffin does not seem to fit through the door of the big house, the son’s gift for his late mother, they put it in the kitchen. But something happens when they are about to carry it out to the graveyard. The coffin, apparently manufactured by some unscrupulous coffin maker, breaks and the dead body falls out onto the ground.
In the story “Sahwira’s Condoms” Muchena has been playing the traditional role of sahwira at funerals rocking a certain family. He learns that the successive deaths (including the present death) in this family are being caused by AIDS and he decides to strictly play his duty as sahwira in a way that leaves mourners astounded. He refuses to be silent as he openly speaks against wayward sexual behavior, the main cause of AIDS. He decides to conduct a solo AIDS awareness campaign right at the funeral by distributing condoms to the mourners.
Chingono was born at a commercial farm in 1946 to the east of Harare which is now an industrial hub of the city – Msasa. An asphalt company is doing business where Chingono was born and where his family huts stood in the late forties after WW2.
Second generation writer
Chingono is a second generation writer who witnessed and endured the bitter political events of the 60’s and 70’s. He went to Mabvuku School for his primary education, but it was at Nyatsime College where he came across Nzvengamutsvairo by Bernard Chidzero. Just the sight of Chidzero at the back of the book inspired Chingono to pursue his education vigorously. He later read Patrick Chakaipa’s Karikoga Gumi Remiseve, Kenneth Bepswa’s Ndakamuda Dakara Afa and a host of other books by early Shona writers.
His first Shona novel Chipo Changu co-published in 1978 by the literature Bureau and Longman Zimbabwe is not found in the bookshops and this, allied with some other factors, could explain why Chingono is not so popular to some people in his own country.
His play “Ruvimbo” (1980) won second prize in a writing competition organised by the Literature Bureau in 1975. It stands out as one of the best works of fiction Chingono has ever written. The play exposes how culture and social status affect a person’s response to disability. Ngoni Tichafa, a radio journalist born in a well-to-do family, is at crossroads with his family for deciding to marry disabled Ruvimbo, a talented poet. In some societies, physical deformities used to be and/or are still associated with certain superstitions and are considered as spiritual curses.
In 2001 Musa Publications published another collection of Chingono’s poetry called “Kazwi” with illustrations to the poems done by Hassan Musa.
In 2004 he attended the Poetry International festival in Rotterdam, Netherlands where he participated in poetry readings and workshops. He was involved in discussions on the poetry of Pablo Neruda and the poetic verses of the Bible. He also attended a writers’ conference at the University of Port Elizabeth where he presented a paper on “Zimbabwe – Writing and Publishing'. With all this experience, Chingono stands out as a Zimbabwean writer of distinction.
WORLD RECOGNITION FOR CHINGONO
By Beaven Tapureta
(First published in Zimbabwean on Sunday, 2009)
Zimbabwean author and poet Julius Chingono is one of 160 poets selected for the Poetry Jubilee CD box set of recordings from 40 years of the Poetry International Festival.
The set comprises 15 poetry CDs featuring the best performances by influential poets from all over the world. His poems were recorded when he attended the festival in the Netherlands in 2004. Chingono, due to lack of financial help, couldn’t make it to the launch in Rotterdam this year. Ten other African poets are included: Toyin Adewale, Ama Ata Aidoo, Kofi Awoonor, Francis Bebey, Femi Fatoba, Haji Gora Haji, Jack Mapanje, Ben Okri, Ahmed Sheik Nabhany and Wole Soyinka. Ten South African poets also have their own CD in the set and include Mazizi Kunene.
GO WELL MUDHARA WEDU, ZIMBABWE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER YOU
Writers International Network Zimbabwe learnt with great sadness the death of Julius Sekai Chingono, a renowned poet and writer.
Chingono passed on on Janaury 2 in Norton at Norton General Hospital after a short illness. There is so much we can remember about this writer but the greatest grief at Win-Zimbabwe will be the knowledge that Chingono, as our Board Member, had begun adding ideas for the 2011 Calendar of Activities. Many of you will remember how well he looked on 11 December 2010 at the Writers End of Year Get Together at the Book Cafe. http://win-zimbabwe.blogspot.com/2010/12/faces-and-voices.html
Chingono worked very well with us as he was our guide, considering the fact that he had seen it all from the time Zim literature began to grow in pre-independence times. Surely, God's will cannot be twisted by any human being, Him alone knows our destiny. To the Chingono family, we are together in the grief but lets celebrate Julius Chingono because he left an undying legacy, the stories and poems, and memories our friendship with him. He will be buried tommorrow January 5 in Norton. May his soul rest in peace.