Registered under the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe

08 January 2011


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
slippery words
slide away with the air.

Talk with care
slippery words
slip off the tongue.

Handle with care
this side up
contains words.

Stand well away
falling words
when mouths open.
By Julius Chingono (Intwasa Poetry, AmaBooks, 2008)

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.
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.

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