Registered under the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe

11 January 2011


The late Julius Chingono

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.

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.
May his soul rest in peace.

1 comment:

  1. Go well, mdhara. I will miss your humour and witticism!