Registered under the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe

05 June 2013

Book Review

Title:                                       Manjanja –The Shining Red Fruit
Written and Illustrated by:   Wizzy Mangoma
Publisher:                               PublishAmerica, USA
Year:                                       2011
ISBN:                                      978-1-4626-0475-3
Reviewer:                               Beaven Tapureta

Stories do more than just entertain; they also teach a lesson and exhibit cultural values of a particular people.

Manjanja –The Shining Red Fruit is written as a children’s tale but it appeals to adults as well.

From long ago, people have acted without thinking about the consequences and this, for children, is a vice that they have always been taught by parents to avoid. Acting without thinking is exactly what Kanda, the main character in this tale, does.

Kanda and his family live in an African village. As the story unfolds, one is made to understand the cultural values of the African people which include hard work, sharing, and forgiveness. The people in the village subsist on growing crops and keeping animals and are happy as the seasons are generous. 
Kanda and his family, being owners of one of the biggest pieces of land in the village, are rich and hard workers. The villagers honor them but there is some behaviour unknown to everyone, including his family, which Kanda has.

The writer does well with her simple but captivating language when describing human behaviour. Kanda receives reverence from everyone but he takes it for granted. Being rich, he foresees no trouble in the future.

However, drought strikes the village. Hard times replace good times. One would predict Kanda will give up work in his field and follow others walking miles away to look for food. But he and his family carry on going to the fields to take care of the little crops they had planted.

The author uses the journeys to the field to reveal what Kanda is really made of. On one of their journey to the field, Kanda becomes weak and thirsty. It happens also that his wife has forgotten to carry water on this journey.

Children will like this part because it carries a supernatural character called Manjanja, which is a talking tree. The interplay of reality and ‘super-nature’ brings forth entertaining episodes that lead to the revelation of Kanda’s character and how his family and the village forgive him.
Kanda does not tell anyone, including his family, about Manjanja-The Shining Red Fruit, which he discovers when he decides to go to the nearby river to get water while his family continues with the journey to their field.

It becomes a habit that each time they come to the spot near the tree on their way to the field, Kanda excuses himself from his family and goes to the tree to sing and the tree would throw down big red fruits which he gormandized alone.

In this time of hardship, Kanda’s selfish behaviour is exposed. While others eat little or no food at all because of the drought, he secretly feeds on fruits and no longer eats at home. His family and the villagers become suspicious of his avoidance of food and they begin to think he is sick.
Nothing bad lasts forever as one day his wife asks her ten-year old son, Saka, to secretly follow his father into the bush. Saka is shocked to see his father singing and dancing around a tree, gathering and eating fruits dropping from the tree.

Saka must have been a genius, for he learns his father’s song quickly. Children love songs in tales. The song is the apex of the story, from here the story approaches dénouement. He tells his mother about the tree, the falling fruits and recites the song very well. The tree is no longer a secret. His mother, Seni, hatches a plan which carries the moral of the story.

While Kanda takes an afternoon sleep in the field, his family, led by Saka, visits the tree. They sing the song around the tree and surprisingly fruits start falling from it. They fill baskets and Seni tells her children to hide them at home where Kanda would not see them.

In the song there are these words,

 “…If I show them the fruits, shine, shine/
They will take them all away from me, shine, shine…”

This song was taught to Kanda by the tree and one then concludes the tree was predicting its future, for when Kanda’s family sing around it for a long time, all its fruits fall down. They then hang stones in the tree.

Selfishness is punished when the next day Kanda comes to his tree and sings and instead of receiving fruits, he is hit by huge stones falling from the tree. If one carries a secret, it is painful to then secretly bear the effects of the secret when it turns sour.

One of the African values upheld in the story of Manjanja is forgiveness. Instead of shouting down on Kanda for being selfish, his wife and children and the villagers forgive him and he learns about sharing and giving.

The author, Wizzy Mangoma, published a motivational poetry collection titled Moment Treasures (2010, Createspace), which is available on In 2011, she co-authored the book As They Find A Way: A Journey of Various Creative Zimbabwean Women with Zimbabwean model Teurai Chanakira.  Born in Zimbabwe, Wizzy Mangoma is a writer, model, designer, motivational speaker, spoken word artist, poet, dancer, and story-teller. She has traveled and performed in various groups and projects ranging from United African Ballet of Denmark to television series. She has worked with children from all backgrounds including children with special needs. She also worked with charity organizations coordinating various campaigns. She returned to her homeland Zimbabwe this year from Dallas, Texas, where she was based.

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