Creative writing blooms in desolation

By Tinashe Mushakavanhu
Extreme deprivation, leaving a writer only with himself, quite often proves a blessing to creative writing. Miraculously, the human spirit blooms in desolation. Where everything has been taken away, or in a situation where the writer is permitted to operate piecemeal, the

human spirit does wither, the creative imagination drying with it. That is the lesson of the Zimbabwean situation for creative writing.
Once, I spent a year in the wilderness, away from home. I moved from the humble environs of my hometown Gweru to a much bigger and livelier city, Harare. I was living in Harare on my own and no longer under the patronage of my parents. I had to fend for myself. I had to learn to budget money for daily transport to and from work, buy food and clothes, and if in the mood spoil a potential lover. The monthly budget sheet permanently stuck behind my bedroom door, was an eyesore as there was no money to sustain its purpose. This is now a normal condition in a hyper-inflationary country like Zimbabwe. Most times I was broke. And it is when you are in such desperate situations that you find no friends around. You are left on your own.
I learnt not to care about the world. I still believed that life had failed me and not that I had failed life. It was during these daily pilgrimages that I started writing real life poetry – what I saw, what I heard, what I imagined. I started keeping a notebook, jotting down street drama as it happened.
I still vividly remember this one day I got angry with my life. I had just passed Girls High School and turning into Samora Machel Avenue. It was around 6pm, getting dark and the city’s bright, colourful neon lights flashed with messages mocking my destitution. Fly Air Zimbabwe when I didn’t even have money for a kombi ride home. I had wanted to scream and shout obscenities at life for making me one of Franz Fanon’s “wretched of the earth.”
I ended up writing a poem, though cynical, it harboured the little devil that crept into my mind at that particular moment and tempted me to contemplate robbery. What are all these adverts meant for except to arouse, to tempt desire within each of us?
Below is a poem inspired by a moment of madness in Harare’s streets:
The Laugh of the City
Blink blink blink
The city night-lights shine
In alternating rays
Mocking the street man
To hurry and buy
In barricaded shops
With absent shop attendants,
Silent tills and alarm wires
Set to alert the shop owner
At the shopper’s inconvenience

After this street episode, I made my first important decision as a writer – to write about the life and the people around me – to write from the inspiration of the life that surrounds me.

Post published in: Arts

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