Short Writings from Bulawayo II

Edited by Jane Norris
'amabooks, 2005
Short Writings from Bulawayo is a collection of short stories, poetry and non-fiction pieces that seek to articulate a myriad of experiences from both urban and rural Bulawayo and further afield. With 21 contributors to the publication, the book covers a w

ide spectrum of experiences and allows the reader a heady mixture of emotional responses. This book is a brave example of artists writing themselves whole, refusing to allow the country’s political oppression to drown their voices. There is also a good measure of light-hearted tales and humour, which are just as much a part of the Zimbabwean identity as is the ability to survive poverty.
The book opens with Mzana Mthimkhulu’s insights into the tension between African traditions and Christian beliefs at a family funeral; this theme of modern practices versus traditional values runs throughout the book. Pathisa Nyathi’s poem Illuminating Flames puts poetry to this dichotomy as he gives thanks to his father whose fireside Ndebele folklore has equipped him for ‘a world gone too materialistic’. The idea of materialism undermining established customs is taken to the extreme by Wim Boswinkel’s futuristic take on how Zimbabwe might look in 2084 under the authority of a world government based in Hong Kong.
The Seekers is a beautifully written lament of life made bearable by mbanje smoke and laughter as it traces the escapism three youths find in the sharing of a joint while sitting on a railway line. The infectious laughter of the young men is the kind that ends in tears as you share their desperation and impossible dreams. The desire for escape is repeated by Christopher Mlalazi in It’s His Who Wakes the Hare as Msindo and Qolo philosophise over their first scud of the day. Despite their inebriation, the two disreputable drunkards make some profound statements,
‘I wear tyre sandals and overalls, clothes suited for falling, but you will never see me falling, even when I am dead drunk from scud. Why? Because I don’t pretend.’
Many of the authors in this book refuse to avoid the sensitive political and moral issues that exist in modern day Zimbabwe. There are the harrowing images in John Eppel’s poetry of children relying on his slim dustbin pickings to fill their aching bellies and his snapshot piece on homosexuality in a boys’ boarding school; not to mention the ruthless exposure of rape from several writers, both in an urban and rural context.
As well as stories of suffering and pain there are many pieces of writing that celebrate the beauty of Zimbabwe. Deon Marcus compares the heart of Matopos to the fantastic structure of the Notre Dame in his poem Our ‘Notre Dame’. He draws beautiful parallels between the two places of worship and the reader feels truly inspired by his sacred experience where ‘the world is lost and life is left alone’. Bathing with Tadpoles leaves the reader feeling as though they had bathed in one of the mountain pools which Maposa describes. Her childhood memories are vivid as she recalls the rainy season with vibrant images of growth, cleansing and unity.
These stories serve as a reminder that, in spite of political turmoil and instability, there is something much greater at work that enables the Matopos granite to stand with grandeur when everything else seems to be falling apart. They give the book a balance necessary to prevent us from slipping into despair.
This book is a must read for insights into the current Zimbabwean consciousness. It is dynamic, real, seasoned with humour and bursting with creative writing from some of the country’s most talented authors. – Chipo Chitonga

Post published in: Arts

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