Connect with us

Lifestyle

NoViolet Bulawayo believes freedom begins with imagination  

Published

on

BY ABDI LATIF DAHIR

Like many of her compatriots, NoViolet Bulawayo once thought Robert Mugabe would rule Zimbabwe forever.

Advertisement

A national liberator turned autocrat, Mugabe presided over the southern African nation for almost four decades, infamously declaring that “only God, who appointed me, will remove me” from office.

So when in November 2017, he was forced by the military to resign, Bulawayo knew she had to write about this transformative moment in her nation’s history.

And so was born “Glory,” her second novel, which centres on the rapid fall of a longtime ruler, and will be published on Tuesday by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Advertisement

“Writing it felt like responding to a call of duty,” Bulawayo, 40, said in a video interview last month.

“I felt like I needed to be part of the collective struggle that was going on. So the book is my participation; that’s my way of showing up.”

Glory” is being published eight years after Bulawayo’s debut novel, “We Need New Names,” was released to critical acclaim, making her the first Black woman from Africa to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Advertisement

Bulawayo originally set out to write a work of nonfiction about Zimbabwe after the coup, but given the barrage of books, essays and opinion pieces dissecting the post-Mugabe era, she worried that she might not have anything new to say.

So she pivoted to fiction, placing “Glory” in the mythical nation of Jidada, which is suffering under the yoke of a brutal dictator and the whims of his corrupt party.

But instead of people, Bulawayo’s novel is animated by a cast of animal characters — horses, dogs, donkeys, goats, chicken, a crocodile — with revealing names like Comrade Nevermiss, General Judas Goodness Reza and Dr. Sweet Mother.

Advertisement

Bulawayo said her decision to use animal voices was “my way of laying ownership to a very public story, a very public drama, and wanting to kind of tell it on my own terms.”

It was inspired, she said, by Zimbabweans on social media assigning animal avatars to some of their leaders — a reference to George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” a fable about a group of animals revolting against their human owner to establish a more equitable society.

Bulawayo’s decision was also an act of homage to her late grandmother, who entertained her and her siblings every night with stories and folk tales populated by animals.

Advertisement

“When people talk about literary influences, they expect you to just talk about books,” she said. “But for me, even before I started reading, I was listening to stories.”

Laura Tisdel, who coedited both of Bulawayo’s novels, said the cast of animal characters has changed how she sees politics.

“It’s impossible now to turn on MSNBC or watch a press conference or speech and not see the primal responses, the jockeying for alpha position, the sort of theatrics that remind me of the animal world,” she wrote in an email.

Advertisement

Born Elizabeth Zandile Tshele in the Tsholotsho district, in southwest Zimbabwe, Bulawayo left her home country when she was 18 to pursue degrees in the United States, including an M.F.A. in creative writing at Cornell University.

She began writing using the pen name NoViolet Bulawayo as a student.

In her Ndebele language, “no” means “with,” and Violet was the name of her mother, who died when she was 18 months old.

Advertisement

Bulawayo is her hometown, and Zimbabwe’s second largest city.

In 2017, when Mugabe was deposed, Bulawayo was teaching creative writing at Stanford University, but decided to return home weeks later.

There, she caught the heady post-Mugabe days, when many Zimbabweans hoped the soaring inflation, unemployment, food shortages and human rights violations that defined his rule would finally come to an end.

Advertisement

“People were excited. People were happy,” Bulawayo recalled. “People thought we had turned the corner.”

But the euphoric highs soon dissipated, as Zimbabweans, including herself, continued to line up for everything: fuel, groceries, cash.

The government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa — a former vice president to Mugabe— has continued to crack down on the opposition and civil society.

Advertisement

The novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga was arrested during an anti-government protest in 2020, and Jeffrey Moyo, a journalist with The New York Times, was prosecuted for spurious charges.

Last month, Zimbabwe’s vice president, Constantino Chiwenga, said the ruling party will crush the main opposition party “like lice.”

Glory” follows Destiny, a goat who returns to Jidada to face the country she vowed to leave behind and the mother who plunged into “a deep, dense dark” place when she disappeared.

Advertisement

Through her, Bulawayo explores the trauma of displacement, the central role women play in holding societies together and the failure of independent states to attain minimum levels of prosperity for their people.

The book also explores the legacy of the Gukurahundi, Zimbabwe’s name for the massacre of thousands of members of the Ndebele minority by Mugabe’s military between 1983 and 1987.

Bulawayo said she deliberately chooses to write about people on the margins, who are likely to be overlooked.

Advertisement

“If there’s any measure of wealth in our democracy or the progress of our societies, it is through the status of the poor, of the people who are really at the bottom,” she said.

“I have a sensitivity to that.”

But those decisions haven’t always been received with enthusiasm, particularly among academics and artists who have long criticized some Western depictions of Africa as a place of death, disease and dictators.

Advertisement

Bhakti Shringarpure, a co-founder of Radical Books Collective and an associate professor of English and gender studies at the University of Connecticut, said that when “We Need New Names” was published, “it led to some of the most divisive and difficult debates about how the African continent and African problems should be represented.”

That novel revolved around Darling, a 10-year-old living in a shantytown called Paradise whose adventures reveal the crushing poverty and injustice pervasive in urban peripheries.

The book was an extension of her short story, “Hitting Budapest,” which won the 2011 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing.

Advertisement

But because Bulawayo was not “white or Western,” Shringarpure said, her book led to thought-provoking conversations around artistic freedom and whether “the African writer always bears some sort of responsibility to repair the Western gaze that determines so much of what we know about the continent.”

Mukoma Wa Ngugi, the author of “The Rise of the African Novel,” said Bulawayo’s first novel marked a shift in African writing that “those who critique it as ‘poverty porn’ miss.”

Besides capturing the dire state of affairs in Zimbabwe, he said, it also “captures a United States rarely spoken about in African fiction.”

Advertisement

When the protagonist, Darling, moves to Detroit — or as her friends call it, “Destroyedmichygen” — readers encounter, he said, the economic, cultural and linguistic challenges that many immigrants face in America.

“‘We Need New Names’ is a ‘before’ and ‘after’ kind of novel, the kind that marks a new beginning, a new shift in the African literary tradition,” Mukoma said.

“To me, it is a complete novel in terms of aesthetics and politics.”

Advertisement

Bulawayo worked on “Glory” for more than three years, during which she closely followed the grass roots activism demanding change in countries including Sudan, Algeria, Uganda, Eswatini and the United States, where the Black Lives Matter movement surged.

Social media became an important part of her research — two chapters in “Glory” are composed just of tweets — but she also kept a few novels about despots by her side, including “The ​Autumn of the Patriarch,” by Gabriel García Márquez, “Wizard of the Crow” by Ngugi wa Thiong’o and “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” by Junot Díaz.

The process of writing “Glory” affirmed for her, she said, how “the struggle against injustice is the same really across borders, across time.”

Advertisement

No matter the difficulties citizens encounter, she said, the road to freedom begins in our own imaginations.

“We have to insist on imagining the worlds that we want to see,” she said. “It matters to think that one day Zimbabwe will be free, one day all these countries that need to be free will be free.” – The New York Times

Advertisement

Lifestyle

Love, peace, and harmony: The Ubuntu Bomuntu story

Published

on

By

BY STAFF REPORTER

Nokuthaba Dlamini , managing editor of VicFallsLive, sat down with Sibangilizwe Sibanda co-founder of the traditional Imbube Acappella group, Ubuntu Bomuntu, to discuss their journey and music in a modernizing world. The Victoria Falls-based group recently launched their seven-track album, Umdla Nkunzi, which features their gospel song, Inkanyezi, and other tracks that celebrate Ndebele culture and values.

Advertisement

Interview:

Q: Can you introduce yourselves and share how Ubuntu Bomuntu was formed?

A: We were formed in June 1999 as Amahlosi Asendle, but later changed our name to Ubuntu Bomuntu due to pronunciation difficulties. We’re a group of eight members from Matabeleland North province.

Advertisement

Q: What inspired you to start performing traditional music, and what’s the significance of your group’s name?

A: We were inspired by local Matebeleland Acappella groups and our cultural identity. Our name, Ubuntu Bomuntu, means humanity and emphasizes our focus on teaching and preserving our culture.

Q: What type of traditional music do you perform, and what’s its history?

Advertisement

A: We specialize in Imbube (African Acappella), which originated in Matebeleland, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Eswatini. This music style is unique to our region and plays a significant role in preserving our cultural heritage.

Q: How do you believe your music contributes to the preservation and promotion of our community’s cultural heritage?

A: Our music teaches the young ones about our culture, and our recorded materials serve as a reminder of our roots. We aim to prevent cultural loss and promote our identity.

Advertisement

Q: What’s your experience been like performing for tourists and visitors in Victoria Falls?

A: It’s a privilege to perform for tourists daily, showcasing our culture to a global audience.

Q: How do you engage with your audience, and what do you hope they take away from your performances?

Advertisement

A: We use social media to connect with our audience worldwide. Our goal is to educate them about our culture and promote love, peace, and harmony.

Q: Can you share the meaning and stories behind some of your popular songs?

A: We have gospel songs like Inkanyezi, social songs, and songs addressing issues like drug abuse, marriage, and climate change.

Advertisement

Our music reflects our culture and the world around us. For instance Esigodlweni , is a thanksgiving song that celebrates the culture and values of the Ndebele people from the founding King Mzilikazi kaMatshobana.

Q: What traditional instruments do you use, and how are they significant to your music?

A: We use African drums like ingungu for certain dances, but primarily focus on vocal performances.

Advertisement

Q: What challenges have you faced as a traditional musical group in a modernizing community?

A: Some people view our music as non-commercial, and promotion is limited, even on local airwaves.

Q: What are your goals for Ubuntu Bomuntu, and how do you see your music evolving in the future?

Advertisement

A: We aim to uplift our music to international standards and maintain our cultural identity. We’re focused on a brighter future.

Conclusion:

 

Advertisement

Q: What message would you like to share with our community and visitors through your music?

A: Love, peace, and harmony – that’s what we’re all about.

Q: Are there any upcoming performances or projects you’d like to promote?

Advertisement

A: We have several projects in the works, but lack of funds has delayed recording. We look forward to sharing our music with the world.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Lifestyle

Gilmore Tee makes it to the Forty under 40 Africa list

Published

on

By

BY OWN CORRESPONDENT

Global Citizen, Curator, Forbes 30 Alumni and Media Practitioner – Gilmore Tee made the Forty under 40 Africa List for 2023, alongside some outstanding personalities such as BBc’s Nyasha Michelle, South Africa’s Yershen Pillay, Vumile Msweli and Algeria’s Toumiat Lakhdar.

Advertisement

Gilmore is known for his works with Paper Bag Africa which houses the PAN African lifestyle and cross-networking event – The PiChani, European Film Festival Zimbabwe, I Wear My Culture and eMoyeni Digital Storytelling.

The 33-year-old is known for his work in the creative industry and brands such as Jameson, Fastjet, Food Lovers Market, GQ South Africa and Glamour Magazine.

Earlier this year the organisers of the Forty under 40 Africa initiative, Xodus Communications Limited, shortlisted 126 nominees from 24 African countries. The initiative is aimed at recognizing and celebrating emerging leaders under the age of 40 who demonstrate or impact personally and/ or professionally through their exceptional leadership.

Advertisement

The personalities nominated this year cut across countries such as; South Africa, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Cameroon, South Sudan, Morocco, Benin, Mauritius, Algeria, Swaziland, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Algeria, Botswana, Tunisia, Eswatini, Lesotho and Gambia.

At the event which was held on the March 25 at the Leonardo Hotel in Sandton City, South Africa, Gilmore was announced as a winner and part of the 40 lists, alongside other 39 outstanding practitioners from across the African continent.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Lifestyle

Across Zimbabwe, British scones are the taste of home

Published

on

By

HARARE – A sweet doughy treat from Britain has become a beloved part of Zimbabwe’s national cuisine, where despite the country’s colonial past, mothers and chefs alike now claim the pastry as their own.

The scone, which Brits normally enjoy with afternoon tea, is ubiquitous in Harare, the southern African country’s capital.

Advertisement

A breakfast favourite in these parts, it can be found everywhere from high-end eateries to the market stalls of impoverished townships.

“We love scones. They are not British, they are ours, our local scones,” Nyari Mashayamombe, a rights activist, says as she leaves an upmarket restaurant in Harare’s Belgravia district, its garden dotted with open umbrellas

Dense yet airy, Zimbabwean scones are the result of the intercultural mix that came with colonisation, says Mashayamombe, a red-haired 42-year-old who is also a singer and media personality.

Advertisement

In “fancy places like here… a beautiful scone goes as high as six bucks,” she said, referring to the American dollars that have become Zimbabwe’s parallel and preferred currency.

“It’s worth it.”

A few kilometres away at a market in Harare’s oldest township of Mbare, scones are impossible to find after midday.

Advertisement

“We sold them all this morning. They move quickly,” one vendor says.

 

The main communal bakery in Mbare, a bustling working-class district, opens at dawn.

Advertisement

Tawanda Mutyakureva, 26, arrives at around five in the morning to his work station, measuring two square metres, where he has to bend over to spread the dough on a knee-height countertop.

Every day he cranks out around 200 scones in an overheated room with cinder-block walls, lit by two bulbs hanging from a wire.

Brandishing a cookie cutter, he works quickly to whip out one batch after another, with each scone selling for 25 American cents.

Advertisement

In the hot, humid atmosphere redolent of yeast, his wife – with their baby strapped to her back – helps him with buttering the pastries and clearing plates.

Resellers come in to buy 10 or 20 pieces that will be sold at small grocery stores.

Memory Mutero, 46, was at the bakery to buy bread, since she makes her own scones at home.

Advertisement

“I make scones for my three kids. It takes about 45 minutes,” she tells AFP.

Her ingredients are simple: flour, salt, yeast, sugar, butter and milk.

But at the Bottom Drawer, an upscale tearoom in Harare, cook Veronica Makonese is unimpressed after tasting a scone brought back from the township.

Advertisement

“There is no milk in those, they used water!” the 46-year-old claims.

A white kerchief on her head, Makonese says she makes her own buttermilk for her scones, to control temperature and acidity levels, and uses only real butter to ensure the proper taste and softness.

Her boss, Sarah Macmillan, a 53-year-old Zimbabwean, says she longs for the scones she would eat as a child.

Advertisement

Back then, two shops in the centre of Harare, now closed, competed for the crown of best scone in the country, and Macmillan wanted her tearoom to make some that are “just as good”.

Macmillan says the secret of the little cake’s enduring success, in a country struggling with endemic poverty, is simple: “It’s very filling and affordable.” – AFP

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2022 VicFallsLive. All rights reserved, powered by Advantage