Saturday, 12 September 2009

The Mysterious Ways of the Mosquitoes of Brazoria County

It has been a while since I posted anything on this blog. I have had to contend with an energy-draining medical problem in the family. The highly skilled medical team at the local private hospital did a wonderful job. All is well now.

Anyhow, I thought it would be nice to break the ice by posting a short story from my latest book, The Clan Oracle and Other Stories, I hope to have published before the end of the year. Without much ado, here is The Mysterious Ways of the Mosquitoes of Brazoria County, a story inspired by Mark Twain's The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.


The Mysterious Ways of the Mosquitoes of Brazoria County

“This is incredible,” I mumbled to myself as I tried to browse through the local newspaper while swatting away a swarm of mosquitoes. I was still shaking my head when a shadow hovered into my presence. Apparently I had company, and might have had it far longer than I really realized since my attention was transfixed on the swarm of vicious mosquitoes. It was the bothersome mosquitoes that had frozen my faculties. Between my attempts to read the newspaper headlines and fending off mosquitoes, I was totally unaware of anything else.

“What you shaking you head at?” inquired a voice that carried the typical rural Texan drawl. It was the owner of the shadow, an elderly fellow dressed in worn and greased Levi dungarees and a plaid shirt. He was a farmer, I assumed. With curly graying hair betraying the toll of the sun on its texture, I could not have been mistaken. Anyway, his shoes were heavy enough to contend with the heavy and miry soil of the farming country. He could not have been an oilman, oil drilling being the only other form of economic activity in the county. He was a farmer.

“That,” pointing at the swarm of mosquitoes hovering by the vending machine as I answered his question. “I would never have believed it.” I was still shaking my head and gaping my mouth in surprise. “I have never seen mosquitoes flying in broad daylight. They are big, too, they could skin a whole cow.”

The old man looked surprised. I was glad he had noticed the strange mosquitoes. My happiness was premature and ill timed. The old man craned his head forward, extending nothing but his head as he stretched his neck, peering at the swarm. He then turned his head and for a brief and very uncomfortable moment, he inspected my face before taking another look at the newspaper vending machine. Finally he turned at me and I realized that his initial surprise had nothing to do with the incredible mosquitoes. It was my skepticism that had surprised him.

“Them mosquitoes have been known to do that,” he said with professorial confidence.


“You bet,” pausing abruptly as if something had jolted him. “Where you from?”

It was my accent then that had jolted him. There is no doubt he had never heard such a thick accent and I knew right away I was going to be treated like a know-nothing outsider. It had long ceased to annoy me and, as a matter fact, I found it rather amusing when people thought of me as a tourist and an object of curiosity. The brave ones would timorously get closer, marvel at my accent --- it was always the accent --- and the incomprehensible fluidity and lucidity of my manipulation of the English language. The accent just did not comport with the decency of the English.

“Sir, I come from Afric…. “

“A pilgrim, haa!” said the old man before I could completely answer his question. He did not seem particularly interested in the answer to his question. I was a pilgrim and that was all that mattered to him. “I don’t reckon you got them mosquitoes where you from?”

“Not this variety, sir,” not sure what to say since his statement could have been a statement of fact made to a know-nothing pilgrim. “These mosquitoes are quite vicious, sir, and I put it mildly.

I paid for the ten-page daily newspaper, as I was about to make my way into a low-roofed building that saved as a diner by day and an opry house by night. Let me caution you, gentle reader, that I use the word newspaper loosely because rarely was there any news covered, none beyond an occasional Friday-night fist fight in one of the opry houses that littered the place or an occasional flare-up of some long-running family feuds in the trailer-park communities that nestled at the junctions of county roads that crisscrossed the farming land. The old man lived in one of these communities.

“Them Brazoria County mosquitoes can chew off the skin of a whole cow and the whole shebang. I done witness that myself after the last flood ‘fore this here Allison,” offered the old man.

“Mosquitoes prefer blood. At least that is what I was taught in school.” Sounding a little bit conciliatory and less skeptical, I offered: “I guess the teachers had never heard of the mosquitoes of Brazoria County.”

“Pilgrim, don’t you believe none of them professors and their fangled books,” he said as he made his way to the parking lot.

All along I had been swatting away the swarm of these mosquitoes and it was noon. These were the hungriest and boldest mosquitoes I had ever seen. Normal mosquitoes do their foraging for blood in the darkness of the night. Not these mosquitoes of Brazoria County; they attacked people during the day. Interestingly, I noticed that the mosquitoes were not bothering the old man and I pointed it out to him.

“Vitamins son, it is vitamins.”

“Did you say vitamins, sir?” I asked the old man, wanting him to elaborate.

“Son, you take them vitamins and them mosquitoes will not bother you,” he said with the confidence of a medical doctor. “The first time I taken my vitamins, one mosquito tried to bite me, it spit out my skin, cussing and coughing. It ran back home like the Dickens telling everyone about me saying; “Fellas, lend me your ears. See that fella yonder? He got vitamins. Can’t touch him.” They shore done listened to him.”

“But, sir ... “

“But me no buts pilgrim,” he said as he continued his way to his car. “Take your vitamins.”

I was going to tell him that in my years in school I had never heard of mosquitoes being repelled by vitamins. If what he had said was true, remember that the mosquitoes did not bother him while I frantically fought them off, why, if he was right he could tell the entire world of his findings. Surely there would be no need for the big drug companies to waste money on expensive equipment and scientists to hunt for more potent anti-malarial drugs. I was not inclined to believe the vitamin story. I had not read it in any book or journal of medicinal chemistry and I was about to tell the old man that. He quickly squelched that idea.

“Eeeh look here son, about them fangled books,” he remarked as if in afterthought, “them Yankee scalawag books, they lie.” He was waving his finger at me but as a friendly warning. Nothing from the books was ever going to change his mind about the mosquitoes.

His name, as I would later learn, was Bill McNulty. His friends called him Billy. He was a neo-Confederate, alright. From my years in Mississippi, anything the neo-Confederates disagreed with had its origins from a Yankee scalawag. The stickers on his battered truck confirmed it: HERITAGE NOT HATRED read one. DEAD YANKEES TELL NO LIES, said a more threatening sticker. KEEP YOUR CONFEDERATE DOLLARS, THE SOUTH SHALL RISE AGAIN.

Despite all this, Billy was as harmless as a newly born baby. He was like most southerners, unfairly caricatured as uneducated, uncultured and hopelessly racist. This was far from the truth. He was a simple old man who valued his family and friends. That made him an educated man in my eyes. He was leery of strangers, which is natural but he became incredibly friendly once he became comfortable with the stranger. Billy was an avid hunter. He loved his guns and was not a threat to anyone. If he was not going to eat it or was not a pest, he did not kill a thing. I had been warned by city slickers to stay within city limits unless I wanted to get myself lynched.

Like most old southerners, black or white, Old Billy was a very likeable grandfatherly man. Bill had no bone of bigotry in his body. I was a black man who had grown up in deep Africa herding goats but Billy and his family took me as part of the McNulty family. I fitted in seamlessly. Instead of falling victim of a lynch mob, I found myself suffocating in southern hospitality. The southern whites receive a raw deal, really.

I suspected someone was making political mileage out of Billy’s poverty and supposed ignorance. Like his black brother in the inner city, he was political cannon fodder. It seemed the poor blacks and poor whites were deliberately kept apart from each other so that they would never realize that they have more in common with each other than the difference in the colour of their skins. If all these poor folks ever came together, there would be more blood shed than the world witnessed when the French peasants basically wiped out the French aristocracy overnight.

Poor people are very dangerous and the only way to control them is to pit them against each other. Political organizations tell the poor whites that the government wants to confiscate their hunting guns. The poor white’s black brother is made to believe his gun-totting rural brethren are baying for his blood. This is a trick for diverting the poor whites’ attention from issues more important to their lives than gun control measures. Similarly, the poor black get the same treatment. Poor blacks are simply left at the mercy of equally manipulative and exploitative organizations. These organizations are basically self-serving at best.

The kind folks reside in the underdeveloped pockets of poverty of the rural south and mountain west. These pockets are replete with conspiracy theories. When I visited him Old Bill brought the subject of the mosquitoes. He said the United Nations scientists wanted to put the farmers out of business and they had unleashed these hungry mosquitoes so as to begin the New World Order.

The next time he talked about the mosquitoes he had another explanation. The mosquitoes were actually miniature black helicopters, cousins of the bigger black helicopters sightings of which were a daily occurrence in the mountains of Idaho and Montana. Bill’s wife looked at me with a twinkle in her eyes as if to say, “What did I tell ya, pilgrim?” Old Bill’s wife had told me the old man liked to embroider things. Basically there was nothing to Bill's tale of a cow having been skinned by the mosquitoes.

All in all, the tropical storm code-named Allison had struck the southeastern area of Texas, an area that included the greater Houston metropolis and the surrounding farming communities. Like a jilted lover, it had wreaked havoc. Because of its agrarian nature, Brazoria County had not accumulated much run off to amount to any significantly damaging flood. However, the scattered paddles of water were ample breeding grounds for mosquitoes. I found a wonderful friend and the mosquitoes opened my eyes to the interesting life of an unfairly demonized section of America, the southern whites. I have to thank the mysterious ways of the mosquitoes of Brazoria County.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

A Miracle out of South Carolina

Straight out of South Carolina, the heartbeat of Dixie, with all due apologies to Alabama, here is Professor B. Michael Williams a bona fide mbira maestro. It is a miracle. This just lends credence to what I said on one of Sarudzayi Barnes' blog entries.

Here is a sample of what the gifted man has to offer. I hope my born-again compatriots are paying attention.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Invitation to Masimba Musodza's Reading of Uriah's Vengeance

I had the oppportunity and great pleasure to read Masimba's book, Uriah's Vengeance; a review is coming down the pike. If anyone within London - not that one in Ontario, Canada - please do not miss the opportunity to meet Masimba Musodza.

He is a soft-spoken and very humble person but let that not deceive you. Masimba is a phenomenal writer but, given his admirable humility, he will not blow his own horn. When I call him an incredibly good writer, I am not blowing the horn for him; far from it. I am just telling the truth as I know it.

Go and meet this great Zimbabwean if you have the oppportunity. I bet you will not be disappointed.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Friday, 10 July 2009

Friday, 26 June 2009

Amhlope to Irene Staunton and NoViolet M. Bulawayo

According to Tinashe Mushakavanhu'e report, Irene Staunton and NoViolet M. Bulawayo have been nominated for the 2009 PEN/Studzinski Literary Award. To my two compatriots I say makorokoto - amhlope. To be shortlisted after 827 entries from African authors, as reported by Tinashe, is ample proof that your literary accomplishments and contributions are of unquestionable quality. I am brimming with pride.

Friday, 12 June 2009

A Celebratory Jig for Chris Mlalazi

No folks, that's not me. That is one of the illustrations that may be included in Ngano dzeVapwere. The Shona stories are totally unrelated to the English folktales in African Folktales for Children.

I could not help but post it. It fits the moment. Think of the fella doing a traditional celebratory jig for the successful publication of Chris Mlalazi's book, Many Rivers.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

I Was Inspired by Sarudzayi Barnes - Janine Dube

Zimbabwe's latest writer, Janine Dube, was recently interviewed by ZIMNET Radio. Asked to name writers who inspired her, "Sarudzayi Barnes," she said while naming some of the most prominent African writers like Chinua Achebe, Shimmer Chinodya, Charles Mungoshi and Dambudzo Marechera. Coming from another writer, that is a ringing endorsement of Sarudzayi Barnes.

This simply reinforces what I have often said to Mrs Barnes, a writer, business owner and aspiring farmer, everytime she mentions the cold shoulder her books get from certain Zimbabwean literary quarters - just keep on putting a good product because people who matter will notice.

Oh, by the way, it is apparent Janine just shuts up and writes. Good for her

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Sarudzai Mabvakure and Janine Dube; Two Zimbabwean Women Doing Their Writing Quietly

The Zimbabwean has a review of Sarudzai Mabvakure's book, A Disappointing Truth – The Tragic Story of Sarah Witt. Another Zimbabwean writer, Janine Dube, has her book, A Dark Horizon, reviewed on the New Zimbabwe site. To these two Zimbabwean women doing their writing quietly, congratulations.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Shut Up and Read First!

The crowd at the Herald needs to calm down. One of the scribes, Richmore Tera, read Petina Gappah’s book. He did not like what was in it. Like respondent Masimba said on Petina’s blog entry, the scribes at the "Ministry of Truth" had been shouting and hollering about Petina's book without having read it. Now that they have read the book, they are raising Cain from the dead. What were they expecting?

Anyone who has followed Petina's opinion editorials on The Zimbabwe Times will not be surprised to learn that she lampoons the Zimbabwean oligarchy in her book. When she decided to write a book, did anyone think she had suddenly had an epiphany like Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus? To quote Masimba, again, the Zimbabwean oligarchy better brace itself for a torrent of bitter truth, if they somehow think of fiction as truth. If what Petina writes about has a ring of truth to it, I would not be surprised. Like Petina, we are all President Mugabe's children. We have known him to speak his mind. Some behavioural traits are acquired, you know. As the saying goes, like father like children or something along those lines - mbudzi kudya mufenje hufana nyina. It is not a crime, is it?

I hope this is also a big lesson for Zimbabweans, especially in the literary circle. Instead of yammering about books without reading them, one or two bloggers have been guilty of this - why not wait for a copy first? To borrow from Sigauke’s sagacious admonishment, shut up and read first! There are some writers who have given free copies to potential reviewers – what the recipients do with the books is another story altogether. Richmore Tera could have asked for a copy prior to accepting Petina's invitation, that way he would have known what he was dealing with from the get go. What we have now is the reverse of Mark Anthony’s elegy for Julius Caesar – pan intended. Richmore came to praise Petina but ended up attempting to bury her, metaphorically speaking. Zvino Ishe Tera vakazokorwa nemhanga yemahara pedzisire vowonekwa semunhu asina maturo.

I have not read Petina's book since I have been grappling with work assignments and have a deadline to meet. As soon as I have enough breathing room, I will read it and find out for myself what all the noise is all about. I will write a review, assuming I would have won my war against snails and pigeons by then.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Is David Cameron a Hypocrite?

It sure seems like he is, according to the report by Glen Owen. Here is what Owen says; "David Cameron was dragged personally into the expenses row last night after it was revealed that he paid off a loan on his London home shortly after taking out a £350,000 taxpayer-funded mortgage on his constituency house.

The disclosure followed a powerful call by the Tory leader yesterday for the ‘full force of the law’ to be deployed against MPs who have abused allowances.

Following a Mail on Sunday investigation Mr Cameron could now face searching questions about his own expense claims

The rest of Beltway Dave's curious story is right here.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Beater Mangethe and Super Alick Macheso

Iri tinoriti dapurahunanzva;

Cheso Power - Mafaro Lyrics (to the best of my abilities - others feel free to make corrections)

Aye ye ye ye ye ye ye ndiri kufara ini
Aye ye ye ye ye ye ye ndiri kufara ini

Kumafaro kwakanakira kufadza nyama nepfungwa
Unowona zvakawanda munguva imwe chete-o
Uchinzwa zviningiswa zvimwe zvinodziva nzeve-e
Unowona zvakawanda zvinoyevedza meso nepfungwa
Kurudziro iyi yekufadza ropa zvikuruse-i mashoko-o

Aye ye ye ye ye ye ye ndiri kufara ini

Kumafaro kwakanakira kufadza nyama nepfungwa
Unowona zvakawanda munguva imwe chete-o
Uchinzwa zvizhinjiswa zvinodziva nzeve-e
Unowona zvakawanda zvinoyevedza meso nepfungwa
Kurudziro iri yekufadza ropa zvikuru sei-i mashoko-o

Kumafaro kwakanakira kufadza nyama nepfungwa
Unowona zvakawanda munguva imwe chete-o
Uchinzwa zvizhinjiswa zvinodziva nzeve-e
Unowona zvakawanda zvinoyevedza meso nepfungwa
Kurudziro iri yekufadza ropa zvikuru sei-i mashoko-o
Zvukuru sei mashoko

Aye ye ye ye ye ye ye tiri kufara isu
Aye ye ye ye ye ye ye tiri kufara isu
Aye ye ye ye ye ye ye tiri kufara isu

Aye ye ye ye ye ye ye tiri kufara isu
Aye ye ye ye ye ye ye tiri kufara isu
Aye ye ye ye ye ye ye tiri kufara isu

Friday, 15 May 2009

A Response to Sigauke's Questionnaire

Over at Sigauke’s blog, there is a curious questionnaire that is interesting. Below, I have tried to respond to as many of the questions as I could. Bear in mind that I am but a tiny and inconsequential dot in the literary world.

Be that as it may, here we go:

1. What exactly is African literature?
I personally think the definition of African literature will always be a subject of debate at the end of which there will never be a consensus. Howbeit, it could be defined along the Africanity of authors and, to a lesser extent, the subject matter of the works in question. Pursuant to the afore-mentioned definition, literary work by an African writer inevitably results in African literature. The literary product of one’s writing endeavour is inherently reflective of the writer’s experience from childhood to the juncture where one’s work is put forth for public consumption.

2. Why is it called African literature? Why is it not simply literature?

This is an intractable issue that has vexed noted writers like Soyinka, Ali Mazrui and Achebe. I am happy with Chinua’s definition best captured when he said, and I paraphrase him; “An African who says he or she does not write African literature is as foolish as a man who chases after a rat escaping from his burning hut instead of trying to put out the fire.”

3. Which is the best African literature?
This is like beauty for it is in the eyes of the reader, so to speak. Anyway, what other African literature is there?

4. Who is the father, or the mother of African literature?
I have qualms ascribing metaphorical parenthood to African literature. For me it would be easier to respond were I asked to name the African writer who has inspired me the most. In that case I would say Chinua Achebe through his book Things Fall Apart.

5. Why is Chinua Achebe discussed more than Amos Tutuola or V Mudimbe?
Comparing Achebe and Tutuola boils down to a comparison between Things Fall Apart and The Palmwine Drunkard. Things Fall Apart covers a wide range of societal aspects experienced by an African community at one time or the other, namely; (i) the bitter fruits of laziness and how one’s lassitude becomes a burden for one’s descendants, (ii) fear of failure and how it can lead to self-emollition, (iii) acquisition of dignity and respect through personal achievement regardless of misfortunes of one’s parents, (iv) the importance of heeding the words of one’s elders, (v) the significance of ngozi, the penalty for shedding the blood of one’s child, adopted or otherwise, (vi) the fragility of a community when it adopts and enforces norms and mores that are too rigid and (v) the vulnerability to outside forces when a community is too inflexible and restricted by archaic dogmas.

In my opinion, Chinua Achebe succinctly captures all this, and many more, in Things Fall Apart. The book encapsulates ruin that can befall an unflinching individual and a culturally static society.

Just as the Christian hymns touched something at the core of Nwoye, so does Things Fall Apart to this man’s cultural soul. I am a Shona of the Rozvi extraction. Any work that may directly or indirectly give me an insight on fcators that may have precipitated the demise of a once mighty community is greatly welcome. Given the invariance of mankind's behaviour, especially African, Chinua Achebe’s book strikes a chord with me much more than any other book by an African writer. Things Fall Apart does, to a point, help me get a general understand how the once pre-eminent Rozvi may have fallen apart and got scattered to all four corners of the world. Would The Palmwine Drunkard help me as much? I do not think so.

Here is the caveat though; it boils down to personal literary and cultural tastes.

6. Is it still African literature if it was first written in French and was then translated into English?

Of course it ought to be.

7. Why do other African writers only write in European languages, and not the languages of their mothers?

In my opinion, it is a matter of personal choice. If the author’s primary objective is to reach a big market and sell as many books as possible, what Sarudzai Mabvakure aptly describes as bestsellerdom, simple market forces dictate writing in a language that enables the writer to attain that goal. Others write in non-African languages to reach a wider readership but a quest for personal glory is not the primary motive. There are some writers who genuinely want to share African orature, as Sigauke calls it, with those beyond the African linguistic, geographic and cultural boundaries. These two examples are at the extreme termini of the spectrum of motives and the rest fall in between. Notwithstanding the individual motives, we all get culturally richer at the end of the day.

Additionally, there are instances where an African writer writes in a “European” language because the writer’s command of one’s “mother” is comparatively too poor to enable the writer to effectively put forth his or her ideas. This is a fact that many may not be comfortable with.

Let me say that I disagree with the characterization of languages used in Africa as European. I would prefer to call them languages adopted or culturally assimilated from erstwhile colonial powers. If one is so fluent in an assimilated language to the point where one can comfortably teach, write for, and even argue before a highly learned audience that claims that language as it mother tongue, without missing a bit, I say that is no longer a foreign language. To all intents and purposes, it becomes one’s mother tongue even if it was foisted by the bashing of one’s head with the priest’s Bible or at the prodding of the barrel of a gun.

On a personal level, I am comfortable writing in Shona and English. I write in Shona out of interest whereas I write in English because of professional obligations as well as out of personal interest.

8. Is Ngugi serious?

This question presupposes that the person or people who put together this questionnaire is or are personally aware of moments where said Ngugi has behaved in such a manner as to leave people questioning his seriousness. Has he? If he has, seemingly to the satisfaction of those empanelled to put this questionnaire, it would be helpful were they to make respondents privy to the details.

9. Why does Achebe live in the United States?
I think the answer to this is simple. Achebe lives in the United States of America for the same reason some of us do not live in our villages. What is the probative value of this question, really?

10. Is all African literature post-colonial?

Not necessarily.

11. But seriously, which writers make up African literature?

All the writers who state that their literary works comprise African literature ought to fall under this category.

12. How does one read African literature: where do you begin, where do you stop? Or do you stop? Should you know African orature in order to understand the literature?

I will pass on this one.

13. Who are the readers of African literature and why?


14. What does an African writer want?

The answer will vary from writer to writer. However, if I may hazard a guess, there are some who want fame, some who want to proudly show to the rest of the world the wealth of African culture, some want to preserve part of our culture, some who want to add to the pool of African culture, and so on and so forth. All these goals, however variegated, are noble.

15. Why?

In my humble opinion, personal satisfaction may very well be at the core of the motive.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

A Response to Ms Mabvakure's Bestsellerdom Blog Entry

Ms Mabvakure, there is one trait about you that I find refreshing; your honesty. You do not beat about the bush but go straight to the point, a take-no-prisoner approach. I will not always agree with you on theological issues but even there, your candour is something I greatly admire.

On bestsellerdom aspirations, I think it is more of a personality issue than a universal writers'-syndrome, unless I am mistaken in my observations. Some, it seems, write to reach a wide audience/readership beyond the circle of family members and friends. On the other hand, there are those who write for fun and when they make it to bestsellerdom, it would be like adding icing on the cake. I like what Dambudzo Marechera once said; "I write for myself." When I write, even mere scribblings, I do so primarily to entertain myself. When others join in, it only spices up everything.

A good product will inevitably self-generate a lucrative market for itself. It is just a matter of time. Moreover, fame will come if it is God’s will. Some will actively search for it while others entrust their fate in God’s hands. The above-noted comprise, in a nutshell, my writing creed. It may be a simpleton’s creed, but a creed nonetheless.

What are my thoughts on writing? Frankly, it is the easiest thing I have ever done so much so that I find it incredible that, within the writing community, it is generally considered a path to fame and the exclusive domain of a presumably gifted few. In his book, Roughing It, Mark Twain once made an observation to the effect that writing is so easy it should be considered a hobby not a job – that was after he had spent a stint doing back-breaking work at a silver-extracting mill in the wilderness of 19th Century Nevada.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Change You Can Believe In: South African Style

I have read so much about the brouhaha between Nando's and Julius Malema. "Much ado about nothing," I dismissed the whole kafuffle. For goodness' sake, I have wondered what it was all about until I saw the advertisement at the centre of the storm. Malema, the leader of the ANC Youth League has been clamouring for political change and, in a very funny spoof, Nando's promises real change people can believe in. The clip is right here. It is classic.

If Julius Malema is smart, which I doubt very much, he would come out and tell everyone it is a very funny advert. That would effectively take the wind out of the whole thing. If he makes threats, as is the wont of functionally illiterate political novices entrusted with enforcing law and order on behalf of the ruling elite, like the case of the mythical crows of my little book, African Folktales for Children, Nando's will have free and effective publicity.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Petina Gappah's Impressive BBC Interview

Petina's chat with Bola Mosuro of the BBC is very interesting. I do not know Petina as a person but, if I may confess, I was greatly impressed. Watch the interview here. What I find surprising is the fact that Zimbabwean cyberspace newspapers have not picked it up yet.

There are more interviews on her site. I genuinely believe it is worthwhile to watch and listen, I really do.

Although I prefer to stay away from politics, especially the Zimbabwean variety, I have to respectfully demur from Petina's observation, id est: the MDC is undergoing some Zanufication - around 28:30. I genuinely believe the MDC-ZANU-PF cohabitation is still in its premordial phase and it may be a little bit too early and premature to pass such judgement. Be that as it may, Petina's observation does have credibility given our country's sorry experience. For the sake of the Zimbabwean people, I hope we really move away from politics of cult leadership.

Friday, 8 May 2009

The Lions Press Publisher's Interview

The site Arts Initiates has an interesting piece in which Sarudzayi Barnes is interviewed. You can find the piece here. Like we used to say in the ghetto, padiki padiki zvesaga reshuka rinopera netiisipunu.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Mr K.G, The Kids Were Thrilled

Mapquest is wonderful if you are in the USA where roads and streets run north-west and east-west. If you are lost, keep on driving because you will come to a highway that will take you to a road to your destination. In London, Mapquest is almost worthless. I found that out three Saturdays ago.

Mr KG invited us to a braai in west London. “Look,” I had said to Mr KG, “I have four people coming along. Is it OK?”

“By all means, Doc, bring ‘em all,” said Mr KG in his quintessential Southern African drawl. “There will be enough sadza and nyama for everyone.”

Up M3, we drive from Soton, left into Beltway 25 then - wait a minute – they don’t call it a beltway. It is the London loop. That is it, yes, M25 is called a loop not a beltway. I’m kindda disappointed they don’t call it a beltway. It would be fun calling David Cameron, the Tory leader, Beltway Dave. He likes to call the British government all sorts of bad names but then cannot wait not only to join it but to lead it. Sounds to me like a shell game, but I digress.

“The map says go west on Exit 16,” orders the navigator.

“What was that? We should be going east,” I protest as I slow down the chuck wagon. I am trying to defy the orders of the navigator but the driver of the car behind us decides to conspire against me. He blasts his horn. It is irritating so I have to comply with the navigator’s command.

We soon find ourselves headed straight to Birmingham. That is where Exit 16 takes you when you go west on M40. Doggamit, them British roads! If you follow the wrong exit, you have to drive to the next town before you can loop your way back into the highway. My crew and I find ourselves driving west, on M40, towards Birmingham instead of east into west London. At last we find a roundabout and do a hairpin turn as we head east towards west London.

The navigator is getting irritated. Everyone else is making fun of him. He is a teenager and he does not like to have his feathers raffled. Teenagers are a curious breed. They think they know everything and when they are proven wrong, their first response if that of anger – I know a few grownups who are like that, too.

“Why are we going to London anyhow?” the navigator sneers at me like a modern-day Tomás de Torquemada. I am forced to endure a verbal waterboarding. The navigator is taking his fury on me. You see, I am what they call a soft target.

“We are going to meet some Rhodesians.”

Aha! I have hit the mother lode. My passengers are suddenly curious, very curious. All four of them were all born after 1980 and they had never seen a "Rhodesian" all their lives. Through ZTV and The Herald, they have heard a lot about "Rhodesians" and how evil they are. To my four passengers, "Rhodesians" might as well have been some frightening monsters.
Anyway, we get lost a number of times but eventually reach our destination.

Boy, is my crew surprised when we finally meet our host and his friends. My crew does not see any monsters, contrary to the image that had been painted for them since childhood. Mr KG and his friends call my crew The Kids. Well, the kids are taught target shooting. Within minutes, just like that, they are hitting the bull’s-eye and knocking tin cans like its second nature.

No! They are not being trained to be Selous Scouts. They are just kids having fun and if anyone insists otherwise, we will meet in court for character defamation and preventing kids from their natural rights to enjoy life. It is early London spring and as the sun buries itself in the belly of the earth, it gets nippy. I huddle by the heater but the kids are too excited to feel the London evening chill.

“Vanhu vaye vari bho manje,” says the navigator on our way back home. Like the other kids, he is atwitter with joy. They all agree that Mr KG and his friends are wonderful. When I tell them a “Rhodesian” cooked the sadza they ate, I witnessed the cooking act, they are as impressed as I was. It was cooked village-style.

The kids realize there is more that binds Zimbabweans to “Rhodesians” than divide them. I wanted to disabuse the kids of the notion Zimbabweans of European ancestry and indigenous Zimbabweans are different from each other. We are one people despite the political noise back home that says otherwise. I could have quoted Dr Martin Luther King; judge a man by the content of his character not the colour of his skin. The kids would have listened more out of respect than anything else then dismiss my words as meaningless abstractions of a man who likes to read too many fangled books. I wanted them to have first-hand experience of what Dr King was advocating.

“Mission accomplished,” I silently say to myself. All the kids have become ardent proponents of America’s Second Amendment, too. They cannot wait to have an encore.

Mr KG, the kids were thrilled.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Zimbabwe - Land of Missed Opportunities

The videos below are a living testament to the incredible pool of talent in Zimbabwe. What good has come out of it? If, to quote Confucius, a picture is worth a thousand words then a video is worth a million words.

This is just the tip of the Eiffel Tower of talent that Zimbabwe has. It is a pity that we have to beg when we have enough to support ourselves. Very sad indeed.

Well, how about a Zimbabwe version of Buena Vista Social Club?

Saturday, 28 March 2009

A Layman's Thoughts on Ngugi's Wizard of the Crow

Over on the Wealth of Ideas blog, Emmanuel Sigauke is elated that Ngugi waThiong’o has been nominated for Man Booker Prize. I share Brother Manu's happiness. That happiness is born out of recognition that Ngugi is a colossus and the nomination is a long overdue recognition of what he has done to inspire African writers of younger generations. I hope Ngugi wins it.

Ngugi has an impressive portfolio of literary works but his last work, Wizard of the Crow, is at the bottom of the totem pole. This could be a result of this poor reader expecting something along the same lines as his epic novels like Petals of Blood and Devil on the Cross. I think of Ngugi more as a social commentator who uses novels as a vehicle to articulate his positions on prevailing issues. I bought the novel thinking that it was a tome on the Zimbabwe body politic. Ngugi cleverly used a cover illustration in which the bigger crow has a military-style cap with the Zimbabwe bird on the rim band. Moreover, the truncated Zimbabwean flag on the cover leaves the impression that it is about Zimbabwe.

To add intrigue to it all, the title has allusions to Zimbabwe. You will recall that gunguwo was a derogatory epithet for Bishop Muzorewa - Sekuru Gunguwo – because of his religious vestments. Our gunguwo's was politically killed by the almost magical political and oratory skills of Mugabe. Some dare liken President Mugabe's skills to wizardry. To me, the superficial Zimbabwean metaphor simply stands out but what is inside is something else.

It would be fairly easy to posit that Ngugi tried to pull a sly marketing gimmick by exploiting Mugabe’s unpopularity at the time of the publishing of the book. I have no idea what motivated Ngugi into using the Zimbabwean imagery. I will leave that to gurus of literature. I do not have a degree in writing with a keen eye for literature analysis. I am a simple scientist. Be that as it may, my comments aired herein and elsewhere are not an imputation of Ngugi’s book. I do not regret buying the book.

Anyway, a comparison of the author's works is inevitable. I would call it the unavoidable consequence of unintended relativity. For a layman like me not well-versed in the intricacies and academic intrigues of literature beyond what I did at O-Level, I can say not all of a writer's books are equally good. Some will be exceptionally good and some will be relatively poor while the rest will be somewhere in the middle. In science we call that trend a Gaussian distribution. It is quite common, like a dictate of nature.

This is the case with all the books of famous writers in my library. I have copies of Mark Twain's Joan of Arc, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. In my opinion, the latter two are classics – classics are not just books I display, I read them, too. The former tastes sour by comparison. I say so because I have read all three. I could say the same about John Steinbeck novels, Tony Morrison novels, Achebe novels, Lewis Lapham books and so on and so forth.

Ngugi is proud of his Kikuyu lineage and writes in his mother tongue. What the rest of the world consumes from his plate are translations. It is well and fine to bear this in mind. However, can this be used as a caveat to shirk a comparison of his novels? When we invoke such caveats about his the novels, as we read them in English, originally written in Kikuyu, does it not come across as a circuitous admission that the work under discussion is relatively substandard? As Ngugi himself states in Decolonizing the Mind, his most celebrated novels published after Petals of Blood were originally written in Gikuyu. As far as my rudimentary literature tastes are concerned, the quality of these books was not diminished by translation into English. Why would Wizard of the Crow be an exception unless it was comparatively poor right from the very beginning?

The judgement passed on the quality of a book is a matter of personal taste akin to snake venom; some call it poison that has to be avoided at any cost while others use it as medicine.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Is Pastor Chris A Charlatan?

Last night I read the review on Pastor Chris’s book by Ms Sarudzai Mabvakure. With all due respect, I think Pastor Chris is confused. When he says Jesus died for us, I wonder where Jesus ever said that. I know Paul made such wild declarations. I have read the Bible but I have never come across any part in which Jesus claimed that he would die to conquer death for his followers.

While we are at it, how does Pastor Chris define the process of getting born again?

The idea that kings rule by Divine Right, as alluded to in Ms Mabvakure’ review is debunked by First Samuel 8:10-17. Anyway, who are supposed to be ruled by the believers of Pastor Chris' ilk? This quest for temporal power is strange if we bear in mind that Jesus said blessed are the poor for they will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. The world does not need anymore theocratic oligarchs. The few we have are more than enough!

Equally strange is the notion that “The right or the privilege to live is reserved for the born again Christian.” What about the billions who were put on this planet by God and who do not subscribe to Pastor Chris’ brand of theology, by what authority are they denied the right or privilege to live? Does it mean that they all deserve the grizzly fate of the Amalekites?

Pastor Chris' claims have a sulphurous smell of bigotry that could easily verge on the genocidal. Let us not forget that Pastor Chris is a Nigerian Pentecostal whose country of origin is notorious for pastors who force members to pay fees for exorcism and anyone who fails is condemned to death by emollition; please watch the video posted by Rense. Be warned, it is very graphic and sickening.

One question commends itself, is Pastor Chris a charlatan? I sure would like to exchange correspondences with him because I find his claims deeply disturbing and devoid of scriptural merit.

Friday, 27 February 2009

PDF of Jesus's Dubious Historicity

As promised, I have my essay entitled The Dubious Historicity of Jesus Christ posted as a pdf.

Viewer feedback greatly welcome, seriously.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Can I Have a Witness? The Dubious Historicity of Jesus Christ

Josh McDowell’s book, More Than A Carpenter, is the most-cited script by Southern (American) Baptists whenever questions regarding the authenticity of the historical character called Jesus Christ pops up. I was fortunate enough to get a copy from a white Mississippian Southern Baptist, who claimed to have been born again, after I brought to his attention the pagan origins of the resolution, in the form of an imperial decree, of the still-controversial doctrine of the trinity. He did not want to hear anything about Arius, Athanasius or Emperor Constantine but, after quoting a few Biblical verses that contradicted his stated belief in the dogma, he angrily thrust the little book into my hands. “Read it,” he commanded as he shoved McDowell's book into my hand, “it will answer your darned questions!”

Suffice it to say it is a nice little book but woefully inadequate in terms of addressing or clarifying the historicity of Jesus Christ. All practicing Christian and many practicing Moslems take the scriptural evidence of the existence of Jesus prima facie. If only this was true.

The scriptural narrations are testimonies of individuals so that they are, fortunately, subject to the Biblically mandatory evidence-validation edicts. Pursuant to said edicts, a person who makes a claim must put forth witnesses to verify the validity of his or her claim, viz.; Deuteronomy 13:1-5, Exodus 4:1-9.) and Deut. 18:18-22). In fact, Jesus himself, or a character by that name says in John 5:31, "If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid." In Matthew 18:16 – 17; he says, "[T]ake with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established." Similarly, the character called Paul, in 2 Corinthians 13-2 says; “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”


I have collated Bible texts of witnesses that seem to prove that the witnesses who testify about Jesus abysmally fail the evidence-validation test. It has been a worthy errand. Every time a group of Mormon missionaries or Jehovah's Witnesses knock at my door, I invite them in and pull out the essay I have written but not published. They cannot rebut the points in the essay and so they leave and promise to return with answers. Unfortunately, they never come back.

I will be posting the essay, as a pdf, in due course. Alternatively, I could offer it to Emmanuel or Ivor, if they do not mind posting rouble-rousing tracts.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Sarudzayi Chifamba-Barnes: Zimbabwean Entrepreneur

by Jonathan Masere

14th February 2009

When it comes to writing and publishing, Sarudzayi, whose interesting interview is shown here, is a trail blazer and her travails have paved a broad path for those of us who are following in her footsteps. I knew she had written a book, The Endless Trail for which she got a pittance but little did I know that she had previously written another one and saw not a single quid for her effort. It is from her experience that I quickly realized that the book business is a jungle in which the operative rule is eat-or-you-will-be-eaten or, as we would say it in Shona: kakara kununa hudya kamwe.

Unfortunately the publisher is always the gorged predator and the poor writer the helpless prey. Publishing is a very tough business. There is no room for sentimentalities. It is deeply disturbing that famous writers are living like paupers as publishers get rich. Once in a while, a writer strikes a rich seam of gold and does very well. Think of J. K. Rowling or Zimbabwe-born Alex McCall Smith. How many J. K. Rowlings are there in the world? I can safely say that Zimbabwe has a whole slough of writers like Alex. However, unlike said Ms Rowling and Smith, many will not get the recognition and the subsequent financial windfall befitting their effort.

Saru could have opted for the easy road of hawking her works to famous publishers but, I suspect, she decided to do it the hard way. With sheer will, she could have struck her own literary Comstoke Lode. Some of us are thankful she opted to take the tough road of starting her own publishing company, The Lions Press Limited. It was a tough gamble but for a tough and resolute Zimbabwean, she has fearlessly grabbed that bull by the horns. The responses have been very encouraging.

It is the story of the underdog boldly taking on the behemoth and doing well. Crooked publishers have been put on notice by Sarudzayi. It is comeuppance time and some of us will be on the side of the underdog. This one small step for this Daughter of the Soil of Zimbabwe is turning into one giant stride for the down-trodden writer.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Final Cover of My Book

On the 7th of December 2008, blogger Namgcobhar suggested using a cover illustration that would entice children. “[A]ren't you missing the hare and the tortoise there? I'm thinking kids might take to those faster that the women; they do judge books by the covers kani!”

I took this wise advice to heart because it made good marketting sense. I decided to change the cover illustration pursuant to Namgcobhar’s suggestion. The new cover is below.

Copies should be ready next week.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Daiton Somanje the New Mukadota

I bought a DVD with a collection of songs by Daiton Somanje and Pengaudzoke. It is a gem, if you are into Zimbabwean music. The music and dancing are superb, with none of the frills you get from the likes of Lilly Allen, Amy Winehouse even Kanye West. In my opinion Daiton is the successor to Mukadota. I wish someone would give him the opportunity to display the array of talent that he has. In the DVD, the man's brilliant comedian talents flash to the surface.

Daiton and Pengaudzoke sing and dance for real. Anywhere else but Zimbabwe, these guys would be very rich. I can imagine them on the David Letterman's Late Show or NBC Today Show. The kabhasikoro dance would make them an instant hit. My teenage son has been rivetted by Penngaudzoke. A fan of Kanye West and Amy Winehouse, he said, "It is not right that Amy is a millionaire who does nothing but moo and scratch herself while performing but genuine singers like Daiton are scrapping at the bottom of the barrel. Daiton is better than Kanye, too."

When things get to normalcy in Zimbabwe, let us hope and pray that these highly talented guys get their due reward. In the meantime it is important to make sure that we do not cheat them by burning their CDs and DVDs. Every time we do that we are taking food from their tables, stripping off clothes from their children’s backs and also depriving them of medicine. For these reasons alone, I do not burn my CDs for anyone.

We need to support our own whenever possible. I ran into a Zimbabwean gym instructor who wanted to know if I had any South African music CDs. He wanted to use them for his aerobics class. I wanted to know why he wanted South African music when Zimbabwe has very good music that can be used for aerobics class like Mabvi neMagokora by Nicholas Zakaria and the Khiama Boys. He could not give me a straight answer. I do not have anything against South Africans but going for low-quality music from South Africa, like the Zimbabweans of the M’Zansi Jams programme on OBE, in preference to very good Zimbabwean music annoys me. I told the clown he had an inferiority complex. The clown did not like it and I did not really care because I had told him the ugly truth.

He went to a Group A school and is still stuck in that bygone era where they used to say exsir, whatever the hell that word means, as an exclamation mark to every sentence. I went to a Group A school myself but I cannot find that as an excuse of frowning upon my own kind. This is quite common though.

At one time, my friends and I drove three hours to Washington D.C. for a graduation party for Zimbabwean friends. The DJ was playing MC Lyte, Tupac and Biggie Smalls. I went to him and asked for Zimbabwe music. I told him I had just driven from the number one-partying school in America. If I had wanted to listen to Junior Mafia and Tupac, why would I waste three hours on the road when I could just go to the one of the local hip-hop joints?

He started playing Zimbabwean music and everyone, including the exsir brigade that was present, was in a lather as we all joyously celebrated. That was the Zimbabwean spirit and it made me happy.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Israel Getting Defeated by Its Supporters

I usually like to stay away from politics but watching what is going on in Gaza I have to say a word or two. Israel seems to lose its high moral ground everytime one of its supporters goes on television. The other day Joshua Muravchik was on Aljazeera saying the stark fact that there is a disproportionate number of Palestinians killed was irrelevant. Why people in Israel let Muravchik speak on their behalf is something I find incredible. The man is very arrogant and, because of this, I think Israel is going to lose what matters the most, the world's sympathy.