Writers defy disability

Beaven Tapureta Bookshelf
Edmore Masendeke’s and Trymore Munyarari’s life stories are an inspiration especially to those disabled children who may have given up or are on the verge of giving up their creative talents because of their physical conditions. The two gentlemen, Masendeke and Munyarari, are indisputable examples of the genius which our society needs to support and not ignore.

Masendeke, who was born with a condition known as cerebral palsy, had problems publishing his poetry. Cerebral palsy is a disorder that affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills (the ability to move in a coordinated way). When he approached publishers some years ago, they often turned away his work saying they were not taking poetry while others said they were fully booked. Faced with this rebuff from traditional publishers, he turned to self-publishing and today, his poetry anthologies include “Poems for Life” (2005) and “The Song of My Heart” (2009).

Although he regularly attends and showcases his books at major literary events such as the Zimbabwe International Book Fair, Masendeke has been silent about any new projects. Hopefully, wherever he is, he has surprises for readers anytime soon. However, his life and works speak for the talent that he has. The anthology “Poems for Life”, according to Masendeke when he once spoke to this writer, is a collection of his responses to how the world treats him and his disability. Reading the anthology, one can also feel the poet’s celebration of victory over disability and his responses to other contemporary issues bedeviling society.

“The Song of My Heart”, which he self-published with the help from well-wishers such as Gary Thompson and Associates, is structured differently. It is a collection of untitled poems which take their cue from a number of Bible verses. It opens with an appropriate Bible quote:

“My heart overflows with a Beautiful thought!

I will recite a lovely poem to the king, for

My tongue is like the pen of a

Skilful poet.” (Psalm 45:1, New Living Translation)

The poems interpret the gospel with very discreet words and images. In one of the poems, the poet declares with vigor:

“Enough is enough

I say

Now’s the time to pull up my socks

Pursue my dreams

Live the life I want”

Masendeke’s passion for poetry was first demonstrated sometime back when the King George V1 Centre and School in Bulawayo – where he was a student – introduced the concept of “Independence”. This concept was aimed at helping the disabled children look after themselves and be independent to express themselves. The concept worked very well and resulted in the compilation and publication of an anthology titled “Stars in a Plate” (1999). The anthology was offered up by the children “as testimony to their ability, independence, spirit and their pain”.

The foundational concept of independence also encouraged him to aim high in real life because today Masendeke holds a Bachelor of Business Studies honours degree from the University of Zimbabwe. He has worked at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe as an accountant. The anthology which was a product of the concept of independence features Masendeke’s poems titled “Fight”, “Like a Drunkard”, “Disability in Society” and “Kid In Need”, and a short story called “Walk A Mile In My Shoes”. In several of his poems the disabled personae strongly confront underestimation, declare and celebrate their totality as human beings despite physical limitations. Masendeke portrays society’s indifference towards disability through his touching short story.

The poem “Like a Drunkard” seems to have been amplified in the short story “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” in which the disabled narrator is misconstrued as a drunkard because he walks unsteadily. When he falls, people mill around him and some people laugh at him while others sympathize with him. Two police officers arrive and despite his pleas, he is quickly arrested for public drinking/drunkenness and is driven to the police station where officers take turns to mock him.

At the station, the narrator pleads he is not drunk but one of the officers spitefully replies, “He is too drunk he thinks he has a disability . . . ” Left without a choice, the narrator admits to being drunk and he is locked up in a filthy cell until his father comes to the station and rescues him. Masendeke, an activist for the rights of disabled people, did his primary school at St Giles Rehabilitation Centre in Harare before proceeding to King George VI Centre in Bulawayo. For his secondary education, he went to Victoria High School in Masvingo. Last year, Masendeke made news in the local papers as well as on social media when he designed a house for disabled persons.

Trymore Munyarari is another writer who has also defied disability. Munyarari has problem with speech and hearing but this has not stopped him from unleashing the gift of written words. Like Masendeke, his confidence in his writing gift will be an enlightening challenge to other budding writers in similar situation. Munyarari’s interest lies in engaging schools through poetry performance, readings and imparting poetry writing skills to students. He writes and produces educational books which he would like to one day showcase in schools in different provinces. In a bid to sustain himself, Munyarari plans to sell some of his published works at discounted prices so as to encourage students and adults to embrace reading culture.

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