Christopher Farai Charamba The Reader
Over the years a number of Zimbabweans have emigrated to different parts of the world. In this digital age and aided by social media Zimbabweans the world over have been able to connect and share their stories, experiences and aspirations with one other.
Those with a creative bone have in different ways expressed their talents, infusing in their art elements of their motherland.
One such artiste is Zimbabwean-born and UK-raised poet and writer Tapiwa Mugabe. One first came across Mugabe on social media where a few of one’s followers had shared his work.
Last week the Kindle version of his anthology titled “Zimbabwe” was free on Amazon and one jumped at the opportunity to take a proper look at his work having only been exposed to snippets in the past.
The 84-page collection has poems of varying length with the majority quite short and rather simple to read and digest.
Poetry, particularly in its contemporary free verse form can sometimes come across as akin to abstract art, words committed to page with a cryptic meaning that each could deduce something different from the next.
Mugabe’s themes and meaning are quite simple to extract. One of the early ones that can are visible are feminism and the deconstruction of patriarchy and hyper-masculinity.
In “Man” the opening poem of the anthology he writes:
How then can I deny the woman in me,
when my coming to earth was because women prayed for me?
Was I not made from a woman’s mouth?
He challenges the stereotypical patriarchal construct of what a man should be, stating that there is nothing wrong with men acknowledging and expressing their emotions.
In “As a father…” he continues with this theme and presents a list on how he intends to raise his children. “A son is not a lion or a jewel,” he writes, “he is a child who is as precious as a daughter.”
Mugabe writes about blackness and loving the skin that one is born with. In “Chiratidzo Chedu” he says:
Ganda rako chiratidzo chako.
Inguo yakashongedzwa rerudo
This is one of a very few vernacular poems in the collection. He goes on to speak of how one’s skin was made in the stars and is not a sin. Mugabe’s position on black pride and Africanness is further highlighted in another poem, “Stonehouse son”.
In many of the other poems, quite a few of them untitled, Mugabe speaks about love; loving oneself, loving others and losing love.
He speaks too about writing, the emotion and expressiveness of sharing oneself through ink and paper is reflected in the works of this writer.
The poem that gives the anthology its title “Zimbabwe” is an ode to country for Mugabe. He reminisces from where he is on everyday life in his homeland.
Across the neighbourhood
dust rose from synchronised sweeps.
The rhythmic sweeping of African straw brooms on soil
creating a harmony of schwa, schwa, schwas
From this and other poems such as “Nostalgia”, one gets the sense of a longing for home, a desire for the poet to reconnect wholly with his land of birth.
A favourite in this collection is the last poem in the book, “Chikafu”
The sadza I ate cross legged on the kitchen floor
did more for my being than the sadza I ate at the kitchen table.
This seems to be a contrast between two different existences. From what one has gathered from the writer’s background it is comparison of a childhood in Zimbabwe and life out in the Diaspora.
One can infer that despite not being in Zimbabwe, the time spent here has had a lasting and more significant impression and effect on shaping the person Mugabe has become than any other circumstance lived.
“Zimbabwe” is a fantastic debut anthology from Tapiwa Mugabe and clearly illustrates that while one might not be domiciled in the country, a strong connection to home can exist and influence greatly their thoughts, creativity and ultimately being.