Beaven Tapureta Bookshelf
The year is 1968. A Literature Bureau van throws dust in its wake as it skids onto the grounds of the Connemara Government School in Gweru and in a moment the visitors address the whole school about writing and then they begin selling books.
Among the pupils is Aaron (Chiundura Moyo) doing his Standard 4. As the visitors address the school, they raise up a book like a banner for everyone to see. It is a published book written by a fellow in Standard 6.
Writing, the visitors tell the school, is a gift not necessarily determined by one’s level of education. Some voice within Aaron responds “yes”.
Before the Literature Bureau crew’s visit to the school, Aaron had his father’s folktales to listen to; the tales and the cowboy movies at Munhumutapa Hotel (Gweru) where his father occasionally took the family had impacted on his imagination. These were also the days when the late legendary actor, comedian and musician Safirio “Mukadota” Madzikatire had become a national icon.
Now after the contact with Literature Bureau at school, Aaron, for the first time as an aspiring writer, put pen to paper but he did so in a scotch cart. Yet like any starting writer, he committed a writing crime: plagiarism.
“My brother who knew about my father’s folktales discovered that I had copied one of them and began to mock me,” said Chiundura Moyo as he pondered on his early days as a writer.
Although his uncle Claudius and a friend named Tachiona loved his plagiarised story, Aaron was frustrated and tore it.
Tachiona, his friend, then informed Aaron about the Literature Bureau’s radio programme called Mabhuku NeVanyori which was running at the then Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation (RBC-African Service) and encouraged him to send his stories.
“I mended my torn story and sent it but there was no response for a long time,” Chiundura Moyo said.
He wrote another story titled ‘Mahwekwe NaSarudzai Kutsime’ and sent it to RBC. A year passed, yet no feedback.
One day, Aaron, now in Form 1 at Mambo Government School and an avid listener to the literary radio programme, heard his name being announced on his father’s radio. Shocked as well as excited, he darted out of the house.
“I ran outside the house looking for any person with whom I could share the excitement of listening to my story. There was a girl passing by on the road. I just grabbed her hand but she misinterpreted my action and screamed. The milkman nearby shouted at me to leave the girl alone although I explained to him what was happaening,” said Chiundura Moyo.
Misunderstood, Aaron ran back to the house. Amon Nyamambi, a popular radio presenter by that time, played Jimmy Reeves’ song “Angels Don’t Lie” in the background as he announced Aaron’s story and showering all praises, including the writer’s neat handwriting.
“I still love the song today. The radio presenter had the impression that I was a school teacher at Connemara Farm because on every story which I sent, I used the farm address,” Chiundura Moyo said.
The day his story was read on radio marked the beginning of a walk of faith and hard work for the celebrated actor, producer and writer.
While today’s budding writers are blessed with the internet and organisations that assist them, for the young Aaron, he only had his gifted hand and mind.
His stories became regular on radio but still other people could not believe it was Aaron.
“They thought Aaron on the radio was my namesake,” said Chiundura Moyo.
At Mambo Government School, novels by earlier writers such as Patrick Chakaipa and Giles Kuimba were read to the whole class. Aaron and his friend Michael Majachani encouraged each other to start writing novels.
The two friends’ playful adventure later turned out to be a genuine call for one of them.
It so happened that the two aspiring writers were asked by their teacher named Lovemore Dangare to read their stories to the whole school in preparation for a Shona examination.
Majachani read his story but it was rejected because he had copied Patrick Chakaipa, a crime Aaron was now aware of. Aaron, nicknamed ‘two-boy’ by his teacher because he was older than some of the students, was called to read his story.
“When I read my story, the whole school was impressed. My teacher, still not believing it, gave my story to another student who was a best reader at the school.
The audience’s response was uplifting. The teacher could not help but remarked that I was a ‘tomorrow’s writer’,” Chiundura Moyo said.
With a name already popular on radio, Aaron sent his first manuscript titled “Sarai Mugarike” to Mambo Press where it was read by the late writer Modekai Hamutyinei whose comment said the writer was far from being an “actual writer” although he (Hamutyinei) was pleased with the neat handwriting and the Shona language which was superb.
Aaron, who had spread word among friends that his manuscript will be published soon, showing off to them the letter from the publisher acknowledging receipt of his manuscript, felt bad about the report.
“I didn’t show anyone the report. I just cried alone,” said Chiundura Moyo.
Although disappointed by the rejection, Aaron did not leave his manuscript when he re-located to Harare where he started work as a garden boy at his new address No 2 Beit Avenue.
Meanwhile, the radio had become his regular platform as he later would be invited to the studio to read his own stories.
The Literature Bureau, then situated at Electra House along Samora Machel Avenue, was now close to Aaron. He submitted his manuscript “Sarai Mugarike” and it got a first report suggesting the disjointed plot needed revising.
Aaron followed the advice and afterwards submitted it for second assessment which was done by the late writer Bisset C Chitsike.
The report came but it advised the writer to change some sections.
Aaron re-worked his manuscript and submitted it for third assessment done by Pearson Mashiri, a published author. Mashiri, Chitsike and other well-known earlier writers were editorial officers at the Literature Bureau.
Mashiri’s assessment report was devastating. It said ‘there is no story’ in Aaron’s manuscript, almost meaning it was “a useless piece of writing”.
“I cried again, you know, after having put all my effort and time working on their advice only to be told there is no story in my manuscript,” Chiundura Moyo said.
An angry young Aaron took his manuscript and the three reports to the Literature Bureau with the intention to demand a convincing explanation and surrender.
“I wanted to surrender in front of the Literature Bureau crew,” said Chiundura Moyo.
But he was referred to the Chief editorial officer Hosiah Charles Singende who said he will read “Sarai Mugarike” and produce a report in two weeks.
Aaron was at the Literature Bureau soon after the two weeks and Singende, on looking at Aaron closely, could not believe he was the writer of the manuscript “Sarai Mugarike”. Aaron, coming from the garden, was poorly dressed.
“At that time I thought his eyes were saying I was too young to have written such a story. I later decided to keep a beard to look older,” said Chiundura Moyo.
Singende liked the story but advised Aaron to re-work the last thirteenth chapter in which a female character dies.
“He gave me two months to work on my story but I told him I will be done in three weeks,” Chiundura Moyo said.
With revived hope, Aaron spent three weeks perfecting his manuscript and delivered it to Singende.
Four months later, on a certain day in September 1974, a letter was delivered to Aaron and its contents invited tears of joy in the young writer’s eyes. The manuscript had been accepted for publication but with a new title “Uchandifungawo”.
“Uchandifungawo”, Chiundura Moyo’s first book, was finally published in 1975. This debut marked the path the renowned artist has walked to this day.
After “Uchandifungawo”, Chiundura Moyo went on to publish and produce more than twenty works including award-winning novels and television dramas such as the latest “Tiriparwendo”.
His name, if truth be told, needs no introduction in Zimbabwe.