Gracious Madondo Book Review
Two years ago, Rodwell Makombe published a seminal article on the Durban University and Technology Open Scholar website, in which he convincingly argues that for many years, African countries have grappled to develop an ideological framework that suits the dynamics of the African context.
Titled “Cultural Nationalism in Mashingaidze Gomo’s ‘A Fine Madness’”, Makombe advances the view that in the aftermath of colonisation, Gomo’s “A Fine Madness” may be read as a response to the West’s dominance in the neoliberal global order.
In Makombe’s own words, Gomo’s “A Fine Madness” interrogates the relationship between Europe and Africa in light of persistent war and instability in Africa, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).”
Indeed, like negritude, Gomo’s book advocates the promotion of African ways of doing things politically, economically and culturally and shuns the neo-colonial relationships of exploitation.
Anyone who has read “A Fine Madness” (2010) will testify to it being a militant intervention in African politics and a voice of resistance to the obtaining neoliberal global order. Gomo is an impassioned and unapologetic writer whose book is arguably the only one that gives an account albeit in fictional prose and poetry of the DRC war.
In a world where national identities and specificities are collapsing giving way to multiculturalism and multiple identities, Gomo’s text is somewhat a provocation to the established order and a call for renewed African consciousness. Like the late Dambudzo Marechera, Gomo is in his own league and it is for that reason that I tracked the former Air Force of Zimbabwe technician and gunner to get a better understanding of the inspiration behind “A Fine Madness”.
Gracious Madondo (GM): Can you tell the readers a bit about yourself? Who is Mashingaidze Gomo?
Mashingaidze Gomo (MG): Coming from Marondera District in Zimbabwe, I was born on 28 July 1964, third in a family of eight children. I joined the Air Force of Zimbabwe as an aircraft engines apprentice in 1984 and ended up as a technician and gunner in a helicopter fighter squadron (7 Squadron). I participated in the Mozambican campaign which ended in 1992.
At the outbreak of the DRC war, I was recalled to 7 Squadron, and after the war, I abstracted my novel “A Fine Madness” from my war diaries.
GM: I understand your love for literature started at a very tender age. What made you fall in love with literature and propelled you to be a writer?
MG: Yes, my love for literature started at a tender age and was nurtured by my late mother Rose Gomo, who was a master story teller. In retrospect, I see that her storytelling translated into some perfect pre-schooling for us in those days and it is an experience that makes me perfectly understand one saying that people have attributed to Albert Einstein, “If you want your children to be intelligent read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent read them more fairy tales”.
The experience makes me wish for a situation in which folk tales constitute a critical part of African infant and junior schooling. I have tried it on my own children and, of course, it may not work the same way it did with me back then, but the remedial challenges it poses are positive if Africa is to have sustainable home-grown development.
GM: All in all how many novels have you written?
MG: I have since written several other works besides “A Fine Madness”, but they are yet to be published. It is just a matter of timing.
GM: In “A Fine Madness” in the chapter “The Rape”, you refer to the Europeans as the “rapists” exploiting African resources, economies and even politics but we see that happening even after independence. What would you say is the reason to this continued exploitation?
MG: Your observation is very correct and my reference to white settlers as rapists in “A Fine Madness” does not end there. In chapters like “Impeccable English and French”, “The Drunken Pilots”, “The Curse of the Freed Slaves”, “Unempowered Choice is not Freedom” and in “A Matter of Technique”, I raise the alarm that the rape is not over and that both the problem and the solution are in our hands if we take time to think about it.
In “The Impeccable English and French” my instance is that if the language we use to think predisposes us to think in specific way or translate into mindset, it means that we cannot use the white man’s language to free ourselves from the settlers’ exploitation.
“In Drunken Pilots “I insist that we cannot found our sovereignty on “A vibrant of European and American companies that (can) translocate to other puppet states”. In the same chapter, my stated wish is that African governments should invest money not in other people’s definitive finished products but in industrial research and locally oriented development by its people who know no other home than Africa.
GM: Tell me about your style of writing in “A Fine Madness”, it is part prose and part poetry?
MG: I did not plan to mix prose and poetry. I simply abstracted my work from my war diaries and that is the way it came out. From a literary perspective, I feel that it was verse, because it is a perfect vessel of the intense meanings that characterised diary entries – more so, war and love dairies.
GM: In the history of Zimbabwe and Africa, we see that there is a longstanding gap in African war narratives because only a handful of the war participants have documented their experience. How would you propose this deficit be rectified?
MG: On the question of the longstanding gap in the African war narratives, I want to say that it is unnatural. They are primarily fighting men who boldly define “lion-pride”, “wolf-pack or gangster” stereotype, they are more inclined to celebrate survival and the achievement of objectives rather than moralise on the cleanliness of how they survive or achieve the objectives.
I am both a soldier and writer and this is the way I see it and at the same time I concede that I am only an individual, as an individual my view cannot be universal.
However, the military is a heavily censored section for many would-be good writers. There is still hope that more writers will emerge as classified wartime details become declassified with time. At the right time, when those details will become exploitable sources of creative or historical literature.
GM: Taking from your writing, what would you say is the most critical part in Zimbabwe’s war history that many have missed over the years?
MG: It is the spiritual part. Zimbabwe has a unique spiritual aspect of war history. In this world it looks like Zimbabwe is the only country that the dead ancestors actually participated in the fight for the country’s interests.
It is the only country that fallen heroes identify their remains for proper burial. This is an area that should be thoroughly researched with great pride.
GM: Lastly, list any of your favourite novels/books.
MG: “Mayombe” by Pepetela (Angola), “Echoing Silences” by Alexander Kanengoni (Zimbabwe), “Future Shock” by Alvin Toffler (America)