Wait is over for Muchuri
Beaven Tapureta Bookshelf
The old saying that patience pays has become reality for poet and writer Tinashe Muchuri whose debut Shona novel “Chibarabada” (2015, Bhabhu Books) has now been published. Bookshelf caught up with Tinashe Muchuri (TM), aka Mutumwapavi, to hear the story behind “Chibarabada”.
Bookshelf: Muchuri, congratulations for your debut novel. How long did it take to write and publish it?
TM: It took me seven years to write “Chibarabada” and six years to publish it. The book came to me first as a children’s story. A certain publisher liked it then in 2002 but there were no funds to finance the project. The same year the Budding Writers Association of Zimbabwe ran a short story competition. My story did not win a prize in the competition but it got me a mentor, Memory Chirere, who adjudicated the competition. Chirere asked me to expand it into a novel. “Chibarabada” was so urgent that it kept me awake the whole night to just write a paragraph and other times a chapter. I wrote it in an exercise book. After typing the script I took it to Memory Chirere. Originally, this script was in English. After reading the script he called me and told me that publishing “Chibarabada” in English was like enriching the English novel. Publishing it in Shona was best although the readers may be limited. I then said to myself, my first readers are the people around me, people I share my experiences with, people whom I share the same desires, expectations and hopes. I then embarked on a long journey which has seen the birth of my novel.
Bookshelf: Have you learnt something about patience? Do you think young writers today are patient? If not, what makes them rush?
TM: Of course in this long wait I was like someone in prison waiting for that day I could express my joy of seeing light again without prison guards watching me. I learnt that waiting is sweet and create anxiety in your readers. I learnt that when a writer is waiting to produce a piece of art, you don’t wait alone. Your readers wait with you. The publisher also waits with you. Your creative muse waits with you. Time also waits with you. With “Chibarabada”, readers were becoming restless. Some were told that, “If you meet Muchuri, tell him we are waiting for ‘Chibarabada’. I can’t say the young writers are rushing or have no patience. I believe they lack proper guidance. They need mentorship. Rushing will not make the writing inspire and shape views and ideas. Waiting teaches the writer to listen from the creative muse and bring to the fore the visions that readers will want to discuss. I always enjoy talking to Shimmer Chinodya. He always refers writers to go back to ‘classics’. I like that.
Bookshelf: What is the plot of the novel?
TM: The story started with me exploring inheritance issues, especially girl-child Rights. The book goes around picking on culture, gender and orphanhood. The story is a journey into folkloric storytelling of a people. You hear yourself in the story and hear the person next to you. It is about you and everyone. It is a family.
Bookshelf: Did you find novel writing more demanding than creating poetry?
TM: A novel has to be in chapters knitted in a way that attracts the reader to finish reading it. Novel writing is more complicated in that each chapter should link to the next chapter. It is like real knitting. The way one uses one thread to form different shapes on one doily is the same with writing a novel. There are many shapes that sums up to a novel. If one shape becomes loose, the whole work becomes shapeless. It is this tightening skill that is demanding. With poetry, yes if it is a collection, it is not also easy because you must do the same. You need a thread that ties the poems to each other and also develop a story so that by the end of the collection the reader should listen to the conversations that the poems do. It is these conversations that will make the poetry collection relevant and outstanding. So, there is no easy task. It is the same.
Bookshelf: You chose Shona language, why?
TM: I love Shona. I went for Shona from the beginning. I even think this interview is supposed to be in Shona. I enjoy writing in Shona because that is the language that communicates well with my people. The other reader will be catered for through translations. I want to be counted as one of the writers who are playing a role in the preservation of Shona. I love great ideas, views and concepts that are embedded in the language.
Bookshelf: What can readers expect to find in your novel?
TM: A refreshing new voice. They are going to walk on a new pathway. They are going to see the beauty of our song and folklore. They are going to reflect with this story. They are the storytellers in this story.
Bookshelf: You acknowledge BWAZ, how did it assist you in your career?
TM: BWAZ did well to introduce me to new writers and established writers. It made me see that writing is not an easy journey but a journey of the brave. It also taught me to be resilient and also to face challenges head on. Unfortunately they are no longer there but their workshops on novel, short story, poetry and non-fiction writing moulded me.
Bookshelf: Other local writers and publishers have been complaining about piracy and the bookshops failing to assist them in getting the books to readers. What are your plans to avoid falling into this trap?
TM: I equate writing to farming. Piracy is a drought that destroys the farmers’ crops. It is not easy to run away from it. I hope ZIMCOPY will successfully collect fees from all those in the photocopying business. I am also happy that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is centralising buying of learning materials. If this is speeded up, piracy may be reduced. My plan is to take the book to the retail market where the people are. I am also trying to negotiate for cost reduction with printers so that the book price will be reasonable and affordable.
Bookshelf: What is the meaning of the title “Chibarabada”?
TM: “Chibarabada is an idiom for something that beats so hard or fast. It is a one-day brew. It is many things to different people.