Chirere’s artistry finds expression in anthology

He is perhaps known more as a scholar rather than a writer, although his stories and poems can be found scattered in various anthologies and literary journals.

With some of his short stories having been published in various multi-authored anthologies like ‘A Roof to Repair’ (2000) and ‘No More Plastic Balls’ (2001), he has gone a step further in consolidating his voice by bringing together his stories into one collection, enigmatically titled ‘Somewhere in this Country’ (UNISA Press, 2006).

The earlier stories published elsewhere could have been “a trial run”.

There is some kind of ‘searching’ in these 21 stories for something not readily identifiable, or perhaps something that the writer himself is very much aware of but everybody else cannot tell.

Perhaps-as almost all the characters in these stories appear to be fleeing from the demons that haunt their current existence-it is a search for a place they all know is ‘somewhere in this country’ where they can find fulfillment, away from the harsh realities of contemporary society.

In this collection-particularly the stories ‘Keresenzia’, ‘Beautiful Children’ and ‘Sixteen’-Chirere exudes empathy for children, most of whom find themselves in circumstances they are not able to cope with, which are created by adults.

At worst, the children, like ‘Keresenzia’, are turned into monster-like, disrespectful creatures, perhaps as a way of hitting back at a society they feel has done them hard.

In ‘Beautiful Children’ and ‘Sixteen’, the children are robbed of their childhood innocence as they are raised in circumstances that do not necessarily augur well for their future.

The short story titled ‘Missy’, which was first serialised in the Zimbabwean weekly, ‘The Sunday Mirror’, under the title ‘The Lady Teacher and the Boy’ is an exploration of the process of growing up, and how young boys often fantasise about their female teachers

‘Tadamuhwa’ is a very interesting story. Here, Chirere uses a “naughty” and problematic goat to explore the tensions and conflicts that threaten to tear a family apart.

The story titled ‘The Presidential Goggles’ exudes an ‘apocalyptic’ aura, relating to some kind of ‘second coming’. It is about a society torn about by the very rulers-note, not leaders-who are supposed to turn around the ordinary people’s fortunes. It is about independent African nations longing for a new crop of young, dynamic and visionary leaders not trapped in a time-warp.

When Passions Gather, all hell breaks loose. This is what Chirere seems to be saying in this story, where returnees from war, popularly known as ex-combatants, seek to re-discover their lost souls and the moral decadence prevalent in societies where incest is prevalent.

The stories, ‘Two Men and a Woman’-which was first published in The Southern Times -‘Three Little Worlds’, ‘Tafara’ and ‘Suburb’ seem to augur well with Chirere’s keen sense of the unusual.

The stories ‘Maize’ and ‘Signs’ are very familiar, drawing as they do from the fertile template of Zimbabwe’s land reform programme.

Stories in Zimbabwean short story anthologies have rarely been told from the land angle, often regarded as one of the sacred subjects in Zimbabwean literature. Here, Chirere demonstrates how the resettlements have given birth to new beginnings, hope and some anxieties.

‘Maize’ is about a woman who gets resettled on a farm alone. She is just there on this land on her own and has to deal with this man who keeps turning up. They end up living together, but noteworthy is the celebratory spirit of ‘owning’ the rich, fertile land.

And noteworthy in this story is that Chirere, like other young writers, has “already begun to celebrate the dreams of the newly resettled farmers and in another of his unpublished short story, he is already intrigued with the departure of the white farmer and the arrival of the black farmer.

The arrival of the “stranger” in this story however opens it to various other meanings. Could be the woman’s love for the land transcending, symbolising that of the man? This story is a teasing, ambiguous narrative that leaves one in doubt whether the stranger is a land-hungry predator or a trustworthy, potential spouse.

In a way, the depiction of the attachment to land in a romantic manner could be symbolic. The metaphorical courtship between the man and woman paralleled with the caring of the maize and its coming to fruition depicts that land is something that needs to be courted and cared for as it were, if it is to yield good harvest. The more one cares for it, the more the love between the owner and the land flourishes and it needs deep and natural understanding, not mercenary motives.

Chirere, a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ)’s Department of English, has also written Shona poetry, with some of his poems having been published in Tipeiwo Dariro, a multi-authored poetry anthology by emerging writers.

He has facilitated several writers’ workshops for the Budding Writers Association of Zimbabwe (BWAZ).

He is also an editor of note, having edited-together with Maurice Vambe-a comprehensive reader on the works of celebrated Zimbabwean writer Charles Mungoshi titled ‘Charles Mungoshi: A Critical Reader’.

He is also the editor of a vernacular Shona anthology of short stories on HIV and AIDS, titled ‘Totanga Patsva’ by Zimbabwe Women Writers (ZWW).

November 2006
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