Why I Read: Raisedon Baya

My first serious read was a strange one – very strange for a young boy living right in the middle of the township. I was in Form 1 at Sobukhazi Secondary School and had just joined the Mzilikazi Community Library’s senior section. Why I joined the library when most of my friends and young boys my age were not members, and not interested in becoming members of the library, I don’t know even up to this day. Some of my friends and peers even went to their graves without seeing the inside of a public library.

Books were not the in thing for young boys growing up in Makokoba then. Young boys my age played hard, smoked hard, gambled hard, and hustled hard. There was no time to waste, no time for books and what many called girlish activities. The decision to join the library changed the course of my life and steered me away from danger and early death.

So there I was in the library, moving from one shelf to another looking for my first serious read. The library was always a cool place. The place had a good air conditioner that tirelessly blew a soft breeze around the room. Its floors were always sparkling clean as if the building didn’t belong in the township. You entered the building and immediately forgot that you were in the middle of Mzilikazi Township. After walking around, marvelling at the stacks and stacks of books neatly covered in plastic, I stopped at the African Section. This section was to become my favourite corner of the library for many years.

I remember picking a few titles before I saw it. I don’t know what drew me to the book but I remember holding Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhoodin my hands and feeling very excited. A strange choice for a young boy you might think. Why this particular title I have always wondered. I was just a boy, and very adventurous too, so why was I attracted to The Joys of Motherhood? My mother was not a joyful woman or mother then – she had too much to do and too many children to look after for her to sit down and savour the real joys of motherhood. Perhaps I took the book because it was the kind of book I wished her to read – just so that for a moment she could feel some happiness for contributing to the human race. (The basis of the novel is the necessity for a woman to be fertile, and above all give birth to sons – and my mother has six sons!)

Whatever the reason, I took the book home and plunged into the world of literature. My love for words and my serious flirtation with literature began that week. I was also very lucky to have a big brother who was an avid reader as well. My brother read anything printed. He ate words for breakfast, lunch and supper. He devoured books, in all their sizes, shapes and smells. He introduced me to the likes of Desmond Bagley, Robert Ludlum and to naughty writers like James Hadley Chase and Nick Carter. I remember him trying to hide Nick Carter's novels from me but I always found them.  I learnt to read faster so as not to get caught or to avoid him taking the books back before I finished reading.

In books I discovered a lot. I discovered priceless treasures. I discovered things neither my parents nor friends and peers could tell me. I discovered a world bigger and much better than Makokoba, Mzilikazi and the other townships I knew. I discovered that words could give me wings, wings I used to fly to places far and beyond. Books took me to countries I never imagined, books introduced me to many cultures. I travelled to Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Cameroon, Senegal and other African countries – countries I didn’t even know where to place on the world map – through the eyes of writers like Ngugi, Es’kia Mphahlele, Njabulo Ndebele, Ousmane Sembène, Kalu Okpi, Micere Mugo, Can Themba, Grace Ogot, Nadine Gordimer, Wole Soyinka, Miriama Bâ and Chinua Achebe. I travelled to Europe and America on the pages of works by the likes of Agatha Christie, Desmond Bagley, Jeffrey Archer, Len Deighton, Leo Tolstoy and many, many others. Long before I knew what a passport was I had crossed borders. I was introduced to fascinating characters by these writers, some of these characters have stuck with me to this day.

I discovered that I could temporarily escape the poverty and monotony of township life through the pages of a book. Books became some form of escapism. With the years I realized the more I read the more better I became at seeing the world. The more I read the more I saw possibilities of getting out of the township. The more I read the more I wanted to write, to share my own stories – stories about where I came from and the people around me. I suddenly wanted my life, my friends’ lives and the world I lived in to also be on pages of books. Reading inspired me to write. 

Now I read for pleasure. I read to escape the harsh realities of my surroundings. I read to expand my horizons and knowledge base.  I read to feed my insatiable brain. Sometimes I read just to experience the sumptuous taste of good words strung joyfully together into beautiful phrases and sentences. – remember writing is like cooking, it’s art. I read because there is nothing that uplifts my spirits better than good literature. I read because there is so much joy wrapped up in ink and paper and this joy is much better than pizza, a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine. And so today I say enough respect to all writers and storytellers of the world. Thank you for writing and keep the stories coming.

Raisedon Baya is a leading playwright, theatre director and festival manager based in Bulawayo. He has published a novel, Mountain of Silence, an anthology of plays, Tomorrow’s People, and features in an anthology of folktales, AroundThe FireFolktales from Zimbabwe. Some of his stories appear in Short Writings from Bulawayo II and III, and Where to Now? Short Stories from Zimbabwe, and his short story 'The Initiation' is to appear in Moving On and Other Zimbabwean Stories.
A former teacher and National Arts Council employee who worked at ZBCtv as a producer and commissioning editor, he has written over a dozen critically acclaimed and award-winning plays for television and stage. Several of his plays have toured Africa and Europe.
Two of his plays, Super Patriots & Morons and The Crocodile of Zambezi, are banned in Zimbabwe. In 2009 Raisedon Baya was a recipient of the Oxfam Novib/PEN Award for Freedom of Expression. He writes a weekly arts column for The SundayNews.

Why I Read: Thabisani Ndlovu

I read because of two main reasons – the little pamphlets of short stories in IsiNdebele that used to be distributed at our primary school, and love for my Grade Six teacher. The first reason is perfectly safe to write about, but the second needs clearing from the Mrs. I hope to obtain “ethical” clearance sometime today.

When I went to Manyewu Primary School in Bulawayo, between Grades 3 and 4, there was a company that used to distribute little newsprint pamphlets of folktales, written in IsiNdebele. Perhaps some were in English, but I doubt. Anyhow, the illustration, as far as I recall, was great because you could follow the story by merely looking at the pictures.  Then either the teacher or some great readers in class would read out a folktale, normally when we were outside the classroom, awaiting our turn to go inside a classroom occupied by another grade. This system was called “hot sitting” and designed to share not only classroom space but books as well. In short, it meant going through the syllabus in half the required time as students alternated attending school in the morning and the afternoon. There was a waiting period to go inside the classroom and it was this moment when stories of hare and baboon, the man and the leopard, the chameleon and the gecko and many others were read out loud. I was hooked. I read and re-read each one of these stories on my own and started my own library. The booklets were affordable, something like five cents I think. I sacrificed some of my “break” money to buy these. I do not remember volunteering to read or being asked to by my teachers. I was too quiet and probably looked stupid as one teacher once said. But I had read all of those booklets and had started experimenting with reading longer writings.

But those pamphlets come a distant second to my Grade Six teacher. She was called Miss Ndebele. I loved Miss Ndebele because she was beautiful and smelt great. She also wore high-heeled shoes and had a smile to outshine the brightest summer sun. She is the very first woman that I fell in love with not only for her looks but also because she noticed my love for reading and encouraged it. So I loved her desperately like any Grade Six boy would – not really knowing what that meant and completely clueless what I would do with her if she had said, “Here I am, love me.”  We had by then, at Ntabeni Primary School, a “Corner Library” – a small bookshelf really – packed full of abridged English “classics” and other writings. Most of these were under the Ladybird Series. It was Miss Ndebele who noticed that I was a good reader of English and an even better writer of compositions in the language. The more I read out loud in class, the more I practised in private – both silently and loudly. I could not disappoint Miss Ndebele. Then my compositions started being paraded in our class, in other classes and ultimately taken to the Headmaster! And Miss Ndebele said she was very proud of me. Then she started directing my reading. Had I read Treasure Island? How about The Black Tulip? Around the World in Eighty Days was another fine book, she once said. Whatever she recommended I read, until there was no book I had not read in that Corner Library.

Then I joined Njube Library and spent most of my Saturdays immersed in books there. No wonder I made friends with two of the librarians who allowed me to borrow more than the two stipulated texts. Some of these were not even recorded but I returned all of them. In spite of, or because of, my love for Miss Ndebele, I regret to say that there were some books from the Corner Library that I borrowed permanently.  The redemption lies in that I lent these to friends. Together (we would call ourselves the Chopper Squad, after an Australian TV series that used to air on ZTV – go ahead and laugh), we delighted (note this very English word), in trying out the expressions we picked up from these books. Words and expressions like, “Oh dear!” (I know, but it was once quaint to me and the rest of Chopper Squad), “what the blue blazes”, “bamboozle”, “helter-skelter”, and “sixes and sevens.” These were good for composition writing and even better for public speaking. To add more muscle to our vocabulary, we obsessed over the Students’ Companion and learnt, for example, that instead of saying you visited someone, you could say you darkened that person’s door. And so, yes Ngugiites, I became thoroughly colonised, if of course, you forget or ignore that I was equally good in my mother language, IsiNdebele.

As I got older, what drove me to read more was my association with fellow bookworms. I remember James Mabhunu introducing me to James Hadley Chase. I read those greasy over read books and got titillated like hell. As if that was not enough, then entered the Pace Setters, with their fast pace and African setting. After these, special mention must be made of two writers, Ayi Kwei Armah and Charles Mangua for introducing me to soft porn. I think I became aware of these two via John Kantompeni or the late Rainous Sibanda, I am not so sure now. I challenge anyone who read Why Are we So Blest? at sixteen or so and did not return to the sex scenes, to raise his/her hand. Ah, Mangua’s Son of a Woman excited me beyond the love of words.  This marked my first “serious” attempts to write. As you might predict, the stories were steeped in “love” with sprinklings of erotica. My secondary school friends loved these.  It was mostly girls who loved my stories and, when they asked to keep them, I would pretend to think hard about it, before saying yes. I wrote so many of those and gave them away. Then I continued reading, in order to improve my writing and to wow my readers and, of course, to attract girls and to share with fellow avid readers from my high school days what I had read. There was nothing as good as listening to someone relate their special episode in a book. James Mabhunu and John Kantompeni were masters at this. It was like reading the whole story all over again, and sometimes even better because some of the expressions that had escaped me took on new significance. Talk of an effective revision strategy for our literature course, this was better than a study guide. So I read carefully, all the more to make a detailed contribution during these narration sessions.

My infatuation with reading blossomed into love and I became an English major, which is to say, I majored in English and did not turn into an English man (to some extent, this is true).  So, I had to read fiction at university in order to be certificated.  There, I got to know the late Ruzvidzo Stanley Mupfudza, Memory Chirere, and others who would become fellow writers. These were the heady days of Zimbabwean writing and it was no surprise that we met at Chenjerai Hove’s sessions on creative writing. Those sessions opened up vast worlds of literature and it became fashionable for some of us to read beyond and deliberately outside the English Department syllabus as a form of rebellion against what we considered to be a lean and conservative reading list and way of criticising literature.  For some of us then, evening soirees in residences or at drinking places turned out to be animated discussions of literature fueled by cheap wine of the student variety like “Late Harvest”.  I did not want to look and sound like an idiot, so I read more, drank more cheap wine and talked more literature.

So, I read now because it is my job. I need to publish journal articles, present at conferences and teach literature. As a writer though, I read in search of that story that leaves me transfixed, in a special kind of “silence”.  The kind of story that sucks you in and when you read the last word, you seem to float in a twilight zone.  You wonder about many things, including how come there are so many splinters of yourself in a stranger’s story. You are also stunned by the story line and artistry. You think, how does (how dare, indeed) someone find those kinds of words and line them up like that to produce this? In many ways, such stories remind me of wordsmiths like my mother. When she is done telling a story, even a real-life one, there is always a moment of silence forcing her to ask, “Are you ok?” Sometimes I laugh as she is narrating a sad story and when she says, “There is nothing funny here, by the way”, I tell her it is how she finds the most expressive words that always leaves me in utter disbelief. Good writing is like that and I keep reading to have those moments that are like an addict’s proper “fix”.  I’ve had many such fixes but the latest one has to be reading Petina Gappah’s stories in Rotten Row (2016). Incredibly artistic without calling attention to their artifice, these stories leave me in that moment of silence.

So, there it is. I clearly read for different reasons and these cannot be divorced from the earlier contexts or reasons for reading. I will never forget Miss Ndebele, that one is for sure. I will never forget my friends who shared smutty novels with me and I will always remember the nights of cheap wine and literary discussions and at times, “live” reading of segments from texts. Amazing what cheap wine and impassioned fellow university students can achieve. I am also appreciative of verbal artists like my mother who have made me read for beauty (overall effect and individual expression), and writers who create that moment of silence at the end of their story.

Thabisani Ndlovu is a senior lecturer of English and Cultural Studies at Walter Sisulu University. Before that, he was Deputy Director and lecturer at the International Human Rights Exchange at the University of the Witwatersrand. His short stories have appeared in various anthologies including Creatures Great and Small, Short Writings from Bulawayo III, Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe, The Caine Prize for African Writing 2009 and Where to Now? Short Stories from Zimbabwe.Other stories have appeared in online journals and magazines. His short story, 'When We Were Kings', will appear in Moving On and Other Zimbabwean Stories. Thabisani has also translated Where to Now? Short Stories from Zimbabwe into isiNdebele – Siqondephi Manje: Indatshana zaseZimbabwe. In 1992 he won first prize for isiNdebele poetry in the Budding Writers Association National Competition and, in 2005, the inaugural Intwasa koBulawayo Short Story Competition. If he is not writing fiction or poetry, Thabisani carries out humanist-inspired research. If not doing any of those things, he is likely to be thinking about the beautiful and terrible things in life, and trying to find words for them.


Fiction and Life

Courtesy of Read Farafina on Facebook.

Farafina (Kachifo Limited) published The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician in Nigeria in 2015.

Why I Write: Sandisile Tshuma

“So what’s your guilty pleasure?” my brother asked one day out of the blue. We had spent the day in my little apartment and I suspect that, as he looked around the barebones space filled with books, CDs and conspicuously missing a television set, he was worried I had no life. “Um, I get my locs treated and go to the spa for a deluxe pedicure?” I ventured, posing my response as a question because I was pretty sure there was a right answer and a wrong answer to his question. “No, that’s basic grooming. You have to do that. What’s a thing that you do that you don’t need to do but that you love to do just for the pure enjoyment of doing it?” Failing to find an answer to a question so simple as “what do you enjoy in life?” I weaseled out of the conversation by offering him another beer from the fridge. But the question lingered in the recesses of my mind for years afterwards.

One day I wrote a blog post about how my inability to put down roots and stick to a single place or activity for long had evolved. I was not supposed to write that post. I was supposed to be working on an assignment for school due the next day. But there is a land called Procrastinatoria and I am their queen. Instead of ten pages on voluntary medical male circumcision, I toyed with the idea of finding myself by doing less and being more. I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. Then when my eyelids were so heavy with exhaustion that I could barely keep them open as I clicked on the Publish button, the answer to my brother’s question came to me. I was tired but completely satisfied. I had been so absorbed in what I was doing that I hadn’t noticed time slipping past and the sleep creeping in. I had stolen time from my education and spent it on my immediate happiness. Instant versus delayed gratification. An indulgence. A guilty pleasure, one might say.

Nothing relaxes me the way writing does. Nothing else feels so effortless even when the results aren’t perfect. Nothing validates me the way writing does. Writing gives me wings. My writing needs no audience. It bears witness to itself. I write because it makes me feel alive and significant. I write because I express myself best that way. My brain moves so fast that my mouth can’t keep up. So writing is my one chance at taking what’s on the inside of my mind and manifesting it in the material realm.  In a world with so many distractions that exact a heavy toll on introverts like me, writing is my refuge, a welcome escape. It’s my happy place, my soft place to land. I write because there’s nothing else I would rather do, ever. They say you shouldn’t need a lover; you should want one. So sure, I don’t need to write. I want to write. But I want it badly. I want it all the time like a hot new crush. In my universe, writing is bae.

Sandisile Tshuma is a Zimbabwean storyteller, health, development and human rights practitioner who has studied molecular and cellular biology, public health, disaster management and acting from the University of Cape Town (South Africa), the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa), the National University of Science and Technology (Zimbabwe) and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (United Kingdom).
Sandisile has a professional background in monitoring, evaluation and communication in sexual and reproductive health programmes with the United Nations and other International Organizations in East and Southern Africa. She is an award winning short story writer, the founding editor of AntuAke online magazine, and has curated a personal blog for five years. Sandisile's short stories, "Arrested Development" and "The Need" were published by amaBooks Publishing in two anthologies of Zimbabwean short stories. "Arrested Development" won an Honourable Mention for the 2010 Thomas Pringle Award in the short story category, has been translated into a number of languages and is included in an anthology titled "When The Sun Goes Down", a set book in the Kenyan English language curriculum at secondary school level. The Need has been translated into isiNdebele. Her first full length book, "Dandelion Dreaming," tells the story of marginalised youth in South Africa using the "photo-voice" methodology. 


Sudanese Author Wins 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing

Reproduced from

The 2017 Caine Prize anthology, 'The Goddess of Mtwara and Other Stories', will be published by amaBooks in Zimbabwe in August 2017.

IFrom Wasafiri and the Caine Prize: Bushra al-Fadil, whose inspirations include Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time,’ is cited for his ‘mode of perception.’

By Dennis Abrams | @DennisAbrams2
‘Relentless Threats to Freedom’

Bushra al-Fadil
Sudanese author Bushra al-Fadil has won the 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away,” translated by Max Shmookler.
The story is published in The Book of Khartoum: A City in Short Fiction (Comma Press, UK, 2016).
The chair of judges, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, announced al-Fadil as the winner of the £10,000 (US$12,970) prize at an awards dinner on July 3. The event was held at Senate House, London, in partnership with SOAS University of London, as part of its centenary celebrations. The prize money is to be split between the author and translator, £7,000 for al-Fadil and £3,000 to Shmookler.
“The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away” is described as a picture of life in a bustling market as seen through the eyes of the narrator, who’s enchanted by a beautiful woman he sees there one day. After a series of brief encounters, an unexpected tragedy hits the woman and her young female companion.
Speaking for the jury, Nii Ayikwei Parkes praised the story, saying:
“The winning story is one that explores through metaphor and an altered, inventive mode of perception–including, for the first time in the Caine Prize, illustration–the allure of, and relentless threats to, freedom.
“Rooted in a mix of classical traditions as well as the vernacular contexts of its location, al-Fadil’s ‘The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away’ is at once a very modern exploration of how assaulted from all sides and unsupported by those we would turn to for solace we can became mentally exiled in our own lands, edging in to a fantasy existence where we seek to cling to a sort of freedom until ultimately we slip into physical exile.”
Bushra al-Fadil is a Sudanese writer currently living in Saudi Arabia. His most recent collection, Above a City’s Sky, was published in 2012, the same year al-Fadil won the al-Tayeb Salih Short Story Award.
After the announcement that he had made the Caine Prize shortlist, al-Fadil was interviewed by the magazine Wasafiri: International Contemporary Writing.
Wasafiri: Tell us about your story ‘The Story of the Girls whose Birds Flew Away’. What inspired you to write it?
al-Fadil: I would rather prefer it to be translated ‘The Girl whose Sparrows Flew Away’, not Birds. To give the exact title as I wrote it. This short story was written in Arabic on 1979 but translated in English recently. It is my second short story. At that time women in my country were facing violence, sexual harassment and brutality of all kinds. I’m sorry to see women in my country are still facing the same.
Wasafiri: What’s next for you?
al-Fadil: I’m writing now my third novel. Setting it in what might happen to my country in 2084 after one hundred years of the famous novel 1984.


Kirillov across Cultures: The Great Zimbabwean Novel

Tendai Huchu in conversation with Jeanne-Marie Jackson
Durham University, Friday 15 Sep 2017, 17.30
as part of the Transnational Russian Studies seminar programme

Tendai Huchu's second novel, The Maestro, the Magistrate and the Mathematician, channels Dostoevsky’s Demons at key points as it abandons an issues-based linear plot in favour of three zany novellas braided together. The story is in the fabric of the novel itself, as it gets snagged on the vacant opportunities of global downward mobility and flailing diasporic national opposition politics. The Maestro, the Magistrate, and the Mathematician, in its invocation of Russian influence, captures Huchu's propensity for formal experimentalism and philosophical depth. In a conversation with Johns Hopkins professor and literary critic, Jeanne-Marie Jackson, Huchu will discuss his efforts to capture and play with the widespread cynicism of our moment. Jeanne-Marie Jackson writes of the influence of Dostoevsky's Demons on Huchu's novel in a chapter titled 'The Russian Novel of Ideas in Southern Africa' in a forthcoming work.

Dostoevsky’s Demons is, according to Ronald Hingley, scholar and specialist in Russian history and literature, “one of humanitys most impressive achievements—perhaps even its supreme achievement—in the art of prose fiction.”

Huchu’s multi-genre short stories and nonfiction have appeared in the Manchester ReviewInterzoneSpace and Time MagazineEllery Queen Mystery MagazineAfrica ReportWasafiriYear’s Best CrimeMystery Stories 2016, and elsewhere. Between projects, he translates fiction between the Shona and English languages. In 2014 he was shortlisted for the Caine Prize, and in 2017 for the Nommo Awards for Speculative Fiction. Find him @TendaiHuchu.

Huchu has two short stories to be published soon in Zimbabwe by amaBooks, in Moving On and other stories from Zimbabwe and in The Goddess of Mtwara, the 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing anthology.

The Maestro, the Magistrate and the Mathematician is published in Zimbabwe by amaBooks, in the UK by Parthian Books, in North America by Ohio University Press, in Germany by Peter Hammer and in Nigeria by Kachifo.

Why I Read by Philani A. Nyoni

Philani A. Nyoni. Photo by KB Mpofu

Okay, we can do this, shouldn't be too hard... it's only writing, we've been doing this since we discovered 'AH-AIR-EE-OH-OOH' wasn't some device devised to torture infants. Maybe we discovered that much later because we were in too deep: so in love with words we had to learn the science of language and autopsied languages alive while other childrens were calling corpses cadavers in medical campus.

And why do we keep referring to ourself in plural? Are we possessed?! Legion!

Oh dear, that wasn't very clear at all! You lack grace, no, panache... no... that's not it... what's the other fancy word I'm looking for? It's so cute I could pat it all day. What's it now? It's not lustre, it's something... yes... to do with texture... but... oh darn it! I had it yesterday, I should have written it down. Well yesterday I didn't know I would have to use its absence to ascertain why my writing is appalling today! Now which book did I read it in? My-my. I can't believe this... ah yes, the Rushdie. Which Rushdie? Dear god, look at the size of them! I'll never find a single word in there!

Maybe I should just settle into the task of writing instead of trying to describe a piece of writing that doesn't really exist. I mean, here I am, haranguing (fancy word, we should put it in the story by-any-means-necessary!)... raking my it raking or racking? This English of theirs. Let me find out but in the meantime, see what I did there? I went from harangue to rake. Because I am Ndebele you see, and we didn't have rakes in our white-man-free-utopia of dysentery and spear-chucking megalomaniacs, so when we finally got one on Amazon we called a rake a hara, etymology: harrow. Oh figured it out, it's racking, comes from some ancient torture device. Well we didn't have that either, why torture people when you can just stab them?

Who am I talking to? It sure made sense when we were using the plural...ah, it appears again; we are sane.

Maybe instead of trying to be all classy and shit, I should focus on that... idiosyncrasies. An African story in African English, not quite pidgin, not creole, more like a dialect and accent on paper... what the fuck am I saying?! I know what I mean anyhow; I'll break that English, be really black about it. It's important to be very black about things sometimes, and mispronounce croissants and Paris; it shows you are not an Uncle Tom. It's important not to be an 'Uncle Tom' (add to reading list, 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'), peculiarity should be the province of characters, not authors. 

Best idea I've had all day! How we will break that English, wrap it in a cute ribbon and send it back to its queen in a coffin (like take that your Queeniness!)! We will use words like kaka in place of 'crap'. Bukowski would probably say that, crap, he's one of my 'Andy Capp' writers; you know, the 'okes whose words read like every line was composed with the author leaning his head to the side trying to keep the ciggy smoke from smarting his one open eye? Squinting at the goddamn thing, coaxing his quill with devil-dick-shrivelling curses to course at the speed of thought. I should read him again soon, just to remind me not to be superficial.

Hey, do you think it's superficial to use words like superficial? I mean...

Yeah, I'll reread that Bukowski alright, but not today, today I want to write something black, bad gramma like skin-tone was a handicap! Oh how about this: use words like kaka, no time for that quote-mark nonsense on dialogue, because I'm gansta and African. Nigroence, that's my new word, my new genre. The arrogance of negroes. Sounds great.

Now about that kaka writing... wait... why does that sound familiar? Where have... oh kaka! that was We Need New Names! Blasted; we need new ideas... and names for characters. Unless you are Brian Chikwava pulling off a literary Fight Club, characters should have names. It's in the bible... somewhere; it has to be one of those commandments that people don't like facing because you read and realise 'you know what, Christianity's not for me, God's probably gonna smite me for choosing catfish over Him but there'. It has to be in there considering some characters got names they didn't even need... the only screen-time they be getting is between the same word: beget. Now that's how you use up that word-count! It's like the guy H. Christ's dad commissioned to holy-ghost-write for Him was billing by the word!

Not naming characters is like being that guy from that book, what's-his-face? Adam. He didn't name his childrens for over a year! Now that was a damn good book, tingles my spine just saying the title... watch me shiver: East of Eden. See?! I didn't cry at the end of it, I don't know why I have to announce that each time I mention the book but I didn't cry. Ruined my prose though, suddenly my characters felt hollow, no depth at all like... I really need to use 'Agamemnon said' each time said Agamemnon says, otherwise readers wouldn't know who was talking. Gourd-dam those characters were sooooo alive! It's like he was writing his dialogue in Dolby Surround! I should never read that book again, makes my writing seem awful, and nobody wants to write awful stuff. Medium-rare I can stomach: never go too deep on some texts, unlike Tendai Huchu; went 'full retard' on his debut now everyone thinks he's a homosexual. Ha! Idiot.

Ignorance is bliss my friend, remember that one time we wanted to do a whole novel set in one day? That was an awesome gimmick until we realised Dan Brown has been doing that since aforementioned holy-ghostwriter's now-famous line: 'In the beginning'. One-trick-pony... two actually, his second trick is transcribing encyclopaedias. Oh dear, my horns are showing, grumpy-grumpy-grumpy. Serves you right for reading popular fiction... sparkling vampires and all that.

Well, clearly this writing thing isn't working out today. I read somewhere you need a ton of patience because you only write cocaine when you're like... super ancient and God sometimes mistakes you for his dad and you need viagra just to sit through a book signing. What's on TV? Programming. Ha! Sounds like we're stuck in a George Orwell novel. Animal Farm, or 1984? Eenie-meany-my-knee-more... Hey what else did that guy write? Maybe I should just get some Borges up in here, get all esoteric and shit. 

Philani Amadeus Nyoni is a writer, spoken word performer and actor. He is the author of three poetry anthologies: 'Once A Lover Always A Fool', which received a National Arts Merit Award in 2013, 'Hewn From Rock', (with John Eppel) and 'Mars His Sword'. 

Dung beetles navigate via the Milky Way, and the amaBooks logo is a dung beetle

Posted by Christine Dell'Amore

from National Geographic

Talk about star power—a new study shows that dung beetles navigate via the Milky Way, the first known species to do so in the animal kingdom.

The tiny insects can orient themselves to the bright stripe of light generated by our galaxy, and move in a line relative to it, according to recent experiments in South Africa.
“This is a complicated navigational feat—it’s quite impressive for an animal that size,” said study co-author Eric Warrant, a biologist at the University of Lund in Sweden.

A dung beetle rolling its ball. Photograph courtesy of Eric Warrant

 Moving in a straight line is crucial to dung beetles, which live in a rough-and-tumble world where competition for excrement is fierce.
Once the beetles sniff out a steaming pile, males painstakingly craft the dung into balls and roll them as far away from the chaotic mound as possible, often toting a female that they have also picked up. The pair bury the dung, which later becomes food for their babies.
But it’s not always that easy. Lurking about the dung pile are lots of dung beetles just waiting to snatch a freshly made ball.
That’s why ball-bearing beetles have to make a fast beeline away from the pile.
“If they roll back into the dung pile, it’s curtains,” Warrant said. If thieves near the pile steal their ball, the beetle has to start all over again, which is a big investment of energy.

Seeing Stars 
Scientists already knew that dung beetles can move in straight lines away from dung piles by detecting a symmetrical pattern of polarized light that appears around the sun. We can’t see this pattern, but insects can thanks to special photoreceptors in their eyes.

The Milky Way glimmers over Indonesia. Photograph courtesy of Justin Ng, Your Shot.

But less well-known was how beetles use visual cues at night, such as the moon and its much weaker polarized light pattern. So Warrant and colleagues went to a game farm in South Africa to observe the nocturnal African dung beetle Scarabaeus satyrus
Attracting the beetles proved straightforward: The scientists collected buckets of dung, put them out, and waited for the beetles to fly in.
But their initial observations were puzzling. S. satyrus could still roll a ball in a straight line even on moonless nights, “which caused us a great deal of grief—we didn’t know how to explain this at all,” Warrant said.
Then, “it occurred to us that maybe they were using the stars—and it turned out they were.”

Dapper Beetles
To test the star theory, the team set up a small, enclosed table on the game reserve, placed beetles in them, and observed how the insects reacted to different sky conditions. The team confirmed that even on clear, moonless nights, the beetles could still navigate their balls in a straight line.
To show that the beetles were focusing on the Milky Way, the team moved the table into the Johannesburg Planetarium, and found that the beetles could orient equally well under a full starlit sky as when only the Milky Way was present.  
Lastly, to confirm the Milky Way results, the team put little cardboard hats on the study beetles’ heads, blocking their view of the sky. Those beetles just rolled around and around aimlessly, according to the study, published recently in the journal Current Biology.

The scientists put hats on the dung beetles to block their ability to see stars. This beetle, which is wearing a clear hat, acted as a control in one experiment. Photograph courtesy Eric Warrant.

 Dung beetle researcher Sean D. Whipple, of the Entomology Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said by email that the “awesome results …. provide strong evidence for orientation by starlight in dung beetles.”
He added that this discovery reveals another potential negative impact of light pollution, a global phenomenon that blocks out stars.
“If artificial light—from cities, houses, roadways, etc.—drowns out the visibility of the night sky, it could have the potential to impact effective orientation and navigation of dung beetles in the same way as an overcast sky,” Whipple said.

Keep On Rollin’
Study co-author Warrant added that other dung beetles likely navigate via the Milky Way, although the galaxy is most prominent in the night sky in the Southern Hemisphere.
What’s more, it’s “probably a widespread skill that insects have—migrating moths might also be able to do it.”
As for the beetles themselves, they were “very easy to work with,” he added.
“You can do anything you want to them, and they just keep on rolling.”


“All the loose ends of Scotland”: Possessed by the City and the Past in Tendai Huchu’s The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician

 by Pauline Dodgson-Katiyo

[Paper presented at the European Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (EACLALS) Conference Performing the Urban, University of Oviedo, Spain April 2017]

Tendai Huchu’s novel, The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician, like the model on which it is loosely based, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Demons, tells three inter-connected stories. The main characters are three Zimbabwean men living in Edinburgh. The Maestro, a young, white Zimbabwean combines a job at Tesco’s supermarket with the activities of running, reading and thinking in a quasi-solitary existence. The Magistrate is a middle-aged man living with his wife and daughter. The Mathematician, Farai, is a research student from an affluent family who lives and socialises with other young people. Each man walks, runs through, journeys through or dreams the city while remembering his past life in Zimbabwe so that the city is transformed into a text that possesses the characters and the reader.
Tendai Huchu (Caine Prize)
This simple transformation, though, may be deceptive. In an interview, Huchu has said that he “envisioned The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician as a book of illusions, which, while it presents itself as one thing, constantly undermines that position” (Huchu in Cousins and Dodgson-Katiyo 2016, 203). He adds that he intended to take readers on a “wild goose chase”, dragging them in the wrong direction to show how the “political and ideological world is ‘inescapable’” (209).
In this paper, I argue that the city and the past are both performed in the novel through fragmentation. Fragments – descriptions, stories, memories, emotions - either connect, creating more than is at first visible, or they fail to connect, and leave gaps, absences, even relics.

Writing on memory, story and space in The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel de Certeau suggests that like birds that lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, “memory produces in a place that does not belong to it”. Memory, he argues, “derives its interventionary force from its very capacity to be altered – unmoored, mobile, lacking any fixed position” (1988, 86). We create stories when we walk through spaces in which “unmoored” memories settle. De Certeau further claims that:
 “Stories about places are makeshift things. They are composed with the world’s debris…. things extra and other (details and excesses coming from elsewhere) insert themselves into the accepted framework, the imposed order ….The surface of this order is everywhere punched and torn open by ellipses, drifts, and leaks of meaning: it is a sieve-order.” (107)

I’ll give two examples of how this works in the novel. In the opening pages, the Magistrate goes on his ritual morning walk round the city, confident that “ his mental side  [is] free to wander far and wide, to traverse through the past, present and future, free from limits, except the scope of his own imagination.” He can adversely compare the cold, distant sun in Edinburgh with the “all-powerful and magnificent” sun in Bindura, the small town in Zimbabwe where he lived and worked (Huchu 2014, 9). However, memory does not always work in the way he might want it to. In Holyrood Park, looking over the roofs across the city, “he felt like a colossus striding over the narrow world” but melancholy soon sets in:
 “Right then the saudade hit him pretty bad, and, he could see Bindura, the low prospect, the giant mine chimneys in the distance, but the memory was like a flicker from an old videotape that had been dubbed over. He could only hold the image in his mind for a brief second before it vanished into the mist hovering over the Forth.” (13)
 Similarly, when the Maestro listens to the roar of traffic outside his flat, “images from the past … [try] to stream into the present.”  He thinks the traffic “sounded like a river and, if he closed his eyes, he could see it, a wide river, powerful like the Zambezi”. But “he could only hold this picture in his mind a short while, then it vanished” (134).

Kizito Muchemwa, writing on the Zimbabwean writer Brian Chikwava’s London-set novel, Harare North, claims that the “exilic experience is one of retrieving fragments from memory to re-assemble home” (2010, 141). In Huchu’s novel, this emphasis on fragmentation, ellipses and transience co-exists with larger stories and histories which weave in and out of the narrative. Moreover, the punching through and tearing open of the imposed order reveal the faultlines and contradictions within these larger stories.

One of the stories is the discourse propagated by President Mugabe and his party ZANU-PF that Zimbabwe is still fighting an anti-colonial war and that only those who accept the primacy of the liberation struggle have the right to inherit and rule Zimbabwe. In this discourse, those who have left the country to come to Britain are represented as colonial lackeys and emasculated victims of racism. President Mugabe in a speech given on Independence Day 2006 mocked Zimbabweans who work in the care industry: according to Mugabe, “They are letting the country down by going to England where they are looked down on and given dirty menial jobs, they scratch the backs of old people in homes in England” (“Zimbabweans in the diaspora” 2006).  This feeds into other stories around the ways in which Zimbabweans see themselves in Britain. The sociologist Dominic Pasura, drawing on interviews he carried out among Zimbabweans in England (although not Scotland), argues that Zimbabweans “give a variety of meanings to their conditions and experiences in the diaspora” (2010, 1458).  For some, being in the UK is a form of reverse colonization (we’re here because you were there).  For others, their time in the UK can be described in the biblical terms of Babylon and Egypt, a period of exile and suffering. It can also be compared to wenela, the historical migrant system in which Zimbabwean men went to South Africa to work under bad conditions for poor pay. And, in some cases, the UK can also be home, the place where they have now legally settled.  

The Magistrate’s story traverses the diverse meanings that Pasura’s respondents gave to their experiences in Britain. He suffers in exile. He wants to return to Zimbabwe where he had an important, respectable role and help to rebuild the country. He keeps “this hope alive in his heart, a warm ember cocooned by despair” (Huchu 2014, 28) but also fears that he is ‘long forgotten, a useless relic from the past” (94). Embarrassed because his wife is working and he isn’t, a condition which Pasura suggests is common among older Zimbabwean men in the diaspora, the Magistrate takes an agency job in a care home which for him is demeaning, menial work below his status. His friend, Alfonso, arranges it for him, telling him that work for immigrants in the UK is “a system … [of] voluntary slavery”, like wenela. Alfonso suggests there is no point in the Magistrate applying for legal work because, given media representations of Zimbabwe, people will ask: “‘How can you practice law here when you couldn’t even preserve the rule of law in your own country?’” (32). The care-home work is physically demanding but that isn’t what most upsets the Magistrate. He remembers the backbreaking work he did in his grandfather’s fields when he was young. However, this, he is certain, is “a different kind of pain”:
 “In the fields with the soft earth beneath your feet and the open sky above, you hardly felt the strain. It was massaged by the soothing voices of family, banter, the gossip about the neighbours, and the satisfaction that your labour was meaningful. There was nothing like watching your seedlings grow, tending them until they matured. It was different from this, this cultivating the field of death, the living dead groaning in their cots.” (53)
 Culturally and environmentally, the Magistrate finds it difficult to adapt to a way of life which is different from the communal life he remembers in Zimbabwe and which is one of which he disapproves. He can’t find satisfaction in caring for old people who, as he sees it, have been abandoned by the relatives who should look after them. Walking to work and seeing that “everything ahead of him was a mixture of stone, mortar and glass, with hedges and the green foliage of trees poking out in what spaces they could find’, he misses the sense of expansiveness he experienced at home: “The absence of space he felt was because everything here was owned, subdivided, surveyed, for sale, catalogued for use” (74). The contrast between the Scottish city and Zimbabwean open space is, to some extent, nostalgic, even illusory, but it represents the Magistrate’s idea of home and his belief that he is now a captive in an alien land.

The sense of unbelonging is heightened by another larger story, the way the West sees Zimbabwe. The Mathematician, Farai, can handle this. He knows the key words most of the Western media use: “DESPOT, BASKET CASE, DICTATORSHIP, ONCE PROMISING, WHITE FARMERS” (85) and so on. He listens to Fox News: He “trusts Fox in the same way he trusts the ZBC [Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation]. His awareness of the subtle distortions, the bending of facts to fit certain angles, means he feels safer watching it than he does with the so-called objective news channels” (151). Farai doesn’t fit into Pasura’s diaspora definitions. He intends to finish his PhD and return to Zimbabwe to start a business. He plays the Zimbabwe stock exchange and he believes Zimbabwe’s economic problems are “very minor from a grand historical perspective. Every nation goes through these cycles” (189). However, the Magistrate feels differently. He is pained by the way Western media represent his country:
 “The country never featured when there was real news. It seemed to him that Zimbabwe was a filler used when something about dystopian Africa was needed for comic relief. … His country ticked all the boxes for a sensational African story: add one dictator, a dash of starving kids, a dollop of disease, sprinkle a little corruption, stir in a pot of random, incomprehensible violence, and voilà, the stereotypical African dish.” (27-28)
  Yet, although he says he wants his body to be returned to Zimbabwe after his death, the Magistrate does start to settle in Edinburgh even if only hesitantly and without any sense of commitment or consistent movement forward. He decides that he wants “to make a map of the city using music to pin it to his memory” (98) but in the map he sees “a city that he dared not call home” (261).  When he visits the Law Chambers “the old masonry held no memories for him and, in his despair, he failed to see that, even without music, he could and was in fact creating new ones one brick at a time” (207). He finds meaning in becoming involved with the local branch of the Zimbabwean opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), although he fails to see that Alfonso is a government agent who has infiltrated the branch. Perhaps most optimistically, when his teenage daughter, Chenai, gives birth to a daughter, Ruvarashe, the rukuvhute (umbilical cord) is buried in the family’s Edinburgh garden “binding Ruvarashe and, by extension, themselves to this place” (241). Thus, in the person of the Magistrate alone, there are different, seemingly contradictory meanings to what it means to live outside your country and make somewhere else your home.

Also embedded in the novel, though, are discourses around Scotland. The novel was first published in 2014, the year of the Scottish independence referendum, which was narrowly won by those who wanted to remain in the United Kingdom.  Subsequently, in the 2016 referendum on whether the UK should remain in the European Union or leave, the UK as a whole voted to leave while Scotland voted to remain by a large majority. As the UK prepares to leave the EU, the Scottish National Party (SNP) now argues again for Scotland to be independent, to have political autonomy, to have the right to define its own identity as a nation – demands commensurate with those made by the nationalists before Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980 and re-iterated since in Mugabe’s rallying cry, “Zimbabwe will never be a colony again” (see Willems 2013).  In this discourse, Scotland represents itself as a colonized country and appears to have forgotten that it was once a colonizer. This puzzle is intriguingly framed in the questions Silke Stroh asks in her recent book Gaelic Scotland and the Colonial Imagination: “Is Scottish political and cultural nationalism similar to anticolonial resistance overseas? Or are such comparisons no more than Scottish patriotic victimology, attempting to mask complicity in the British empire and justify initiatives to secede from the United Kingdom?” (2017, 12) There is no doubt that, historically, the Scots were colonizers. The historian Andrew Thompson expresses this complicity starkly: “Of all the peoples of the United Kingdom, it is the Scots’ contribution to the British Empire that stands out as disproportionate. They were the first peoples of the British Isles to take on an imperial mentality, and possibly the longest to sustain one” (quoted in MacKenzie and Devine 2011, 19).

In the novel, Farai and two friends are sitting near the National Monument of Scotland which is also known by various nicknames including Edinburgh’s Shame. The monument was built between 1826 and 1828 and is dedicated to the sailors and soldiers who died during the Napoleonic wars. However, it was left unfinished because of lack of private subscription; hence Edinburgh’s Shame. The friends sit:
 “in the shade of Edinburgh’s shame. … On Calton Hill, the city’s delusion of being the Athens of the North lingers in hard stone. Farai thinks the monument a thing of beauty. There is something in the unfinished acropolis, a ruin before it became a ruin, eaten by moss on the lower fringes which he finds compelling. Stacey is indifferent. He thinks her perspective is tainted by history, while he, the outsider, can see things with a little more clarity. The city’s near universal rejection of the monument perhaps lies in the embarrassing fact that it was modeled on the Parthenon, with grand ambitions. Almost the same embarrassment the Scots feel about the ’78 Argentina World Cup debacle. Both share the same aetiology, a small nation with overinflated ambitions.” (Huchu 2014, 79)
Stacey’s perspective may be tainted by history but the representation of Farai’s mocking of Scotland is certainly informed by the contradictions in Scottish history. Edinburgh, or the Athens of the North, was the centre of the Scottish Enlightenment in the 18th century. However, as Cairns Craig (2011) has argued, the Enlightenment was partly the outcome of Scottish migration, with Scots in America and Canada creating and disseminating many of the ideas associated with the Scottish Enlightenment. Moreover, the philosopher David Hume, one of the key figures in the Enlightenment, wrote an infamous footnote to his essay “Of National Characters” which begins “I am apt to suspect the negroes to be naturally inferior to the whites” (1987, 208). Thus, there are contradictions in the idea that Scotland has a progressive, enlightened history separate from British colonialism and imperialism and the quoted passage brings this out.

Stroh is right when she states that Scotland has an “ambiguous historical position as both intra-British colonized and overseas colonizer” (2017, 249). Nevertheless, as part of the argument for independence, the SNP represents Scotland as outward-looking, pro-European, non-racist, welcoming to immigrants. A novel structured around the experiences of three Zimbabwean immigrants will, to some extent, be read in the light of this self-fashioning. In the novel, on New Year’s Eve, a skinhead grabs Farai and asks him where he’s from. When Farai nervously says Zimbabwe, the response he gets is: “’Nah, you alright, pal. It’s those English bastards ah cannae stand” (Huchu 2014, 237).  Edinburgh is internationally known as a city of festivals, literature, culture and architecture and the novel plays with this view of Edinburgh.  Farai sits in a quaint café “which became famous when some woman wrote a children’s book about wizards” (22) and where an old man can be mistaken for that famous Rhodesian-born Edinburgh resident Alexander McCall Smith.

Edinburgh is also, though, a city of crime, poverty, drug-taking and AIDS and the novel represents this facet of Edinburgh too. Farai notes that toilet attendants in clubs are always African immigrants: they “have cornered this aspect of the British night-time economy” (238). The Maestro lives in a flat described as “shanky” or sleazy, on the kind of estate where, according to a police officer, the neighbours won’t know if you die or go missing. He chooses to run through parts of the city where there are run-down estates: 
“Though the Maestro was grateful for the comforts and protection of the city, he wasn’t ready to give in to its seductions and charms, and to love it. So he sought to observe closely the dark underbelly, the grotesque sector that never made it to postcards in tourist shops.” (110)
Towards the end of his life, he gives away his possessions and spends months living on the streets and in the parks of Edinburgh. He sees buses passing on North Bridge and knows that a “dark force there attracted suicides who jumped and splattered on the roof of Waverley Station” (217). He visits many cemeteries. He finds that Dalry cemetery is overgrown and neglected, with rubbish strewn everywhere and some of the gravestones “so worn that the names were no longer legible. Time had erased them from history” (215). Running along this graveyard is Coffin Lane, incidentally the location for a murder in Ian Rankin’s detective novel Let It Bleed.  In the famous Greyfriars cemetery, the Maestro sees “the ancient vaults and tombs, some of which were protected by iron railings to deter the resurrection men who’d made their living selling fresh corpses to the medical school” (216). Here again, it’s a paradox that Enlightenment practice, finding out more about the human body through dissection, is reliant on the grim crime of body snatching. Ironically, after the Maestro’s death, no one is sure what to do with his body. Is it Scotland’s responsibility to dispose of it or Zimbabwe’s? Should he be repatriated to Zimbabwe or cremated in Scotland?

Within the “planned city” of Edinburgh, there is “a ‘metaphorical’ or ‘mobile’ city” (De Certeau 1988, 110).  The Scottish David Livingstone, whom Craig refers to as “the iconic figure of Victorian imperialism” (2011, 96) wrote about and mapped parts of Southern Africa in his book Missionary Travels and Researchesin South Africa.  He also attempted to change and name what he saw, planting a garden in an island, now named Livingstone Island, on Victoria Falls. Tendai Huchu, a Zimbabwean living in Scotland, writes of Zimbabwean lives within a very detailed topography of Edinburgh, in order to tell stories which allow us to see what the nationalist poet, Hugh McDiarmid, refers to as “all the loose ends of Scotland” (quoted in Huchu 2014, epigraph).  This could be seen as a colonization in reverse, which goes beyond what we used to call ‘writing back’ to show how Scotland and Edinburgh can be possessed by people who weren’t born there. Towards the end of the novel, a Zimbabwean government official says to Alfonso, “I take it you left no loose ends?” (270). One could argue that the three Zimbabwean stories have reached an ending, although not, I think, closure given that they are open to interpretation. We have been taken on “a wild goose chase”; what we thought was a postmodern comedy of everyday life has turned out to be a story about murder, intrigue and mystery.

The novel finishes in London, so perhaps there is also an ending to the Scotland story. However, I don’t think this is the case. The Scotland story in my view now has an afterlife and it is this afterlife that empowers the reader.  I return to de Certeau again. He argues that the reader:
 “insinuates into another person’s text the ruses of pleasure and appropriation: he poaches on it, is transported into it, pluralizes himself in it …. this production is also an “invention” of the memory. Words become the product or outlet of silent histories…. The thin film of writing becomes a movement of strata, a play of spaces. A different world slips into the author’s place.” (1988,xxi)

As I listen to debates on Scottish independence, memories of phrases and passages from The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician come into my mind; as I reread the novel, I remember fragments of discourse about contemporary politics. When I read the words used to describe Farai’s outsider view of Edinburgh’s Shame, I insert into it a world perceived by my outsider view of Zimbabwe including the stone city of Great Zimbabwe known as the Zimbabwe Ruins, hyperinflation, over-ambition, and either anger at, or shame of, being seen as a failed nation. Muchemwa argues that “exile challenges writers to reconfigure geographies of identity … and contest ideologies of place” (2010: 135). This is what The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician does in relation to Zimbabwe but also in relation to Scotland. The Maestro preferred to read several books “in parallel, hoping that this way of reading would make it easier for him to see the cross connections he sought between each universe” (Huchu 2014, 171-2). I think the reader can see some of the cross connections in this one book.

Works Cited:

Chikwava, Brian. Harare North. London: Jonathan Cape. 2009.

Cousins, Helen and Pauline Dodgson-Katiyo. 2016. “‘Zimbabweanness Today’: An Interview with Tendai Huchu.” African Literature Today 34 (2016): 200-210.

Craig, Cairns. “Empire of Intellect: The Scottish Enlightenment and Scotland’s Intellectual Migrants.” In Scotland and the British Empire. Eds. John M. MacKenzie and T.M. Devine. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2011. 84-117.

De Certeau, Michel. [1984]. The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. 1988.

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. [1871-2]. Demons: A Novel in Three Parts. London: Penguin. 2008.

Huchu, Tendai. The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician. Bulawayo: ’amaBooks. 2014.

Hume, David. “Of National Characters.” [Revised version. 1777]. Essays, Moral, Political and Literary. Rev.ed.  Ed. Eugene F. Miller. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund. 1987.

Livingstone, David. Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa. London: John Murray. 1857.

MacKenzie, John M. and T.M.Devine. “Introduction.” In Scotland and the British Empire. Eds. John M. MacKenzie and T.M. Devine. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1-29. 2011.

Muchemwa, Kizito Z. “Old and New Fictions: Rearranging the Geographies of Urban Space and Identities in Post-2006 Zimbabwean Fiction.” English Academy Review: Southern African Journal of English Studies27.2 (2010): 134-145.

Pasura, Dominic. “Competing Meanings of the Diaspora: The Case of Zimbabweans in Britain.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 36.9 (2010): 1445-1461.

Rankin, Ian. Let It Bleed. London: Orion. 1995. 

Stroh, Silke. Gaelic Scotland in the Colonial Imagination: Anglophone Writing from 1600 to 1900. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. 2017.

Willems, Wendy. “Zimbabwe Will Never Be a Colony Again: Changing Celebratory Styles and Meanings of Independence.” Anthropology Southern Africa 36.1-2 (2013): 22-33.

“Zimbabweans in the diaspora unhappy with Mugabe’s mockery.” 2006. http: [Accessed 15 September 2007].

(reproduced with the permission of the author)

Pauline Dodgson-Katiyo was formerly Head of English at Newman University and Dean of the School of Arts and Letters at Anglia Ruskin University. She has research interests in African literature, particularly Zimbabwean and Somali, and contemporary women's writing. She is co-editor of Rites of Passage in Postcolonial Women's Writing (with Gina Wisker) and Emerging Perspectives on Yvonne Vera (with Helen Cousins). 


Why I Read by Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende

Reading is an addiction. I am a slave to words beautifully strung together in eloquent notes. Reading gives me a high akin to the ecstatic experience one might get from a good dance song. As the body winds itself around the rhythm and melody and finds freedom in the deep thud of the base, so my mind gluts itself on the highs and lows, the tension and the tranquility offered up in a deeply satisfying story.

I read because it is from other people’s stories that I learn what works for me and what does not in my own writing. Like cooking, reading fires up and feeds my own creative process. I cook and I read so that I can write. Reading preceded my life as a writer, so I can safely say without reading there would be no writing.

I read because the possibility of somehow being transformed as I immerse myself into the story is so compelling that I cannot pass it up. I read to satisfy a hunger for more and more knowledge. I am intrigued by the complexity of being human and the most satisfying stories for me are those in which the characters, the worlds in which they exist and their interactions are thoroughly explored. I consider myself an active reader: someone who engages with the characters on an emotional as well as intellectual level. I cry with them, feel their anger and frustrations, rejoice in their victories and laugh out loud at the ridiculous.

The reading experience is sometimes a sacred act for me.  This act begins the moment I get a new novel or anthology of short stories. I reverentially inspect the workmanship of the book; the quality of the paper, and the font. It is not uncommon for me to even bring the book to my face and smell it. Then I will delve into the words with the excitement of a child ripping away the wrapping on a gift. Within the first few paragraphs I know what kind of relationship I will have with the book. I know whether it is one that I will sip slowly like a hot cup of tea, prolonging the pleasure or whether I will binge-drink it like a first-year college student, staying up two nights in a row until it is finished.
I read because it allows me some ME time. As a mother of four highly energetic girls, time alone is a rarity. However, if I am reading the girls will usually get their own books and we will read in companionable silence.

Reading is one of life’s exquisite pleasures for me. I have travelled to many worlds, met some interesting people and sat in on their private conversations or even their thoughts. I have sampled various cuisines all through reading. It satisfies the hedonist and voyeur in me    thank goodness  – because who knows what trouble those two character traits might get me into.

Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende is a scholar practitioner in public health, with a focus on minority women’s sexual and reproductive health, and founder/director of the Africa Research Foundation for the Safety of Women. She is originally from Zimbabwe. She holds degrees from University of Glasgow, Scotland, Walden University and attended the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She writes opinion editorials on the status of women with a focus on Africa. She consults on policy and has written policy briefs with recommendations on ending violence against women. She has been on panel discussions around the issue of FGM and looking at novel ways to end the harmful cultural practice. Barbara is a vocal activist and advocate on issues to do with gender-based violence, economic justice for women and gender parity in government institutions. 

She is a writer published in the short story anthology Where to Now? published by amaBooks Publishers, Zimbabwe, on Storytime online literary journal, on Her Zimbabwe,feminist website, in the anthology of short stories, Still by Negative Press, London, in the Journal of African Writing, 2014, in the annual short story anthology, African Roar, 2013, the Caine Prize Anthology 2014, the Gonjon Pin and Other Stories by New Internationalist, amaBooks and others, and Guernica Magazine, USA. Her poetry has been published in the anthology Muse for Women, 2013 and African Drum by Diaspora Publishers, 2013. She was a 2014 Hedgebrook Writer in Residence and Caine Prize for African Writing workshop attendee. She is a mentor with the Writivism programme at the Centre for African Excellence (CACE) Foundation and a member of Rotary International.

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