Stanely Mushava Literature Today
Since its inception in 2013, this column has consistently called on Zimbabwe’s cultural ecosphere, mainly publishers, Government, educational institutions and audiences, to take the front seat in promoting and preserving the country’s most important works of art.
This month marks 30 years since the death of Dambudzo Marechera, but what is perhaps more tragic is the dearth of his works on the Zimbabwean market. Despite having six titles to his name, most of this great artiste’s books are nowhere to be found in our bookshops.
With sufficient effort, you will find “Mindblast” and “House of Hunger” from publishers or bookshops and “The Black Insider” from pirates but “Cemetery of Mind”, “Scrapiron Blues” and “Black Sunlight” are harder to find than money in 2017.
As a hopeless media junkie, I have been frustrated many times hopping from shop to shop for Zimbabwean classics, especially books and music, in vain.
No wonder the only idea many Zimbabweans have of Dambudzo Marechera is that fake letter supposedly from him to a white chick called Samantha. No wonder barbershop tales about doctors certifying that Marechera’s mind worked six times faster than an ordinary mortal’s, him reading the dictionary in the dark using, burning elapsed pages for torchlight, writing a novel about a falling leaf are taken as seriously as red-lettered scripture.
It speaks to the grand canonisation of African artistes and thinkers without actually engaging them that Alain Mabanckou flags in his poem “As Long as Trees Take Root in the Earth”: “False prophets summon Diop/who remains to be read/false prophets summon Fanon/ who remains to be read/false prophets summon Césaire/who remains to be read.”
This week, I share a Quartz article in which the 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing winner calls on African countries to be economically involved in their literature. The article, headed, “We need African countries to support our literature, says 2017’s Caine prize winner,” was written by Farid Y. Farid and published in Quartz last month:
When Bushra al-Fadil landed in London to receive the 2017 Caine Prize for African Literature, he spent a day perusing the library of the School of Oriental and African Studies.
He felt a pang of sadness when running his fingers through an early edition of the quintessential African novel “Things Fall Apart” by Nigerian Chinua Achebe.
“I saw original copies of Achebe’s…