Zimbabwean Poets' Contribution to Human Rights
Wednesday, 02 September 2009 09:06
Literature - The Literary Update
Julius ChingonoThere are a hundred poems in Fire in the Soul from a hundred different poets from across the world, published from the beginning of the twentieth century until today. Other poets featured in the collection include Ken Saro-Wiwa, Margaret Atwood, Rita Ann Higgins, Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy and Pablo Neruda.
The Director of Amnesty International UK, Kate Allen says that ‘these poems have grown out of horrifying circumstances, yet they succeed in being a heart-warming testament to the resilience and creativity of the human spirit.’
The poems included are They are picked, by Julius Chingono, from the ’amaBooks poetry anthology Intwasa Poetry, Vendor and Child, by John Eppel, from the ’amaBooks collection of short stories and poems, Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe, and Being an Artist, by Mgcini Nyoni. Both Eppel and Chingono have five poems in Intwasa Poetry and a short story and a poem in Long Time Coming. Nyoni, writing under the name Shepherd Mandhlazi, has one poem, When We Were Young, in Intwasa Poetry.
Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe brings together short stories and poems from thirty-three writers that provide snapshots of this turbulent period in Zimbabwe’s history. Snapshots of living in a country where basic services had crumbled: where shops had no food, taps no water, banks no money, hospitals no drugs, bars no beer. Snapshots of characters surviving against seemingly insurmountable odds. Horrific snapshots of the abuse of power, of violence and oppression, of the destruction of dreams. But this is Zimbabwe – there are lighter moments and moments of hope: in some of life’s simple pleasures, in the coming of the rains, in the wink and the smile of a stranger, in a challenge to patriarchy, in the inner strength of the people, in fighting back.
The Zimbabwean newspaper commented that: ‘You don’t have to be in Zimbabwe to know or experience what is happening in Zimbabwe. All you have to do is get yourself a copy of ’amaBooks’ Long Time Coming. The book is about hope, about resilience, and how the people have waited for so long to be delivered from their suffering.’ Gemma Ware in The Africa Report considered it ‘a collection straining with suspended hope; change has taken too long to arrive.’
The review in the New Internationalist commented: ‘Each piece here – and they are miniature marvels, with no story longer than eight pages – vividly illuminates an aspect of what it is actually like to live in a country that has been systematically looted and stripped of functioning organizations. It would be unfair to single out individual authors for praise but, taken together, these stories cohere into a panorama of Zimbabwe.’
Intwasa Poetry is a book of memorable poems from inside and outside Zimbabwe. The fifteen poets who are brought together in this collection have all read from their work at the Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo. From Zimbabwe, the poets are Julius Chingono, Chirikure Chirikure, John Eppel, Ignatius Mabasa, Shepherd Mandhlazi, Judy Maposa, Deon Marcus, Albert Nyathi, Pathisa Nyathi, Mthabisi Phili and John S. Read. From outside Zimbabwe, the poets are Owen Sheers and Lloyd Robson from Wales, Véronique Tadjo from Côte d’Ivoire/South Africa and Joelle Taylor from London. There are poems of love, of sensuality, of humour, of compassion, of yearning, of sadness, of loss and of outrage. They range from the intensely personal to reflections of life at this pivotal time in Zimbabwe’s history.