Thursday, 9 June 2011

Pushing Literature in ChiShona to the next level





This week, I entered the annals of history by publishing the first ever science-fiction novel in my native ChiShona language and the first novel in general in ChiShona to be published first as an ebook. The illustration for the jacket was done by the English author and illustrator John Chadwick, one of the first friends I made when I moved to Middlesbrough.

Understandably, I am very proud of this achievement, not for the congratulations that have been pouring in, but for the wider significance of this developement. 

I have noted that much of the interest is coming from Americans and Europeans who appreciate Zimbabwean culture. ChiShona as a language is going international. Its internationalisation started off in the early 90s, when Americans and Europeans would stay for extended periods in the country and were exposed to our culture. The second wave was of course the exiling of a large chunk of Zimbabwe's population to those same lands where our visitors came from, as our own country faced political turmoil and consequent socio-economic meltdown.  And, of course, there have been several intermarriages over the years.

The effects of this internationalisation of ChiShona and the wider Zimbabwean culture are evident. Screen goddess Thandie Newton is described as the daughter of a "Shona princess" and a British man. Singer Jamelia is also known to have Zimbabwean origins. The Noisettes have a track with a ChiShona title, Iwe! ("You"), penned by lead singer Shingi Shonhiwa. And we all smiled as British media people struggled to pronounce Gamu Nhengu's name.

While those of us who live abroad are soaking up foreign culture, I have always contended that it is a two-way lane. We too are making an impact in these far-flung corners of the globe that recent history has despatched us to. It is for this reason that many non-Zimbabweans are expressing overwhelming interest in MunaHacha Maive Nei?

Native ChiShona speakers are also of the feeling that my new novel offers a refreshing departure from the established paradigm. Even the prominent authors who assessed the manuscript declared that it did not fit in the conventional forms ( the boy leaves town and becomes dissolute, falls in to trouble then returns home or the one set in pre-colonial times involving an young man battling an usurper for the chieftaincy or the one about the Liberation Struggle). It was bound to happen, that someone would open another avenue for ChiShona literature. This was said to me by one such master of ChiShona literature in a phone conversation.

I want to thank all those who have been sending those messages. I dare not look at the stats on amazon yet. I am working on the next one. I have had a talk with the publisher, Sarudzai Barnes at Lion Press Ltd, and she tells me she is working flat out to get the print edition out by the end of the month. If the Home Office finally gets round to issuing me with a passport, I shall do a tour of the ChiShona speaking world!

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