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Fire in the Soul; a take on poetry in Zimbabwe

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Wednesday, March 17th, 2010 by Mgcini Nyoni

Self interview by Mgcini Nyoni, Poet, Playwright and freelance writer based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. With poetry published in FIRE IN THE SOUL 100 poems for human rights (New Internationalist / Amnesty International UK 2009), Intwasa Poetry (Amabooks, Bulawayo 2008), Poetry for Charity Vol 2 (Nigeria 2008). Creative director of Poetry Bulawayo www.poetrybulawayo.webnode.com.

Q: Why poetry?
A: Poetry liberates you. There is no right or wrong way of writing poetry, really. I remember Loyd Robson saying you can paint a picture and call it poetry.

Q: Sounds confusing.
A: Only if you don’t understand poetry. I don’t appreciate hip-hop so I was a bit confused when a hip-hop person was trying to explain that there is good shit and bad shit.

Q: But hip-hop is poetry.
A: What aspect of life is not poetry?

Q: What inspires your poetry?
A: Life. Like if I am thing that I would love bacon with my bread and I can’t afford bacon; It sort of formulates into a poem, like:

they are eating
bacon and eggs
in the state house
The man in rags
eating burnt bread . . .

Q: That’s political.
A: Life is political. Everything can be traced back to a politician either doing well or messing up. Most times they are screwing up.

Q: Is there real hope for poetry?
A: The numbers of artists who write poetry is increasing. And because everyone is literate, there is a lot of self-expression using poetry. Poetry Bulawayo is trying to give all these people a platform.

Q: There is a sort of rebelliousness associated with poetry.
A: Not really. There are people who always take things too far in anything: eating, sex, poetry…

Q: Last word.
A: Brace yourselves; the poetry movement is about to take over the world.

No freedom to criticise the GNU in Zimbabwe

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Monday, November 30th, 2009 by Mgcini Nyoni

Poetic Journey is the story of Zimbabwe told through poetry and mbira music. A young man refuses to celebrate the GNU because he can’t afford electricity, water and a host of other necessities. He realises that whilst he lives in poverty; the leadership is living in the lap of luxury.

The play was scheduled to premiere on the 25th of November and run from 26-27 November @ Amakhosi Theatre Upstairs.

The premier went very well on the 25th, with the audience interacting with the writer/director  and the cast after the show.

Trouble began after the performance on the 26th. After the show we walked into town; two members of the cast and I. We went our separate ways when we got into town. I decided to go into one of the smaller supermarkets along Leopold Takawira Avenue. As I was standing by the fridges, a guy in his late thirties approached me and asked a seemingly innocent question about the price of yoghurt in US dollars.

After buying what I wanted I walked to 6th Avenue to look for transport. The guy I had met in the supermakert was there and I immediately bacame suspicious and got into the nearest combi. He got in as well and sat next to me.

Speaking in shona,  he said, “you getting too clever”, and he left.

The next morning I received a lot phone calls from people who were saying they had been “advised” not to attend my show.

On the 27th I met the cast for our final show at Amakhosi. Two guys showed up around 6.30 pm. They pulled me asside and said my show wasn’t in the spirit of the GNU and I needed to stop the nonsense or else. They refused to identify themselves, but I recognised one as a police officer based at Queenspark.

I wanted the show to go on since it had not been officially BANNED but the cast members except one, were too scared to perform.

We had to turn people away and close the show.

Writers, and artists

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Thursday, July 30th, 2009 by Mgcini Nyoni

The question I dread most is, ‘what do you do?’ I unfortunately have to say I am a writer or an ‘artist’, depending on who I am talking to. The response is always the same; people always wonder why I do not get a proper job and stop wasting my life away on useless pursuits. And for those who know that I have a teaching qualification, the lecture goes on and on until I say yes, I am going to go back to teaching, even though I do not intend doing so. I recently told a friend that I intend keeping some dreadlocks, in that way people will conclude that I am an artist before they ask. They will conclude that I am a little crazy and therefore should be left alone. I have resolved to carry around some of my pay slips from prestigious publications to show to some of the skeptics. Why should I be at pains to explain my profession, I wonder? I don’t see people telling nurses to become teachers on top of being nurses. So why should an artist be something other than an artist?

The lessons I learned from Bob

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Thursday, July 9th, 2009 by Mgcini Nyoni

Stand by your beliefs stand firm even if  you stand t o lose your very livelihood.
When your enemy is down kick in the teeth repeatedly.
Choose a very public forum to insult you enemies; do a good and thorough job of it.
That way you divert attention from your transgressions.
You are always right it’s everyone else who is wrong.
If they don’t agree with you to hell with them who do they think they are.
Pretend to agree with some of your opponents.
When they gain your trust.
Stab them in the back.

Police brutality

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Thursday, July 9th, 2009 by Mgcini Nyoni

I recently traveled to Tsholotsho, after about a two year absence. I once stayed in Tsholotsho for about four years. I was a teacher there until I decided writing poetry, drama and raising a few opinions about what Mugabe and company are doing wrong once in a while was more fun than breaking chalk.

For years now I have been getting the same warning from family and friends.

“Wazakubulala wena.” Meaning they will kill you, like they have killed countless others who dared be in opposition with them.

I recently visited Tsholotsho and as expected Mbamba sub-station is manned by police officers who all come from other provinces other than Matabeleland. They can hardly speak the Ndebele language and how the ‘government’ expects them to be effective boggles the mind. The fact that Shona police officers have been imposed on us did not surprise me really – that has been the case since Gukurahundi.

What really shocked me was that the Shona boys who are police office officers at Mbamba sub-station think it is within their rights to beat up citizens. They have even convinced the villagers that the law allows them to beat up villagers. The time I was there the boys beat up three married women old enough to be their mothers and had the audacity to summon the headman of the village and ‘punish’ him for not teaching his people the law.

And we dare say Zimbabwe is a democracy?

The hoodwinked

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Monday, June 22nd, 2009 by Mgcini Nyoni

A party meeting in informal settings. A club of some sorts. The party comrades are drinking whisky, except the party president, who is drinking fruit juice.

WALTER: It was humiliating comrades. I had to sit outside whilst that boy Tsvangson held meetings with all those western diplomats. Damn the imperialists. Who do they think they are?

BOB: Look at the big picture comrade: Isn’t Tsvangson busy telling the British that I am indispensible and irreplaceable. A few months ago he was telling the whole world that the country could only be revived if I vacated office. That boy is so spineless it is hilarious.

PATRICK: But shefu, they are still campaigning for the removal of Gideon from office that could seriously harm our financial standing. Those people campaigning for the removal of Gono don’t realize that whatever he did was under our instruction and calling for his removal is tantamount to calling for our own removal…

BOB: They would love to see us go comrade, they would very much love that. But with Tsvangson doing all the PR work and rigorous fundraising. We are very much safe in our positions. I wonder what the boy will say come elections time: MUGABE MUST GO.

JOSEPH: At in the meantime, we don’t have to pretend we give a damn about the land. We might not even have to cry crocodile tears over mass graves in Chimoi.

They all laugh long and hard.

To be continued . . .