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Archive for the ‘Zimbabwe’ Category

Launch: These Bones Will Rise Again by Panashe Chigumadzi (17 August)

A timeous book, with Zimbabwe’s elections taking place in July 2018, These Bones Will Rise Again responds to the November 2017 ousting of Robert Mugabe, exploring events leading up to the ‘coup not coup’ that brought his 37-year rule to an end.

This long-form essay brings together bold reportage, memoir and critical analysis to radically reframe the political and cultural history of the country, recognising the role of women, workers and urban movements in its liberation struggle.

In a searing account, These Bones Will Rise Again explores the heady post-independence days of the 80s, the economic downturn of the 90s, through to the effects of the fast-track land reform policies at the end of the century.

Out of Zimbabwe’s official versions of history, Chigumadzi wrests a complex and personal history of the past and present through intercession with two ancestral spirits – anti-colonial heroine Mbuya Nehanda, the founding ancestor of Zimbabwe’s revolution, and her own beloved grandmother, who passed shortly before the de facto coup.

This is an inspiring work exploring loss, recovery and memory that reminds us of the universal and timeless human impulse to freedom, a shared sense of belonging and the will to hope.

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#JacanaChallenge: how many African authors have you read?

“Anything and everything” by literary wunderkind Kopano Matlwa, NoViolet Bulawayo’s award-winning We Need New Names, and prolific Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o's first novel Weep Not, Child.

These are but three authors local bibliophiles recommend you read for this week’s #JacanaChallenge.

The challenge? Simply tweet any African author you think those participating in the challenge MUST read.

Get in on the fun! Join the challenge here.

Spilt Milk

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Panashe Chigumadzi reacts to winning the 2016 K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award

Panashe Chigumadzi

Sweet MedicineSweet Medicine, the debut novel by Panashe Chigumadzi, won the 2016 South African Literary Awards K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award recently.

The winners were announced on 7 November 2016 at a gala dinner at Unisa. Chigumadzi shared her award with Willem Anker, who was honoured for his book Buys.

On receiving the award, Panashe had this to say:

It is deeply affirming whenever you receive external validation for what is most often a solitary and isolating experience. This award in particular is an honour because it bears the name of one of South Africa’s literary greats. Over and above that, as someone with Pan-Africanist ideals, I’m deeply humbled that South African readers were able to find resonance with a story set in Zimbabwe, despite what many prospective publishers had said to me. I’m truly grateful to be a writer who has been allowed the space to bring all of herself and her experiences and to have that appreciated by a reading audience.

Sweet Medicine is a thorough and evocative attempt at grappling with a variety of important issues in the postcolonial context: tradition and modernity,
feminism and patriarchy, spiritual and political freedoms and responsibilities, poverty and desperation, and wealth and abundance.

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Join Senator David Coltart at UCT for a masterful account of Zimbabwe’s unfinished struggle for freedom

The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe

The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in ZimbabweJacana Media and the University of Cape Town invite you to the launch of The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe by David Coltart.

The event will take place on Wednesday, 2 March, at 12.45 PM at the UCT Faculty of Law.

Coltart will be in conversation with Advocate Brendan Manca SC.

Don’t miss it!
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Don’t miss the launch of David Coltart’s The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe at The Book Lounge

The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe

The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in ZimbabweJacana Media and The Book Lounge invite you to the launch of The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe by David Coltart.

The event will take place on Wednesday, 2 March, at 5:30 for 6:00 PM. Coltart will be in conversation with leading Zimbabwean scholar and activist Professor Brian Raftopoulos on Zimbabwe’s unfinished struggle for freedom.

Don’t miss it!

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 2 March 2016
  • Time: 5:30 for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: The Book Lounge
    71 Roeland St
    Cape Town | Map
  • Refreshments: Come and join us for a glass of wine
  • RSVP: The Book Lounge,, 021 462 2425

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Don’t miss Judge Dennis Davis, Siphosami Malunga and David Coltart at the launch of The Struggle Continues

Invitation to the launch of The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe


The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in ZimbabweJacana Media, Brooklyn Mall and Exclusive Books invite you to the launch of The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe by David Coltart.

Join Coltart, the former MDC Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, in conversation with Judge Dennis Davis on Zimbabwe’s unfinished struggle for freedom.

The event will be chaired by Siphosami Malunga, executive director of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa.

Not to be missed!

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A work of searing honesty, sensitivity and integrity – The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe

The Struggle ContinuesJacana Media is proud to present The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe by David Coltart:

The Struggle Continues is a “searing, heartfelt, brutally honest account of the turbulent modern history of Zimbabwe” (Douglas Rogers, author of The Last Resort).

This political autobiography deals with an era of great turbulence from the perspective of a person who was at the centre of the great Zimbabwean drama for over 30 years, David Coltart.

It is set to be the most authoritative book to date of the last 60 years of Zimbabwe’s history, described by the doyenne of Southern African journalists, Peta Thornycroft, as “a masterpiece”: from the obstinate racism of Ian Smith that provoked Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Britain in 1965, to the civil war of the 1970s, the Gukurahundi genocide of the 1980s, the land invasions of the 2000s, Robert Mugabe’s Murambatsvina war on poor urban dwellers in 2005, and the struggles waged by the MDC in confronting a brutal regime.

Praise for The Struggle Continues:

This magnificent book is far more than just the autobiography of one of the most significant figures in Zimbabwean history; it is also a history of Zimbabwe itself, and a moral testament.

- Peter Oborne, political columnist of the Daily Mail, and author of The Rise of Political Lying, The Triumph of the Political Class and Basil D’Oliveira: Cricket and Conspiracy – The Untold Story

A must read for anyone who is intrigued by Zimbabwean politics and history, but also those interested in the power of our common humanity and the strength that is inside us all.

- Kerry Kennedy, President, Robert F Kennedy Human Rights

… a significant contribution at a time when Zimbabwe is crying out for such accounts from key figures who have played an important role in shaping its history.

- Dr Alex Magaisa, University of Kent. Former adviser to Prime Minister Morgan R Tsvangirai, 2012-2013

Those of us who were privileged to meet Coltart during this critical period never guessed at the precautions he was forced to take, nor that on public occasions he would – as he reveals in this book – wear a bullet-proof vest beneath his shirt. Coltart rose to become education minister and almost single-handedly revived a shattered school system.

- David Blair, chief foreign correspondent, Daily Telegraph

… a masterful account of Zimbabwe’s unfinished struggle for freedom. If you want to understand in particular the frustrations and setbacks of the last decade under Robert Mugabe you should read this book.

- Alec Russell, head of news at The Financial Times and author of After Mandela: Battle for the Soul of South Africa

What emerges from this dramatic journey is a sense of courageous personal conviction and a faith in the inspiring resilience of his countrymen and women.

- Nicholas “Fink” Haysom, Special Representative of the Secretary General for Afghanistan, and former Legal Advisor to President Nelson Mandela, 1994-1999

David Coltart’s meticulously detailed narrative and analysis should be required reading for anyone with an interest in the history of Zimbabwe, but also for those who want to know how the bright dream of African freedom and democracy can be stolen by those posing as revolutionary saviours.

- Brendan Seery, executive editor, Independent Media South Africa

[Coltart] provides a compelling account, often in harrowing detail, of the terror and oppression that has scarred [Zimbabwe] since its independence. But he is equally unsparing in his depiction of the discrimination and brutality of the colonial era.

- Sir Brian Donnelly, British High Commissioner, later Ambassador, to Zimbabwe, 2001-2004

… a work of searing honesty, sensitivity and integrity.

- Petina Gappah, award-winning author of An Elegy for Easterly and The Book of Memory

… a masterful account that is eye-opening and shocking, yet never loses hope.

- Christina Lamb, author of The Africa House and co-author of I Am Malala

… Coltart has written a masterpiece…

- Peta Thornycroft, The Daily Telegraph

About the author

David Coltart is a Zimbabwean lawyer, Christian leader and politician. He was the Member of Parliament for Bulawayo South in the House of Assembly from 2000 to 2008, and he was elected to the Senate in 2008. He served in the inclusive government as MDC Minister for Education, Sport, Arts and Culture from February 2009 until August 2013.

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‘Ndohupenyu hwacho’ – Read our final excerpt from Sweet Medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi (Part 3 of 3)

Sweet Medicine


We are very excited to present to you the final instalment in our series of excerpts from Panashe Chigumadzi’s debut novel, Sweet Medicine.

This gripping story shows a side of Zimbabwe not often seen and grapples with the daily experience of living in postcolonial society. Sweet Medicine takes place in Harare at the height of Zimbabwe’s economic woes in 2008. Tsitsi, a young woman, raised by her strict, devout Catholic mother, believes that hard work, prayer and an education will ensure a prosperous and happy future.

Out of university, Tsitsi finds herself in a position much lower than she had set her sights on, working as a clerk in the office of the local politician, Zvobgo. With a salary that barely provides her with a means to survive, she finds herself increasingly compromising her Christian values to negotiate ways to get ahead.

The first excerpt in our series saw Tsitsi sit down with her friend Chiedza, engaging in a robust conversation about the men in their lives. The second part took the conversation further, revealing an underlying tension between the two, with Chiedza saying that certain things had to be done in order for them to be where they are. “Ndohupenyu hwacho,” she says, which means ‘that’s life’ in Shona.

Read the final excerpt to see how the conversation between Tsitsi and Chiedza plays out:


* * * * * * * *


Sweet MedicineWords Mama had repeated so often throughout Tsitsi’s childhood. Ndohupenyu hwacho.
Chiedza’s eyes shone. She had long since lost her cheerfulness. Tsitsi wasn’t sure if it was the alcohol that had made her so sensitive, so emotional, but she was embarrassed and felt selfish for trying to unburden her own anxieties. She sat down again, pretending not to notice that Chiedza was upset, trying to make light of their current situation.
“Remember what we used to say in residence?” Chiedza didn’t answer, but Tsitsi persevered. “When things got tough, we would always say: ‘That is that. Sadza repa bhodha.’”
She laughed nervously, hoping that her invocation of their varsity days would cheer Chiedza up. Eventually she broke into a small laugh.
“Eii sha, but we suffered, didn’t we? Sadza ne beans. Sadza ne cabbage. Sadza ne ma potatoes.”
Chiedza eventually gave in and added, “Vakomana, sadza, sadza, sadza. When we were lucky, sadza ne mazai.”
They giggled together as if they were in their Swinton room. Feeling a little more sober and that the situation had been diffused, even just marginally, Tsitsi stood up again.
“ChiChi, it’s late. Zvobgo will be waiting for me. I’m sure James Bond is waiting for you too.’’
Chiedza rose to peck Tsitsi goodbye, “Well, you know, I like pushing my men to their limits. The longer he waits the better.’’
She saw the leaks of tears under Tsitsi eyes and wiped them away tenderly with her thumbs, kissing her on her cheek, reminding Tsitsi of the many times Chiedza had consoled her in their dorm room.
“See, Tsitsi? It’s easier when he’s an attached superior and stays that way. It’s when he starts suffocating me and makes too many demands that I leave. Simple. There isn’t a shortage of horny old men. For that matter, even young ones.’’
Before Tsitsi could respond, their waiter jogged clumsily over to their table. Fearing they were attempting to dodge the bill, he couldn’t afford the dignity of a graceful walk.
“Don’t worry, Sekuru, tichiri tese. I’m not going anywhere for a while. I’m sure you’ll have fun keeping me company,” said Chiedza with a wink.
He didn’t respond with the polite laughter of a grateful servant. He was not the cheerful and obedient servant their money had promised them. Instead he obliged with no more than a tight smile, which soon returned to a sour look of resentment, characteristic of a quick, intelligent mind trapped in the routine of menial tasks. He did what he was asked to do with a cold efficiency, nothing more.
“I’ll see you, Chiedza,” Tsitsi said.
As she drove home, she tried to shrug off Chiedza’s words, but they managed to linger and set themselves deep in her conscience. If Zvobgo could do it to Mrs Zvobgo, surely he could do it to her? It would be history repeating itself.
But this was different, she thought. His wife could well afford to respond to the rejection and the humiliation of infidelity by fleeing to Malaysia to live with their thirty-something-year-old daughters. If Zvobgo left Tsitsi, she would be destitute.
She toyed with the idea of his other colleagues, but she quickly dismissed the notion. They were all too busy with their current Small Houses and, even if they did take her in, she was sure they would not look after Sekuru and Mama in the way that Zvobgo did.
She had everything but that elusive certificate. Only important, because with titles come obligations, and more importantly, with rights. Rights and claims to property. Without that, what would she do about Mama and Sekuru? At best, she would be referred to Zvobgo’s relatives or to the traditional courts.
She snuck into the darkened bedroom without switching on the lights for fear of waking Zvobgo. The last thing she wanted to do was trigger a torrent of questions. She slipped off her dress and, without bothering to get her nightslip, sunk slowly into bed. Not hearing even a grunt from Zvobgo’s side of the bed, she reached out but felt only cold sheets. She remembered now that he had told her he was to be spending a few nights away with the rest of the executive members. She had forgotten. She felt disappointed, foolish, for having said all she had to Chiedza.


* * * * * * * *

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Read an Excerpt from Panashe Chigumadzi’s Debut Novel, Sweet Medicine (Part 1 of 3)

Panashe Chigumadzi


Sweet MedicineSweet Medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi invites readers to sit down and discover Zimbabwe beyond the news headlines, painting a glorious picture of life as seen through the eyes of Tsitsi – a young, well-educated woman who is simply trying to make a living in the only way available to her. It’s a story of compromise between the way she was raised, as a devout Catholic, and the harsh realities of life.

This is a novel unlike any other; written in a fresh, authentic voice. Buy two copies, one to keep and one to pass around your circle of friends.

To give you a taste of Chigumadzi’s magnificent debut novel, which was published by BlackBird Books at the end of last year, we will be sharing an extended excerpt from Sweet Medicine in three parts over the coming weeks.

Enjoy part one of three:

* * * * * * * * *


“So,” Chiedza announced dramatically as she sat down on a chair at their usual table, “I’m here with my sugar daddy, Jonathan, the American spy I met at Borrowdale Race Course.”
“A spy? ChiChi, what kind of movie are you living in?” Tsitsi scrunched her nose.
“Yes, Tsitsi, a spy! You think Zvobgo and his crew are just paranoid? This Jonathan, he’s a real-deal spy.” “So if he’s the real deal, what’s he doing with you?” “I think he has jungle fever,” she threw back her head and began to cackle. “I even asked him what his fascination with black women is. Told him that I’m sure that black, white, and even purple women for that matter, have the same anatomy. He just laughed and grabbed my bum. Anyway, he’s in a meeting in one of the rooms here, so he told me to keep myself entertained until he’s done. And then, you know …” Chiedza’s voice grated with exasperation. She used her eyes to great effect. She loved to dramatise everything she said. She pretended to gag as she rummaged through her handbag for a packet of cigarettes. Tsitsi watched as Chiedza lit up, the smoke curling high up to the chandelier above them. She thought about how all of this, made even more deplorable with the impending addition of alcohol, would have scandalised her mother and, not too long ago, would have scandalised her too.
Aside from the release, Chiedza smoked as a way to keep the weight off. “You know I don’t have curves like you, Tsitsi. Ndikafuta, I will never become a Coke bottle,” she said as she mimed the shape of the bottle with her hands. “Instead, I’ll be more like a fridge or a bottle of Mazoe!” She would, she said, make a large fridge too – like the one Tsitsi had bought for Mama and Sekuru Dickson – and burst into laughter.
Chiedza’s make-up was painted on in bold, garish colours as if to implicate her American lover in a scuffle the previous night. Tsitsi herself was unrecognisable from her usual, traditional guise. She had her twelve- inch weave brushed out in full display and wore a tight-fitting dress. In any case, it didn’t really matter if she was recognised as Zvobgo’s Live-In-Girlfriend, because the diplomats, forex dealers, authorised journalists and the like, all tacitly agreed to a code of self-censorship or risked implicating themselves in the immorality.
Chiedza had always been industrious. When her older sister, Netsai, had been an air hostess with Air Zimbabwe, she had been one of the first to begin importing goods from London.
She applied the same kind of diligence to her beauty. She was the kind of woman who had an immediate effect on men, simply because her entire being, her whole demeanour, was sexual. And so she often dispensed with rules of courtship, relying on an innate ability to approach men directly and still have them pursue her after the first encounter. When she had worked as a waitress, it was for what she called ‘the networking opportunity’. According to Chiedza, it was better than being a secretary. Her hours were flexible, for one. And, of course, she could pick and choose. She could afford to be non-committal – there was a greater variety of men available to her, so she could be discriminating in her choices.
On quiet days, when the restaurant manager was not there, she often used to take the patrons’ orders before sitting down at the table with them, a move that always disarmed them and, for many, elicited a nervous sense of excitement at her show of assertiveness, a hint of sexual confidence and prowess. The kind of show that let them know that this was a woman who could ride on top. For those with imagination, her build lent itself to the image of a sturdy mare, one they would not need to be gentle with, one they could ride and be rough with, feeling her take, and enjoy, all of them, unlike the gentle and fragile virgins they had married.
Chiedza called a waiter to their table. “Whisky on the rocks please.”
“Just a Coke for me.’’
“Nhai iwe, Tsitsi, I thought you asked me to come out for drinks?” Chiedza pulled the waiter’s arm. “You remind me,” she said to Tsitsi, “of the religious zealot you used to be.’’ She turned to the waiter. “She’ll have the same. Just add lime for taste.”
Tsitsi tried to object, but she knew that this was all beyond her control and it wasn’t long before their waiter was returning with their fourth round. By then she no longer noticed. And when the waiter came back with their fifth, Tsitsi took her drink right off his tray before he had the chance to set it down.
On an inebriated wave, Tsitsi continued her soliloquy. She felt self-conscious of the repetition, but the relief from unburdening herself got the better of her.
“Shuva, Chiedza,” she paused to consider her words, “I have it better than those holier-than-thou women with their marriages.”
“You know, T, I took a psychology course for two semesters.” Chiedza leaned forward, placing her arms on the table, so that Tsitsi could smell her whisky-and- smoke-laced breath, “And do you know what was the most important lesson that I learned?”
Tsitsi shook her now heavy head.
“I’ll tell you, the most important thing that I learnt was not from a textbook, but from experience. It’s that the beautiful thing about the mind is that if you tell yourself a lie enough times, you will start believing it. The Catholic saint who dreamed of a big white wedding has talked herself into living in sin.”
“Look, whatever keeps you happy, my dear. And, most importantly, whatever keeps you fed in this upside-down BACOSSI economy, handiti?’’
Tsitsi held her head in her hands and then looked up, forcing a smile. “Chi, it’s easier this way. He’s my husband now.’’
Chiedza stubbed her cigarette in the ashtray, then fished for another in her bag. Despite a number of strikes, the match wouldn’t light. She got up and approached the next table with the confidence of a woman who is used to having her way with men – men who are in fact looking to be tempted.
The men at the next table – old white men with skin pink from a day in the Sunshine City – smoking cigars, and they happily obliged, even offering her a cigar, not only because Chiedza was possibly the central character to a fantasy they wished to act out, Tsitsi guessed, but also because of the easy camaraderie of smokers that never ceased to amaze Tsitsi.
One of the men happily produced a lighter, and popped it, igniting the flame. Chiedza bent over, putting the cigarette already in her mouth to it, and inhaled. Immediately, she seemed to come back into focus, taking deep pleasure in the fumes.
“Thanks ka?” she winked at them.
“Anytime, babe.”
“Why don’t you join us?” his friend asked.
“Next time,” she glanced back over her shoulder,
smug with satisfaction. Settled back in her seat, Chiedza remained quiet for a short time, inhaling the smoke from her cigarette before continuing.
“The most difficult kind of honesty is honesty with yourself, Tsitsi – you know that.” Chiedza drank deeply before leaning in towards her. “But tell me, you must be getting bored, lying under the same septuagenarian?’’
“No. Not really.’’ Tsitsi averted her eyes.
“Zvenyu! He’s that good, huh? Inga, rather! I have to say, I didn’t see it coming from that potbelly.’’
“No. We haven’t—” her speech slowed as she struggled to find the words jumping around in her head, which was now pounding with a bad headache.
“You haven’t what?”
She straightened herself and raised her hand for their waiter. “Bring me some water, please.”
“Tsitsi, what? You haven’t what?”
“Whatever I say can and will be used against me. I hereby invoke my Miranda Rights to remain silent under questioning.”
Chiedza laughed heartily, almost choking on her whisky.
“What? Your Miranda Rights! Don’t make me laugh!”
Tsitsi smiled, “I took a law course too, you know.” “I am your friend and have a right to know. Where there is a conflict, The Right of the Friend to Know takes precedence over the Miranda Rights.”
Tsitsi remained silent until the waiter returned with the glass. She gulped down the water and immediately called for another. Now more in control of the words in her head, she began again.
“Chiedza, Zvobgo and I haven’t done it in a while.’’
She said the words quickly in the hope that they would float up, disappear lightly into the air with her friend’s cigarette smoke, but Chiedza latched onto them.
“Wow, so His Excellency His Grace Comrade Zvobgo is a keeper. You stinge him and he doesn’t kick you out?’’
“No, Chi, he’s been focused on other things.’’
“Other things?’’ Chiedza narrowed her eyes. “You mean other women? Shamaz, I’ve been with enough men to know that a man has to eat.’’ She sat her glass down and called for the waiter again. “Imwe whisky, Sekuru.”
Tsitsi broke eye contact. “No. He wouldn’t.’’
“Ha, Tsitsi, are you saying our man is like Banana?” The thought flitted through her brain, but she quickly suppressed it. “No, no, Chi – I know he likes women.”
Chiedza did not seem convinced. “My dear, what makes you think you are so exceptional?”
“Never mind, Chiedza. It’s nothing. Really, nothing.” Even her own insistence struck her as suspicious. She forced an approximation of a laugh, “I know my Zvobgo wouldn’t do anything, okay?”
“And why not? If he could do it to her, he can do it to you.”
Chiedza carried on oblivious as Tsitsi remained silent, the dull throb in her head beginning to surface again. She felt dizzy.

* * * * * * * * *


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Panashe Chigumadzi’s Debut Novel Sweet Medicine Launched with Shado Twala at The Book Lounge

Panashe Chigumadzi


Shado Twala and Panashe ChigumadziSweet MedicineIf there was any doubt about the importance and necessity of an imprint like BlackBird Books, the launch of Panashe Chigumadzi’s debut novel Sweet Medicine came and washed it away. The massive crowd of young, eager black readers welcomed this new author with open arms as she joined SAfm’s Shado Twala in conversation at The Book Lounge less than a fortnight ago.

This was the first of what one hopes to be many celebrations of Sweet Medicine, with other launches having been postponed due to Chigumadzi’s solidarity with student protests that dominated the country last month.

“Black women – I have never seen this many in Cape Town before in my life,” Chigumadzi said, inciting a round of applause and ululation. When asked where they had heard about the event and novel, the crowd confirmed Twala’s suspicions – social media.

Chigumadzi is a Ruth First Fellow and delivered a poignant and somewhat controversial speech entitled “Coconuts Behaving Badly and Militantly” during the annual Ruth First Memorial Lectures at Wits University in August. “I think there will be an expectation to get a taste of that in your book. Does it exist?” Twala asked, opening the conversation. Chigumadzi explained that she wrote, and started, Sweet Medicine long before she had any of the politics that she has now. She went on to say that she prefers verbalising her political stances in essays and articles rather than in fiction. “I think I respect the audience enough not to make this a thinly veiled critical essay.”

Sweet Medicine is set in Zimbabwe, but, Chigumadzi stressed, it is not about Zimbabwe. “I think that’s a lot of the things we talk about in black feminist politics and Black Consciousness – how do we reimagine ourselves?” She explained that for her personally, within the fiction space, she found that writing about race is very difficult without being guilty of lecturing or being boxed into a certain category. Setting the book in Zimbabwe allowed the story to develop without consideration for things like whiteness and race in the way you necessarily have to when looking at South Africa, where it is very visible.

“There is something freeing about writing in a different context, where I write about black people without having to consider if there’s a boss if it’s a white boss or a black boss,” Chigumadzi said, illustrating that a “Ruth First novel” would have been too tricky and tedious for her to write.

Where concepts like feminism and patriarchy are concerned, especially in the novel, Twala noted that they are never addressed full-on, yet are always there. “I think, for a lot of us, particularly in the last couple of months, the last couple of years, it has been a process of conscientising. We find the words to describe what we have been going through. So, it’s not as if we didn’t have the same inclinations, it’s that you have the words to describe what you are seeing,” the young author explained.

These words come to young South Africans through social media and the use of tools like Google, outside academic spaces. “I know a lot of people knock that as a space of conscientising, but I started seeing the words intersectionality and privilege and all of that and I’d think ‘hmm, what is this?’ and I’d go and Google and find links upon links; I learnt it outside an academic environment,” Chigumadzi said.

Google is a great tool to remember when reading Sweet Medicine, which includes a lot of Shona or Zimbabwean references. “There’s a lot of Shona in the book, and I didn’t battle much in getting the gist of some of the words being said, and I found it exciting that I could go and look up the words. In fact, we should all be able to speak Shona,” Twala said, to which Chigumadzi replied in jest: “You should, there’s so many of us here! More than there are Chinese people.”

This book was written for a Zimbabwean audience in South Africa, first and foremost, and the author did not want to explain as if to a tourist what certain things meant. If you can’t deduce it from the context you can ask your Zimbabwean friend or co-worker. We learn cultures by listening to and observing others, she said, and she wanted readers to learn about her home country in a non-confrontational way. An editor read the book and complained there were too many things she did not understand, to which Chigumadzi just replied, “Good thing you are not my audience.”

Naturally, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s name came up. “I knew her first, before Beyoncé, before she blew up, I knew her,” Chigumadzi said, sharing her first encounter with the Purple Hibiscus author when she was on exchange in Australia in Grade 10. “That just really stuck by me, to see myself in there.” This discovery led to many Google searches where the young author was captivated by, among other things, the image Adichie portrayed when she accepted the Orange Prize for Fiction for Half of a Yellow Sun in 2007. This made Chigumadzi believe that she, as an African woman, could do it too – she could also be who she was and say what she wanted to say and be successful. “[Adichie was] the person who really, really made me decide that I want to write.”

The conversation was incredibly rich and vast, paused only for enchanting readings by the author herself, and difficult to sum up. Listen to the recording for Chigumadzi’s thoughts on feminism; modern religion; storytelling; the various characters, themes and soundtrack of the book (“Mugove” by by Zimbabwean artist Leonard Zhakata); LGBTQI issues; writing and more. She also shared why Tony Gum absolutely had to grace the cover and spoke about the relationship between Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Listen to the podcast:


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Helené Prinsloo (@helenayp) tweeted live from the launch using the hashtag #SweetMedicine:



Listen to the theme song on Sweet Medicine while you scroll through the Facebook album:

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