Mushava’s Rhyme and Resistance
Book review by Brian Maregedze
It is possible but not so easy for artists to write in good and bad times without reflecting their life experiences. Rhyme and Resistance is a poetic work by Stan Mushava, who was born in Gutu Mission, Masvingo, in 1990, and pursued his primary and secondary education in Buhera and Gutu.
This 2019 collection of poems published in Zimbabwe by Underclass Books and Films is political and autobiographical, telling the life-journey of an award-winning author and journalist, while the Zimbabwe crisis unfolds in almost all the poems.
Interestingly, to some analysts, Stan’s poetic genius writing has given birth to contemplations on “dethroning” the greats. Journos in Zimbabwe are indeed defining the pace as wordsmiths, with Tichaona Zindoga, Phillip Chidavaenzi, Lazarus Sauti and Tendai Makaripe, among others, chasing literary clout.
The 87-page poetry anthology has 37 poems, a number of which speak to Zimbabwe’s so-called New Dispensation. It is no coincidence that the poet, Stan, reflects on a number of key events which took shape prior to the ouster of the longtime political leader, Robert Mugabe and the ascendancy of Emmerson D. Mnangagwa to the presidium.
The poem, “The Evolution Will Not Be Televised” (p. 7-10) takes the reader into the journey of the poet, tracing his passion for creative writing traced from primary school to the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), accompanied by the accolades and reputation won.
From this poem, Dambudzo Marechera is an inspiration to the poet, while Winky D (given name, Wallace Chirumiko) is viewed as representative of the voices of weak, championing their cause:
When injured at the money game I would bleed ink,
Downtown scholar from day one like conscious Winky.” (p.7)
Old peers and teachers are invoked, foreseeing the “philosopher-king of Gutu” would “write for the povo.” It is undisputed the journey to the 2018 National Arts Merit Award (NAMA) Outstanding Fiction Prize was not a walk in the park for the young poet. High school experiences, teenage fantasies, young love and the rural-to-urban shift are well articulated in curated terms and the “rhymes” from which “resistance” arises. Here is the story of a uniquely talented poet trying to find a place in society.
To the young, unsure of a career path, this poem I recommend since the journey is not always easy but it is the dogged that do it. My musings with Journalism and Media Studies are being rekindled as Stan naturally pushes one to the motivational edge in creative writing.
In Sungura Timekeeper, the poet proffers the moral value of music in the face of hardships. Sungura is one of the most popular music genres in Zimbabwe. While the young generation in Zimbabwe youths is all in for Zimdancehall, Stan has a broader cultural horizon.
Sungura music, or museve as it is known in street lingo, is celebrated with shout-outs to notables such as Leonard Dembo, John Chibadura, Biggie Tembo, Solomon Skuza, Nicholas Zakaria, Simon Chimbetu, Alick Macheso, “the living protégé,” among many.
One is left with the desire to listen to sungura as it is poetically unpacked by Stan. Sungura is also explored in various moments in Zimbabwe’s independent history with “Love in the Time of Austerity” being typical (p.19-20).Stan in stanza two of, Love in the time of austerity notes:
Let sungura awaken my soul by a sunset brook,
And raw strains of jit stud my new timepiece. (p.19)
No wonder Tanaka Chidora, a poet, literary critic and my academic wizard argued that Mushava is a “poet worthy of serious attention” in his analytics.
More notable is that Stan never stops being political in some of his poems. “A Croc-and-Bull Story” is the longest poem and prototype among the politically rich poems in this collection (p.23-28).
To literature aficionados, the poem is reminiscent of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.For instance, anyone familiar with Zimbabwe’s post independent political landscape easily captures the symbolism found in animals such as lizard-crocodile, the rooster and dogs among others. The last stanza of the poem is worthy capturing;
The lizard, who soaked up secrets of the house and the bush,
Had the king’s right hand of fellowship till a fateful ambush;
Having grown on farm supplements from lizard to crocodile,
He plucked the rooster for lunch to serfs’ captive applause. (p.28)
Although names of people are not explicit in the poem assuming feudal-like language where ‘serfs’ exist, Stan speaks volumes to power dynamics in Zimbabwe’s politics. To retain the value of the poetic texts, I am persuaded to leave it to the readers to take their time in reading this powerful collection of my generation.
Some of the politically themed poems include “Harare by Bicycle,” “Send Us No More Patriots,” “The Planting of New Flags,” “No Country for Young Men,” “Blueroof Freestyle” among others. However, other themes beyond the political realm are tackled with succinct expressions, the spiritually tuned “Dead Prophets’ Society” being typical of many such.
Having said that, for universal appeal, Rhyme and Resistance demands space for explaining names of places, people and terms which seem to be indigenous to Zimbabwe. Also, abbreviations and the full meanings encompassing SADC, ESAP, CIA among others need attention.
Stan Mushava shared a free electronic version of anthology with the public on his Facebook wall, mixtape-style, during the internet blackout, “for the love of Zimbabwe.” Some of the poems are drawn frown his upcoming collaborative anthology with iconic singer-songwriter Michael Lannas while few are culled from his award-winning debut collection, Survivors Café.
Above all, Stan’s intertextual poetry is indeed a welcome contribution to literary critics, ethnomusicologists and aspiring young poets of this generation and future writers. He is unquestionably a voice to recognise among the youthful and mature poets.
If Marechera pushed Zimbabwe’s prose to the world, then Stan Mushava is here to revive the glorious days of Zimbabwean poetry and stoke the creative flame among the youths. A reading of Rhyme and Resistance opens one’s interpretation to the elasticities found in exploring the “philosopher-king” of Gutu.
Brian Maregedze is an author, historian and columnist. He can be contacted at [email protected] He is currently a tutor at Valley Crest Academy in Waterfalls – Parktown, Harare.
Author, historian & columnist