Elliot Ziwira At the Bookstore
If there is one articulate, and philosophical storyteller and poet to have emerged from Zimbabwe’s literary landscape, it is Tafataona Mahoso.
After taking a sabbatical from the printing press for 30 years, following the publication of his poetic scorcher “Footprints About the Bantustan” (1989), the writer and renowned academic announced his literary comeback through his latest poetry anthology “Rupise: Poetry of Love, separation and reunion — 1977-2016” (2018).
“Rupise” captures the universal poetic catharsis of love through its highs and lows, as the poet retraces his footprints to the Rhodesian Bantustan of his youth depicted in “Footprints About the Bantustans”, after years in the Diaspora, and juxtaposes the colonial trauma that he endured with the liberated Zimbabwe of his dreams. Through adept use of imagery and symbolism Mahoso contrasts the landscapes of his experiences to give meaning to the nature of human expectation.
In an interview with The Herald Mahoso revealed: “As the front cover image of ‘Rupise’ shows, the central theme is anchored upon the stylised image of and symbolism of a unique geyser — a land, rock and water feature called Rupise in the past and situated in Chimanimani West, Zimbabwe.
“On the book cover the main image looks like a human apparition, a sculpture of water, soil, rock and foam bathed in moonlight or sunlight”.
The philosopher-poet said his disappearance from the literary radar, which has led to him being called “the forgotten poet” by Memory Chirere was due to his busy schedule as an academic, administrator and researcher.
He intimated that he had not been off the page per se, as a lot of writing had been going on off-beam.
“I have always been multi-disciplinary, as I have interests in many fields, Social Sciences, Economics, History, and lately music. So, when you are doing journalistic or analytical articles, you are mainly using the analytical side of your brain, and it means that if you go to ‘African Focus’, ‘Zvavanhu’ or ‘African Pride’; those programmes needed agency, especially to respond to the issue of sanctions, and the onslaught on Zimbabwe,” he said.
The desire to return to the source, as they say, Mahoso reflected, was prompted by quite a number of events, chief among them being the death of his first editor and ally Dr Vimbai Gukwe Chivaura in November 2015.
“There were quite a number of events that happened recently around 2016. One was that Dr Chivaura, my colleague, who was the first editor of my book, died in November 2015. So, by 2016 we had lost him. That was one trigger. The other one was that a good friend of mine from the United States of America also decided to come and visit me here in 2016,” said Mahoso.
“I asked myself then, what will I show this friend of mine, which is originally Zimbabwean? I had met this person at Oxford University in 1973. He came here in 2016, the same year that my first editor passed on, and my first grandson was born. Those events really forced me to come to the realisation that I should not leave a distorted image of myself.
“I have been writing a lot in between programmes, behind the scenes, but my other passions remained poetry and music, hence the desire to write poetry and play music beckoned,” added the philosopher-poet.
As a historian, Mahoso’s poetry is inspired by the historical images he was exposed to, which has awakened the desire to propagate the usually ignored central role that women, especially Mainini, and water played in the liberation struggle, which are the missing elements in the liberation narrative.
He said: “Based on the historical images to which I have been exposed, the ‘Rupise’ cover image lies somewhere between that of Zimbabwe’s Nehanda and that of ancient Egypt’s Isis, with Isis helping to point out the fact that the Nehanda narrative in the liberation of Zimbabwe either ignores or takes for granted the central role of water in that struggle. In contrast, the glory of Isis arises from her reign over a civilisation and provident biodiversity made possible only by the floods of Ethiopian waters from the combined flows of White Nile and the Blue Nile.
“Morever, Nehanda in Zimbabwe’s liberation story is defined as Mbuya Nehanda, the Grandmother of the nation. There are mothers, fathers and grandfathers of the revolution; just as there were such kinsmen and kinswomen in my personal upbringing. But we are rarely told about the Mainini of the struggle.”
“Rupise” is Mahoso’s tribute to the love/romance epitomised in the Hot Springs of Chimanimani, his home area, which lost their lustre through colonisation, as embodied in his mother’s beautiful cousin, Mainini Rupise, who enabled them as boys “to go swimming naked with the girls in river pools without anyone ever being sexually molested or raped.”
“But Mainini Rupise’s association with water meant that her lessons went far beyond swimming naked in river pools and what they call ‘responsible sex education.’ They included early teachings in biodiversity, which were strengthened by the fact that my mother was a potter and midwife (nyamukuta), while my father was a medicine man: meaning that both parents dedicated their lives to biophilic occupations centred around land, water and the powers of sunlight, with Rupise, the geyser invoking geometrical connectedness and adding the image of clean, permanent power into the mix,” the multi-disciplinary storyteller said.
Source : The Herald