Around the World in Words: Zimbabwe

If you live in South Africa and have never met a Zimbabwean, you live under a rock. At one I point, I had two colleagues from Zimbabwe, one of whom (along with a South African colleague) recommended Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga. Her novel marked the first time in my challenge that I chose a book recommended by someone from that country. It’s something I hope to do more of, as I progress in my travels. Nervous Conditions also ticks the other boxes for this challenge: the author is from Zimbabwe and the story is set in Zimbabwe.

This is the first piece of Zimbabwean literature I’d ever read. I’ve more frequently had encounters with their music, the most memorable of which was a rap lineup in Cape Town. A friend of mine had befriended a Zimbabwean rapper who was due to perform in a Long Street club whose name I’ve since forgotten. He was the supporting act for a fellow Zimbabwean musician whose name I also can’t recall. But he was a big deal. Such a big deal that the crowd of Zimbabwean fans practically booed every supporting act off stage, because they were so eager for their hero to grace them with his presence. When he eventually arrived, he was flanked on stage by bodyguards to protect him from the enamored ecstasies of his many fans. An indeterminate number of months later Justin Bieber came to Cape Town to do his thing. The streams of teenaged girls that flowed to Green Point Stadium weren’t half as excited.

My familial connection to Zimbabwe is my aunt (the same one who spent three years in Japan). She used to live in Harare, and for her 70th birthday I compiled a CD consisting of artists who came from the various countries in which she’d lived. The compilation included Warp Speed by Zubz, a Zambian-born Zimbabwean-raised musician.

As becomes evident yet again, you cannot live in South Africa and not encounter Zimbabwe in some form or another. Even the song Shosholoza (played at endless South African sporting events) has Zimbabwean origins. It is thus a shame that I have not encountered its literature until now, but that is something which this challenge is thankfully changing as I explore countries both far-flung and right next door.

Problems existed not to be worried over but to extend us in our search for solutions. – Tsitsi Dangarembga

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