Literary Zone

Oracle of the Povo

1 March 2018 at 03:22 | 11204 views

By Dambudzo Marechera (RIP), Harare, Zimbabwe.

Her vision’s scrubland
Of out-of-work heroes
Who yesterday a country won
And today poverty tasted

And some to the hills hurried their thirst
And others to arson and blasphemy
Waving down tourists and buses
Unleashing havoc no tongue can tell -
Her vision’s Droughtstricken acres
Of lean harried squatters
And fat pompous armed overlords
Touching to torch the makeshift shelters
Heading to magistrate and village court
The most vulnerable and hungry of citizens -
Her vision’s Drought Relief graintsrucks
Vanished into thin air between departure point
And expectant destination -
In despair she’s found in beerhalls
And shebeens, by the roadside
And in brothels: selling the last
Bits and pieces of her soured vision.

NB:Povo is the term used by politicians in Zimbabwe to refer
to the common people, or the majority of the electorate.

*Dambudzo Marechera(photo) was born in 1952 in Vengere Township, Southern Rhodesia (present day Zimbabwe). The family called him "Tambudzai," meaning "the one who brings trouble". His father died when he was eleven years old, leaving the family destitute. Because of his intelligence and academic talent, he received scholarships to continue his education.

Fiercely independent and brilliant, he had difficulties with the educational system throughout his academic career. He enrolled at the University of Rhodesia in 1972, but was expelled in 1973 as a result of his involvement with a student protest movement. Unlike many other suspended participants, Marechera was unrepentant about his role in the demonstrations. Despite his rather poor grades and iconoclastic behavior, his professors at the university admired his brilliance, and recommended him highly for a scholarship to Oxford. He enrolled in the New College in 1974, but was forced to withdraw because of his anti-social behavior.

While at Oxford, he wrote his first book of short stories, The House of Hunger. Somewhat reminiscent of Joyce’s Dubliners, the stories deal with psychological and social alienation. Marechera’s work is not material typically associated with "African" literature. His stories are psychologically, rather than politically, motivated as his depictions of living in exile and outsiderhood show. The House of Hunger received the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1979. While giving his acceptance speech, Marechera expressed his dislike of attaching prefixes such as "Irish" and "African" to the term "author".

His second book, Black Sunlight, is more typically "Joycean." It is unstructured, with characters who do not function in the standard plot-driven way, and surrealist, even less "African" than its predecessor. The publisher feared that it would not sell because it was not identifiably written by an African author. It probably would not have been published were it not for the critical success of his first book.

In 1982, Marechera returned to Zimbabwe after eight years in exile. His stay in Britain had been filled with poverty and several charges for petty crimes. In Zimbabwe, he continued his chaotic and self-destructive lifestyle, publishing only one more book, Mindblast, in 1984. He died in 1987.

Here is the late Dambudzo Marechera: