The Interview with Mbizo Chirasha Page Two
by Tendai Rinos Mwanaka
Tendai: Tell us what life in exile has offered to the poet.
Mbizo: I have been moving from one place to another, sometimes you feel like not wanting to live, it requires boldness, maturity and courage. I am getting along with the life though it’s difficult to miss your streets, your people, and the smell of your cities and the odour of your space. That has developed my creative skin, hard times never kill though. I am writing, creating more work and developing platforms of Art Activism and Creativism. More poetry, lessons, ideas, experiences and pain.
Tendai: How do you make a living out of poetry?
Mbizo: Complicated, creativity projects sometimes, interventions, submissions sometimes, festivals and performances sometimes, trainings. It’s a big hustle though.
Tendai: Your latest project is “The Zimbabwe We Want” Campaign, please explain to the outside world what that is about, what are your expectations, what you think you can achieve with your campaign?
Mbizo: Let the pen and the Voice defend you and the suffering Zimbabwean masses, thus the running line- We, a Squadron of word guerillas and word slingers voicing the need of a peaceful Zimbabwe, Exposing the rot caused by human rights abuses, hegemony, corruption and despotism in Zimbabwe. We are poets who are looking forward for leadership change and the respect of artists in Zimbabwe .We are in the battlefront like every other Zimbabwe, Our words are our guns. We shall win, we need violence to stop during elections and every time, intimidation must stop, we need free and fair elections. We need economic, political and social balance in Zimbabwe.
Tendai: Give us an overview of Zimbabwe’s poetry scene.
Mbizo: It has grown better through the years, I respect the book café, the CURRENT book fair don’t respect poetry, I thank the Zimbabwe Poets for Human rights, the CURRENT Pamberi Trust, the Harare Literature FESTIVAL- HARARE FESTIVAL OF ARTS,THE HARARE LIBRARY POETRY PROJECT, ZIMBAWE WRITERS ASSOCIATION, YOU MWANAKA AND YOUR TEAM FOR PUBLISHING poets in various series. Poetry is growing in Zimbabwe but it’s time we rise and be counted as poets. We continue to create platforms and spaces that reaches the perpetrators of misrule, publish books and magazines that raise concern of the masses.
Tendai: There is a general perception in the Western World that African poetry is of poor standard, that it’s not worth studying, that Africa is about tribal wars, uncontrolled birthrates, poverty, political strife, that Africa is a dark continent. What are your answers to some of these misconceptions?
Mbizo: Yes, it’s a misconception. Art is not only for the elite, we need to approach every subject with respect of other humans, some of these perceptions are laced with racial undertones, African poetry is published in Universities press and colleges, Soyinka and other older poets are poetry professors and their work weaves the syllabi in some of big schools and intuitions around the globe. That perception is rubbish and is a blue lie.
Tendai: What other social issues and personal issues are at your heart?
-Poets need to be given more space on the global arena
-PEN ZIMBABWE has to be improvised and must be very much visible
- Government must grant/fund the arts in Zimbabwe
- CREATIVISM/ART ACTIVISM should be given space in ZIMBABWE
-people should express themselves freely in Zimbabwe
- stop violence, stop human rights abuses, corruption, hegemony
- We need a new leadership, we need an economy, and we need good life
- We need free and fair elections
- We need peace and human rights issues to be subjects from primary school
- We need political diversity
- We need poet laureates in Zimbabwean cities and unveiling writers-in-residence programs in Universities and Colleges
Tendai: Are you angry? You poetry feels driven by emotions and anger. What are you angry over?
Mbizo: Of the rubbish presented by dictators in Zimbabwe and abroad, angry of social paradox and political juxtapositions, angry for peasants, workers and voters for their dignity to moral nudity by systems that are careless of the masses they lead, I am angry of warmongers who rears child soldiers, tribal, racial, religious wars and xenophobia, I am angry of rich political elite in Zimbabwe shortchanging the masses, I am angry of people voting for trash, I am angry of mega-phonic, hollow, empty parliament, and cabinet meetings.
Tendai: It’s a question I always like asking poets. If you were a poem, what form will you be in, and why?
Mbizo: Diverse – multi-themed, to speak to many and for many
Tendai: Tell us some secret you have kept to yourself, it could be an embarrassing thing you once did or something somebody else did you kept to yourself.
Mbizo: I was the media focal person. We were supposed to appear on TV appearance for SADC poetry Festival and I failed to appear at the festival because I had taken more wise waters. I felt so bad about it.
Tendai: Any parting words?
Mbizo: Writers in Prison and Artists in Exile must ask the air and the heaven to give them more wisdom, be strong in the face of difficult realities.
Tendai: When you started your poetry journey up to some few years ago you seemed supportive of the government in Zimbabwe, with some of the poets thinking you were part of the regime in Zimbabwe, what turned you to the other side?
Mbizo: I said the real me is in WHAT I write, to present myself like ZANUPF helped me to become a strong poet who now know the machinations of ZANUPF and its government. I know all the tricks they do when they perceive you as an enemy. I have never been a ZANUPF member. I never wanted to be one; I am not a political party member in Zimbabwe. I believe in progressive cum positive change Voices. I performed at a lot of ZANUPF and government events and even appeared on ZBC for national events but that doesn’t mean I was or I am a ZANUPF zealot, it was part of work. I am an artist. We have to be mature to the extent that being hired to do a performance would not mean you are not associated with that organization. I worked with a lot of embassies, UN and many other NGOs, Schools, Media, Festivals and Universities even pressure groups, the immediate example is CRISIS COALITION IN ZIMBABWE. I am a strong and a founding member of Zimbabwe Poets for Human Rights .I am the Resident COORDINATOR OF 100 THOUSAND POETS FOR CHANGE- global. All these projects do not sing the ZANUPF tune, I cannot sing for the regime. I can’t be bribed by the revolutionary rant Mugabe pull every time he is cornered while in reality and ironically he is the African cousin of the ANGLO-SAXON, he cherishes Europe and western life a lot, he wears European and speak Latin and English, he is a devout catholic , I have never been in ZANUPF. In Zimbabwe you have to act like one to protect yourself from dying. True revolutionaries know the space and the time to start voicing against a dangerous regime. Truly, I am not ZANUPF member. Those who engaged with me at a closer range know the truth about me and my writings. Otherwise I don’t need to politically be nametaged to be a poet.
Tendai: We have read in the media, stories that you were being harassed by the political establishment in Zimbabwe, especially the security establishment, that made you run out of Zimbabwe, and now you stay in Uganda in exile, how far true is that? Tell us more about that.
Mbizo: No mentally right person can lie about being tailed by a rogue system, the system is rogue and I think it is irked by my writings and articles online as well as my inclinations as the whole foolish thought that gripped our system, whenever you become a creative friend to the other race, you become a threat. I have a lot of work that cracks a whip to the rot of dictatorship and the decay of the social fabric in Zimbabwe. My demise was supposed to be a very careful one and secret one. The problem is that in ZANUPF, there are a lot of zealots who have taken to their leader Mugabe as their God BECAUSE he has protected them from jail as they have stolen from the diamond and gold rich country and plunge the country into abject poverty, when you write, talk and tell this truth, it becomes clear you are threat, and most of them thought I was part of them –bootlickers, the Internet sold me out and struggle against me and others began. I know some of the people who are part of the scheme, when time comes, I will let the cats out and these people are within the system. I escaped yes, I am not a coward, I will up the struggle for the truth, and the truth soon will help change Zimbabwe. Its better I add to the Voices of Reason and Positive Change. But I think all this has nothing to do with whatever we are. One thing which is important that I learnt is that you cannot trust Zimbabwe police with a political story in Zimbabwe, political victims in Zimbabwe when targeted disappear, and it’s not wise to seek legal justice, it is better to be a living voice of reason than a dead one. You need to fight your case when in safety; I am not yet safe though. People think that the tailing of political victims can be reported in newspapers and police like rape cases, no. In this situation the VICTIM should be careful about his life. If you are not careful, you can be buried nicely by people who might have paid for your death. Most of this tailing and threats are done carefully and secretly.
Tendai: Your poetry doesn’t seem to bend towards any structures of poetic forms taught in class, what inspired you to write the way you do? Is it African forms of poetic expression you use?
Mbizo: Yes. I hate stereotypes, its African, it’s of griots in nature, its poetry, and it’s got voice thus why you call it my poetry. I discovered my own voice through the African traditional praise poetry, imbongi, from the beat of Africans; Shona and Ndebele dances, the Western African poets like Christopher OKBGO, WOLE SOYINKA, Jack Mapanje and Frank Chipasula in East Africa from Malawi and Zambia respectively. I am also a prodigy of Langston Hughes. I tap my art from African storytelling and lullabies. I believe more the meaning than conventional form. We can’t continue to wallow in Shakespearean times, we need to move, we need to tell the African story with the angle of African storytellers, African griots or other, new diverse approaches – Sometimes traditional rhyme limit the griot to expose his sugar ice or vitriol. I don’t want to be limited. I believe in the freedom of a poet of expression. My poetry can be studied, ask students of Arts and HUMANITIES, P0LITICAL HISTORY AND POLITICAL SCIENCES, they will assure you- http://slipnet.co.za/view/poetry-project/endings-and-beginnings/, take a look at that commentary, you will start to like my poetry and even start teaching it. I enjoy a wider readership, reportage in the global arena. You can say I am a REVOLUTIONARY in African VERSE.
Tendai: You use the “I” most of the time in your early poetry, like ”I am”, is it individual and polemical or it is the “I” Whitmansque song of myself confessional poetry? It also speaks for an entire race.
Mbizo: My poetry is diverse both confessional, confessional in the sense of word experiences , so it depicts the situations of the entire though the (I ) in most of my poems reflect myself as part of the global concerns and a voice/representative of the global community, myself and our concerns. I believe in the truth, my poetry is sincerely from my anger, my experiences, my happiness, my surroundings and everything I hear, see and think. It’s then baked into imagery, satire, paradox and irony not forgetting juxtaposition. Remember I am an avid reader.
Tendai: Your latest poetry is openly political. Do you feel you still achieve balance between social messages that’s the heart of political poetry with poetry as an art form? Someone might feel your poetry has lost the art as the social message dominates.
Mbizo: It is this same time that When Pharaoh abused and ill-treated the Israelites, it was not supposedly upon the messenger Moses to take charge alone but it was also supposed be Israelites taking charge to redeem themselves, the children and the elders from the chaos. Mr Mugabe a full time dictator in Africa has relegated our country to the dogs, his clinging on power, his rotten governance, his dictatorial tendencies has plunged us into somewhere, he has killed all the respect in us by his doings , he has failed my generation . I am a member of the corruption, gold-rush, jambanja, rerun, condom, drought relief, diaspora and musombodhoya generation. I am sorry I don’t have any kind words to the system that made many to die in South Africa, to die in LIMPOPO RIVER, to leave their beautiful homes, a system that have maimed, killed, and destroyed lives of many. We need leadership not ruler ship, Grace Mugabe must sit down- She is just a merciless, clue less, headless ranter, mouth slinger, we are already tired of her before even she become an MP. I am a politician; I don’t like to be one. I am practicing the art of Creative Activism because our situation calls for that. We need a better Zimbabwe; we can’t make that one family squander the beauty of our country. I think that every form of art has a political message, it depends where you draw and how you draw the message as a reader. I am artist for positive change, an artist who has chosen the route of surrealism and realism, a poet working through the art of creative activism – CREATIVISM.
I am Biafra sitting on oil
I am bleeding uranium and tea
I am a griot loaded with ashes and flesh of Sambisa,
Carrying whistles and obscenities of wrong revolutions, roasting daughters for supper
I am a griot weaving words in wind and on wood
I was born with hunger to be free, i was not born free
I am a griot vomiting xenophobia and the past,
Planting freedom in the Volta of sankara
I sing of Congo, that lost its bread, season and its sand,
Peasants drunk with bitterness tried to die.
I am a griot of bujumbura, watching Ebola eating supper with republics
Copper pregnant Kalinga-linga dancing in darkness, borrowing guns for once aborted revolutions
I clutch this land in the soft and hard palms of my hands
Africa of one flag and one anthem, why burying revolutions in shallow graves
like stray dogs?
Sing Maiduguri, a symptom of unfinished struggle
Death walking naked in deafening forests of warange
See children planting bullets like maize in bokungu
We have lived to taste bitter fruits in these political jungles
Dissidents chewing scorn, puppets chewing flags
The light of freedom buried under the ballot bushel
We are tired of picking scorn and grain
Propaganda foxes looting ballots to fatten their puppies and
Mongers pocketing parliaments and cabinets their ragged overalls,
Salivating tongues dangling for another ballot feast
Will gods send us another black Jesus?, black Jesus to wash us in another river of dreams
Brother, poverty sits under the skin like an itch!
This country feasted on our sweat, our spirits died for this country
Country carrying bad ballots and good coups reaping tears
A Country that died many times before death
, whose revolution never saw the golden sun,
a country where bullets feed on crocodiles in rivers
gunpowder is the scent of the forests-black forests
Erasing memories of love, a country whose heart heave with slogans and vendetta
A country on a death bed , eating the present and pocketing the past-humming the last tune.
A country, where dogs bark to their shadows, mothers yell to nothing
Foxes howling against the unsurrendering moon
We walked along the spirit of this country, a country that feasted our blood for supper
A country with a heavy mass of history and unfinished dreams,
Whose Masses breakfast religion and propaganda-riff-raff
Cry my beloved people!
See Fundis writing cultural graffiti in red ink on lampposts, the country born out of the
laughter of the rifle
People crying for the country sold for bread and tea
Our hands are tired of touching the scorching sun and the roasted earth
Our eyes are red with hot ashes of the present and embers the past
Our ears are deafened by radio propaganda, propaganda wiping sins of political demi-gods
With their memories blurred by the mist of ideologies and smoke of slogans
Our hearts are heavy with sand, we see black devils walking free on this earth,
Delivering flowers of empty promises, rhyming tunes of empty freedom
boende you sold you morning sun for a cup of tea
darfur ,i see red ants coming for you in the wake of another dawn
bujumbura , you lost your salt in gossip
sambisa , the pungent smell of home brewed war , permeating the nostrils of Africa
We are children of chiboko burning in the charcoal of war
When ebola sneeze, Bissau catch a cold,
When the sun sits over hills of home, i see triplets ebola ,xenophobia andsambisa sharing half smoked cigars after a ritual bath in tugela
Pongolo and mfolozi bleeding xenophobia
Limpopo crocodiles smelling roasted flesh, Soweto smoking imboza,
After another marikana
Ghost of biko eating beetroot in the drama of rainbow freedom
When the sun filter its orange into this red earth, i see twin brothers renamo and frelimo laughing out
Loud to baboons dangling in gorongosa trees.
I see children sniffing face book and colonial dope
Black monkeys learning about trees from sparrows
Khayelitsha , is the Armageddon of kwaito and booze
Enugu drunk with palm wine in the red hills of manobe,
sankara and his ghost breakfasting , Communism in upper-volta
Harare wincing from punches of media witches, you need holy water to wash your armpits
Brother , see the ghost of apartheid walking with the rainbow republic, crocodiles swallowing the sun,
We have walked many miles holding the same political coin,
Blaming history and patriarch
Last night Congo drank Ebola from white nile
Copper pregnant earth of congo
Carrying the wind of want
Her heart beating like djembe,
Monkeys sneezed flu to equatorial birds
Anopheles defecated malaria in Cabinda
Biafra catching cold after sambisa rain
Darfur, drowning in the din of rattling drums and blood dollars
, their children eating wiki leaks for breakfast and twitter mojo for supper
We oiled the revolutionary engines through song and dance,
Burning candles from both ends
Nodding to the wind of drums and beat of the gun, drunk with wind and sound
We are the children of sabalele, sharing our DNA with Hani and Biko,
Whose ghosts walk in the bling -bling of rainbow freedom, freedom still born?
Eating carrot and beetroot in Mpumalanga- the land of the sun!
Sing Ogun, the god of the people
For the germination of other lives
Sing uhuru for the burning freedom,
Rains of death are beating the land into madness,
Madness breeding slums, sing Sambisa, sing Somalia!
Babies of freedom swallowing oil and dollars
Eating twitter berries and faces book figs
Forgetting their fingers in google forests, licking
Wounds after burning in cultural monoxide
And moral dioxide
Bastards starved of ideological oxygen