A Quest for a Writer’s Voice

By Masimba Biriwasha | On Point | @ChiefKMasimba | January 20, 2014

Perhaps one of the greatest battles I’ve fought in my life has been to find my writer’s voice.

Because it’s a highly internal affair, there are no witnesses to the bloody spectacle except, maybe, for a disfigured piece of writing. Every time I try to awaken my writer’s voice I feel wrecked. It’s a real pain to say the least: mind-numbing. Continue reading

Son Of A Dad: Memoir of An African Father’s Encounter with Ben 10

By Chief K. Masimba Biriwasha | iZivisoMag.com

Time took on wings – as it always does – between the birth of my son, Tadana, and when he turned three. What woke me up with a jolt to this truth was my son’s new-found sense for self-independence, particularly in the sartorial department.

At first, I thought it was some passing childhood fascination at being able to dress self but Tadana grew more insistent every passing day to have his way with clothes.

So I found myself capitulating to his every whim even if it meant that he picked on the same clothes that suited his taste for days in a row. Trying to convince him otherwise elicited readily packaged loud bowls, scowls, shrugs etc.

Truth be told, I was caught unawares most days and Tadana’s sartorial sensibility seemed to grow as fiery as his temper. I soon discovered that dressing a three-year old requires not only patience and skill but an understanding of cartoon characters.

Tadana was quite picky about what he wanted to wear. He even knew what he wanted his mum to buy for him. A cartoon character called Ben 10 made the headlines in our household thanks to Tadana. I swear it dominated half of our conversations for a season. I daresay, Ben 10, infiltrated every part of Tadana’s little imagination that he even imitated the character’s actions such as beating on an invisible watch on his wrist to invoke magic. Ben 10 is of course a 10 year old American boy cartoon character who acquires a watch-like alien device called the Omnitrix (later the Ultimatrix) attached to his wrist that allows him to turn into alien creatures.

As an African father, I felt ashamed somewhat at the lack of locally relevant, magical characters to fire up my child’s imagination. At first, I reacted to my son’s love for Ben 10 with disdain but, of course, I must admit Tadan’s fit of tantrums every time we encountered the character on a shopping errand won the day.

It didn’t help that his little friend at crèche was also a Ben 10 fanatic so my wife and I reluctantly began purchasing the Ben 10 articles much to Tadana’s glee.  While Tadana was happy to flaunt his Ben 10 wear and accessories, I could not help but feel the rankle which continued to rise inside me at the dearth of African based characters to excite my child’s imagination.

As my interest in Ben 10 suddenly grew without me even noticing it, I discovered that there was a whole world of clothes, toys and accessories stocked up in toy shops for this character. From satchels to t-shirts, rulers, pencils to bags – of course made in China – the world of Ben 10 was quite real. I could see why my son was so affected. Ben 10 was driven by a commercial machine but more than that he was a cool character doing all sorts of fancy things that excited a child’s imagination.

Not that I was aversive to Ben 10 – I do appreciate that Tadana is growing up in an connected, highly wired universe and will inevitably be influenced by many things from other parts of the world which are always in his face at literally the click of a button. What worries me though is that he will step onto the stage of the globe without anything that gives him a solid grip of his world.

He is growing up without characters that he can he can celebrate which are influenced by his day-to-day African Zeitgeist. My son’s fascination with Ben 10’s got me thinking that I seriously need to write some highly imaginative, creative children’s book or animated character that is so Africa it will enrapture his universe. What the storyline is I’m yet to find out though.

Zimbabwe: Seeing Beyond Politics

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe’s trajectory since it attained independence from British colonial rule in 1980, and more critically its development over the past decade has been defined by politics as if that is the only factor of life that matters.

The political approach to shaping our nation has obviously scored some successes, markedly the massive investments made into the social sector during the early years of our independence. Despite that there have been setbacks in recent years, we are still reaping benefits from this investment, albeit, many of our talented people have opted to seek greener pastures in far shores.

Looking at the trajectory of Zimbabwe, however, it’s not far fetched to say that seeing politics as the be all and end all of everything will not necessarily fulfill all our aspirations as a people. Given the self-serving nature of politics, it is time that the citizenry begins to adopt a new attitude and see that there is a greater life outside the realm of the political.

Like Godots, politicians are often not in a position to come and deliver, and with their sugar-coated words, they always manage to hoodwink us into waiting for promises that are never deliver. Politicians and politics in general feeds off keeping us hoodwinking to never ending cycles of plastic promises, campaign rallies, empty speeches and grand state rigmaroles that are all much ado about nothing and barely move our lives and livelihoods an inch. It has already been argued that politics being one of the highest paying opportunities attracts a lot of people, especially the crooks.

AS Zimbabweans, it is time that people should offer up solutions themselves, rather than calling on political leaders to provide them. The circus that politicians have subjected us to over the past three decades has induced a sense of  helplessness among the citizens. As citizens, we need to take our power back and begin to be the change that we want to see.

Throughout the world, innovation – which in essence can push the boundaries of being – has never been known to be a function of politics. If we are going to be able to unleash our extraordinary potential, and spark a dynamic that will influence a shift, it is essential that we look more and more inside ourselves to unlock the talent that we have which the politicians are only putting to waste. Getting the old idea that politicians are our saviours must therefore be a constant aspiration of every Zimbabwean today and forevermore.

The good fortune that we assume must come from politicians must emerge from within ourselves; the challenges that politicians have created for us must serve as a basis for our self-renewal.

Achievement is built when conditions are difficult. Achievement is built when the direction of the economy is uncertain, and when there’s no guarantee of success. Indeed, there will be obstacles, excuses, distractions, frustrations and disappointments that will push back against our desire to fashion a new perspective but we must not give up for the sake of our children and their children’s children.

Why I Write

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – FROM an early age, I was always fascinated by the power of words. I remember scratching my head and scrounging around for words to describe pictures that I cut out of magazines and pasted into my writing notebook, marking my first baby steps into the crazy world of writing. The urge to write came to me like a mysterious calling: I come alive in words.

As the years have ripened round, I am fully convinced in the power of language to shift our landscape. There is an inherent power in language to either kill or destroy. How I choose to write though is primarily to learn and discover the marvelous world around me.

Writing helps me to find my true self, it helps to free my imagination. In a world, it helps me to open up my spirit to the beauty and madness of life. Sometimes though, I just write for sheer joy of seeing words gyrate, sway and dance together like butterflies under the sun.

Every piece of writing is an act of digging up, of piercing into the veins of life. It is an affirmation of the voice that the higher power deposited within each and everyone of us: the power to express.

For me, writing is a way to give shape to the world around me; it helps me to build my world in pictures that are tangible. So in a way, writing helps me to cope with an ever increasingly temporal universe.

It is my first real contact with the grayness of the world; it’s some form of meditation so to speak that let me get in touch with my essential self. When I write, I have to pause and listen to the silent voice that speaks to me from the depths of my being. It’s almost a spiritual exercise that certainly revives me, and prepares me to face the multiple volcanoes of the universe.

I write because the voice within yearns to speak, and I can also create multiple worlds in my head. Whether its poetry or a short story, it transports to a magical universe where impossible is nothing.

Arts Journalist Par Excellent, Novell Zwange, Passes Away

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – Award-winning Zimbabwean arts journalist, Novell Zwange, 34, who died early Saturday morning of stomach complications will be buried at Mbudzi Cemetery B-section, Harare, on Monday.

According to a family spokesperson, Zwange’s body will go for post-mortem Monday morning, then to his Kuwadzana, before proceeding to the cemetery at 1 pm.

The spokesperson also revealed that Zwange died of abdominal wall hernia. While hernia is in itself not life-threatening, it appears the condition was left until too late, and ended up strangulating that arts journalist’s intestines.

Zwange was a well-respected personality in the local arts industry always willing to share his knowledge and contacts with anyone that approached him. His affability and humble nature endeared him to many in Harare’s fledgling arts circle.

Zwange also had a stint in South Africa that exposed him to a lot of artists in that country. In addition, he did a lot to showcase the South African arts scene through his innumerable writings.

He was also a leading ecological and ethnic-fashion designer and his work with the BlackScissors Ethno Design label which he co-founded managed to get him worldwide acclaim.

“We’ve lost a great, vibrant young journalist to come out of Zimbabwe, it’s real sad because I spoke to him this week and agreed that we are going to meet next week at the Jazz Winter Festival. I don’t have words. He was a humble someone who had the love for local artists. Zimbabwe has lost. I will dedicate my performance at the Festival to him; he was a good friend,” said popular jazz musician, Jeys Marabini.

Zwangendaba was a multi-award-winning artist , whose writings graced several publications including the OpenDemocracy, JIVE magazine, the Daily News, The Zimbabwean, NewsDay, Nordic Africa News, Marimba Media, Artists Initiates among others.

Zwangendaba founded the EthnoDesignProject in 2005 and in 2007 the Project won the Global Young Social Entrepreneurship Award, as well as being shortlisted for the Innovator of the Year 2008 and also being selected among the Top 10 in the YSEI Awards.

He has designed for several commissioned projects, television shows, theatre productions, documentaries and film, renowned personalities and prominent organisations in Zimbabwe and beyond. In the year 2009 he became one of the few designers to selected to showcase at the biggest African showcase, the PanAfrica Cultural Festival held in Algeria

Digital artist opens new avenues

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

INNOCENT Fungurani, aka, Answer, who is pioneering digital art in Zimbabwe revealed that he is on a mission to put the country on the global arts map.

Fungurani (23), who recently showcased his digital works at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) in an exhibition titled “Beyond Boundaries” said that his art is merely a dialect to communicate issues of social significance.

The works he exhibited were extracts from an ambitious journal project that he is currently working on entitled, “Superstition.” His works have a surreal, avant-garde, experimental and an almost dreamy metaphysical quality that speak in a way that language cannot convey.

Fungurani, who is a volunteer art teacher at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, said that he has always had a fascination for computers from a young age and always sought for ways to be creative around them using the most basic software.

“I define digital art as any art which is created through the medium of  technology be it cellphones, digital cameras or computer webcams. I find this really fascinating because computing systems are fast becoming more accessible, cheaper and efficient in Zimbabwe,” said Fungurani is also a spoken word poet and painter.

Fungurani revealed that he is inspired by everything around him, including the urban vibe, people, architecture and public spaces, culture and language.

“I believe my generation of digital artists is one of many that will emerge out of Zimbabwe. Digital art has greater potential to influence society because many of our spaces are becoming computerized. People also have the need to consume art is the same way that they consume commands at work,” he said

The artist, who was awarded the top poetry prize for the US Public Affairs’ Black History Month poetry slam, said that art for him has been a process of constant evolution towards self-knowledge.

“I was first fascinated by language until I felt that I needed to find other forms of expression to convey ideas that language could not easily express. Due to the some social taboos around language, I felt limited to express on issues such as sexuality, politics and religion,” he said.

“That is how I discovered that images could portray controversial ideas is a more effective way, and communicate to a larger number of people, including the illiterate.”

As a result of this realization, Fungurani said he took to painting and colour before he discovered the field of computerized art.

Fungurani has already made a significant mark on the arts scene in Zimbabwe through highly, innovative projects that have involved many merging young artists. In 2009, he co-founded Kreative Activists Overturning Society (KAOS) with hip hop poetess and filmmaker, Cynthia Marangwanda.

As part of his social contribution, Fungurani said his organization is currently planning a major festival of alternative arts expression that will be held early next year.

“Zimbabwe has been starved of alternative voices; society has become dependent on state and corporate media, yet these are mouth pieces of the rich and powerful. That’s why KAOS will hold a festival dedicated to alternative forms of expression. We are working to create a platform to show case different dynamic and radical art forms,” he said.

Quote of the Day

We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.

 Richard Feynman (1918 – 1988)

The wisdom of listening

Wisdom has two parts: 1)-Having a lot to say. 2)-Not saying it.

 

– Church billboard in Vermont

 

One common trait to nearly every good leader is the art of listening. Many times, the best leaders can be among the quietest in the room. They know their time is well spent in hearing new perspectives, ideas and thoughts. It’s how they grow personally and build visions. The wisest leaders know that hearing themselves talk is no way to build trust and goodwill. You can do the same thing. When a friend needs to talk, resist the urge to give advice right away and just listen. Ask questions, and really try to understand the answer. When a customer calls, don’t say a word about your product until you fully know their needs. When your spouse is hurting, it’s not the time to prove that you were right. Over time, you can develop that leader-like sense of when to open your mouth and when to keep it clamped firmly shut.