Sharp Read | One Marechera, two points of view

The vastly different perspectives and treatments in two recent books about Zimbabwean author Dambudzo Marechera leave the reader with tantalising questions beyond the subject matter.

My first encounter with Dambudzo Marechera is at assembly at an out-of-the-way rural boarding school. I was twelve. At this point I don’t know his story or reputations. His gender is fluid. For a while he stayed a woman in my imagination. He is not a man. Androgynous. – Tinashe Mushakavanhu   

My first encounter with Dambudzo Marechera is in a country to the north of South Africa. I am 30. Marechera has just died. At this point, everything I hear from comrades about his books and his personality makes me conclude I am never going to read him. 

For a while, in my imagination, Marechera stayed a privileged, sexist, male writer who could choose a risky lifestyle that would glorify him – glorification that would earn women vilification for similar behaviours. In my mind I heard “personality cult”.  

My first encounter with Tinashe Mushakavanhu’s work is through his joint project with graphic designer, educator and associate professor Nontsikelelo Mutiti, Some Writers Can Give You Two Heartbeats, published in 2019. The book stands out, first because of its unusual cover, which features its table of contents, and second because of its richly nuanced pages of multiple layout designs, photographs, font types, newspaper excerpts and handwriting. And last because of its encyclopaedic ambiance and the carefully selected quotes that make it an easy, quick yet kaleidoscopic read offering multiple insights and lessons on Zimbabwean writers. Mushakavanhu is a creative writer-cum-literary scholar-cum-cultural activist. 

-by Makhosazana Xaba 

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