Why Munyaradzi and not Charles?
In his book, Keywords, Raymond Williams describes culture as “one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language”; yet I am going to have to rely on this word in my very short discussion, especially the second of the five definitions given in the Concise Oxford Dictionary (Ninth Edition):
“the customs, civilization and achievements of a particular time or people”. In my discussion I shall particularise the vague word “achievements”, first into the word “arts”, next into two names connected with the arts, both names currently in the news: Munyaradzi Chidzonga and Charles Mungoshi.
In my opinion, Charles Mungoshi is Zimbabwe’s greatest living writer. This award-winning, internationally respected author of novels, poems, and short stories – in Shona as well as in English – is desperately ill, and almost destitute. In cultural terms, he is one of Zimbabwe’s most precious jewels. His voice, even in English, is quintessentially African, never pseudo-European. He is our collective treasure. And yet, the so-called guardians of our heritage, our culture – those in high government office – have done nothing, as far as I know, to assist Charles Mungoshi in his hour of need.
Along comes the handsome actor, Munyaradzi Chidzonga, who was outvoted in the finals of the peeping Tom television show, “Big Brother”; unfairly outvoted, according to some of our Government Ministers who watch the sordid programme on their plasma screens when they should be attending to potholes, and housing shortages, or reading Charles Mungoshi… along he comes, this born free son of the soil, trailing, not clouds of glory, but dreams of one day meeting His Excellency, the Head of State, First Secretary, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces…er… where was I?
Oh yes, this darling of ZANU PF heavyweights, bringing Zimbabwean culture to the furtive voyeurs of the African continent… what does he get?- a reception at State House where His Excellency etc, etc, shakes his hand and proffers him a cheque for an obscene amount of money. No wonder Munyaradzi was over the moon.
None of this really has anything to do with culture. It’s all about political opportunism and, God help us, it works.