Chenjerai Hove


Chenjerai Hove (Zimbabwe, °1956) groeide op in Mazvihwa, een klein dorpje in Zimbabwe. Hij studeerde literatuur aan de universiteit van Zuid Afrika en Zimbabwe en gaf ondertussen Engelse les in verschillende middelbare scholen. Nadat hij afstudeerde, werkte hij voor enkele uitgeverijen en tussen 1984 en 1992 was hij voorzitter van de Zimbabwe Writer's Association.
Hoewel Hove een dichter is, heeft hij ook drie romans geschreven in een heel poëtisch Engels. Hij schrijft ook in zijn moedertaal het Shona, een Zimbabwaanse taal die door de Bantoestammen gesproken wordt. Vooral in het Engels heeft hij metaforen en ritmes gevonden die rijmen met zijn verbeelding. Hove probeert de spreekbuis van de machteloze onderdrukten te zijn. Eerst vocht hij tegen het racistische regime van de blanken, daarna tegen de machthebbers van het postkoloniale Zimbabwe. Zijn werk werd nauwlettend in de gaten gehouden. Na enkele doodsbedreigingen moest hij in 2002 het land verlaten. Hij leeft nu noodgedwongen in ballingschap in Noorwegen. In 2005 was hij al eens te gast in Passa Porta voor een duogesprek met de Vlaamse auteur Leo Pleysier.

Tijdens zijn residentieverblijf start hij met een adaptatie van Shakespeaeres King Lear in het Shona, Afrikaans en hedendaags Engels, op basis van de gelijkenis die hij ziet met het hedendaagse Zimbabwe van Mugabe.

Beknopte bibliografie
Blind Moon (poëzie, 2004), Palaver Finish (essays, 2003), Ancestors (roman, 1997), Rainbows in the Dust (poëzie, 1997), Bones (roman, 1988).



The Literary Journey


I sit in my room in an old house in the Norwegian city of Stavanger. My packed suitcase stands there like an overworked labourer. It has endured all the packing and probably being bashed and thrown around by most baggage handlers of different airports. But this time, it is me, the owner, who is forcing it to chew more than it can chew. Clothes, poetry books, novels, computer diskettes, umbrellas, family photos, and my aspirations of my next book. It has become a suitcase of dreams.

Destination: a small village outside Brussels, called Vollezele. It is not as if I knew nothing of the place. I had gone for business visit for only one night a few years before, with lawyers and arts administrators. But it did not occur to me that living there would be part of my long and never-ending literary journey.

The Villa Helleboch is a place of silence, almost like a monastery where the quietude persuades one to reflect on life and literature, on many things which one always takes for granted.

Departing from a small airport at Stavanger, I am soon in the madding crowd of Oslo airport where everyone is almost anonymous, all obsessed with watching the electronic information boards for 'departures' and 'arrivals'. This is the ritual of big airports, watching, shopping, and running some far away departure gate.

As I later leave Brussels airport, with its chain of stairs and complicated roots to somewhere, we leave for the village in the noisy night. Other previous journeys invade my mind, like when one time I flew from London to Harare, took the people's bus, called the 'chicken bus' since next to you could be a woman with a live chicken in a paper bag. The bus dropped me ten kilometres from the village, and I had to hire a donkey cart finish the journey to the village which no one seems to know.

The literary journey is similar, except that it is the imagination which travels in all directions without borders.

If literature be a journey, then the destination can only be named 'possibilities.' Literature is this journey without maps, an endless search accompanied by many knowns and unknowns. Literary words name the corners and intricacies of human desire, I thought as I embraced my new writing kit - a tiny village, a computer, a printer, and piles of blank paper.

I sit there like a shadow, wondering what the first morning in this tiny village will be. The imagination can also be a dangerous place where things unknown can make the human body tense and restless.

To write is to think, I remember saying to younger writers. To write is also to rebel against the confinement and limitations of the human body. I take my notes and reflect on how to deal with two child characters: another journey. I take them to a small lake in the centre of Stavanger, and let them imagine that the local swan swallows them and takes them to Africa, with the help of the local mythological character named 'The Troll.'

The two little boys and the Troll get swallowed by the mother swan that dives into the sea and shows them all the life under the blue waters. Eventually the journey takes to the sunny surface of a Zimbabwean lake, the one we almost think is the nearest to some kind of sea. They are greeted with glee by all the animals in the lake. The hippo gives them a ride to the lakeshore on her back, and the beautiful birds sing their celebration at seeing a swan for the first time.

Within hours, the President of the State, a dictator, has heard about these strange apparitions. He orders them arrested and brought to him for questioning. But the swan would not have this journey killed. She swallows them back and dives under the water, on the journey back. The two boys, a Norwegian and an African Norwegian, are soon back in their town, with their Little Troll and the swan.

Oh, a book, a novel, a poem, what a journey, a universe which one sometimes comes across in places of quietude and silence without solitude. Creative juices also create imaginative turbulences.

My novels are usually set in small places where everyone thinks they know everyone, and everyone gossips about everyone. The human soul is an animal of small places where big dramas happen. Everyone is a villager, I reflect. We are people of small places, and when we get to big places, we soon become pieces of imaginative pretence. Small places make people think big.

I recall the days of my village life in my youth at my father's farm. I dreamt about New York, London, and every place that I never knew how to get to.

So, I now realize that when the place is small, big ideas, dreams and fantasies are born there. The citizens of Vollezele confirmed it to me: they talk so big about the small village that no New Yorker can boast so much knowledge about the intimate spaces of that liberated imagination. If you can't go to a place, you are free to imagine it with such embellishments that the imagination gives for free.

As I leave Vollezele, I yearn, yet again, for the day I will enjoy the tranquillity of my village where I milked cows and talked to the oxen. I yearn for the music of the many nameless birds and the flow of our river whose fish always evaded our fishing nets. And I yearn for the little stream of our village whose rippling water soothed my arrival in the world.

Creative energies sometimes need small places. No wonder why most artists end up relocating to some village somewhere, to allow their imagination to flower with many colours of these weird landscapes whose colours, sounds, shapes and smells no postcard can never capture in full.

(c) Chenjerai Hove, 2008, Villa Hellebosch, Belgium.


Villa Hellebosch
25.08.08 > 6.10.08

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