The Poetics of Place and Space in Michael David Kyazze’s Zimbabwe-Set Novel Rustlings of the Mulberry Tree (2014)

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  • 1 Makerere University, Uganda

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The essay explores the centrality of place and space in the Ugandan Michael David Kyazze’s Zimbabwe-set Rustlings of the Mulberry Tree (2014), a novel which details the fight against pederasty of some Pentecostal Church pastors. One of the issues examined is why this novel, which is a fictionalized account of real-life events that happened in Uganda, is set in Zimbabwe. I argue that if we look at Zimbabwe not just as a geographical reality—i.e. as a country located in southern Africa—but also as a socio-political reality, then Kyazze’s choice of this country as the setting for his book becomes a discursive strategy to carry across his message to his Ugandan reading public through the refraction of another place that closely resembles Uganda. In other words, through the abuse of office that happens in the fictional Zimbabwe that the author creates, the Ugandan reader is invited to compare and contrast this far-away place with home. Also explored are the ways by which the novel can be read as a battle over the control of space between the accused pastors and government forces as represented by the police.

  • 1

    Michael D. Kyazze, Rustlings of the Mulberry Tree (Kampala: Deft, 2014): iii. Further page references are in the main text.

  • 3

    Betty Ndagire, “Six Pastor Kayanja Sodomy Accusers Convicted,” Daily Monitor 3 (October 2012), http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/Six-Pastor-Kayanja-accusers-convicted-/-/688334/1523898/-/lbfpab/-/index.html (accessed 26 September 2014).

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  • 5

    Michel Foucault, “Space, Knowledge, and Power,” in The Foucault Reader: An Introduction to Foucault’s Thought, ed. Paul Rabinow (London: Penguin, 1991): 252.

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  • 6

    Chris Obore, “Uganda: Police Get Kayanja off the Hook; Charge Pastors,” The Monitor 10 (August 2009), http://allafrica.com/stories/200908100318.html (accessed 26 September 2014).

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  • 7

    Aili Mari Tripp, “The Changing Face of Authoritarianism in Africa: The Case of Uganda,” Africa Today 50.3 (2004): 4.

  • 8

    Tripp, “The Changing Face of Authoritarianism in Africa: The Case of Uganda,” 7.

  • 9

    David Moore, “Zimbabwe’s Democracy in the Wake of the 2013 Election: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives,” Strategic Review for Southern Africa 36.1 (2014): 59.

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  • 12

    Rushdie, “Imaginary Homelands,” 14.

  • 13

    Thabo Msibi, “The Lies We Have Been Told: On (Homo) Sexuality in Africa,” Africa Today 58.1 (Fall 2011): 58. Ironically, while the novel presents ZANU-PF-ruled Zimbabwe as protecting a pederast, real-life Zimbabwe is notoriously homophobic. Drew Shaw observes that queer sexuality is a “taboo topic in discussions of Zimbabwean literature and culture” (89), for in this country “the ideology of compulsory heterosexuality” is what reigns supreme (93).

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  • 14

    Michael Schudson, “Notes on Scandal and the Watergate Legacy,” American Behavioral Scientist 47.9 (2004): 1232.

  • 15

    Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, “Nation Building in Zimbabwe and the Challenges of Ndebele Particularism,” African Journal on Conflict Resolution 8.3 (2008): 30.

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  • 17

    Brilliant Mhlanga, “Ethnicity or Tribalism? The Discursive Construction of Zimbabwean National Identity,” African Identities 22.1 (2013): 55.

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  • 18

    Richard Dowden, “Three Decades of Murder and Misrule,” The Spectator (27 February 2010): 22.

  • 20

    Moore, “Zimbabwe’s Democracy in the Wake of the 2013 Election: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives,” 49.

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