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Abstract

Marechera and his literary texts do not fit easily into Africanist categories of reading, principally due to his vitriolic invocation of the ‘f-word’ when asked if he was an African writer. Despite this iconoclasm, Afro-cosmic creeds undeniably inform aspects of his novella. An Afro-cosmological approach acknowledges non-empirical influences for certain behavioural traits portrayed by various characters in the novella which Marechera utilises and assails to address a ‘diseased’ colonial life. Using Falola’s Ritual Archives (2017), we approach this novella as a repository of Shona social ideation and cultural mythologies of haunting, and the Isisism trope of putting material remains back together. Numerous invocations of Shona cosmologies demonstrate Marechera’s socialisation into an African cosmology which manifests itself in his writing and life in unlimited ways. In sum, we interrogate the author’s use of culture codes to relocate him within an African rationale, thus, unmooring him from the Western-centric frameworks emphasised by Veit-Wild’s memoir (2020). We offer insights into the spirituality surrounding Marechera, his vagabondage and his seemingly self-sabotaging behaviour succinctly summarised by Veit-Wild as ‘biting every hand that fed you.’ Flora Veit-Wild, using the logic of a European, fails to appreciate this aspect of his life. In this article we recentre an African cosmology through the topos of being haunted to conceptualise Marechera’s writing and life to account for non-Western occurrences and modes of psychic distress which find no diagnosis in Western psychiatry.

Open Access
In: Matatu

Abstract

Dambudzo Marechera who died in 1987 remains a fascinating phenomenon in African literary culture. He is very much alive in the visual culture in which he circulates digitally. He is at once posthumous, multiple, and contemporary. Even though Marechera did not live to see the 21st century, he left versions of himself that remain both relevant and resonant. This paper considers the various ways Marechera’s digital afterlives manifest and force us to interrogate the intersections of life, death, personal data and human autonomy and presents a critique of unethical digital resurrection. Who does digital Marechera belong to?

Open Access
In: Matatu
Free access
In: Matatu
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Abstract

This article offers an in-depth reading of Flora Veit-Wild’s They Called You Dambudzo: A Memoir (2020) and its contentious racial politics of representation. Through the memoir, which I contend is an apologia pro vita sua, a justification for the author’s own life and work, Veit-Wild seeks to dispel long-standing accusations that she has benefitted from Dambudzo Marechera and his legacy. As she depicts herself as a magnanimous activist and scholar, Veit-Wild reverses the script by portraying Marechera as a “galling scoundrel” who “depended on others to sustain him.” In the process, far from offering an authoritative portrait of Marechera that we can trust, the memoir dehumanises the writer. Suggesting that Veit-Wild’s relationship with Marechera was motivated more by racialised objectification than love and respect, the text reproduces a white saviour narrative that reinscribes racist tropes of representation. While it also engages other works by Veit-Wild, this article delves into They Called You Dambudzo’s (un)critical reception, its unsettling portrayal of Marechera as a spoilt, ungrateful, and mentally ill writer who “had a way of taking for granted whatever was done for him,” Veit-Wild’s self-representation as both Marechera’s victim and saviour, her misappropriation of Marechera’s thought to enforce colourblindness, and the vexed colonial politics of speaking for others that the memoir lays bare.

Open Access
In: Matatu
Author:

Abstract

This article weaves the impossibilities of Dambudzo Marechera’s life under colonialism, racism, poverty, and violence, and of love between the Zimbabwean poet and the German scholar, Flora Veit-Wild. In this article, Veit-Wild is characterized as an “unreliable narrator” and “inside trader” due to her relationship with the poet. However, it is this position of Veit-Wild that allows us to decipher one of Marechera’s most difficult poems, “My Arms Vanished Mountains.” In using Veit-Wild as a window into my intepretation of Marechera, I also link Marechera’s poetics with that of a highly unlikely counterpart, Vladimir Nabokov. The impossibilities I allude to find their representation in Dambudzo Marechera’s “My Arms Vanished Mountains,” the poem Veit-Wild saved by chance.

In: Matatu
In: Matatu
In: Matatu

Abstract

This paper is a narrative of my personal (physical and spiritual) encounter with Dambudzo Marechera during my research visit at Oxford. Marechera was a prolific Zimbabwean writer, poet and playwright whose memory is entrenched in the Zimbabwean imagination because of his artistic prowess and personal-political exploits. He was expelled from the University of Oxford in 1976 and died in Zimbabwe on 18 August 1987. My encounter with Dambudzo is punctuated by my quest to understand what it was like for him as a black Zimbabwean in exile studying at the prestigious institution and having to maneuver his racial and cultural difference. The narrative weaves my personal experiences at Oxford, of British museums and meeting with his biographer into perceptions of Dambudzo Marechera’s archive at Oxford to bring a new understanding—including a psychological and/or clinical review—of Marechera’s memory from a black Zimbabwean perspective and hopefully perpetuate his archive.

Open Access
In: Matatu

Abstract

Dambudzo Marechera, an iconic figure in Zimbabwean literature, is often celebrated for his avant-garde and confrontational literary style. His works, which reflect a tumultuous life marked by personal and political strife, also reveal a complex relationship with women. His upbringing in the slums of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) exposed him to poverty, violence, and racial tensions. Marechera’s mother, Masvotwa Venezia Marechera, was a maid, and he often depicted her in the context of Rhodesian violence and prostitution. His strained relationship with his family, especially his mother, is apparent in his works and biographical information on him. His relationship with his mother seems to have contributed to his ambivalent portrayal and understanding of women. This fraught connection with his mother hints at a mother complex, a psychological concept which describes a son’s emotional attachment and conflict with his mother. This study delves into the ‘Mother Complex’ as a recurring motif in Marechera’s narratives, examining how it shapes his life, characters, and themes. Drawing from Marechera’s own experiences and his relationship as reflected in his writings and Wild-Veit’s memoir, They Called You Dambudzo, this analysis explores the psychological and symbolic dimensions of the mother archetype as reflected in his literature and life. The discussion highlights how Marechera’s portrayal of motherhood—ranging from nurturing to oppressive—mirrors his ambivalent attitude towards maternal authority and the traditional roles assigned to women in society. Marechera conceives female characters as more than mere muses; they represent different facets of femininity and cultural identity. They evoke vulnerability and agency. The discussion considers the broader socio-cultural context of post-colonial Zimbabwe, where the mother figure often embodies the nation’s collective history and trauma. Marechera’s complex representation of motherhood and women serves as a critique of oppressive structures and a quest for agency amidst cultural dislocation.

Open Access
In: Matatu

Abstract

In this article, I discuss the personal (autobiographical), literary and political relationship between Dambudzo Marechera’s texts, the University of Zimbabwe’s then Department of English and my own development as an early career scholar. This relationship went beyond academia. Through a reflection on the various pedagogical approaches used by the department’s lecturing staff, I arrive at Marechera’s lasting literary legacy vis a vis the implications of ideological readings of literature in Zimbabwe. Marechera’s The House of Hunger, specifically, reveals the ideologies that are constantly employed in the reading of Zimbabwean Literature, which in turn, reveals the patriotism litmus test to which every aspect of Zimbabwean life is subject. The approaches impeded and facilitated critical readings to various degrees. I will argue that Marechera’s text’s stylistic and thematic concerns which traversed the literary, political, and autobiographical terrains complicated some of the readings and invited the microscopic scrutiny to which both the author and his work were subjected. Essentially, I discuss the identity and processes of identity making that revealed themselves in the reading of The House of Hunger and how all of these have impacted my own development as a young academic.

Open Access
In: Matatu