Footprints of a hero in Kanengoni’s Echoing Silences
I WISH to put part two of Songs from the Temple in abeyance temporarily to pay homage to our gallant hero, Cde Alexander Kanengoni, whose untimely exit has left us shell-shocked.
No amount of verbal accolades can sum up his value in the struggle for total self-definition, but this piece, in its small measure, will do the little it can to remember this historic figure.
Cde Kanengoni was born in 1951 in Chivhu.
He attended Marymount and Kutama Mission Schools.He trained as a teacher at St Paul’s Teacher Training College after which he left the country to join the liberation war in 1974.After the war, he continued with his studies at the University of Zimbabwe and earned a BA degree in English.He then joined the Ministry of Education and Culture as Project Officer responsible for the education programmes for ex-freedom fighters and refugees. In 1988, he joined the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation as Head of Research Services.
He turned to full-time farming after Zimbabwe’s Land Reform Programme.As a freedom fighter, Cde Kanengoni speaks and writes about the liberation struggle from first-hand experience.
His most famous novel is Echoing Silences.It has earned a place in the syllabuses of several universities in Zimbabwe. Some study it as fiction, personal memoirs of the war, history of the liberation war, while others study it as a depiction of Shona culture and metaphysics.It is an embodiment of his unparalleled creative instinct.Through it we can trace the footprints of a hero representing many heroes, including Cde Kanengoni.The story of Echoing Silences is centred on the life of Munashe Mungate.
He runs away from the University of Rhodesia to join the liberation struggle in Mozambique.His reason for joining the war is to liberate his country and people from Anglo-Rhodesian colonialism.Colonialism has brought untold poverty and suffering to the African people in Zimbabwe.
His people are oppressed.
They are exploited economically and are also repressed culturally and discriminated against racially by Anglo-Rhodesian settlers in Zimbabwe.The rationale for his joining the war is therefore clear: “He wondered how some people could live with such deprivation and still pretend that things were normal.
“He could not, and that was why he was going to the war to fight to change it.”Munashe’s resolve is further buttressed by the grim reality of what he sees in Mutare.
His sister’s room reveals the family’s poverty: “A worn-out lounge suite, a cracked pine coffee table, a display cabinet with a broken mirror that reflected false rows of the few water glasses and plates inside, an old Supersonic radiogram and a black and white television set that had been sent for repairs on several occasions; things he had seen on all his previous visits.
“What sort of fate determined that his people should be condemned to live like this?No!Something had to be done to change all this.”
Munashe further notices that: “Everywhere in Sakubva (Mutare), as elsewhere, people still live in match-box houses and are still expected to eke a living out of a barren and denuded earth.”
Here Cde Kanengoni provides the background to colonialism as a central ngozi. Colonial ngozi is a result of colonialism where colonialism is a crime of greater magnitude and consequence than archetypal ngozi.Both involve shedding of blood and loss of lives.Both beget the same results.Colonial ngozi kills people and takes away their land, depriving them of all their assets (both tangible and intangible) and both their rights and privileges.In this sense, colonial or political ngozi has the same crime characteristics as archetypal ngozi, but is more serious because it affects the lives of a whole people by usurping the rights, properties, dignities and destinies (of a whole people rather than of individuals) unlike the straightforward archetypal ngozi.
Taking away a people’s land is in fact taking away a people’s primary means of livelihood.This is as good as taking away their lives and destiny.
The major difference between political/colonial ngozi and archetypal ngozi is that the former is perpetrated on a whole people by a perpetrator or perpetrators acting on behalf of a whole people, whereas archetypal ngozi is a crime perpetrated by an individual or individuals on their own behalf against individual(s), although the consequences inevitably affect the family bloodlines of both families.
In other words, political/colonial ngozi is a crime perpetrated by a people against a people, whereas archetypal ngozi may also be deliberately committed or happen as an accident and is often kept a closely guarded secret until it is revealed by metaphysical means.
On the other hand, political/colonial ngozi is never a secret.It celebrates its victory openly and humiliates its victims in open daylight.Its purpose is to enslave and exploit them.
Political or colonial ngozi is meant to be permanent and irreversible.It covers all areas of a people’s well-being – religion, culture, identity, worldview and values – and replaces them with its own.
No amount of persuasion or force can make the colonialist perpetrator of ngozi give up fruits of his conquest other than through an uprising by a conquered people.
Where the uprising is quelled and a people almost wiped out as in the case of the Aborigines of Australia or the indigenous people of America, the perpetrators of political or colonial ngozi never experience peace in the land they have conquered.The metaphysical momentum of their crimes of conquest will continue to influence the perpetrators to continue waging war against other people and shade more blood thereby committing more crimes of ngozi against virtually the whole world until humanity takes up arms and rises against them leading to their ultimate defeat.
Such worldwide uprisings are usually referred to in political discourse as ‘wars of liberation’ or ‘decolonisation’.Ideally, they should lead to a recovery of people’s heritage from the hands of the conquerors.
Defeating the coloniser or perpetrator of political ngozi is a more fundamental resolution of ngozi than the mere demand for reparations as in other types of ngozi.
It is also quite different from the other alternatives to the resolution of archetypal ngozi which involve uniting the two families into one through marriage.
This kind of resolution is not feasible or possible in the case of colonial ngozi.This is because colonial/political ngozi involves people of races who are quite different and alien to each other, while archetypal ngozi may involve a people, or families belonging to the same race with the same Africa-centred metaphysical worldview and values; hence the declaration of wars of decolonisation by all people of Africa and African descent throughout the world – as wars of liberation and survival – in all areas of their lives such as politics, culture, worldview and values.
Colonial ngozi is something we need to be aware of today.Remember when Munashe reaches the war front, there is a rebellion in the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) High Command, the military wing of Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU).It is called the Nhari Rebellion, named after its leader, Nhari.
Nhari is a university graduate.He has run away from the University of Rhodesia to join the war.The Rhodesian regime also used African university graduates to infiltrate ZANLA and Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), (the military wing of Zimbabwe African People’s Union) forces as spies; and Nhari is suspected to be a spy.
This is the reminder Cde Kanengoni leaves us with – that the imperialist enemy will never tire of infiltrating our political ranks to deny Zimbabweans benefit of the liberation struggle.
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