CHIRIKURE is our national signature of professional performance poetry and the genesis of Zimbabwean spoken -word art. A widely published poet and well-traveled literary arts culture ambassador. And has graced artistic podiums at reputable book and global literature festivals in Berlin Germany, Rotterdam Netherlands, Norway, Medellin Poetry Festival and Poetry Africa an annual international poetry fete in South Africa. Prolific Curator and Live Literature Producer Chirikure founded Lit fest Harare in 2015 and the festival tops the arts calendar every year, promoting creative writing scholarship and literary arts culture exchanges among other great successes. Lit fest Harare has attracted a great number of international voices since its inception. Chirikure successfully curated the HIVOS sponsored HIFA Poetry Café for more than five years in Harare. The legendary poet in him speaks satire to his corruption smashed audience, while the literary combatant in him spells protest to gluttonous fat cats and imbecilic charlatans bleeding our nations dry. Chirikure is an honorary member of the International Writers Program at IOWA and a UNESCO-RILA Affiliate Artist at University of Glasgow. TIME OF THE POET REPUBLIC is excited to feature poetic prowess and creative reverence in the person of legendary writer and internationally acclaimed Zimbabwean poetry Artist Chirikure Chirikure- (Blurb by Mbizo CHIRASHA).
WORDS on CHIRIKURE by International Writer Chronicler Peter Vlam
Chirikure Chirikure draws strength from the cultural history of his country, Zimbabwe, which currently stands on the brink of economic and political ruin. This poet, writer, singer and organiser has had to deal with physical threats both direct and indirect, as his son has been threatened too. Nevertheless, Chirikure says: ‘The age-old Shona tales, the music, the carvings, the language – I draw strength from these to carry on. No-one can destroy these manifestations of our culture. We simply have to keep on going – there is no other option.’Chirikure was visiting the Netherlands as a guest of the Hivos Culture Fund, which was celebrating the tenth anniversary of its foundation. He often performs his poems to a musical accompaniment and sometimes sings, almost always in Shona, not in English. Despite his belief that the Shona culture is shatterproof, he still feels he has to fight to prevent its eradication at the hands of creeping globalization and poor education. Chirikure is busy with the production of an animated series of children’s stories. He wants to record these old stories – many of which feature animals – for posterity and transform them into cartoons, so that they can be broadcast on television and captivate a new audience of today’s children.Chirikure is part of Harare’s artistic world, which is an active, close-knit community. The capital of Zimbabwe still plays host to the prestigious Harare International Festival of the Arts and the Zimbabwe International Book Fair. The artists view these events as important meeting-places: as lifelines, if you will. Chirikure still believes that one day things will improve. ‘We will carry on making art, with our eyes and ears open. I am simply asserting my right to express myself. The basic premise must be that you always have the freedom to think. It’s a freedom that no-one can take away from you.’
Chirikure Chirikure Success story by the Power of Culture , Netherlands
Zimbabwe’s most famous poet-performer was born in 1962 in Gutu. In this rural district, as the offspring of a family of Christian teachers, Chirikure came to learn not only Bible stories and church sermons, but also the ancestral cult of his people – the Shona – and the kind of life rhythmically-charged with dancing and singing typical for a traditional village community. In 1980, immediately after Zimbabwe regained its independence and Shona was reinstated as the country’s official language, Chirikure began writing poems in this language and performing them publicly. When he enrolled at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, the young poet entered an urban environment that gave him an entirely new dynamic.
Despite widespread material poverty, Zimbabwe (and especially Harare) has a lively cultural scene in which the artists foster multidisciplinary exchange. Chirikure, whose work connects poetry, music, and theater, is considered unique because he links the – stylistically diverse – oral tradition with written culture. Indeed, each poem, which he often composes in advance on paper, is literally reinvented when recited and granted dramatic dimensions through inflection, mimicry, gesturing, and alternating accentuation. At the same time, his performances are frequently accompanied on the mbira, a traditional instrument of the Shona people and used during the performing of religious rites to induce states of trance. For Chirikure poetry is movement and, oblivious to boundaries, it establishes itself on every plain. In turn, the word assumes great importance: “There is hardly anything as flexible as the word. You can speak, mumble, whisper, sing or shout it – you can even cough it. As human beings we have a strong need to speak to each other and to make ourselves understood, even by whispering everything imaginable to each other. We have the need to rehash our mistakes and to laugh out loud about them in order to see things clearer in the future. We have the need to sing at the top of our voices, and even to yell, in order to face the world with pride and dignity, so that it learns to respect us in return. We Africans and our legacy! If we don’t pass on the word, until the day when we’re lowered into the grave we’ll bring forth, at best, only a small cough.”
That Chirikure, who also speaks fluent English, always writes in Shona, uninfluenced by the canon of the former colonial power while a great many poets and writers throughout Africa express themselves in English or French, has much to do with his firmly established political outlook, his perception of the country’s history, and how he chooses to deal with the cultural legacy. He evokes the old, pre-colonial sense of community in order to complete the dream of independence on a visionary level – a dream achieved at the price of countless human lives, and yet what prevails since then is not justice, but rather greed, corruption and dictatorship, together with the people becoming divided as opposed to united. So what resound in many of Chirikure’s poems are a variety of voices as in Yakarwiwa nesu (We Fought the War), from the 1998 collection of poems “Hakurarwi” (We Shall Not Sleep), in which groups of people representing countless types of individuals verbally aspire to claim the victory in the war of independence: the students overseas collecting money and instigating the participation of the international community, the freedom fighters exposing themselves to every known danger and hardship, the messengers and scouts and pack animals dragging the ammunition into place, the village community parents supplying their fighting sons with food and clothing, and the forefathers whose songs and prayers promise advantageous conditions for all. In the end, the poet wants to know who, among these self-proclaimed victors, can feed today’s starving children.
In the 2003 online study An Introduction to Post-Independence Zimbabwean Poetry, Kizito Z. Muchemwa wrote that the lyrical “I” in Chirikure’s work has no clearly autobiographical or egocentric traits. Instead, it lends expression to a communal consciousness. The conveyed message is often so discomforting and jolting that one could likewise speak of the voice of a conscience determined to make an entire society, as it were, correct its present-day social wrongs – while preserving cultural idiosyncrasies, which are symbolized in the poem through sounds typical for the Shona culture as well as through ideophones and alliteration. Chirikure vehemently defends the notion of preserving the identity. In this context, he refers not only to his homeland, but also to the entire continent while rejecting the western influences causing people throughout Africa to alienate themselves from their own roots.
His poetry shows us how powerful, how lively these roots are, and how, even in translation, as quiet reading material, the universal power of their imagery impresses. For Chirikure’s western readership, a feeling of familiarity is produced through economically placed Bible references (Jesus on a donkey, Lazarus – “Rise and go”). At times these harmonize with the occasionally prophetic, characteristic style and forge a bridge to the village community that frequently forms the background as a metaphor for the entire country at the same time. Yet Chirikure also targets city dwellers in his poetry as he does in First Street, Harare, where a craving for recognition and bragging becomes scourged with searing ridicule – or images of war, neo-colonial exploitation, and an obliviousness towards history confront departures into a mythical past as in Places Found in Fiction: “they […] asking again about where I have journeyed/ I answer promptly: I was in the land of silent echoes/ in the sands of the ancient Timbouctou/ they shake their heads like bulls/ laughing in mockery as they drink:/ such places are only of fiction /I bow my head/ consoling my heart with soothing words:/ the blessing in the heart is mine.”
Luckily, the poet shares his refreshing words with a steadily growing, worldwide audience, so that now, in Germany as well, we can learn more about the literary tradition and the present in Zimbabwe.
Recap NEWS on CHIRIKURE at Africa Book Festival in Berlin , 2019
Chirikure Chirikure is back in Berlin! The Zimbabwean musician, performer, songwriter and poet has already toured more than 30 places in Europe and Africa with his music and poetry performances. Being a guest at the African Book Festival 2019, he now presents, together with his musical trio, his unique mix of mbira music and poetry at Volksbühne Berlin. His concert will be followed by an afropop and soul party with Berlin-based DJane Pam Bam, who began her DJ journey in Ghana and is sharing her passion and love for good music ever since – especially old school hip hop and RnB, linking east & west coast background with electronic dance music from African metropoles such as Lagos, Accra, Luanda and Johannesburg.The event is part of the African Book Festival 2019 in cooperation with InterKontinental.
Iconic Poet CHIRIKURE CHIRIKURE
The poet and performer Chirikure Chirikure was born in Gutu, Zimbabwe in 1962. He studied history, Shona (the national language) and religious studies at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare. He was employed for seventeen years as an editor at a major publishing house. Involved with poetry readings and performances since his adolescence, the author is among the most prominent representatives of the literary scene in Zimbabwe.
Chirikure’s work belongs to the oral tradition in Shona literature, which was a vehicle to express oppositional ideas during the colonial era. After achieving independence in 1980, songs were often written in the Shona tradition, praising the struggle for freedom and the new régime. In contrast, Chirikure adopted a critical position and a satirical tone. As he writes in the foreword to his first collection of poems, »Rukuvhute« (1989; tr: The umbilical cord), he understands his verse as a means to »acknowledge society’s cracks in order to prevent our dream crumbling«. Through highly symbolic imagery, as simple as it is haunting, Chirikure evokes the collective cultural tradition using syntactical and lexical repetition, ideophones and alliteration. At the same time he denounces – in a range of tones from taunting to enraged – abuse of power and selfishness, attesting to the importance of community. The title poem of his second volume, »Chamupupuri« (1994; tr: The whirlwind), alludes to Africa’s postcolonial distress, to that storm which grew out of the »wind of change« after the liberation of the continent. In his third volume, »Hakurarwi – We Shall Not Sleep« (1998), Chirikure brusquely calls on his countrymen not to yield to the overwhelming pressure of the régime.Chirikure often performs his poetry to the accompaniment of the Mbira (kalimba), the traditional Shona instrument. Since his earliest performances, he has worked alongside different musicians. He regulary performs with musicians like Chiwoniso Maraire or Okay Machisa.The ensemble DeteMbira, which he co-founded, released the album »Napukeni« (tr: The napkin) in 2002. He is working on a series of cartoons based on the traditional motives of Shona children’s stories and has also published children’s books, educational materials and plays, presented a radio show focusing on young Shona writers and ran newspaper columns.
Chirikure received an honorable mention from the Noma Award committee for his first collection of poems. His third collection was chosen as one of the 75 best Zimbabwean and one of the five best Shona books of the twentieth century. All of his collections of poems have been given first prize in the annual Zimbabwean Writer of the Year Awards. An honorary fellow of the University of Iowa, USA, Chirikure lives in Harare and is currently a guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program.© internationales literaturfestival berlin
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MBIZO CHIRASHA is a UNESCO -RILA Affiliate Artist(https://gramnet.wordpress.com/2020/06/01/new-unesco-rila-affiliate-artist-mbizo-chirasha/). FREEDOM SPEECH Fellow at PEN- Zentrum Deutschland. Poet in Residence at the Fictional Café (International publishing and literary digital space). 2019 Sotambe Festival Live Literature Hub and Poetry Café Curator. 2019 African Fellow for the International Human Rights Art Festival(https://ihraf.org/international-fellows ) , Essays Contributor to Monk Art and Soul Magazine in United Kingdom .Arts Features Writer at the International Cultural Weekly .Featured Writer Poet Activist at The Poet A Day(https://jamiededes.com/). Core Team Member and African Contributor to Bezine of Arts and Humanities(https://thebezine.com/) in USA. Flash/Short Fiction Writer for Squawk Back Publication(http://www.thesquawkback.com/2020/01/mbizo.html).Contributing Writer( Africa) to IHRAF Publishes-https://ihraf.org/ihraf-publishes.The Originator of the Zimbabwe We Want Poetry Campaign. Curator of MiomboPublishing Blog Journal(https://miombopublishing.wordpress.com/). Founder and Chief Editor of WOMAWORDS LITERARY PRESS. Founder and Curator of the Brave Voices Poetry Journal. Co-Editor of Street Voices Poetry triluangal collection( English , African Languages and Germany) initiated by Andreas Weiland in Germany. Poetry Contributor to AtunisPoetry.com in Belgium. African Contributor to DemerPress International Poetry Book Series in Netherlands. African Contributor to the World Poetry Almanac Poetry Series in Mongolia. His latest 2019 collection of experimental poetry A LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT was released by Mwanaka Media and Publishing and is both in print, on Amazon.com and at is featured at African Books Collective. 2003 Young Literary Arts Delegate to the Goteborg International Book Fair Sweden (SIDA AFRICAN PAVILION) .2009 Poet in Residence of the International Conference of African Culture and Development (ICACD) in Ghana. 2009 Fellow to the inaugural UNESCO- Africa Photo- Novel Publishers and Writers Training in Tanzania. 2015 Artist in Residence of the Shunguna Mutitima International Film and Arts Festival in Livingstone, Zambia. A globally certified literary arts influencer, Writer in Residence and Recipient of the EU-Horn of Africa Defend Defenders Protection Fund Grant, Recipient of the Pen Deutschland Exiled Writer Grant. He is an Arts for Peace and Human Rights Catalyst, the Literary Arts Projects Curator, Poet, Writer, publicist is published in more 400 spaces in print and online.
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