Thursday, June 23, 2011

Chingono & Eppel Come Together in Print (from Zimbo Jam)

When the late Julius Chingono met John Eppel at the Intwasa Arts Festival in 2007, an instant bond of friendship began to form and the two writers decided to work on a collaborative project. That project will be launched in Bulawayo this afternoon and unfortunately only one of the two contributors will be there to witness it.

Chingono, who died in January this year, will not be there to see this latest work, titled Together, and featuring short stories and poems by him and Eppel.

The 154 page book, an ‘amaBooks project, was published by the University of Kwazulu-Natal Press in South Africa, by UNO Press in North America and by ‘amaBooks in Africa and Europe.

Drew Shaw from Zimbabwe’s Midlands State University met the two writers at the Harare International Festival of the Arts in 2009, two years after their initial Intwasa meeting. Shaw writes in the introduction to the book that their literary liaison was odd in that ‘Eppel is a self-conscious stylist, steeped in Western literary tradition’ while Chingono was an ‘an anti-stylist, who does not follow any literary mentors.’

And yet the two men had great respect for each other. Shaw, who interviewed both of them, asked Chingono what connected him to Eppel and the reply was “humour and realism” while Eppel said he had found his new friend to be, “a warm-hearted man with a mind like a razor-blade.”

Chingono was born in 1946 on a commercial farm near Harare and spent most of his life working in mines as a rock blaster. He had five published books and wrote poetry and prose in Shona and English and won awards for poems written in both languages.

Eppel is one of Bulawayo’s most prolific writers. Born in 1947, he was raised in the city where he still lives, teaching English at Christian Brothers College a few kilometres down the road from his alma mater, Milton High School. He has six published novels, numerous poetry and short story collections and has won many awards for his work.

The stories and poems in Together take us on a journey through Zimbabwe as it goes through political, economic and social turmoil.

One story by Chingono begins with words that sum up the very thing that these two writers did not believe should represent Zimbabwe; “He was our boss. We feared him. We did not respect him. One of the reasons was that he used his right boot to send his instructions home.”

And a short poem byEppel brings home the very thing that is keeping the ideal at bay; “Governing in Africa/ Is like sweeping leaves/ On a windy day.”

In Together we see Zimbabwe through two sets of eyes; two view points that are united in the underlying hope that common purpose will one day bring the nation together as it did these two men from different races, different backgrounds and of different literary styles.

- Fungai Tichawangana for Zimbo Jam

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