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Brilliance of Hope by Samantha Rumbidzai Vazhure

What I do know is that my black-ness always goes before me. It enters a room before me. It speaks even before I open my mouth. I know this because it is received or rejected before I am. At times I am oblivious of it being one step ahead of me.

‘THE MOUTH OF A SHARK,’ SIBONGINKOSI CHRISTABEL NETHA, PAGE 149

 

‘Brilliance of Hope’ is an anthology of stories that give the reader an understanding of the multi-layered and life altering nature of the Zimbabwean dispersion. In forty one stories written by fifteen authors, the anthology is a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. This is an anthology that I read slowly, taking in each reflection and wave with great care and consideration because the dispersion has done more harm than good, in varying degrees for those who leave and those who remain alike. Home for most is violent and being an immigrant also exposes those who leave home to other forms of violence. This collection is a painful read that has also introduced me to new authors whose work is valuable in ensuring that the story of Zimbabwe(ans) does not die and does not go untold. Familiar voices were comforting and gave me new perspectives. I was pleased to see some stories written in the second person narrative, it is a point of view that I find interesting. Some authors used their mother tongue and this made me proud because I think it is important for authors to write what they want to in a language that they feel will do justice to their work.


In the introduction to this anthology, the compiler and editor, Samantha Rumbidzai Vazhure highlights that ‘I find it fascinating that the voices in this anthology not only complement one another, but they seem to complete each other’s stories…’ and this rings true because there are common themes running through the stories. One book that I have previously read which comes to mind, that also chronicles the Zimbabwean dispersion and shows that although the paths taken are different, the journey out of this country in search of better carries many similarities, is Sue Nyathi’s ‘The Golddiggers.’ Displacement and its effects find a latch in most of the characters in this anthology. All hope is not lost as shown in the stories by Tah, I found the three stories solid and united in not only showing displacement but hope; the possibility of things going right. ‘Elusive Dignity,’ ‘Finding Her Voice’ and ‘Dawn’ bring together the painful lives of Simba and Mandy in a seamless transition, which ultimately ends with a vision that there is a chance that even under that pressure, the pain can morph into joy, or at least make it bearable. Hands are held for strength in communities , one is lucky to have such yet most do not have anyone to hold their hand and inadvertently walk the journey alone. In the same vein, the editor’s story ‘Barcode,’ reveals that some hands are not easy to hold, cannot be helped, be held, because they are fatefully held hostage in being the unwanted and vulnerable in foreign lands. Later finding themselves where it all began, home, free or back into the chains of poverty and hunger? It is interesting that Samuel Chamboko’s ‘Mabvuku to Marylebone’ reveals that at times some hands are not good enough to hold, taking advantage of the desperate, kin or not. Tariro Ndoro’s ‘Stasis’ also speaks to the complexities of walking the journey alone, swallowing rage and any discomfort to meet the expectations of society with no one to hold your hand.


The reflections on the lives led by Zimbabwean immigrants ask each of us to take a deep breath and allow ourselves to see reality for what it is just for a moment. In Tariro Ndoro’s unconventional form in ‘Laduma 32/12’ and in A K Mwanyekondo’s ‘These Were the Voices,’ one finds themselves in between spaces, stuck and fighting to survive even when they’d rather lose the will to survive. The reader blacks out, strikes through life and is given a moment to exhale. I highlight the unconventional form because it is a contribution to the mood and tone of the book, also lending a helping hand to the the themes in the anthology, dispersion is neither linear or conventional. Where words cannot suffice, style can do a lot. The pages can bear the confusion, disorientation and despair of those lost in the woods. ‘The Throes’ by Tinashe Julius Chipenyu is a heartbreaking story detailing the effects of dispersion on children left behind. There is an ache that cannot be soothed because emotional/physical abandonment cannot be compensated by the presence of material things. Here are voices scattered around the world which now assemble in this anthology because they share a home, a story of lives lived in other countries. Scattered around beyond seas and borders, in the present and in the past, here is some storytelling that goes beyond the fragments of a nation falling apart and failing it’s people resultantly pushing them away.



I found great value in the non fiction pieces in this collection. It is easy for people to disregard fiction in the name of ‘it never happened, it’s imaginary’ but here we are confronted by stories of people who have experienced and continue to experience the claws a life of displacement and loss. Ivainashe Earnest Nyamutsamba takes us into ‘A Passage Through the Tumultous, Boisterous Sea,’ in an autobiographical story of a student in a foreign country who has to make ends meet to make it out alive. Nobuble N Nyoni’s distress is palpable as she chronicles her experience in South Africa. What is common in these stories and what I now know to be the truth is that the journey is never easy. It looks different for everyone, with discrimination being rooted in race, tribe, gender and nationality, it is always about power and ostracizing particular groups. While other authors like Priscilla Nyasha-Shumba have captured this very well in fictional stories leaving readers with a wound (in ‘What Do They See’ she tackles blackness and the understanding of pilgrimage), these autobiographical stories deepen the wound. The pain emanates in the physical, the spiritual and the mental spheres but so does that glimmer of hope no matter how slight it is.


There are stories that I cannot forget for different reasons. Rudo D Manyere’s ‘Zadzisai’ is a gripping tale of love lost and found, only to be lost again within seas and beyond borders. A gripping story to be continued in an upcoming book… which I cannot wait for! ‘Painted Feelings’ by Flavian Farainashe Makovere is another love story that captures the dynamics of love in the face of painful situations. ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ by James Wanangwa Kajumi Kuwali is striking because of its comedic relief effect. It is laden with painful and serious themes and it still managed to have me in bouts of laughter. Brain Garusa’s ‘When Mother Cries’ is a thought provoking read which left me wondering if the dead can cry for the living as much as the living can cry for the dead? Is loss is really what it appears to be when there are constant reminders of what has gone or what has been left, be it countries, homes or people. Sibonginkosi Christabel Netha asks the chilling question in ‘The Mouth of A Shark,’ “So I wonder if maybe, in our attempt to escape the shark of poverty and hunger, we accidentally let it swallow us whole.”


In such a long anthology, there is no doubt that every reader will find a story that they will like/remember. Some of the writing is forgettable, lacking in striking moments or plot development that can capture the reader’s attention. However, this does not take away from the value of the stories told. For some the overarching tone of despair and loss can be unbearable but this is as real as it gets, the immigrant’s life is often unbearable. There are novelettes in this anthology for those who prefer longer reads. With Zimbabweans scattered all over the world, I am glad that some of the authors set their stories in countries other than South Africa and the United Kingdom. I appreciate that the authors also focused on stories about home, those who remain for the dispersion also affects them. As always, Carnelian Heart does not disappoint when it comes to the cover, beautiful and telling a story that speaks to the book. The cover is colorful, bearing a diamond which conquers under pressure and a falcon that rises from the ashes. For Zimbabwe, we know that the dispersion is real and yet we often wonder if all hope is lost, if we’ll see that day when we’ll rise and not drown in the pressure? This anthology is a mixed bag that gives true reflections, recollections and vibrations of the Zimbabwean dispersion. I recommend it to anyone looking for a multilayered read.

 

Book Details


Title: Brilliance of Hope

Author: Various, compiled and edited by Samantha Rumbidzai Vazhure

Genre: Fiction and Nonfiction Anthology

Pages: 424

Publisher: Carnelian Heart Publishing (September 2021)

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