• Lion Press marketing department
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Zimbabwean literature has taken a step forward with the publication of author Masimba Musodza’s book MunaHacha Maive Nei?, the first science fiction novel in the chiShona language.
ChiShona, one of Zimbabwe’s two main languages, is Musodza’s mother tongue.
The novel, also described as a horror/thriller, is the first in chiShona available for purchase as an ebook on Amazon.com’s Kindle store.
This achievement is expected to promote, not only chiShona, but all African languages in the modern world of information technology and new media.
The print edition is due for imminent publication by Coventry-based Lion Press Ltd, an independent publishing house that focuses on Zimbabwean and African literature.
Born in Zimbabwe, or Rhodesia as it was known then, in 1976, Masimba Musodza developed his interest in the written word at an early age, as both his parents encouraged him to read. He honed his skills by writing in the school magazine, youth magazines and other outlets.
Musodza moved to the UK in 2002, and is now based in the Yorkshire town of Middlesbrough. He is the owner and CEO of production company Oriit Films.
A member of the Rastafarian faith, Musodza published his first book in 1997, a short story collection titled The Man who turned into a Rastafarian, and is perhaps best known for his Dread Eye Detective Agency series which feature a Zimbabwe-based Rasta brother and sister.
Although only recently coming to public attention as an author, Musodza has gained a reputation for his film and television screenwriting, having sold his first screenplay in 2002. His writing covers many genres, reflecting his diverse influences and his own interest in the world around him.
He uses science-fiction, drama, horror, mystery, and satire to explore issues close to his heart. These include social development, history and politics, religion and spirituality and the human condition in general.
Musodza lists the Dune books and film, the Star Wars film series, and the 1993 South African comedy There’s a Zulu on my Stoep among his favourites.
Blending the modern and traditional
MunaHacha maive nei? is a thrilling tale that blends African folk beliefs and the modern world of globalism, sustainable development, genetically modified agricultural produce and political manipulation.
Chemicals from a research facility conducting illegal biological experiments contaminate the local ecosystem, causing birds and animals to mutate. Soon a child is attacked by a giant fish, but the villagers, not having the remotest concept of chemical mutation, believe the creature is a mermaid – in their tradition this is the guardian of nature.
Because the guardian is obviously angry, they try to appease it according to their traditional beliefs and practices – but in vain, and the situation gets worse.
Boosting marginalised languages
Although Africa is scattered with hundreds of traditional languages which vary widely from country to country and community to community, the colonial languages of English, Portuguese, French and Spanish – and localised variations thereof – are still the dominant forms of communication in many nations.
The promotion of endemic languages is a controversial subject throughout Africa. Some academics are opposed to it and prefer to conform to western standards.
Others think it’s time for Africans to promote their cultures and languages without apology and be proud of their heritage. South Africa, too, is one of these countries, with its national Department of Arts and Culture embarking on a drive in the mid-2000s to promote the use of the mother tongue in writing and publishing.
The department also launched a multilinguism campaign in 2010, to strengthen the situation of all the country’s official languages.
Musodza is a supporter of Kenyan academic Ngugi wa Thiong’o‘s Decolonising the Mind, and firmly believes that African authors need to use their own languages in order to advance their literature rather than the language of their colonial legacy.
He says that his target audience is anyone who finds the time to read, and dispels the notion that it is impossible to write “complicated stuff” in a language that is often shunned by the educated back home.