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5. Poetic aesthetics and the articulation of local and national sensibilities in Solomon Mutswairo's poetry.


The DHA is insightful in revealing to us that, throughout his career as a poet, novelist, literary critic and academic, Solomon Mutswairo (popularly tion, African religion, the liberation struggle, sovereignty, governance, love, respect, death and nature. All these thematic concerns are closely linked to Namibia known as Prof. Mutswairo) passionately addressed a repertoire of thematic concerns, namely the Chiweshe chieftancy, land politics, exploitathe poet's historical and therefore real life experiences characterised by his childhood socialisation in Chiweshe communal lands in Zimbabwe, missionary education, colonial exploitation and subjugation, overseas university education, high school and university teaching. Mutswairo's poems analysed in this study are found in the anthologies, Nduri DzeZimbabwe (1983) and Madetembedzo Akare Namatsva (1988), the poem "Nehanda Nyakasikana" in the epic novel Feso, and the lyrics of the national anthem, "Ngaikomborerwe Nyika YeZimbabwe". It is the preoccupation of the study that repetition, personal address forms, the apostrophe technique, the Mhiramudzimu incantation register, metaphoric and imagistic language and rhetorical questions are the key poetic devices that characterise the poet's stylistics.

The communal socialisation of the poet can be exemplified by his sentimental selection of themes in Madetembedzo edzinza rekwaChiweshe (The praises of the Chiweshe dynasty), in which he eulogises the military prowess of chief Chiweshe and, at the same time, laments his loss of power and political control to the whites. In this poem, and as echoed in Ridzai mhere (Mourn loudly), Ridzai mupururu (Ululate), Mhondoro huru dzeZimbabwe (Major territorial spirit mediums of Zimbabwe), Mutswairo assumes the role of griot (court poet), who relentlessly chants emotional and evocative praises in honour of his chief-cum-symbol of black resistance against colonial subjugation. In this regard, the poet takes the micro to be the metonym of the macro. The poem Madetembedzo edzinza rekwaChiweshe, in particular, represents the praise poetry genre abundant in pre-colonial Africa which arguably has now been supplanted by the propaganda machinery of modern day governments. Parallels from the same generic tradition are the Yoruba's Oriki, Zulu's Izibongo and Tswana's Maboko. These are similar in both tone and style. Central to this genre is the propensity to praise the character and achievements of chiefs and kings and even the land they prevail over. For example, chief Chiweshe is praised for being powerful and caring, just like the Sultan of Bornu, Ndaba, Seepapisto and Shaka (Mapanje, 1984). The only difference is that Shaka, unlike Chiweshe, is eulogised in expressive and horrifying terms for his military genius and unbounded energy.

Theoretical framework

The study employs a hybridised "Discourse-Historical Approach (DHA), a socio-philosophical orientation of critical theory" (Wodak and Reisgl, 2009, p. 87 & 88) and Formalism (Seldan, 1985), to unpack Solomon Mutswairo's style of writing poetry. Formalism celebrates the defamilarisation and de-automatisation style of poeticising (Seldan, 1985, pp. 31-34). It is important to adopt it as part of the analytical arm of this study for it will enable the researchers to expose Western influences in Mutswairo's literary style and comment on the significance of such. The approach calls upon researchers to adhere to a critical stance in exposing the literary style embedded in the anthology. It makes it practicable for reserachers to situate the analysis of Mutswairo's poetry both within the Zimbabwean historical milieu and Western conventions of writing poetry. Additionally, the DHA approach's use of the socio-diagnostic critique makes it possible for the researchers to relate Mutswairo's style within local and international literary traditions of poeticising as a strategy to fully comprehend stylistic issues with regard to the poetry corpus. This means the DHA permits the researchers to also use "contextual knowledge" (p. 88) via the emic approach in a bid to evaluate the contextual relevance of stylistic conventions reflected in the anthology. This enables the study to evaluate the extent to which the poet meets the expectations of the readers of his poetry. This implies that the DHA seeks to "contribute to the improvement of communication" through poetry by unpacking the interface between socio-historical and interdiscursive aspects of poetry thereby bringing to the fore sociological significance of poetry. Finally, the hybridised approach's focus on perspectives and argumentation facilitates analysis of stylistic conventions-cum-literary style as discursive strategies that enable Mutswairo to persuasively communicate his messages to readers.

Discursive strategies

To articulate social, economic and political concerns abundant in his poetry, Mutswairo uses a repertoire of discursive strategies such as repetition, personal address forms, the mhiramudzimu incantation register, the apostrophe technique, verbal moods, metaphoric and imagistic language, rhetorical questions and symbolism. We discuss each of these below.


The repetitive style of this genre makes it ideal for face to face interactive communication among the chief/king, the poet and the people, where the poet chants while the chief/king responds either verbally or non-verbally or both amidst rounds of applause and ululation from the audience. In the poem Mutswairo addresses his chief using a number of clan names, apt names and other address forms such as Nyamhangambiri (One who fights using two spears), Chihweshure (One who strikes the enemy with devastating blows), Mwana waNyashanu (Son of Nyashanu), Chirombowe (My vicious one), Mhukahuru (Gigantic animal), Mhondoro huru (Supreme spirit medium), Chizvarwo chevhu (Son of the soil) and Shava Mutenhesanwa. The semantic variation couched in alliteration achieved by the repetitive use of the nasal consonant /m/, in Chizvarwo chevhu (Son of the soil), typifies Mutswairo's repetitive style that stems from Shona oral literature mastered from his early socialisation. Alliteration and assonance give the poem a rhythmic pattern which, when performed in public, goes well with the material accompaniments of hosho (rattles), magavhu (leg rattles) and drums. On this aspect of repetition, Chiwome (1996, p. 13) rightly observes that it enhances communication. In literary poetry the rhythmic pattern created by repetition motivates the readers to read on as they enjoy the musical pattern. In doing so the reader/listener does not labour to absorb the message, for example, that Chiweshe is the brave chief of Harare and its surroundings (Vatongi venyika yeHarare), whose kingdom is given birth to by a series of victories against his foes, namely chiefs Seke, Nyamweda, Rusunga of Shawasha, the rebellious Mafema, Zharare, former chief of Harare and Zumba, chief of Gomba. Sadly though, the poet laments the demise of Chiweshe's rulership due to whites' (Pfumojena) determination to colonise the Zimbabwean plateau through the use of superior weaponry and military tactics. To the poet such defeat was a temporary setback which albeit ushered in a colonial administration that introduced a gamut of discriminatory laws and policies that culminated in untold suffering among the black people. The poems Ridzai mhere (Mourn loudly), and Nehanda Nyakasikana reflect such suffering and the subsequent political protest. The historic first and second Chimurenga and the feeling of hope for independence are chronicled and captured by Mutswairo in Ridzai mipururu, Mhondoro huru dzeZimbabwe (Territorial Spirits of Zimbabwe), Mukurumbira wekufira nyika (The fame of dying fighting for a national cause) and Mauto ehondo (The people's army). Mutswairo amply relays his message by drawing from rich stylistic conventions mainly drawn from his training, Shona oral tradition, religious values and a deep rooted Afrocentric worldview.

We note that the national anthem becomes the icing ingredient of the poet's stylistics and thematic concerns. In the national anthem, Mutswairo maintains a pleasant rhythmic pattern through repetition of morphemes and consonants and the name Zimbabwe, which is repeated six times. The first line goes thus: Simudzai mureza wedu weZimbabwe (O lift, high, high, our flag of Zimbabwe). In this example, repetition of the vowel /i/ and the affixes /mu/ and /we/ creates alliteration and assonance that give the text a rhythmic pattern. On this aspect of rhythm Chiwome (1987: V) rightly observes that Shona achieves rhythm through repetitive devices like linkage, parallelism, antithesis, word reduplication, call-and-response and dialogue." Thus the whole poem has a rhythmic pattern achieved through repetition, penultimate stress, call-and-response and so on that soothes the heart and makes one passionate for the country, Zimbabwe.

Personal address forms/apostrophe technique

We also note that Mutswairo unreservedly taps the technique of personal address forms from Shona oral literature to address his chief, ancestral spirits, spirit medium, lover and even God. Through the use of this device, the poet collapses the distance between him and the addressee. In 'Madetembedzo edzinza rokwaChiweshe', found in the anthology Nduri dzeZimbabwe, he writes thus:
   Tarisaka Chiweshe, wakati wotuma hondo ...
   Honakazve! Ndiwe muparadzi waZumba. ... (p. 20).

   (Once when we got lost Chiweshe, you sent the army ...
   Look! You vanquished Zumba's dynasty ...)

Mutswairo also uses personal address forms or the apostrophe technique in the national anthem. The verbs simudzai (raise), tarisai (look) and ropafadzai (bless), all in the imperative mood, are a passionate call upon the subject of address, in this case all Zimbabweans, foreigners and God to act. In particular, the first stanza is a call for the performance of the patriotic act of hoisting the flag, a unifying symbol of the nation, national aspirations, philosophy and cherished value systems. Because the poet uses the imperative in this directive, it becomes an uncompromising and mandatory act which all Zimbabweans must perform. Tarisai is a passionate plea to Zimbabweans and foreigners alike to marvel at the beauty of the Zimbabwean landscape, including its rich material culture. Lastly, in 'Mwari ropafadzai ...' (God bless ...), the poet makes a direct call for divine blessings upon the nation of Zimbabwe. The use of the apostrophe, which is aimed at collapsing the physical and spiritual distance between the poet and his addressee, is a direct influence of Shona oral culture in which personal address forms are in common use in face to face interactive discourse.

The mhiramudzimu (incantation) register

The mhiramudzimu (incantation) register is yet another stylistic device common in Mutswairo's poetry, particularly that with a religious orientation. The mhiramidzimu register is commonly used by heads of families, clans, villages and chiefdoms when invoking spirits of departed elders. In such poems personal pronouns like iwe (you--second person singular), imi (second person plural) and isu (first person plural) are commonly used, for they depict a sense of closeness and oneness between living people and their ancestors. Such address forms reflect that in the Shona traditional religion the physical and the spiritual worlds are intricately related. Ancestors are perceived as living and actively involved in constantly providing guidance and solutions to problems afflicting people in society. Hence, they partake of beer drinking and feel thirst just like people in society. That ancestral spirits are eternal and transcendental is a common aspect of Mutswairo's religious poetry. For example, in the poem, Mhondoro huru dzeZimbabwe, found in Nduri dzeZimbabwe, he repetitively uses the copulative inflecting affix lndi-1 and its allomorphs in the present continuous tense to communicate the idea that ancestors are perceived in the here and now. The examples are:
   Majukwa edi emuZimbabwe;
   Ndiye Chingoo naDzivaguru: ...
   Ndiye Murenga. ...
   Ndiwo majukwa ...
   Ndiro bandadzi, ndiye chibvuwo (p. 25).

   (True national spirit mediums of Zimbabwe;
   Chingoo and Dzivaguru ...
   It's Murenga ...
   It's Chaminuka's ...
   She is the intercessor.)

It is important to note that the use of the adjective 'true' with respect to the said spirit mediums connotes that in Zimbabwe the realm of spirit mediums is a heavily contested terrain, for it remains a source of socio-political power and control. This is so because chiefdoms in Zimbabwe are autonomous in the sense that each chief has his/her own territorial spirit mediums and rainmakers. Therefore, the elevation of spirit mediums around the present day Harare is a fallacy of relevance.

Imagistic language

Mutswairo also makes extensive use of metaphoric and imagistic language as rhetorical strategies to create vivid and pictorial images in the mind of the reader or listener, thereby making them understand both the surface and subterranean meaning of his poetic discourse. In this chapter we note that from the two dominant theories of the metaphor, namely the abstraction theory which states that there exists one neutral and abstract concept that underlies both the literal and metaphoric use of word, and the homonymy metaphor theory, which states that the same word or expression may be used for different concepts (Halliday, 1985), Mutswairo's metaphoric expressions lean towards the latter. Metaphors helped him to communicate allegorically but effectively to his Shona readers on sensitive issues which could not be perceived by the colonial authorities. We draw an example from Nehanda Nyakasikana, wherein the poet uses pfumojena as a complex metaphor which is multi-layered in the sense that, apart from its direct reference to the white man, it also refers to the white man's oppressive and exploitative rule and to his superior weaponry and military strategies. Pfumojena is also the archetypal imperial figure whose seemingly invincible stature propels the poet to call upon the spirit of Nehanda to redeem or liberate the suffering people. There is a palpable tone of desperation and near hopelessness which imbue the whole lamentation.

In the poem Mutswairo also displays syncretic tendencies typical of one subjected to a desperate situation as he chants incantations to both Nehanda and God for help. For example, Mutswairo uses the simple metaphor, mweya unoera, in reference to Nehanda within the context of Shona traditional religion, which in the Christian religion is a reference to the holy spirit. This reflects syncretism, which is a result of his historical experiences both as an adherent of the Shona religious system and as a leading figure in the Salvation Army Christian church and later the Baptist church. Other metaphors used to refer to the acute suffering of people in colonial Rhodesia are the following absolute and hyperbolic metaphors: Kunwa misodzi (endless mourning) which specifically refers to perpetual suffering; kudzipwa huro nemajoto (suffocation due to the colonial yoke), used in reference to claustrophobic experiences of subjugation and Isu tichidya nhoko dzezvironda (We, languishing in grim poverty). When looked at collectively, these evocative metaphors of suffering reveal miseries of the subjugated. Besides succinctly capturing the acute suffering of the exploited, these metaphors also appeal to the pathos of the audience or readers which has the ultimate effect of stirring their emotions and catapulting them into liberating action. It is a historical fact that the poem Nehanda Nyakasikana, was chanted in many rallies during the liberation struggle. The vividness of the metaphors and their emotional appeal galvanised many youths into taking the onerous decision of joining the struggle to wrestle the nation from the claws of the enemy.

Use of metaphors

In other poems such as Madetembedzo edzinza rekwaChiweshe (Praise poetry for the Chiweshe clan), Ridzai mipururu (Ululate), Mauto ehondo (The people's army) in Nduri dzeZimbabwe and Ruva rangu Shora (My beloved Shora), Guva raasozivikanwi (Tomb of the unknown soldier) in Matetembedzo akare namatsva and, the national anthem, Ngaikomborerwe nyika yeZimbabwe (Blessed be the country of Zimbabwe), Mutswairo makes use of a variety of metaphors. For example, in Madetembedzo edzinza rekwaCkiweshe, Mutswairo employs a wide range of war metaphors like Nyamkangambiri (one who fights with two spears), ckiradza (the drunkard) meaning one who fights as if possessed and pfumo guru (mighty army), which all refer to the poet's adoration of chief Ckiweske's dexterity and military prowess at the battlefront.

Another example where Mutswairo uses metaphors is in Ridzai mipururu (Ululate) wherein he makes use of the contrastive absolute metaphors mwenje (light) and rima (darkness) to refer to independence and colonialism respectively. Mwenje symbolises a new dispensation ushered in by the liberation struggle in which all citizens apply their collective knowledge for the betterment of society. Contrary to this, rima symbolises hardships experienced by the exploited black people under colonialism. From a Christian perspective rima is symbolic of the pagan lifestyles of the heathen, the unconverted, while mwenje stands for the Gospel and all those who would have accepted Christian ways. Similar skillful use of absolute metaphors is evident in Mauto ekondo. In this poem, Mutswairo uses the cyclic nature of seasons as metaphor-cum-symbol of the inevitable demise of the repressive colonial regime and the dawn of independence. Mutswairo writes:
   Misi kairambe iri yeckirimo;
   Asi skure kwacko kotevera ndimo;... (p. 29).

Literally translated as:
   (Spring season does not last forever;
   After it comes planting and harvesting time).

In this citation ckirimo is an absolute metaphor symbolising a state of deprivation and exploitation of blacks by whites during the colonial era, whereas ndimo is symbolic of life of abundance envisaged in independent Zimbabwe.

In Madetembedzo akare namatsva, Mutswairo uses the absolute metaphors jenaguru (full moon) and ruva ... rickangovkurura (budding flower) in reference to the radiant, charming beauty, purity and tenderness of his immaculate lover named Skora. In the Skona culture jenaguru (full moon) has some cultural significance in the sense that it coincides with chirimo (spring season) within which the young would be socialised during the evening through story telling, song and dance. During this time of the year intense socialisation processes take place as people are not busy in the fields. Among the Varemba tribe, chirimo is the time of the year when boys undergo male circumcision, a crucial rite of passage that marks their transition from boyhood to manhood. It is during this time of the year that flowers start to bloom whilst trees grow new shoots and leaves, which result in a pleasant scenery that gives hope to the whole community. The use of these imageries therefore makes a natural appeal to Shona readers, as they not only associate such imageries with their worldview, but also with their concept of beauty and love. The same metaphor is used in the death poem entitled Guva raasozivikanwi (The grave of an unknown person), found in the anthology, Madetembedzo Akare Namatsva. In this poem Mutswairo laments the deaths of people before they enjoy the fullness of life. Through the use of these metaphors Mutswairo effectively communicates with his audience who are familiar with the language and images he uses.

In Ngaikomborerwe nyika yeZimbabwe, the poet makes use of the complex or multi-layered metaphor, moto (fire) in Yakazvarwa nomoto wechimurenga (Born out of the fire of the liberation struggle). The metaphor is a reference to the revolutionary war that gave birth to the nation of Zimbabwe and the devastating and consuming rage of that war. On another level, fire refers to gunfire and the raging infernos that characterised the liberation war. Indigenous people in Zimbabwe celebrated the gun as a tool for liberation, hence the song, Tora gidi uzvitonge (Take up arms and emancipate yourself), commonly sung during the war of liberation. It also refers to the cataclysmic effect of the war; after its destructive wake a new dispensation emerged.

Coinages and word invasion

The DHA theoretical framework adopted in this study enables us to discern that, despite being heavily influenced by Shona oral tradition, Mutswairo also exhibits western literary influences in his poetic style. This is manifest in the use of coinages and words' invasion. The two stylistic devices lend themselves well to the formalist literary tradition that is associated with scholars like Victor Shyklovsky and Jackbson of the Prague linguistic circle in Russia. The thrust of the formalist approach was on the writer's technical prowess and craftsmanship in the selection and deployment of a variety of stylistic devices. This was done to create a literary product that was 'excitingly' novel and hence appeal to the reader's sense perception. In this way, the aesthetic value of literature was realized in the sum total of literary devices used. Selden (1985, p.32) associates such passion for literary devices with formalism when he observes thus, "Formalists' technical focus led them to treat literature as a special use of language which achieves its distinctness by deviating from, and distorting 'practical' language." From Selden's statement and as confirmed by Kunne-Ibsch, (1977), it is clear that formalists aimed at achieving the aesthetic value of literature through a wide range of well packaged, crafted and defamiliarised literary devices. However, for Mutswairo the formalist literary tradition does not have a defamiliarisation effect, but a more revealing one. This is the case because he adapts formalism to the Shona tradition of poeticising.

In Madetembedzo edzinza rekwaChiweshe (Praise poetry of the Chiweshe clan), Mutswairo uses the coinage mudyinhaka (one who inherited) in reference to chief Chiweshe's defeat of Zumba, who was chief of Gomba, and Chiweshe's subsequent takeover of all the resources of the late Zumba, including his wives and children. The use of mudyinhaka vividly communicates Chief Chiweshe's appropriation of the loot. Another example of coinage can be drawn from Ridzai mhere, wherein he coins the word Mazowemudhara (old mazowe). Apart from this term's reference to a geographical location (Mazoe), it is also used to satirise settler rule and its policy of land expropriation. Mutswairo laments the loss of his ancestral land to the colonisers. Thus, there is an element of nostalgia captured in this word which is also palpable in the whole poem.

Another poem where Mutswairo uses coinage is Ridzai mipururu (Ululate). The coined word is vaparadziropa (those who spill blood). The significance of this word lies in the fact that it emotionally and evocatively captures the brutal and exploitative nature of white rule in Rhodesia. It also refers to colonial rule's failure to uphold the sanctity of human life.

In Mhondoro huru dzeZimbabwe, (Territorial spirits of Zimbabwe), Mutswairo employs the coinages mhondorodzimu (territorial spirits), asodziziva (who does not know) and vanaisimvura (rain makers) to good effect. Firstly, the three coinages are a contraction of words and expressions meant to achieve word economy, which facilitates effective communication. This also gives a musical tone to the poem as a result of the repetition of selected syllables and vowels. For example:
   Dzinodzvova, dzinorira mhondorodzimu,
   Hapana asodziziva nehasha dzadzo, ... (p.25).

In the above example, the repetition of the syllable /dzi-/ and the morphemes /o/ and /a/ lends a musical and rhythmic tone to the poem. A similar use of coinages can be cited from Guva Raasozivikanwi, wherein Mutswairo uses the coinages usozivikanwi and kwaasopindura. The repetition of the syllable /-vi/ and the vowel /-i/ is equally meant to enhance the musical tone of the poem.

In spite of the above positive effects derived from the use of coinages, we note that there is an element of forced rhythm and rhyme. Such rhythm and rhyme are not achieved through the use of naturally occurring speech and syntactical patterns. For example, in the philosophical poem entitled Ndinotya (I am afraid), Mutswairo coins the compound noun vanyeperikutenda (falsebelievers). The term is coined from vanonyepera (pretenders) and kutenda (to believe). In the natural use of language the two terms are used as separate lexical items. Therefore, the compound vanyeperikutenda used in the context of Pamberi pevanyeperikutenda (In front of false-believers) creates an unnatural rhythmic pattern realised in the repetitive use of the vowels /a/ and /e/ and the syllable /ri/. In the Shona language rhythm is created through the stressing done to the last but one syllable, called penultimate stress. An example can be cited from the children's lullaby 'Chemutengure' which goes as follows:

Chemutengure, chemutengu:re,

Chave chamutengure vhiri rengo:ro.

As exemplified above, in the Shona language, rhythm is achieved through penultimate stress.

Rhyming scheme

Another literary device that Mutswairo uses extensively is word invasion. Through the use of this device he aims at forging a rhyming scheme that gives the poem a musical tone. Examples can be drawn from the anthology entitled, Madetembedzo akare namatsva in the poems: Ruva rangu Shora (My beloved Shora), Guva raasozivikanwi (The grave of the unknown person) and Dandanda kujenaguru (Hail fullmoon). Some examples of word invasion in Ruva rangu Shora, found in the anthology Madetembedzo Akare Namatsva are: Unorinzwa bani nomweya razara (You smell her charming perfume that fills the veld and wangu moyo (my heart). This poetic device creates rhythm that captivates the mind of the reader. The following is another example from the same anthology:
   Kuyewedza kwaro kuri yangu pfungwa,
   Nokurida kwangu zvose zvichapera, ...(p.14).
   (Its attractiveness pleases my mind,
   But one day all this will be no more, ...)

The placement of the possessive yangu before the noun pfungwa is meant to create final linkage through the repetition of the morpheme /-a/ in the two lines thereby giving the poem a rhythmic pattern which captivates the mind of the reader. Anther example in which the poet uses word invasion in order to give the poem a musical and rhythmic pattern can be cited from the poem entitled Guva raasosivikanwi (The grave of an unknown person). The example is as follows:
   Zvino wasara mugomo wava woga woga,
   Nyika iyi yawaifamba yose paimire,
   Kusati kwava nanhare idzo dzoga dzoga,
   Nhasi yava yomutorwa ndiye changamire (p.18).

   (Now you have remained alone in the mountain,
   You used to walk freely on this land,
   Before the dawn of the new era,
   Today aliens rule over this land).

Mutswairo achieved a rhyming scheme whereby the morphemes /-a/, in the first line and /-e/ in the second line rhyme with corresponding morphemes in the third and fourth lines respectively. In the cited stanza, Mutswairo attempts an abab rhyming scheme which can be associated with that of the sonnet. According to Evert (, a sonnet is a "... fourteen line poem in iambic pentameter with a carefully patterned rhyme scheme." Evert proceeds to argue that its fourteen lines are divided into two parts, the first line being the octave (or octet)--the first line with a rhyming scheme of abbaabbaa or abbacdda and or rarely abababab. It is important to note that the sonnet tradition has a thrust on a rhyming scheme whose creation is arguably the preoccupation of the poet.

Another example where Mutswairo uses a rhyming scheme aligned to that of the sonnet is in the poem entitled, Mvura yedenga, found in the anthology, Nduri dzeZimbabwe. He writes thus:
   Ndinobva munzizi namadandadziva,
   Namakungwa ose, imi musoziva.
   Ndinoatonhodza maruve ebundo.
   Nokupfunha--pfunha ndiri muruundo.
   Ndinokwikwinhisa vafudzi vemombe,
   Navarimi ndovaita samarombe.
   Neshiri dzedenga ndodzipa usanza,
   Ndichibva mumvura zhinji yomunyanza (p.35).

   I come from rivers and swampy places,
   And oceans, while you are unaware.
   I bring relief to all flowers,
   I sprinkle all places.
   I make head--boys shiver with cold,
   I make famers labour like vagrants,
   To birds of the air I bring joy,
   As I emerge from mighty waters of the ocean.)

This poem's theme is on the importance of rain. In the poem, Mutswairo attempts a rhyming scheme of aabbccdd. Thus, the lines rhyme as follows: first and second; third and fourth; fifth and sixth and seventh and eighth respectively. According to Birkerts (1996), "Rhythm is a direct consequence of the fact that words are made up of syllables that are both stressed and unstressed." In the given example, Mutswairo achieves rhythm through skillful diction and coinage. For example, the word musoziva is a coinage aimed at creating a rhyming scheme due to final linkage. Chiwome (1996) argues that linkage was an integral part of traditional rhetoric. It gives the poem a rhyming scheme and a musical tone. In addition, Mutswairo also achieves a rhyming scheme through word invasion as follows: matete maruva (thin flowers), makomo ndozadza (mountains, I fill) and ini ndodiridza (I water). Here Mutswairo is experimenting with a new technique inherent in sonnets. This renders the poem a bit unnatural. However, we argue that the techniques of word invasion and coinage enrich the Shona style of poeticising.

Use of similies

Another common source of rhythm that Mutswairo uses is the simile. As put by Chiwome (1996: 15), "When similes are used cumulatively as is the case in love praises and clan praise poetry, the resultant parallel construction creates rhythm." In addition, the simile enhances understanding of the theme by association. For example, in Madetembedzo edzinza rekwaChiweshe, Mutswairo writes thus:
   Harahwa nechembere nenherera,
   Vanodya mudura rako risingapere,
   Vanopona nokurungura kwauri,
   Semazinyana eshiri ane nzara (p. 20).

   (The old and orphans,
   Feed from your ever full granary,
   They cry for food on your doorstep,
   Like hungry nestlings.)

In the example, the simile Semazinyana eshiri ane nzara vividly communicates the plight of hungry old people and orphans who habitually flock to chief Chiweshe's palace for food handouts. It also creates assonance realised in the repetition of the morphemes /s/ and /z/ and the vowel /e/. The same use of the metaphor to make an emotional appeal as well as to give the poem a rhythmic pattern can be exemplified by Mukurumbira wekufira nyika (the pride of dying for one's country), wherein Mutswairo laments the suffering experienced by some nationalist leaders in detention camps. He puts it thus: Kunyange mave somuviri wabvutwa m'soro (Even though you now resemble people who have lost memory). The morphemes /s/ and /m/ and the vowel /o/ are repeated, thereby creating rhythm which captivates the mind of the reader. Another example of a simile comes from Ruva rangu Shora (My beloved Shora). The example is as follows: Ruva rangu Shora, rinenge nyenyedzi (My beloved Shora resembles a star). The repetition of the morphemes Irl and lei creates a rhythmic sound pleasant to the ear. Through this technique the reader marvels at the beauty of the loved girl, thereby grasping the theme of the poem.

Use of rhetorical questions

Other rhetorical strategies used by the poet are rhetorical questions. Blair (1783), Dixon (1971), Richards (1936) and Cockcroft and Cockcroft (2014) define rhetoric as the power of discourse and skill in the use of language aimed at pleasing or persuading. The art of rhetoric dates back to the 5th century BC and is associated with Greek scholars such Plato and Aristotle (Cockcroft and Cockcroft, 2014). We draw examples from Nehanda nyakasikana (The pure spirit of Nehanda) and Mauto ehondo (The people's army). In Nehanda nyakasikana, Mutswairo makes use of twelve rhetorical questions. Firstly, these are used to effectively express the despicable deprivation and exploitation of black people under colonial rule in Rhodesia. This is clearly evident in the following:
   Ko, isu rugare ruchatisvikira riiniko? ...
   Makumbo avo ava namatuzu nekupfuviswa neriri Pfumojena. Ko!
   Vosvikepiko? (p. 35).

   (When shall our suffering come to an end? ...
   Their legs have developed blisters as a result of being exploited
   whites. So, for how long should they shoulder this burden?)

Secondly, the use of rhetorical questions is to emotionally and evocatively register a complaint with the ancestral spirits and Nehanda for seemingly being insensitive to the people's plight. Mutswairo writes thus:
   Tine chitadzo chakakura sei
   Chokubva matiramwa zvakadai? (p. 35).

   (What sin have we committed
   for you to treat us so badly?)

Thirdly, such an incantation is aimed at invoking the ancestral spirits in general and Nehanda Nyakasikana in particular, to rescue people from colonial bondage. The following serve as examples:
   Hamungatinzwewo kuchema kwedu here? ...
   Nehanda Nyakasikana! Kunozove riniko
   Isu vaNyai tichitambudzika? (p.35).

   (Can you not come to our rescue? ...
   (Nehanda Nyakasikana! When shall our suffering,
   We, the true owners of this land, come to an end?)

Rhetorical questions are an effective persuasive strategy that enable the reader to suggest answers to questions asked by the author. This makes the reader to understand the theme. For example in 'Ridzai Mhere', Mutswairo uses a rhetorical question to bemourn the deprivation and exploitation experienced by blacks under colonialism. He puts it thus:
   Chemai ridzai mhere marudzi ekwedu
   Nhasi kwamava ndokupi nokwamaiwe? (p.23).

   (Mourn, cry loudly fellow countrymen
   Can you imagine the magnitude of your exploitation?)

In summation, through the use of rhetorical questions, the reader understands the poet's message by answering such questions. This is an effective persuasive strategy.


In this paper we have demonstrated that Mutswairo is mainly a traditionalist poet whose literary style stems from Shona conventions of poeticising. The conventions emphasise that poetry has to be utilitarian. This makes it imperative for poets to churn out poetry that reflects history and reality, hence the use of DHA in the study to expose the intricate relationship between Mutswairo's poetry and Zimbabwean history. In terms of style, the utilitarian view of poetry and life dictates that poets employ stylistic devices that are born of a people's experiences and thus the language of poetry should be easily understood by people who use that language. It is our observation that Mutswairo tries as much as possible to use language and style that is accessible to the reader. In the few cases were he does not, as when he resorts to the use of coinages and word invasion, it is a reflection of influences from western conventions of poeticising. On this aspect we note that as a leading academic, Mutswairo was aware of the formalist literary tradition and the sonnet as reflected in some of his few poems. The article viewed this hybridisation positively, for it arguably enriched rather than impoverished his literary style.


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* Rewai Makamani (PhD) and Isaac Choto

* Senior Lecturer, Department of Communication, SHS, NUST, Windhoek, Namibia
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Author:Makamani, Rewai; Choto, Isaac
Publication:Nawa: journal of language and communication
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:6ZIMB
Date:Jun 1, 2015
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