In this talk, Tanaka Chidora analyses the politics of representation in Zimbabwean literature, particularly exploring the policing of creative writing from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe. He argues that the position of the Zimbabwean writer portends a dilemma that amounts to being gagged from depicting certain truths about the nation or not speaking at all. In Rhodesia, the black writer was under surveillance by the Rhodesia Literature Bureau which forced the writer to focus on issues that were considered apolitical. Those who wanted to confront colonialism head-on published outside Rhodesia, but at a time when the militarily-executed anticolonial struggle was gaining momentum, these writers were expected to demonise colonialism while praising the nationalist movement regardless of existing evidence of it becoming a source of tyranny in the independent nation. The same dilemmas afflict the new crop of Zimbabwe’s writers who feel the need to depict the ills of Zimbabwe. In his exploration of these dilemmas, Chidora makes reference to notable works by creative writers and critics from Zimbabwe and beyond.
Tanaka Chidora is a published poet, short story writer and literary academic from Zimbabwe. His first poetry collection, Because Sadness is Beautiful? (2019) was published to critical acclaim in Zimbabwe and has been widely described as vivid, subversive and scatological. Tanaka is currently based at Goethe University where he is a Humboldt postdoctoral fellow researching on violence, memory and literature in Zimbabwe. His debut novel, Carrying a Country on Your Forehead, is set to be published in 2023.