We review Panashe Chigumadzi latest book, “These Bones Will Rise Again”
“There are many questions and I am looking for answers. The kind of answers that slip past the facts of history books or analyses by pundits and experts. Answers that are not party politics. That are not Zimbabwe African National Union—Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF), or Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) or the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Answers that are not Cecil John Rhodes, Ian Smith, Joshua Nkomo, Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai or Emmerson Mnangagwa, or any other Big Men in the history of the nation.”
Panashe Chigumadzi takes us on an exciting, dangerous and topsy turvy journey in her new non-fiction offering, These Bones Will Rise Again. The part memoir, part history book,long form essay looks at the state of Zimbabwe following its “Fourth Chimurenga,” the fourth “political revolution” or struggle for independence, that took place in November 2017. The author’s point of departure is the removal of “the old man” former president Robert Mugabe. She seeks to answer the question on every Zimbabwean’s lips: “Will change really come?”
Panashe aims to tell the story of Zimbabwe from the perspective of what she calls the “little people” people who have been marginalised by systematic oppression. By focusing on the images of two great women, Mbuya Nehanda the Mother of the Nation and Mbuya Chigumadzi her own grandmother, the author retells the history of Zimbabwe as most has never heard it before.
The former editor of online publication Vanguard tells the story of Mbuya Nehanda, a key figure in Zimbabwe’s first Chimurenga. She notes how women in Zimbabwe have been relegated to stay frozen in the past just like the frozen image of Mbuya Nehanda taken before her execution by colonial powers. She parallels the image of Mbuya Nehanda to another image frozen in time; a portrait of her grandmother at 16. The image of Mbuya Chigumadzi is that of (what Panashe imagines) a free woman, alone, dressed well and poised. Both women have one thing in common- they are defiant. She tell their stories within the socio-historical context of their country. Panashe fills the gap between the deaths of these women with a gripping retelling of the history of Zimbabwe
These Bones Will Rise Again reminds its readers of the complexities in the cultures of Africa and rips through the illusion created by colonisers that Africans are a group of people with the same culture, language and ethnicity. In 150 pages, she gives us a compressed history of Zimbabwe from 1893 to 2017; we learn about the people, their beliefs, their hopes and their fears.
“Far from being the bewildered tribesmen in white men’s towns that the colonial authorities saw them as, Africans were staging a complex and often contradictory, negotiation of chinyakare and chimanjemanje, the old and the new, tradition and modernity, appropriating what worked for them and discarding what didn’t.”
Africans who are not from or living in Zimbabwe should read These Bones Will Rise Again to gain a greater understanding of the country and its people who have only been portrayed in the media in relation to their government.
Through her book, history is being decolonised and shaped by the hands of the once ignored and oppressed. The “little people” of society are now telling their own stories and shaping their own narratives. Panashe Chigumadzi’s essay is a welcome addition to the new cannon of decolonised historical literature.