Zimbabwe: Author Penyai back with a bang

By Jeffrey Muvundusi – BULAWAYO based author Ishmail Penyai who last year made news when he published a collection of Ndau poems is back again with another poetry anthology but this time an English version.

The anthology entitled Scarlet Memories which was published by Dzekanyi Publications in Chimanimani was officially launched on Wednesday in the city.

The 47 year old writer told this reporter that the latest literature product was a result of his insatiable appetite to write and contribute to the enrichment of literature in the country. “I am glad that finally my book Scarlet Memories which is my second one is out. I hope this will contribute extensively to the enrichment and development of literature in Zimbabwe.

“The book is a captivating piece which contains 28 diversified poems. The book is just a must read as it explores a variety of issues that affect a Zimbabwean citizen and most importantly it is relevant to modern literature,” said Penyai.

 Asked why this time around he chose to write an English book after his debut book was in Ndau language Penyai had this to say:  “My core business is to write and to reach as many people as possible. Actually I have not diverted from the initial idea but that it was simply a compilation of my English poems I have been writing for the past 15 years.”

In the Scarlet Memories anthology Penyai straddles the liberation epoch and the post independence era with so much eloquence and enthusiasm. He also tackles contemporary issues of HIV and Aids and the 2008 South African Xenophobic attacks.

As he also interrogates such topics as politics, culture, peace, love and harmony the writer uses simple, moving and refreshing language that any ordinary citizen can enjoy reading.

The 38 page book ends with a touching poem titled Farewell –Walter Muparutsa a befitting tribute to the late theatre guru who passed on in April this year after succumbing to cancer.

The poem which was written on April 17 at 13:45 does more than celebrate the life of a hero in the arts industry.

Penyai added that the project could not have been a success without the editorial skills of his former English teacher Joshua Maphosa of Biriri High School in Chimanimani, Manicaland Province.

Nhekwe Dziri Kanyi, a poetry anthology released in 2011 was one of the few books in the history of literature that was wholly compiled in Ndau and Manyika dialects.

According to Penyai the initiative was one way meant to cater for the usually overshadowed minor ethnic dialects in the country. “I believe people belonging to the so called minor dialects like Ndau, Venda, Kalanga and Kore Kore should learn to speak and write their own languages so as to protect it from extinction, simply for the next generation,” he said.

“In this case I want to inspire many people particularly my people, the Ndaus to develop their own literature through writing.” Penyai also said he admired such writers as the missionary John Bowan who had the temerity to write a Ndau book called Kuhamba Kwemuhambi as well as Joyce Simango who wrote Zviuya Zvirimberi.

Penyai is a founder member of the Manicaland Writers Association (MWA) and a member of the Zimbabwe Writers Union. He also said he was already working on writing and producing films both in Ndau and English all in the name of casting his wings wider into the artistic fraternity.