Home » Arts & Culture » The ‘Home Spirit’ in Sigauke’s Writings

The spirit of ‘home’ will always haunt artists whenever they cross the borders and live on the other side. There is a river, a hill, a character, a place situated back home in the place of their boygirlhood, which they love so profoundly, and jealously keep its memory at the back of their minds. The river, the hill, the village or the character, is spiritually conversant with them wherever they go, and connects them with their roots.

By virtue of their subconscious observant nature, writers, like other artists, recreate it in their works.

Zimbabwean writer, poet, editor Emmanuel Sigauke who moved to the United States in 1996, is enamoured by a hill in Mototi village, his home area in Zvishavane.

The Chisiya Hill sings much of the background song in his writings. And what the hill symbolizes, that is, serenity and innocence, contrasts with the reality far from home as revealed in his other works.

A sample of Sigauke’s poems and short stories, published in various international journals and anthologies, highlight the hill as the author celebrates as well as critique the experience and memories of home and exile.

Speaking from the United States to this writer, Sigauke said, “It’s my childhood hill in my backyard. I used to read perched on its summit when I was in secondary school. It was like my natural library.”

Sigauke added that Chisiya is also the name of a weeklong writers’ workshop he is planning to conduct in his home area Mototi, Mazhihwa.

Writing on the Muonde Trust and Friends’ website which is supporting the writers’ workshop, Sigauke also said, “The writing project I will co-ordinate through Muonde falls under the concept of Chisiya Writing School. Why Chisiya? Chisiya hill had a profound effect on me as I was growing up in Mototi. It was part of my reality, right in my backyard, but it was also the biggest of the hills flanking our home, offering me a sense of protection, but also a thrill, a sense of mystery as I wondered about its caves, its trees and all the creatures, dangerous or not, that populated it.

“Above all, its natural architecture was to me a symbol of beauty it exuded aesthetic power, and once I started writing, I used to sit on its summit, experiencing it, but also seeing in the distance endless possibilities of my dream. At one point I called it my library.”

The Chisiya Writing Workshop, he said, will enable the youths of Mazvihwa to experience the uplifting of spirit and self that comes through writing, to serve Mazvihwa and to contribute to the wider world by telling their stories.

This is not the first time that Sigauke has demonstrated his passion for helping aspiring writers.

Over the years, he has been involved in a number of literary projects at home and linked Zimbabwean scribes with the international landscape of creative writing.

His obsession with the hill explains why it features in his writings. He has also named one of his blog Chisiya Echoes as a dedication to the hill.

Interesting to note that the two hills, in Sigauke’s poems ‘The Village Motto’ and ‘Gonera Bees’ published in State of the Nation (2009,The Conversation Paper Press, UK), an anthology of contemporary Zimbabwean poetry, are mentioned by names Chisiya and Chigorira.

In the poem ‘The Village Motto’, one can feel the distress the persona is expressing at the sudden change of the hue around his beloved two hills. He says, in the third stanza, “Eucalyptus man, guardian of the lambsThe sun kisses whip. Trees fold arms and poutRocks of Chisiya and Chigorira weepas they line up for treatment … ”

His short story Mukoma’s Return (Arts Initiates, 2009), happens at the narrator’s extended family’s compound which ‘sat between two hills’. The narrator of this story, a boy, has a friend called Chari. The two boys use one of the hills as their rendezvous.

“That was the thing with Chari: he never came to ask me if I wanted to play. All he did was come to the hill, knowing somehow that I would join him,” says the narrator.

Mukoma’s Return is about the narrator’s brother Mukoma who returns from Johannesburg and settles in the village where he is held in awe for having been in South Africa as well as for his fighting skills. Mukoma falls in love with a girl Alice from the same village and the boy observes from a distant the lovers’ world drifting along the village’s high expectations, until Mukoma, one night, detains Alice in his hut while Mai is away at a funeral and the next day, in the morning after Alice had left, the narrator says, “I found brother walking into the compound he was coming from somewhere, maybe the river or Chigorira hill . . .”

The bees in the poem ‘Gonera Bees’ also appear in the story Mukoma’s Return.

When they have nothing to do, the narrator and his friend Chari visit the beehives in the forests with the intention to provoke the bees which would then descend upon the whole village.

“We knew that once they had attacked Tukano, pursued him from the top of the mountain to his home, which turned out to be no refuge since they entered every little space, attacking his wife, two dogs and a cat, causing the family to take off toward Runde river where they dove into the pond,” says the boy in Mukoma’s Return.

This childhood experience in the village is the reason why the now mature persona in the poem ‘Gonera Bees’ says in the first stanza: “Don’t tell me about beesand expect to see joythat anticipates the harvest of honey.”

Tukano, the character who in the story Mukoma’s Return was once attacked by the bees, is mentioned again in Sigauke’s poem ‘Bulawayo and Oslo” which is found also in State of the Nation only that in the poem it’s in the phrase “making me wanderlike Tukano’s lost dog”.

The short story Mukoma’s Return ends with the boy, now 13 years old, having an argument with Alice which results in the latter being chased by the irate boy and collapsing after hitting a rock.

It is not mentioned whether Alice dies or not but the suspense serves its purpose and leaves the question, what if Alice dies, what will Mukoma do to his young brother?

Sigauke’s stories and poems speak to one another, like an organic figure of speech. Although there is the hill to go home to, there are barriers that stand in the exiled characters’ way.

The short story ‘Return to the Moonlight’ in the anthology African Roar (Story Time, 2010, South Africa) reverberates with the same theme of how an exile returning home feels about home. Furthermore, how the same exile feels about his treatment in hisher newly adopted country runs through some of Sigauke’s poems such as ‘Detected Accents’ (in the journal Rattlesnake Review, Summer 2008) and ‘Teach Me African’ (in Late Peaches, a 2012 anthology of poems by Sacramento Poets edited by Bob Stanley).

Behind the Shadows, a collection of stories from Africa and Asia published online in 2012 , carries Sigauke’s story ‘Call Center’ which again shows the conflict of culture in a foreign land. The anthology is based on the theme ‘outcast’ as interpreted from different perspectives by the authors.

‘Nhevedzamugwagwa’, one of Sigauke’s earlier poems which appeared in the Tsotso poetry magazine of November 1995, explores the theme ‘outcast’ in a different way.

Unlike the ‘outcast’ in the story ‘Call Center’ who is working at in a foreign land, the outcast in ‘Nhevedzamugwagwa’ is a local vagrant who, despite being a psycho, is seen as part of the larger river of life.

Sometime soon, said Sigauke, about 14 of his connected short stories, gleaned from different journals, will be published in a single collection by a local publisher. “The stories, coming out as ‘The Mukoma Stories and Other Stories’, are told from the perspective of one narrator but featuring the life of the narrator’s big brother whom he refers to simply as Mukoma,” he said.

Indeed we can’t wait, as surely the stories will no doubt speak in a beautiful pattern when put together. They may even reveal more than we have observed so far.

Sigauke teaches English and Creative Writing at Cosumnes River College, USA, where he is also one the editors of Cosumnes River Journal. His debut poetry anthology, Forever Let Me Go, was published by Publish America in 2008. His works have featured in many international journals, and he runs blogs such as Moments in Literature, Wealth of Ideas, and Chisiya Echoes.

Source : The Herald