Home » Legal and Judicial Affairs » Thieves Stole My Laptop, I Feel Creatively Neutered

Thieves broke into my car and stole my laptop. That laptop was my office and my world. It had all my important business documents, concepts, contracts, proposals and work I was doing for clients.

The laptop was my repository, my watering hole, my library, my church and my laboratory.

It had finished novels, novels in progress, illustrations, personal notes, reflections, draft notes and manuscripts, recordings of stories, folktale animation projects, family memories, e-books and special sermons.

I bought that Apple MacBook Pro laptop after I had participated in the Winnipeg International Writers Festival of 2010 in Canada.

I worked for that laptop, and it was the result of one of those few cases when a writer gets paid a reasonably handsome amount for reading and talking about writing.

I had decided to invest the money back into my work. It is that very laptop which knows how hard I work as a creative writer, translator and storyteller.

My stolen laptop is part of me. I planted the seeds of an award-winning novel in its womb and it conceived.

That laptop was the net with which I used to catch the falling stars of my thoughts and ideas.

It was my companion, and I really regret leaving it in the car just for a few minutes to quickly dash into a bank.

A day after the theft, I managed to recover my laptop bag and other papers dumped in Milton Park, but without the laptop. When the police asked me to give them an estimate value of what I had lost, I was offended and hurt.

It is practically impossible to put a value to creativity, to ideas, to work in progress, to research documents.

What I lost is priceless.

I will never be able to replace the work. I had just been revising my fourth novel — Ziso rezongororo. I know that the final changes I had made are something that I will never ever be able to recreate.

Those who have revised a creative work will understand what I am talking about. The creative process has its own strange way of operating. Some gems tend to just burst into existence out of spontaneity.

They are like crying, if it comes from deep pain, it cannot be choreographed, rehearsed or repeated. Yet, someone out there who will buy a cheap second hand MacBook laptop that was stolen from a writer will just delete, delete and delete those gems. Indeed, as Wole Soyinka asked — What is the use of a jewel to a pig?

While I may be able to tell the police the value of the laptop because it is the tangible thing that they can visualise, I am unable make them see and understand the value of creativity.

They will not understand how all the information stored on the laptop is very expensive even if it is not tangible.

On my laptop were special manuscripts of books we intend to publish this year at Bhabhu Books. The manuscripts are significant national contributions which will add to Shona literature classics.

This is the reason why I told a friend who was commiserating with me that the theft of my laptop is almost like stealing from a culture and heritage site.

Through Bhabhu Books, I am working on projects that are meant to promote and preserve local languages as part of our cultural heritage.

At Bhabhu Books, we try our best to make sure local languages are not only recognised and promoted, but that they are respected and allowed to celebrate their richness, philosophy and beauty. We believe that it is only through telling compelling and new stories that Shona and other indigenous languages will remain relevant. Bhabhu is about making local languages relevant as well as making a national contribution.

As a result, by stealing my laptop, the thieves stole some of Zimbabwe’s stories and history that I have been collecting.

They stole some of the future generations’ culture and heritage. When one steals a book, it may be replaced because it will be available in bookshops, but if they steal ideas and rare cultural products — they are like a person who has decided to destroy the granary because he has eaten more than enough food for that particular day.

My stolen laptop had Shona folktales that I recorded in a high quality professional studio at the University of Manitoba when I was Writer and Storyteller in Residence.

I lost the stories I produced with my Canadian students and storytellers, as well as collections of stories from around the world, including audio recordings of Aesop’s fables.

On the same laptop, I was translating the Italian folktale, Pinocchio from English into Shona. The translation was part of a reading and storytelling programme for children I work with at a children’s home. I would translate two chapters of the story in aance and read them to the children.

My little friends are waiting for me to continue with the story, but I will have to tell them about bad people who steal other people’s happiness. The Pinocchio translation was an enriching intercultural dialogue experience for me and the children.

I am also collaborating with a Swedish artist to do animations of Tsuro naGudo stories.

I had written and prepared stories to fit our agreed model.

I had not yet sent the final stories to Sweden, and they were on my laptop. It took me sleepless nights to put those stories together, but some thief took them away from me in a matter of minutes. They did not steal the stories so that they can read them, but to delete them so that they can sell my computer for a mere $200 which will be spent recklessly on booze, fashion and sex.

If I were to recover my laptop — which I hope I will, the very first thing I would do would be to look for the very last essay I wrote from 12 midnight to three in the morning. As I wrote that potent essay, I had a very strange surreal feeling. Even when I read it after I had finished writing, I got a feeling that God was perhaps holding my hand and guiding my thoughts. Writing that essay felt like I had become a companion of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s in his amazing poem Kubla Khan.

At the same time, it felt like the Mohammed Ali and George Foreman fight — dubbed The Rumble in the Jungle which took place in 1974, in Zaire. Before the fight, Mohammed Ali said, “George Foreman hits hard, but hitting power don’t mean nothing if you can’t find nothing to hit. Now you see me, now you don’t! You think you will, but I know you won’t.” Unlike Mohammed Ali, the thieves got me, and they took away that divine-influenced essay.

On that MacBook laptop, I was in the middle of reading and assessing manuscripts from various aspiring writers who responded to the Bhabhu Books call for short story contributions for a Shona anthology. The anthology is titled Makore asina mvura, and all the 27 manuscripts were also stolen. The good thing is that all but three of these manuscripts were submitted via e-mail, so I can retrieve the originals and start reading them afresh.

It is obvious that the thieves who stole my laptop may not even appreciate the time invested by the 27 men and women, and how they all have expectations that this opportunity to get published will somehow open doors for them, and perhaps bring rain to their writing lives.

I have learnt the hard way that potentially, the next person who parks a car next to yours may be a thief.

I also realise that we often underestimate the impact of trauma.

I think I have aged in the past week as I struggle to come to terms with my loss. I now have a new understanding of what God means when he commands us not to steal.

Stealing from someone is as good as having all lights switched off, and being asked to put order in the house. The theft of my laptop has taken me back to the Stone Age. Without a laptop, I am having to learn to write in long hand, and for someone who has been creating worlds and characters on a computer, I feel creatively castrated.

Source : The Herald

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