I’ve been busy all weekend starting to put together my applications for getting into MFA Creative Writing programs so I’ve been thinking a lot about writing. In my statements of purpose, I try to explain why I write, and so far the answer that rings truest for me is that I write to learn. Whether it’s about human nature, or about history, I write because there is something I don’t know or understand so I write a story to figure it out.
This is especially true when it comes to Zimbabwe and Shona culture. There is just so much I don’t know and even more that I do without understanding why. Sometimes I feel like I’m a bad Zimbo or Shona woman because I am sometimes so clueless about our culture. I can go through the motions but don’t ask me to explain the process. So I write stories about people trying to navigate their way through the culture and as they discover the answers I discover them too.
Judging by the traffic that finds its way to my blog, I’m not the only one looking for answers. The most popular Google search terms that lead people to Curious Chido are some variation of “Jacarandas Zimbabwe” and “Red Msasa Trees”, but the next 3 popular search terms are all about traditional beliefs, mitupo and whether Chishona and Shona culture are still relevant. There is a dearth of information about Zimbabwe on the internet and it bothers me. Zimbabweans pride themselves on how smart and educated we are. Why isn’t there more information easily available? When I go to the library to find books about Zimbabwe, the vast majority are written by people from England or America. Even when I search African journals, the articles about Zimbabwe are often written by somebody else. Yet the traffic to my blog suggests that Zimbabweans are looking for answers about themselves.
So I spent quite a few hours of my Sunday afternoon pondering the question of why there aren’t more Zimbabwean academics, or even just couch nerds who like to curate information about Zimbabwe. I even started working myself into enough of a state to write a rant about Zimbabweans just not being proud enough of their culture. “Why aren’t Zimbabweans writing about Zimbabwe?” I wanted to say.
Then I remembered that NoViolet Bulawayo’s first novel We Need New Names just got shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. And I remembered that a new Charles Mungoshi book has just been released. And I remembered that I’m going to get my MFA so I can keep writing stories to learn more about my country. Zimbabweans are writing still. I just wasn’t looking.
Happy Monday y’all.