He is mong the leading literary luminaries to emerge out of Zimbabwe since the country’s independence in 1980; Chenjerai Hove was to Zimbabwe what Chinua Achebe was to the Nigerians. During his exile in Norway, Hove spent most of his time on the lecture circuit giving presentations on creative writing in Europe and the United States of America. Since his recent death, Hove has been honored and remembered by both Western and African publications. Here Culture Trip looks back on his legacy.
Born in Mazvihwa near Zvishavane in 1956, Hove held degrees in English and Education obtained from the University of South Africa (UNISA) and the University of Zimbabwe. On completion of his education, Hove worked for several years as a teacher, before later joining a publishing house, and it was here, while working as an editor that Hove’s first poetry anthology, And Now the Poets Speak was released.
A typical characteristic of Hove’s early poems is the use of visceral traditional African metaphors and idioms, while not an overzealous political revolutionary maximalist, Hove is foresighted and sees the blind spots ahead of the then nascent nation. He cautions people against complacency and corruption, something that is evident in the poem, This Thing: The Love of Nations:
“If my brother comes
Tell him I have gone hunting
In these parts
What else can a man hunt for
Except the filth
In unworked for coins? (55)”
Hove highlighted the hypocrisy of human nature when crimes are committed in the name of ‘the love of nations,’ and the pursuit of wealth becomes an end in itself when people seek ‘the filth in unworked for coins.’
Nobody has summed up Hove’s literary style better than Charles Mungoshi, another prominent Zimbabwean writer, who in his introduction to Hove’s first anthology eloquently portrayed the quintessence of Hove’s literary style:
“Just as one cannot escape the terrible truth of death, or just as a barefoot herdboy cannot avoid the grass-hidden thorn in his way, so it is with Hove’s poetry. It speaks a truth that a historian or a politician or an anthropologist may not know the edge of, but Hove is not an explainer, an arbiter, or a statistician. His poetry addresses itself to the human heart. Because it speaks to the heart, its language is concerned with evoking feeling, recreating how it was or how it is, but never explaining why. His poetry happens, naturally.”
Hove’s early literary works focus upon the war of liberation for national independence. He reminisced about the war’s true heroes, while at the same time expressing a sense of betrayal for the fallen heroes, he felt the leaders were not living up to the ideals of the war and cautions the people not to be complacent.
As well as his poetry, Hove is also well known for his trilogy of novels, the first Bones (1988) tells of a mother looking for her son after he fails to return home after the liberation war, and it was the publication of Bones that marked the pinnacle of Hove’s career as a writer, earning him international recognition and acclaim. Winning him a number of awards including the Zimbabwe Writers Union National Award in 1988 and also the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa in 1989. While Shadows (1991) deals heavily with the periods political issues, and in the final novel of the trilogy, Ancestors (1997), Hove narrates the life of a deaf and dumb girl, Miriro, married to a drunk in the 1860s. Miriro later appears in the dreams of a boy as an ancestor. In the novel, Hove wittingly narrated using traditional African idioms and metaphors to great effect:
“With your breath fading, you recite the names of all the children, then play the games of naming the trees, the rivers, the hills and mountains. You can only name the rivers and hills of the place where you were born.’ Hove used namelessness as a way of illustrating his strong convictions about the idea of ancestors.”
What connects Hove’s novels are the seamless borders between past, present and future; the living and the dead, and wittingly blending the English language with traditional African genres and metaphors. The main character, Janifa eloquently shows this in her reflections towards the end of Bones:
“A year does not come and sit where another one sat. It brings its own stool.”
His final novel, Homeless – Sweet Home: A Memoir of Miami, is, as the title suggests, autobiographical, and tells of the trials and tribulations of living as a homeless person in a foreign country after being declared a persona non grata by one’s government. Hove said he was forced to leave the country when his life came under threat because of his writings that were critical of the government.
“I hope one day our country will rise again from the ashes like the proverbial sphinx and take its rightful place among other nations. It pains me to see what has happened to my country. My heart bleeds when I see all the human capital the country has lost to other countries. These are Zimbabweans who are supposed to be working for their country but have been forced into exile because of political intolerance and repression. This is really sad.”
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.