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Spirit of Ubuntu lives

MTHULISI Ndlovu (MN) is an academic, writer, publisher, poet and an outspoken creative, who has always had the passion for pen and paper from a young age. Ndlovu holds two records, one for the longest poem ever published in Zimbabwean literature titled ‘Ubuntu (The Raw Truth Unravelled)’ which stands at 51 pages setting a global record and was awarded at the Global African Authors Awards in South Africa.The other is a Ndebele version titled ‘uBuntu Nqaba Ngqo (uBuntu above all)’ which is 18 pages long.  Despite being haunted and intimidated in his mother land after publishing his book entitled ‘Politicking (Lockdown Memoirs from Within) Ndlovu  still remains a firm believer and an unapologetic advocate of the spirit of Ubuntu. His quill has never bowed down to pressure but still continues to vomit that which he deems relevant and profound. Ndlovu has worked with local and international artists who include Phathisa Nyathi,Cont Mhlanga, Beni Dya Mbaxi (Angola), Lenet Beden (Kenya) amongst other upcoming and established creatives. He speaks to Khumbulani Muleya (KM)

KM: Welcome Mthulisi, you were recognised at The Global African Authors Awards in South Africa for your book ‘Ubuntu (The Raw Truth Unravelled)’ which is the longest poem ever to be published in local literature, what does this historic feat mean to you?

MN: Greetings my kind sire. The honorary recognition truly means a great lot to me as a proud young Zimbabwean creative. For my family, consumers of my works and the  nation at large, it is a huge win for all of us. I am honestly humbled and thankful to the Lord.

KM: In your opinion do you think writers have a social responsibility, how would you define the role of a writer in any given community?

MN: Of course, the greatest divine call of a creative is to spearhead practical and relevant socio-political and socioeconomic consciousness. Our biggest role is to be front runners when it comes to the empowerment or emancipation of our communities.

The literary genius must stretch beyond mere entertainment or amusements; and accurately narrate the realities of this present day world without fear or favour. If as writers we fail to fill in the gap of content creation it definitely means we will be depriving our children vital and significant historical data. Thus being said indeed we do carry a massive responsibility of giving back to our communities by offering the best that we can for the benefit of generations to come.

KM: 21st century protest literature has gone from protesting against colonialism to responding on various forms of domesticated injustices.

You also contributed apolitically charged book titled Politicking (Lockdown Memoirs From Within).

MN: As time goes by, the world evolves and as it does a lot of new challenges arise. These new challenges need new and redefined solutions. In this day protest literature must scale down to its relevance and address current socio-political and socioeconomic problems like inter colonialism (ethnic segregation), nepotism, corruption, political intimidation, abductions and many more inhuman acts.

Through literature I have found a voice and also an opportunity to develop myself as a mouthpiece for those without voices. The problems continue and they arise every day, hence the need to stand up and challenge the thwarted status quo of our sovereign nations which our forefathers died for. The struggle continues, so is the strength, zeal and desire to stand for that which I believe is noble.

KM: So in a way you are also inheriting the struggle by shaking the very foundations of the status quo?

MN: Yes indeed!

KM: Having fled the country are you still able to write about what happens in Zimbabwe and do you feel being away can make you write better about Zimbabwe?

MN: I strongly believe that being out of the country does not make one less relevant to his or her roots or be ignorant of the struggles and turmoil being faced by our brothers and sisters. I am growing day in day out and still writing strongly.

KM: But does absence not distort your narratives?

MN: I have lived in Zimbabwe for almost all my life. It is been just four months away, again I am not only fixated to the Zimbabwean narrative.My last politically charged project was penned with a continental and global narrative I even featured a Kenyan poet therein named Lenet Beden.

KM: As someone who writes in vernacular and English, how effective do you think ideas can be when written in indigenous languages as compared to English?

MN: I am more comfortable writing in indigenous languages as it allows me to clearly express myself. On the other hand I honestly feel that sometimes English limits my creativity as it dwarfs my creative depth. Ideas become well-articulated and thoroughly addressed when written in my mother language. I find so much joy in producing content in traditional languages.

KM: In your view do you think literature has the capacity to find new outlets that can outsmart a censorious state apparatus?

MN: As they always say the pen is mightier than the sword. I strongly believe that literature is the mother of all creativity thus it definitely does have the capacity to outmanoeuvre and pierce its way through censorious regimes.

KM: You launched a publishing house which has Philani Nyoni as Chief Editor, what sort of solutions are you trying to provide?

MN: Ubuntu Afro-Publishers seeks nothing but to publish indigenous creative minds and also lean more on giving special attention to indigenous languages. We aim to hail and encourage the production of contemporary literature written in local languages. Our mother languages are slowly but surely under the plaque of extinction, hence we are taking the challenge head on and encouraging creatives to pride themselves in local languages.

We also seek to offer flexible and qualitative services in terms of translations and literary consultancy.

KM: Describe the experience of working with local legends Cont Mhlanga and Phathisa Nyathi.

MN: Working with the legendary Cont Mhlanga under the Amakhosi Theatre banner really equipped me in terms of commercialising my work. On the other hand working with Pathisa Nyathi exposed me to many opportunities of growth and networks that I still boast and pride myself in until today. I am so grateful and thankful to their unwavering love and support for young talent and great minds.

KM: Lastly are there any other themes that you explore in your writings?

MN: I do not only limit myself to protest poetry, I also stretch to other social issues, I explore awareness themes and sometimes juggle with burning societal issues that are faced by our communities at large.

KM: Thank you so much for your time, wishing you the best in your endeavours.


POEM

We Need New Leaders

The wisest have departed

Honourable rare breeds have bowed  and vanished with their dignity.

Mere politicians now reign tearing the kingdoms into ramshackle with greedy hands,

Puppetry pulverising rich legacies

Tattooing taboos on their foreheads.

Monumental great walls of stone reduced to mere squatter camps,

Castrated bulls coercing innocent compatriots.

Intermittent rulers propagating chaos Luring ideologies ruling direction-less

Those who led with true wisdom and honour

Have long left the stage,

Leaving us at the mercy of callous turncoats,

Who have forgotten the cause.

“We need new leaders, sooner than later!”

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