“To imagine these women is to face their questions. They are difficult. They are painful. They are necessary. We cannot turn away even as we know in our hearts that we collectively fear facing these women because they will demand that their questions be answered. We know that their questions will release a torrent of granite boulders that will destroy the versions of us and the nation that we hold dear even when they harm us in ways untold. The force of their questions will surely crush the old certainties cast in Zimbabwe’s great house of stone. And then, what will become of us? Who will we be?” – Panashe Chigumadzi
Panashe Chigumadzi is a Zimbabwean born writer. She was raised in South Africa. Panashe is an award-winning author. Her debut novel Sweet Medicine, published by Blackbird Books in 2015, won the K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award. Her sophomore book, a long reflective essay, These Bones Will Rise Again recently won Best Author at the fifth Zimbabwe International Women’s Award.
These Bones Will Rise Again is a reflective long essay on the ‘coup that was not a coup’ in Zimbabwe. This reflection is done through the telling of history through the eyes of various womxn in her own family and the history of Zimbabwe. She writes about the history of chimurenga and the role of womxn in the liberation project in Zimbabwe. In this episode, we sat down with the prodigious Panashe pondering on her latest offering. The conversation was filled with musings on the erasure of Black womxn in history. We spoke about Mbuya Nehanda and the meaning of the ‘Big C AND small c’ chimurenga. The conversation led us to topics about the Big men in Zimbabwe, the role of music in Zimbabwe’s liberation project. In many ways, the conversation was a journey in Panashe’s own history. Throughout the conversation, we encountered various parts of Panashe – the granddaughter, the historian, the Zimbabwean, the born free, the outsider and the writer. We spend moments being ruminative about Robert Mugabe and Grace Mugabe as key figures in Zimbabwe. The conversation highlighted the various ways in which womxn and men are reported in history, through respectability politics and taking up of space. We spoke about the meaning of language in knowing and telling histories and other musings about spirituality, a theme prevalent in both Panashe’s books. The conversation touched on a number of other important topics such as the future of Zimbabwe under the new leadership. We also asked Panashe about her favourite writers, and her prestigious PhD undertaking at Harvard University.