Charles Mungoshi Waiting for the Rain (1975)

Background

Charles Muzuva Mungoshi was born on the 2nd. December 1947 in Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.

He was born in a village in the Manyene Tribal Trust Land near Chivhu, about 200 kilometres south of Harare, then Salisbury, the capital of Zimbabwe.

Charles Mungoshi is the first in a family of 8 children.

His father was the owner of a small farm.

Mungoshi spent his early childhood herding cattle on his father's farm.

Mungoshi's art lies in his ability to evoke the surroundings and portray the lives and minds of the members of extended families as they relate to each other and cope with the ever-changing world which encroaches on their rural existence.

Mungoshi has a special skill in narrating the intricacies of human perceptions, attitudes and thought processes in the microcosm of the African hut. Cf. Jane Austen's description of family life of 19th. century English gentry.

No doubt his skill at narration developed from the long winter evenings of his childhood when he would sit listening to his grandmother telling stories.

The character of Old Mandisa, Lucifer's maternal grandmother in Waiting for the Rain is based on Mungoshi's own grandmother.

Story-telling would have been a past-time for the whole village during the dry season.

Story-telling competitions were held regularly in the village and Mungoshi's grandmother was noted for her story-telling ability.

Mungoshi first went to school in 1959, at the age of 12.

He attended the Daramombe Upper Primary School.

In 1963, he moved to St. Augustine's High School at Penhalonga, near Mutare.

His English teacher, Father Daniel Pearce, encouraged his creative writing skills and his acting skills.

In 1966, his first short story "Cain's Medal" was published.

When he left school, Mungoshi found work with the Forestry Commission.

By 1969, he had moved to work as an invoice clerk at a bookshop in Salisbury.

He wrote more short stories during this time - stories which were published in Parade, a magazine aimed at an African readership with a circulation of more than 2,000.

Between 1967 and 1970, he wrote his first Shona novel, Makunun'unu maodzamwoyo (1970). Translation: Brooding Breeds Despair.

This is Mungoshi's most frequently published work.

In the years preceding Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, only 3,000 copies were printed, but since then the book has been a standard set work in schools and 42,500 copies have been printed.

The story focuses on a family in Manyene, Mungoshi's home district, and shows how a family suffers disaster as a mother attempts to marry off her daughter, Monika.

In 1972, Coming of the Dry Season was published.

This is Mungoshi's first collection of short stories in English.

The stories tell of how young urban and rural Zimbabweans (then, Black Rhodesians) grow up and become increasingly alienated from all aspects of their societies - the older generation, their home backgrounds, their work situations etc.

The young protagonists are trapped by their reflective mindsets - by their memories, become isolated psychologically and cannot find the freedom of action and decision they struccle for.

Coming of the Dry Season (1972) was published in Nairobi, Kenya.

This collectuon of short stories was banned by the Rhodesian Censorship Board in 1974.

The Board argued that the last story "The Accident" was subversive in respect of race relations.

The ban was lifted in 1978, on the eve of Zimbabwean independence.

However, the fact the Coming of the Dry Season was banned at all is indicative of how sensitive the White Rhodesian government was at the time - the early and mid-1970s.

In 1965, the White minority government of Ian Smith had declared UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) from the United Kingdom and the guerrilla organisations ZAPU and ZANU were formed in Mozambique and Zambia.

ZAPU and ZANU fighters attacked the Rhodesian security forces.

For nearly a decade (1965-1975), thousands of people died and millions were displaced.

In 1980, at the Lancaster House talks in London, the White minority Rhodesian government finally consented to hold multi-racial elections supervised by the British.

Robert Mugabe of the Shona-based ZANU won a landslide victory.

In 1990, a one-party Marxist-oriented state was eventually substituted for a multi-party democracy.

Independence in 1980 brought Mungoshi to the centre of the literary stage in Zimbabwe.

Up to independence, Mungoshi had been known as the author of a banned book.

Once the colonial administration and its censors had vanished, Mungoshi took up his position as a major contributor to Zimbabwean letters.

Coming of the Dry Season was republished in 1981.

Makunun'unu maodzamwoyo (1970) became a school set work throughout Zimbabwe.

In 1982, Mungoshi moved from the Literature Bureau and became an editor for the newly-formed Zimbabwe Publishing House.

In 1985, Mungoshi became writer-in-residence at the University of Zimbabwe at Harare.

In terms of his works, independence changed his authorial attitude, his authorial stance.

White supremacy had disappeared and there was no need to criticise it, even implicitly.

Lewis Nkosi wrote in Home and Exile and Other Selections (p. 161) that during the first phase of the liberation struggle throughout Southern Africa, writers "attempt to capture in their pamphlets, poems, novels and plays, the revolutionary impulse of which they are inalienably a part."

Then, in a second phase, writers "register not only the pains and joys of national rebirth, but begin to constitute an important source of critical consciousness for the nation."

This applies to Mungoshi in part.

Between 1975 and 1989, Mungoshi's creative energies were directed chiefly at work in Shona.

From 1980 onwards, Mungoshi became an insider - on the side of the post-independence administration - not an outsider as he had been during the colonial administration.

In 1989, he published Stories from a Shona Childhood and in 1991 One day Long Ago: More Stories from a Shona Childhood.

The 1991 publication won the Noma Award for African writing in 1992.

Both publications are collections of stories for children, written at a time when Zimbabwean publishers were trying to encourage young readerships.

Recently, Mungoshi has turned to writing film-scripts and acting and directing films.

In 1993, he wrote and directed a UNESCO film Abide with Me.

Mungoshi's interst in films and film-making suggests that he is interested in new media for expressing his perceptions of Zimbabwean society.

In 1997, Walking Still, a new collection of short stories, was published.

In 1998, Mungoshi was awarded the Commonwealth Writers Prize (African region) for fiction.

Mungoshi now lives in Harare with his wife and 5 children.

He prefers to write in seclusion, frequently on his family's farm near Chivhu.