Novels of Cultural Conflict and Protest

Rino Zhuwarara, Ph.D., Chair, Department of English, University of Zimbabwe

Given the history of Zimbabwe, it is not surprising that Stanlake Samkange's novel entitled On Trial for My Country (London, Heinemann, 1966) is preoccupied with the injustice meted out to Africans at the turn of the last century. Even his second novel, Year of the Uprising (London, Heinemann, 1978), expresses the moral outrage of a people who bitterly resented the brutal manner in which Africans were dispossessed of their land, as does Solomon Mutswairo's Mapondera: Soldier of Zimbabwe (Harare, Longman Zimbabwe, 1983; also published as Mapondera: Soldier of Fortune. Washington DC, Three Continents Press, 1983). The precolonial past is seen in these works as having been morally superior to Western Civilization.

African heroes are resurrected in these historical novels and shown as models which subjugated Africans should emulate as they struggle for national liberation. Inspirini these two writers is their desire to refute the White man's fraudulent claims that the Black man had no history and no culture to speak of. Also Mutswairo's second English novel, Chaminuka: Prophet of Zimbabwe (Washington DC, Three Continents Press, 1983), seeks to project the pre-colonial past as having been shaped and influenced by a philosophy and a vision that was humane. At another level these two writers are also seeking to re-establish a meaningful relationship with the African past (which had been-deliberately distorted by the settlers) in order to enable the Black man to shape his future. Unfortunately their progressive historical vision is not always matched by their artistic performance. Consequently these historical novels will be remembered more for their rich oral material and the vision found in them rather than for their literary merit.

The theme of culture conflict and protest is further explored in Stanlake Samkange's more successful novel The Mourned One (London, Heinemann, 1975), as well as in Wilson Katiyo's A Son of the Soil (London, Rex Collings, 1976) and Geoffrey Ndhlala's Jikinya (Salisbury, Macmillan, 1979). Motivating these writers is their desire to show that in disregarding and destroying African culture, notwithstanding its limitations, the White man is trampling on something invaluable and creating a racist and exploitative society which not only deforms the Black man but also-impoverishcs the human spirit. These novels will remain invaluable as works which seek to expose the cultural contradictions which bedevilled African society during the colonial era.

  1. An Introduction to Zimbabwean Fiction in English
  2. Novels of Cultural Conflict and Protest
  3. Zimbabwean Cultural Malaise of the 1960s and '70s
  4. Geoffrey Ndhlala's The Southern Circle
  5. Samuel Chimsoro's Nothing Is Impossible
  6. Edmund Chipamaunga's A Fighter for Freedom
  7. Garikai Mutasa's The Contact
  8. Spencer Tizora's Crossroads

This essay first apeared in Zambezia: The Journal of the University of Zimbabwe (1987) 14 (1987): 132-33.
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Last Modified: 21 March, 2002