Delving into the depths of Rupise: Part One…exploring the virtues of an African woman

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Rupise – Poetry of love, separation and reunion (1977-2017)

By Dr Tafataona P. Mahoso

Samwasika Heritage Products 

ISBN 978-1-7706-070-9

IN a wave of eloquent passion, articulated in verse, Dr Tafataona Mahoso makes indelible his moments of inspiration.  

Robust, fleshy, rugged and textured, Dr Mahoso’s verses are a treat for the senses.

His latest collection of poetry is a distillation of sensuality, juxtaposing the landscape with the essence of birth, growth, sustenance and guidance from an African-centred view of womanhood.

Forty years are distilled in 136 pages of prose and summarised in his romantic ecopoetics.

Post-colonial African poetry has not, since The Song of Lowino, been known for its sensuality and substance, but rather for its cultural girth and revolution against racial, political and cultural oppression.  

Noted for its equivocal dialogue, the drama of the landscape in the collection of poetry, Rupise is brought to life as a metaphysical woman, surrogate wife or amainini, as is the norm in African culture. 

Rupise extols the virtues of an African woman. 

The concept of a truly indigenous body of Zimbabwean literature is a relatively new phenomenon.  

This is due to the fact that one of the offshoots of colonial racist policies in pre-independent Zimbabwe was the tendency to exclusively publish works by white novelists, poets, journalists and settler-diarists who wrote prose according to European experiences and traditions for a select white audience and market.

If we posit the definition of Zimbabwean literature as the literary works of indigenous Zimbabwean Africans who, through their prose and poetry, have expressed the human cultural aspirations, ideals and conceptualisations of the nation and its people, then Dr Mahoso’s name will be among the great literary innovators and voices of post-independent Zimbabwean literature.

In local African orature, literary forms are created for the ear rather than the eyes. 

Included in indigenous orature and the poetic form of madimikira (proverbs) are love poetry, praise poetry, epic poetry, devotional prayer poetry, folkloric poetry as well as legends and mythological poetry that shed light and proffer an insight into the imagination, cultural psychology and history of Zimbabwe’s indigenous people.

In his preface, Dr Mahoso writes: “The Poetic Power of Place Rupise is an African man’s homage to the poetic power of woman’s presence; woman as place, not just a face, revealing the depths of African philosophy embedded in such Shona expressions as ‘Musikakana idziya’ – a woman is the hearth of the home; ‘Musha mukadzi’ – a woman is the homestead and ‘Mukadzi itsime’ – a woman is the wellspring.”

English poetry, under a Shona title, is a novelty for Zimbabwean literature.  

From its arresting title Rupise, one expects Shona diction, but is pleasantly surprised by the English literary eloquence and ‘The River of Tongues’ that make Dr Mahoso such an astute man of letters in written and spoken English.  

Rupise is the tripos to his television presentations ZvaVanhu (of the people) and his illustrious lectures on African cultural reclamation.

Visually, as seductive and luscious as a Georgia O’Keeffe painting and as cerebrally lucid as Cabral’s multi-faceted lyrics, Dr Mahoso’s latest poetry testifies to his mastery of language, cultural history, philosophy and verse.  

His Seams of Common Language – the Universality of Human Emotion gives his poetry an evocative emotionalism. 

Deciphering poetry is not an easy task, especially when it involves many cultures.  

However, in Dr Mahoso’s new works Rupise – Poetry of Love, Separation and Reunion (1977-2017), he conflates intercontinental and African spaces in his rhythmic verses and diction in such a way that proves the nature of man extends beyond racial, cultural and class barriers.  

In his own words, he says he explores geographical locations where; “…a place and space is given character and personality through human movement.

I come from Rupise, that land of the hot springs,

Healing baths of providence

That thrust reflective presence through

Follicles of the Earth’s crust, full, galactic-like urns that emerge

Hot, steamy like coffee and tea drums

Ready to refresh an army of giants.

I came from Rupise, the geo-thermal vessels

Inviting partakers to pour out their own prospects …

…. of stirring mineral water and sprinkling incense.”

Environmentally, “Rupise, as an extended metaphor, therefore radiates and reverberates with meanings that provoke the imagination.  

There is water, rock, soil, foam, geo-thermal heat and changing hues of light that depend on whether it is raining, sunny, dry, full moon, starlit without the moon, dawn or dusk.”

Indigenous people had an intuitive understanding of life forces that gave power to land forms.  

As Dr Mahoso acknowledges in his book: “The elements of water, rock, soil, radiate more pertinently today as contemporary issues for the global struggle for a cleaner environment.  

But there is more to Rupise; it is about: ‘Homecoming and the reclamation of one of Africa’s elemental resources – the land’.”

Great poets are servants to intuition.  

In Shona philosophy, the term ‘kupihwa’ (to be given inspiration) is the same as in Greek mythology where writers were considered to be inspired by the muses.  

Rupise brings to the fore an inspired literary scholar with immense historical and cultural grounding and reveals the interconnectivity of cultures and ethnic groups.

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