There’s a ‘Lucifer’ in our midst

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WAITING FOR THE RAIN is a compelling novel in many ways.

It is the story of our past, present and future.

That future is what many are yearning for. 

It is a future that can only be told from the perspective of our history.

Yet that history is not what some in our midst want to hear.

They do not want that history to be told.

They deflect that history for their own selfish reasons.

We have a problem in this country, where some try to create a new narrative, a narrative devoid of the past.

A narrative that is anti-people.

A narrative that excludes people from the centre of activity.

This is what Charles Mungoshi is rejecting in Waiting for the Rain.

Instead, he is telling the Zimbabwean story from our own perspective.

Let us look at the following closely.

Waiting for the Rain (1975) sheds light on the colonial system of governance in Rhodesia, which put a damper on individual and collective aspirations of the oppressed black people. 

Unable to find solace in the oppressive sites of the colonial house of hunger, the individual seeks flight out of familial and communal restrictive abodes through dreams and journeying. 

Told in the present tense and centering heavily on metaphor, the novel takes the reader into interactive spaces of power and expectation, through the metonymic Mandengu family, waiting for their son Lucifer to bring them glad tidings from the city as he prepares to go overseas on a scholarship to study art. 

Predominant in the symbolic representation of the individual and his location in the national discourse is the metaphor of waiting, which as has been highlighted earlier on, necessitates journeying. 

This waiting is juxtaposed with the metaphor of rain, which symbolises life and all that gives it meaning, glaringly absent in colonial Rhodesia. 

Rain is regenerative, yet it is lacking, itself an area of contestation, especially when read in juxtaposition with waiting and wandering. 

The expectation is that rain will bring political and cultural freedom.

The Mandengu family anxiously waits for the Western educated Lucifer to bring them out of the quagmire they wallow in. 

However, the family’s expectations are hamstrung because the subtle nature of colonialism and its educational structure do not allow Lucifer to think outside the box.

All is in vain because the supposedly voice of the voiceless also needs an outlet to be articulated. 

Suffering an identity crisis, Lucifer fails to locate himself “either in the colonial discourse as epitomised by the transistor radio or the national discourse as embodied in the ‘drum’” (Ziwira, 2014).

Lucifer’s rejection of what constitutes home, his sitting on the fringes of the sites of home as a culmination of colonialism, and ideological alienation bare the universal neurosis and paralysis which obtain in the novel and is metaphorically captured in the title.

Through setting and the journey motif Mungoshi is able to lay bare the contradictions of hope prevalent in colonial Rhodesia. 

Lucifer’s contradictory character, his detachment from the physical and psychological barrenness pervading the lives of his people, as depicted through his bus journey to Manyene.

Let us be aware of Lucifers in our midst.

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