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The Return of Andrew Chatora… “Harare Voices and Beyond”

The UK-based Zimbabwean author, Andrew Chatora, has yet another new novel on the way! This is the third novel in three years from the fast rising writer from Mutare. It is called Harare Voices and Beyond. Preview by Memory Chirere, University of Zimbabwe.

This story is based on the troubled lives of a white commercial farming family who dramatically lose both their very active father and their farm in Mazowe to jambanja. The term jambanja means fast and sometimes dramatic activity, which became the other term for the recent occupations of white farms.

After such a loss, the Williams drift reluctantly to their house in a posh northern suburb of  Harare but soon inactivity and poverty set in. The two white boys; Rhys and Julian Williams start to drift away physically and mentally. They go south of Robert Mugabe Way, into the traditionally poor black territory of Harare in search of survival, beer, dangerous drugs, easy sex and other things. Meanwhile, their mother, Doris, becomes a sitting duck. She floats mentally and the sudden fall of fortunes leaves her close to being an invalid.

The boys are gradually ‘going native’ as they become involved in spaces and activities not usually associated with the well-heeled white masters of Zimbabwe since occupation. They are newcomers to a world of lack that they had only watched from a safe distance before. There is always a price to pay when one falls down from privilege. In colonial discourse, the term “going native” means the white man is becoming one with the ‘savages’ or the natives, to the extent of eating what they eat and eventually feeling as they do…

When the worst comes, this family is caught up in a wave of loud misunderstandings amongst themselves and in the subsequent melee, the mother and one of the boys allegedly kill the younger of the boys by accident and in fear, they secretly bury his body in their home, until it is eventually discovered.

This is, to my knowledge, the first fully fledged novel by a black Zimbabwean writer to look at the setbacks suffered by white folk during the Zimbabwe land reform. Andrew Chatora searches delicately for the place and scope of the white community in post independent Zimbabwe.  Being a pathfinder of sorts, many may find this novel either unsettling or satisfying, or both.

Many critical questions shall be asked. How do you write white people effectively when you are a black writer from Zimbabwe? Would that tantamount to speaking on behalf of the enemy? Would you be able to show that their loss is as a result of complex events within and beyond Zimbabwe? The author’s real test was in tactically navigating this very contentious terrain.

Many critical questions shall be asked. How do you write white people effectively when you are a black writer from Zimbabwe?

Chatora has chosen a subject that is emotive and well followed across the world; the land reform of Zimbabwe. Was the reform right? Was the land reform necessary? Was the process, right? Was Mugabe right? Should Mugabe be bashed all the way for leading this land reform? What should the white people have done to come out unscathed? Have we ever seen a reform of a similar scale in all post independent Africa? How does jambanja echo the earlier process of white occupation of black land a century earlier?

But Harare Voices and Beyond does not disappoint.

The fast track land reform phase brought Zimbabwe into the international media, arguably much more than the liberation struggle for Zimbabwe itself. In a widely circulated website interview with Nordiska Afrikainstitutet of (February 2004), Zimbabwean writer and literary scholar, Robert Muponde, argues that ‘Land is the text of Zimbabwean History and Literature.’ He is referring to the centrality of Land in the earlier seminal Zimbabwean literature texts set in Rhodesia. Some of them are Waiting for The Rain, Dew in the Morning and Without a Name. In all these novels, land is either an issue in the background or is a side show with varying degrees of prominence.

As I come to the end of Chatora’s novel, I recall that Robert Muponde adds: “…the writer who a year ago was urging the politician to seize land, even factories and shops belonging to white people (as suggested in Mujajati’s Victory of 1993), in the name of the people, now finds that the politician has not only outdone the writer in shouting the presence of inequalities in society. The politician has gone further. He has left the writer with two stark choices: the writer must endorse the politician’s and war veteran’s actions because that is what he (the writer) was urging in his poems (in the case of musicians, in their songs), or he must condemn the actions as reckless, etc.”

As I think about that, I realise that perhaps, a big take away from this novel is the author’s ability (which may surprise Muponde) to skillfully showcase and dramatize to the reader that the land reform in Zimbabwe has its sharp and irreconcilable contradictions. There are many versions of the land reform story of Zimbabwe, depending on who is telling which part of the broad story, where… and who is listening!

In many ways this is a detective story narrated through Rhys and Marina, two prisoners at the Chikurubi Prison as they recount their personal life stories which have brought them to their present realities. They are a crucial link to the mafia style underworld of Harare. In the dead of the night, Harare crawls with the least expected liaisons between the rich and the poor, black and white and at every corner, there is a surprise meeting between rivals. In this space you meet perverts, street people, hard core criminals, politicians, preachers, drug pushers…

Chatora is now a master at delicate subjects

Chatora is now a master at delicate subjects. In his first novel, he shows us the trials and tribulations of a determined black teacher from Zimbabwe who tries to teach English to white children in England. His second novel is about a native who leaves the periphery (Harare) for the centre (England) due to economic reasons, but later returns to the periphery (Harare) and returns to London once more!

Harare Voices and Beyond is published by Chicago based Kharis Publishing – an imprint of Kharis Media LLC and is released on 1st February 2023. Copies will shortly available to order in digital, paperback and hardback format from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, Walmart, Target Christian books and other online book retailers.

The book adds on to Andrew Chatora’s growing stable of contemporary fiction/migrant literature as it is a welcome addition to his cannon, two other books: Diaspora Dreams and Where the Heart Is are also published by Kharis Publishing and available from  Amazon.

+Preview By Memory Chirere, University of Zimbabwe

The preview  originally appeared on Memory Chirere’s blog on 8 November 2022 and it is republished here with the permission of the writer. No changes were made to the original article

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About the Author

Andrew Chatora

Andrew Chatora

Andrew Chatora is a Zimbabwean novelist, essayist and short-story writer based in Bicester, England. He grew up in Mutare, Zimbabwe, and moved to England in 2002. His debut novella, Diaspora Dreams (2021), was approvingly received and nominated for the National Arts Merit Awards (2022). His second book, Where the Heart Is, was published in the same year to considerable acclaim. Chatora’s forthcoming book, Born Here, But Not in My Name, is a brave, humorous and psychologically penetrating portrait of post-Brexit Britain. Chatora is noted for his acerbic and honest depiction of the migrant experience. Heavily influenced by his own experience as a black English teacher in the United Kingdom, Chatora probes multi-cultural relationships, identity politics, blackness, migration, citizenship and nationhood.

''Inside Harare Alcatraz and Other Short Stories affords Andrew Chatora to tell his story with more urgency than before. Chatora roars into centre stage with this charmed confluence of the novella, the essay, the treatise, the short story and the vignette. Here is a collection to startle you out of your complacency.'' – Memory Chirere, University of Zimbabwe

In his fourth literary offering, Andrew Chatora gives us eleven stories written in a wide range of settings and painting the lives of Zimbabweans from different walks of life. From the impenetrable Harare prison to the working class Mutare and its domain of shebeen queens to suburban Harare and a politically charged United Kingdom in a post Brexit world, Chatora takes the reader on a grand tour of outrage. Notwithstanding the shifts in scene and setting, these stories have one pervasive theme in common - they capture the suffocation and desperation of Zimbabwe and her Diaspora and fully describe the precariousness of living in environments that are increasingly hostile.

Inside Harare Alcatraz and Other Short Stories transcends the grass is never greener perspective with a nuanced interrogation of the socio-political realities of its characters. Chatora fashions a diverse cast of characters whose complexities and eccentricities evoke the utmost in us.
"Where The Heart Is offers a nuanced view of one family’s struggle to negotiate cold Britannia as they face dicey neighbourhoods, sketchy liaisons, and perennial ill-fate. Chatora’s diaspora is not the glorified El Dorado; it is an honest place of grit and survival. A stellar contribution."

– Tariro Ndoro, Author Agringada: Like a Gringa, Like a Foreigner

For migrant Fari Mupawaenda, life cannot be complete without quitting the back breaking struggle for survival in the UK and returning to the laid-back streets of a warm Harare… but does it make sense for him to want to return to the periphery once more? The man who returns, why does he return? To what does he return?

His wife, a zealous cosmopolitan, the daughter, a conflicted bed-hopping undergraduate, and the son, a budding homosexual, will not follow Fari in his trip to what they see as the back of beyond. They have decided to invest fully where they are.
Fari’s reverse trip is a story about the human body, a tight memory test and a duel between geography and anticipation…

Masterful in style and form, the narratives in Andrew Chatora’s Where the Heart Is are intensely provocative.

-Memory Chirere- University of Zimbabwe
“Chatora gives us an honest account of the migrant’s experiences in a world that seeks to silence him. Diaspora Dreams is simultaneously suffocating and isolating. Battle after battle, the reader is constantly thrown into the unforgiving world of a black man in a white man’s world.” – Tariro Ndoro, Author, Agringada: Like a Gringa, Like a Foreigner

Diaspora Dreams is Andrew Chatora’s debut novella. It details the life and struggles of Kundai Mafirakureva, a Zimbabwean immigrant living in the United Kingdom. When Kundai departs a failing Zimbabwe for the greener pastures of England, he is convinced that his luck will immediately change. Yet what he finds in the UK convinces him that all that glitters is not always gold.

Chatora takes us on a journey that acquaints us with Thames Valley, where Kundai must negotiate his place and his voice in a world where African men are not welcome, a world where racial prejudice is still rampant. Set against the backdrop of petty classroom squabbles that constantly remind Kundai of his lower status as an immigrant and as a black man, Diaspora Dreams exposes the tensions of working in the diaspora and the complicated dynamics between community and authority experienced by black men.

The pressures of Britain also bear down on Kundai’s family and relationships, threatening, in the words of du Bois, to “tear his soul asunder.” This is a novel with comedic elements gleaming with personal values and beliefs, sometimes an aching story to read, but never without excitement and hope as you watch this black man’s life unfold.
“Harare Voices and Beyond takes us on a journey through the dark recesses of the human psyche.”

─Sue Quainton, Bicester, United Kingdom

A drunken confession exposes a dark family secret. Rhys appears to have it all. A white Zimbabwean living in affluent Borrowdale Brooke area he gets involved in a freak traffic accident. Therein unfolds a confession which unleashes a cathartic chain of events in the family’s hitherto well-choreographed life, a family whose lived experience becomes microcosmic and an eye opener to Zimbabwe’s seemingly closed, forgotten, white minority community.

Through offering a rare insight into lives of the white community in post-independence Zimbabwe, Harare Voices and Beyond explores the dynamics of love, money, family feuds, identity politics, false philanthropy, and respectability inter-alia. Two families’ lives are inexorably linked in this fast-paced narrative which not only traverses multiple locations, but also juxtaposes the seedy underbelly of Harare with the leafy northern suburbs, and little-known Marina Thompson from UK Durham University all appear linked in a drama-infused finale that will shock and numb the reader.

Today in Literature

Andrew Chatora’s Debut Novella “Diaspora Dreams” Stares Back at the White Gaze


The Breaking of Our Tribe: A Review of Where the Heart Is by Andrew Chatora


Charles Lovemore Mungoshi – Eulogy to Greatness


Navigating New Identities – A Review of Andrew Chatora’s “Diaspora Dreams”


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