By Nyasha Mutena
‘Born and bred in a dusty rural area where nothing ever happens’, a district that is at the mercy of social media platforms engrossed with sheer mockery, the people of Gokwe are mocked relentlessly for their ‘strong rural background’. But Gokwe is the crucible for people who are heeled and steeped in culture and natural human history. Daniel Mutendi crapped out of the crucible of Gokwe, to grow up, master his trade and win awards without effort.
He lost his father as an infant and had to find true meaning to his life from a doting mother, who in his own words, ‘was a source of great wisdom’ and his Grandfather, Rt Reverend Samuel Mutendi who sired a whole clan thereby giving him lots of ‘dads’, aunts and ‘moms’ to grow up in a closely-knit but expansive communal family.
Daniel Mutendi, a teacher and avid writer, was born in 1972, a bright kid in as far as academic exam results were concerned. His journey of writing was to be incepted in 2011 when he became a columnist for Jewel Magazine drawing his inspiration from his mere eagerness to share knowledge with others whom, he believes would teach him as well.
Whilst many aspiring and established Zimbabwean writers have chosen to publish their work in English, dreams of hogging the international limelight preoccupying their minds, Mutendi says he is proud and will always give his indigenous Shona language first preference despite the fact that he has a strong command of English language and is also a Shona to English language and vice-versa translator.
Mutendi says his mission was further fuelled by the need to promote self-love after noting that so many Zimbabweans are suffering from self-hate which has been in existence ever since the colonial era and as he put it across ‘made many people too learned for their language’.
“I looked at the myriad of problems that have been harassing Africa as a whole and Zimbabwe in particular and realized that most of them emanate from self-hate amongst our people,” he said.
A proud author to two books that have won Zimbabwe’s prestigious NAMA awards, (National Arts Merit Awards), Tsuro naGudo-Outstanding Children’s Book on the literary awards section NAMA 2016 and Mazai eMheni, Outstanding Fiction Book NAMA 2019, Mutendi suggested that in-order for people to become experts at most of life’s endeavours, there was need for them to start appreciating their cultural origins.
“We will only develop fully when we become proud of who we are and begin to develop and cherish what is ours’. He said.
Mutendi engages in constant workshops where he teaches aspiring writers how to write compelling novels for free. He said a people’s culture is embedded in their languages and this was an eye opener for him to then realise the importance of preservation of indigenous languages, further motivating him to strive and produce high quality content in the Shona language, the language that he speaks and understand best. He only hopes that other writers will see value in this and be able write a lot more in their indigenous languages.
Being a husband and father to three beautiful children, Mutendi says it is the duty of every parent to try to make tomorrow a better place for their offspring and work hard towards ensuring that they are culture enriched and proud of whom they are.
He says his journey was also a bumpy one, the most challenge emanating from trying to impress an audience which strongly believes that anything foreign is better than local.
“Many Shona speaking people shun their language and regard it as powerless compared to English therefore when they see a Shona written book they believe it is worthless and this the main reason why reading culture is dying in Zimbabwe.
“Many people favour an avalanche of jokes and other mediocre reading material on the internet, most of which does not develop them wholesomely to become dignified citizens in the global village, the content that is carefully produced is often frowned upon,” He said.
Mutendi lamented how even a poor book published in English language has a wider audience from fellow Zimbabweans compared to a Shona novel compiled with the utmost care and high quality cultural context.
“A book scribbled in poor English language is preferred to a novel published in Shona by fellow Zimbabweans and this is quite disturbing,” he said.
He commented established writers who keep up the good work of writing, educating, informing and above all entertaining the world and urged aspiring writers to take their space whilst they still can saying time is not patient.
In his quest to promote and give other writers an opportunity to showcase their work, Mutendi says he has developed an Android mobile device application and soon it shall be on iOS devices where writers can sell or rent their eBooks to readers for very little cost.
He named the application Afrika Bhukus, a name which was meant to market the Shona language and is aimed to uplift writers on the global village. He said currently books will be uploaded for free on the Afrika Bhukus platform but the best part of the application is that a reader cannot share a book to another and it can only be available on one mobile device. He says when using an Android mobile device, interested parties can access it on Play Store and download the Afrika Bhukus application for free.