Is NoViolet a victim of West’s propaganda? | The Herald

via Is NoViolet a victim of West’s propaganda? | The Herald October 18, 2013 by Stanely Mushava

“WE NEED NEW NAMES”, NoViolet Bulawayo’s debut novel, which was recently shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, excited more international acclaim than any Zimbabwean book in the recent past. Zimbabwe’s literary arena had some rich pickings recently including the overdue comeback of Charles Mungoshi with “Branching Streams Flow in the Dark”, Spiwe Harper’s “Footprints in the Mists of Time” and the most improved Zimbabwe International Book Fair in recent years.

All these went virtually unnoticed by the international media except “We Need New Names” which was not only nominated for the Man Booker but also revelled in glowing reviews in British and American newspapers, notably The Guardian and New York Times.

This brings the criteria used by these Western cultural institutions and media echo chambers up for scrutiny.

Is greater emphasis being placed on merit or rather on works that align with the West’s stereotypes on Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular?

The Western media is in consensus that Africa is a dark continent and Zimbabwe is a trouble spot.

Stories about local achievements and authentic African aspirations always get overlooked while Africa is only a synonym of war, poverty and civil unrest going by the lenses of Fox, CNN and BBC.

This is apparently the same criterion when it comes to the literature which excites the West.

Reviews of “We Need New Names” in the papers were more politically themed than artistically contrived, giving the impression that Western papers never miss a chance to adopt a first-hand endorsement of its mean view of Africa.

“Bulawayo’s tome is remarkable for the way it ticks every box in the way the West sees Africa,” writes Indian critic Professor Vikram Kappur.

Reading it, you get the sense that the writer is attempting to cover bases rather than tell a story. It would be a real surprise if she won.”

“They flee their own wretched land so their hunger may be pacified in foreign lands, their tears wiped away in strange lands, the wounds of their despair bandaged in faraway lands, their blistered prayers muttered in the darkness of queer lands,” Bulawayo contrasts Zimbabwe and America in her novel.

Global media institutions, who have been perpetuating the Dark Continent mantra ad infinitum, understandably had a field day securing an extension of their slanted coverage on Africa in Zimbabwean writing itself, hence the hullabaloo.

New York Times conveniently follows up: “The place they are leaving, in this case, is Zimbabwe, that African nation brutalised by more than 30 years of malignity and neglect under the autocratic rule of Robert Mugabe — a country reeling from unemployment, hunger, inflation, Aids and the Government’s torture and violent intimidation of all political opposition.

“The place many of them are hoping to flee to is the United States — the destination of the novel’s young narrator, Darling, who will begin a new life there with her aunt.”

The Guardian had more to say on politics than literature with such screaming banners as “NoViolet Bulawayo tells of heartbreak of homecoming to Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.”

“My generation is known as the born free generation: We really don’t buy this stance against the West because we are aware of our problems, and our problems are really specifically home grown,” Bulawayo told The Guardian.

Authors and critics of a pan-African sensibility would obviously be quick to differ in light of how the West’s far-flung tentacles in Africa are at the heart of the continent’s problems.

America’s underclass, reeling from the problems listed by The NY Times, not in Zimbabwe but in the US, would be also quick to differ.

More than settling for alliances, the real concern is how powerful Western institutions are directing the agenda in African literature by giving exclusive eminence to works that concur with their biased view on Africa.



  • comment-avatar
    Charlie nyikadzino 10 years ago

    its good yo can write this for us to see how the state propaganda machinery works. its a good case study. Well done

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    Sekuru Mapenga 10 years ago

    There is a difference between how western media review the book and focus on the political implications of her story, and the literary merit of Bulawayo’s book.
    The book itself is quite brilliant and unique, wonderfully written and powerful and that is why it has been short-listed for the Booker Man Prize, the most prestigious of all literary awards for fiction. Congratulations NoViolet! You really deserve it.
    The fact that western media have chosen to focus on the politics of Zimbabwe, the setting for the story, is an entirely different issue, and may well show a bias against Zimbabwe. However this does not detract from the quality of Bulawayo’s book.

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    Zvichapera 10 years ago

    So when you speak your its not acceptable. Only views that resonate your stunted thinking are correct, haa, Shows the other side of the pyschological warfare going on. Playing with our minds, she wrote the truth as it is. Brilliant and to the point. The West is part of the global village and we should accept that. Why are we not taking refuge in Russia or China. What draws to West is what the critic should unravel. Poor souls living in retro of Chimurenga. That time is gone and expressions of today reflecting our situation are normal in so called free societies.

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    The New York Times and CNN singing for their supper attacking Zimbabwean politics and here is our own Herald singing for theirs as well, so what’s the difference. I do not think it is proper to try and downgraded the author’s work and talent based on the fact that some reviewer has critised along lines you do not buy, personally I regard NoViolet as an exceptional young talent from Zimbabwe and she deserves to be in that list and I will be very proud if she lands the award. She is a social commentator, with more than 3.5 million citizens who ran away from the motherland from poverty, unemployment and violence, she is spot on when she said “They flee their own wretched land so their hunger may be pacified in foreign lands, their tears wiped away in strange lands, the wounds of their despair bandaged in faraway lands, their blistered prayers muttered in the darkness of queer lands,”. With the rampant corruption in government, many of us who have lost 15 years of their productive lives concur when she says “My generation is known as the born free generation: We really don’t buy this stance against the West because we are aware of our problems, and our problems are really specifically home grown,”. She is a genius, I suggest Mr Mushava finds time to read the piece on your own and have a personal judgement of the work.

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    RWhen new writers arive on the arena they deserve our support not to discredit them on the basis that they are not singing our obvious tune. Cowards like Mungoshi whose questionable lit prowess is purely a fabrication of Dambudzo have betrayed the country by continously focusing on insignificant themes. Bravo young lady, yur pen sings the song.

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    Tsuro Magen'a 10 years ago

    Be advised Anything the Herald says is “not good”, it’s good…The Herald and ZTV’s mission is turn our country into a North Korea. Lets resist it till we die. Please advise where I can buy the book. Lets look, support and buy the book in mass..

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      I got mine from Amazon. If you are lucky you might get a special offer, its a good piece you wont regret it

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    Msizeni Silwelani 10 years ago

    Any text is critiqued in accordence with its storyline, settihg and the way it tackles contemporary issues. Once a text is released to the reader, the author has no control over its interpretation. The analyst does not tell us about his/her opinion on the storytime and the zim politics today.

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    Amkela 10 years ago

    I have read the book it’s a very nice read. Pls go buy.

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    Mandla 10 years ago

    It might be true that the book sees zimbabwe thru the stunted lens of post-colonial hatred of mugabe, but who else can we trust when we want a dose of the truth? Manheru is not literary enuf, and he sings for his zanu supper. Noviolet on the other hand has nothing but honesty, anger, and perhaps a noble ideal of peace and prosperity in sight. She will get her dues in the long run, as will those who believe to murder and rape is noble. Ten years hence, school syllabuses will read bulawayo with awe, and spit on anything mugabe and his monkeys are venerating now. Theft is not a struggle, torture not a valid route to paradise. Embrace all as sons of the soil, show respect to just laws. Dialogue with your brothers, not find excuses to incarcerate them. Tsvangirai is not an intellectual but his love for his people is from the heart, a place most of you forgot to visit decades ago.