Friday, May 14, 2010

29. The Wasp and the Fig Tree by Brian Chikwava

Brian Chikwava is an African writer. His short story Seventh Street Alchemy was awarded the 2004 Caine Prize for African Writing and Chikwava became the first Zimbabwean to do so. Brian is among the exciting new generation of writers emerging on the African continent. Although born in Bulawayo, Chikwava's formative years were spent in Harare, where he attended university and frequented the popular artistes' venue The Book Café.

The Fig Tree and the Wasp is a short story I read at the Granta online magazine. This short story is an interesting and thought-provoking piece. It defines the author-artiste and projects him very much. I have not read anything by Brian save this short story and I am very much impressed by his writing.
The freedom for independence, which led to freedom of indulgence, the contraction of the 'long-illness' disease and the death of the the victim, is the trajectory upon which the story travels. The lives of men and women, boys and girls in the new Zimbabwe was likened to the behaviour of the wasp in the fig tree. According to the author ' the fig-wasp world, when all the girls have flown away to lay their eggs elsewhere and propagate the species, the fig fruit only goes down with the boys. In the world of men, when the rot set into the compounds and townships, it spared neither sex. Big jawed or winged, they all came down in the silent darkness of their fruit', thus the title of the story.
Brian uses two characters Silingiwe and Screw Vet to represent the new generation of females and males, respectively, in the new Zimbabwe. The story also portrayed the hypocrisy in most African homes where any communication on sexual health is abhorred yet they live or dance away their sexual fantasies. This was aptly said in the story '...acting out their sexual fantasies but not talking about sexual health.' The acting was made prominent by the new wave of waist-twirling dance, iskokotsha, which took the new Zimbabwe by surprise leading to the new wave of sexual promiscuity and sexual indulgence leading to death and thus breaking the long-practiced tradition of children burying their parents. 

In its entirety, the story deserved to be acknowledged. Read the short story here at Granta.

ImageNations' Rating: 5.0 out of 6.0


  1. Brian is an excellent writer, you should definitely read Harare North, Nana.

  2. thanks Ivor for the title. I would definitely look out for it.


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