Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The First Science-Fiction Novel in Shona

In Africa almost everybody is bilingual. There is a choice between speaking the colonialist language or the local language. And often we find ourselves in the middle, speaking the Pidgin Language (English, French, Portuguese) in unofficial places. In Nigeria, Pidgin English is the most common form of communication. However, some scholars have called for the use of African Languages in official settings. This call has been called populist by some and shunned by others. In fact, recently an author argued that the African Language divides. Until then, I never heard that the language of our forefathers could divide us. We all had our say on the issue.

However, few authors are taking this call to higher levels. A name that comes to mind easily is Ngugi wa Thiongo'o, who writes in Gikuyu, his mother tongue. And Masimba Musodza is also contributing to making this dream a success. Masimba Musodza, according to the Press Statement below, has written the first science-fiction novel in Shona. I first heard of Masimba when I read his short story, Yesterday's Dog, in the first edition of the African Roar anthology. That story showed the cyclic nature of man and the ever-changing roles we hold. His story was one of my favourites in the collection.

The Press Statement
UK based Zimbabwean author, Masimba Musodza, has ushered in a new era in Zimbabwean literature by publishing the definitive first science-fiction/horror novel in ChiShona and the first in that language to be available on amazon Kindle.

MunaHacha Maive Nei weaves issues of greed & corruption, sustainable development, international corporate intrigue and concerns around bio-technology. Chemicals from a research station conducting illegal experiments begin to seep in to the local ecosystem, causing mutations in the flora and fauna. When a child is attacked by a giant fish, the villagers think it is an affronted mermaid-traditional custodian of the ecology- and seek to appease it according to the prescription of folk-lore. However, the reality of what is happening soon becomes evident, a reality more terrifying than any legend or belief.

MunaHacha Maive Nei was written for the next generation of ChiShona readers, taking a language that has long contended with encroaching westernisation into the modern world of information technology and new media. It was written in the United Kingdom, a country that considers ChiShona a language widely spoken enough to have official documents and information printed in. Musodza demonstrates a remarkable flair for ChiShona and overturns the notion that it is not possible to write "complicated stuff" in a language that is often shunned by the educated back home. Influenced by Professor Ngugi wa Thiongo's Decolonising the Mind, Musodza has been an advocate for the sustained use of African languages. (see this article here) It is his hope that MunaHacha Maive Nei will generate more than academic interest. The print edition will be published in the next few weeks by Coventry-based Lion Press Ltd.

Masimba Musodza was born in Zimbabwe in 1976, and came to England in 2002. A screenwriter by profession, he published his first book in 1997, The Man who turned into a Rastafarian. He is perhaps best known in literary circles for his Dread Eye Detective Agency series. Musodza lives in the North-East England town of Middlesbrough.

click here for the link to Musodza's page on amazon Kindle


  1. How very interesting! Thank you for sharing that press release with us Nana. I do hope that the novel gets translated :)

  2. Thanks for providing me with this information. True, a name that easily comes to mind in writing in one's own language is Ngugi. Congrats to Masimba. This is a bold step.

  3. I have read a little bit about the issues of language in Africa, I think over on Amy's site and find the repercussions of this very interesting. Thanks for examining it further for me!

  4. @Geosi, yes Ngugi's step was a bold one and one worth emulating. Congrats to Masimba... we only wish more would follow...

  5. @Zibilee... the issue of language and its use by Africans is one that needs deeper understanding. Most of us were born with a first language that isn't English. We learn it in school and so it does not come naturally to us. Can it therefore lead to progress?

  6. Nana, a few days ago it was Chenjerai Hove and now this! You are really doing the Zim literature at the moment, and we Zimbabweans appreciate it! Do you know THE HAIRDRESSER OF HARARE by Tendai Huchu? It is a brilliant little book, and I think you would really like it.

    I am torn on the subject of languages, because while I see the very great difficulties of communicating in English, I would be really sad if it did not exist - as, for example, I would not be able to read and enjoy blogs from all over Africa!

  7. @Sarah, thanks. And tomorrow there would be another Zim man... just watch out for it. He is young and talented.

    You are late here... lol. Tendai Huchu sent me a copy of his book after an interview I had with him here on this very blog. You can read it here...


    Then I read and reviewed the novel too here...


    I agree with you on the subject of language. We cannot discard English language entirely. But we can also work with ours and promote it. The Chinese still speak Chinese and English... We need English but then so do we also need our local languages.

  8. I was reading a science fiction piece on Naijastories earlier today and wished the author had not translated the pieces he wrote in Igbo one of the local languages in Nigeria since it was superflous to me being an igbo speaker. But I understand that for international audiences, translation is necessary. Looking forward to seeing this in English someday but this is indeed a giant stride.

  9. found my here via io9 article and just wanted to give you a heads up that I posted the news on my blog and provided credit to your blog.

    My blog is new (only 2nd day) so I don't expect much traffic, but wanted to let you know.

    my post is here http://indigenouswrites.blogspot.com/2011/06/news-first-sci-fi-novel-published-in.html

  10. Thanks Scott... I visited and found what you are doing exciting...

  11. @Myne. Me too I wish to read this in English.

  12. How neat!
    The issue of language is so complex and sensitive. I don't know how to respond except to say that spreading literacy and writing in any language is always a good thing.

  13. Absolutely wonderful. This trend is to be encouraged. Looking forward to the translation. It's wonderful to be able to say that.

  14. I remember reading some kind of science fiction (i'd still call it so) when in primary school (childrens' book) and the setting was Ghana and it had to do with some child learning about some tricky stuff. omg i've forgotten the title but i found that book so useful that i would recommend it. Just wanted to say, so if you remember any book of the sort then see if you can remind me of the title.

  15. @Kinna... Yes, it needs to be encouraged!

  16. @Novisi, I would if I should come across it.

  17. @Marie... yes it is a complex thing. But I also believe that it is good if we all could read and also in our own languages.


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