Conversations with Edinah Masanga

Masimba Musodza's new novel 

is a spellbinding thriller

I am  currently reading a Shona Novel by Zimbabwean writer Masimba Musodza.  I must
admit, I last read a Shona(my native laguage) novel when I was in high school. I enjoyed reading thrillers and classics. Fast forward years later, I got lost in English literature. But one day I found myself looking at a recent shona novel blurb. I was intrigued by the masonry of the writer and lured by curiosity. I was curious to read horror in my language. A first for me!

The conclusion is nothing like I expected. But that too is typical of Masimba Musodza. 

The title is intriguing because it is ambiguous. But so too is the novel, such that it is not too far-fetched to foresee readings and interpretations of it coming in from different schools of literary criticism. If there is one thing that anyone who has read Musodza’s previous novel in Shona will have learnt to expect, it is a fearsome monster. He holds up his imaginary monster like a mirror against the real monsters of Zimbabwean society. Musodza takes on several societal issues- sexual predation, the inadequacies of the justice system, the decadence and lack of nobless oblige of the elite- and wraps them in a fast-paced horror novel about summoning an ancient demonic entity (the Shavi Rechikadzi/Female Demon).

Nhamo, a young girl, an orphaned domestic servant, is gang-raped by dissolute the sons of well-to-do families. The culprits are acquitted on a technicality. Nhamo’s hopes of continuing to look after herself and perhaps pursue further education, and of being with the young man she loved, are shattered. Although she is trying to move on, she is angry. Only someone who has been in a that dark place knows what is there, and knows how to turn that dark into a very powerful force for revenge. 
Masimba Musodza has a powerful way with the Shona language. We are angry at the injustice, we empathise with all the victims of rape, and we are terrified of the Shavi Rechikadzi. He draws from not only the Zimbabwean tradition, but also from the western horror genre he has been exposed to, and the mythology of the ancient culture of Mesopotamia. He refers to the terrible grimoire, De Vermis Mysterii, the Mysteries of the Worm, supposedly written by one Ludvig Prinn before he was executed by the Catholic Inquisition in the 15th century. Musodza takes us into the work and lives of a unit of police specialists on the frontline of tackling sexual violence. 

When all that has been said and done, the question remains: is this a work of literary or popular fiction? With Musodza, the jury will have to be out a little longer. On the one hand, he has used a language spoken by the Zimbabwean masses, even those who live in the cosmoplitan sophistication of Europe and America. However, the themes are multi-layered, leaving the reader with much to think about. Shona literature has come of age with this scary yet fast-paced yet moving novel. 
Details for purchase if you would like to indulge the wizadry of Musodza too.

Title: Shavi Rechikadzi
Author: Masimba Musodza
Publisher: Belontos Books (16 July 2015),ISBN-13: 978-1908690326
Language: Shona
Length: 510pp
Available from: directly from the publishers and online retailers around the world, including ebook distributo

Edinah Masanga having a 'conversation' about Life in Zimbabwe at the moment. October 2015.


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