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Inside/Out with author and researcher Blessing-Miles Tendi
February 10, 2011

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Full interview with Blessing-Miles Tendi - Read and listen

Describe yourself in five words?
I'm a Zimbabwean researcher in African Politics.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Always give your best, and believe in yourself.

What's the most ridiculous thing you've ever done?
It's probably the women I've dated. Professionally I'd say it's that I've been to places asking questions, where I shouldn't be asking questions.

What is your most treasured possession?
My family, although it doesn't sound right to call my family a possession.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Self pity.

Do you have any strange hobbies?
Often when I'm working on something I become rather obsessive about it.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
I'm kind of balding. I used to have very rich dark hair and I've got two sisters, who envied my hair. And now to see it go away while I'm still relatively young is just hard.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Giving, in terms of emotional or material support. But it does give you a lot back.

What have you got in your fridge?
I love those South African sausages . . . fish, pineapples, because pineapple is my favourite fruit.

What is your greatest fear?

What have you got in your pockets right now?
This is the most bizarre thing about me. They're empty; I never have anything in my pockets. I feel free that way. I like my pockets empty. You know what they say about a man who comes with empty pockets? He has no ulterior motives, what you see is what you get.

What is your favourite journey?
For me it's always home. My parents are Ndau, but I was born and raised in Bulawayo.

Interviewer: Do you speak Ndebele?
Ngiyakhulumisi Ndebele, ndino rekete chiNdau, ndino taura chiShona

Interviewer: What do you think about the great Shona Ndebele divide?
There's a book by Brian Raftopoulos and A Mlambo, Becoming Zimbabwe, it's one of my favourite books right now. One of it's aims it to take apart historical myths. One such thing they take apart is this divide between Shona and Ndebele. What is Shona really? What is Ndebele really? Ndebele is made out of various disparate groups, so are the Shona, Zezurus, Manyikas, Ndau . . . and they call them Shona. For me really these are politicised constructions, both Ndebele and Shona, which in many ways have kept the country apart, for quite false reasons. But obviously very useful to politicians. Listen

Who are your heroes in real life?
Jocelyn Alexander. She was one of my supervisors at University. She's an Oxford professor and the most intelligent human being I've ever met. I totally admire and look up to her.

When and where were you happiest?
Whenever I'm with my mother.

Interviewer: Are you a mommy's boy?
I guess you could say that. When I'm with my mum I'm at my happiest. Your mum's your mum; she carried you around for nine months, its unconditional. I've made stupid mistakes in my time but she takes me back all the time.

What's your biggest vice?
. . . Yeah, we're having this interview and I'm having shots of brandy . . . that's my biggest vice.

What were you like at school?
Quiet. A geek. Read a lot. Wanted to be popular, but never was because the popular in high school were the athletes.

What are you doing next?
Working on my next book. It's going to be a history book. The core thesis is still a little disparate right now so I can't get into what exactly I want to do. I guess I'm going to figure it out as I work on it.

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Audio File

  • Shona / Ndebele divide
    Language: English
    Duration: 43sec
    Date: February 10, 2011
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 681KB

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