Back to Index
have to write it as I feel it, at once, and as it needs to flow"
- Interview with Innocent Bhasani Ncube
with other Bulawayo creatives here
View audio file details
Bhasani Ncube is a Bulawayo poet. He has performed in and outside
Zimbabwe and prefers to call himself a creative thinker and his
craft "social commentary poetry." Originally trained as
a teacher, Ncube finds himself at the centre of the Zimbabwe conversation
as a poet and director of a youth-initiative called Contemporary
Affairs Foundation [CAF] that, he says, seeks to groom the country's
future leaders through debate located in the country's centres of
higher learning. He spoke with me about his poetry and his approach
to contemporary socio-political issues.
have performed extensively in and outside of Zimbabwe. What are
the issues that concern you, and are reflected in your art?
I see myself as a creative thinker and my poetry stems from that
creative thinking. As a social commentary poet and a firm believer
in the socialisation of beings I am influence by the things that
happen around me in society. The things that I see during my travels
For me, poetry
must mirror society and paint what the world looks like. Any poet
who seeks relevance to what they do will write about what they see,
and for me, my worldview. As a firm believer in the socialisation
of beings, I see my work as a reflection of society. It points in
the direction of where we are going as a people.
find it easy to perform your poetry without any creative barriers
as you attempt to fashion your commentary on contemporary Zimbabwe
For me I do not have inhibitions about my poetry because it comes
naturally. When you are a poet or creative thinker, the moment you
start putting sanctions on yourself and say this is what I will
say, and this is what I will not say, then it destroys the whole
creative streak. When I write my poetry, it has long stanzas and
is all written at once. I cannot write something, and then come
back later; otherwise I lose what inspired the poem. I have to write
it as I feel it at once and as it needs to flow. So when artists
put barriers on themselves because of the political environment,
then they cease to be a reflection of society.
are not concerned about issues of self-censorship?
I am not worried at all. There is a difference between real social
commentary poetry, which is what we do, and insults. If you go out
there and insult people and call it poetry you will obviously get
into trouble. But if you do commentary poetry properly, you are
simply saying what it is that's happening around you. I will give
you an example of one of my poems called B-O-B "Bob the Boss"
that has been well received. If you look at that poem, what it simply
says is things like "I am Bob the Boss, I am the Commander-in-chief,
I am Chancellor-in-chief, I am the war veteran-in-chief. In Zambia
there was Kaunda, then came Chiluba, then Mwanawasa, then Banda,
I am Bob the Boss." This is reality, isn't it? I am commentating
on reality. I am not insulting anyone.
So if you start
to insult you get into trouble. When you are poet you cannot be
the judge of your work, you let the audience judge. If you judge
your own work you will be trouble.
Bulawayo present a unique blend of poetry when juxtaposed with the
other centres of creativity in the country?
The challenge we have in this country is not about the theatre,
Styx [Mhlanga], or the paintings Owen [Maseko] does. I think the
challenge we have in this part of the country is to interrogate,
with the rest of the country, whether all of us are Zimbabweans
or not. I believe all of us are Zimbabweans. I see a continuation
of persecution that has remnants from the 80s era. It is no longer
about Zanu PF and the police only. It is about the psyche of Zimbabweans
as a whole. Is it OK to talk about the 2008 run-off violence but
not Gukurahundi? You find people who support you when talk about
the political violence cringing when you talk about Gukurahindi
as if it's something we should not talk about.
As an artist
I feel Gukurahundi should be mirrored in our work as Owen Maseko
was doing. Even with the bones being exhumed in Mouth Darwin, it's
a sad period indeed, but it is being celebrated. So why does it
become different when it is coming from the poetry and art of Bulawayo?
This intolerance we are seeing is a symptom of worse things about
tend to break down Bulawayo art as protest art because its narratives
rub the authorities the wrong way, do you agree?
My poetry is not protest because I am not protesting against anything.
Mine is social commentary poetry. My social commentary is not limited
to mirroring society, but also coming with a kind of picture of
what society should look like.
I have as a poet, and also in a small way, a philosopher, is that
we are still to interrogate issues on what we are placing on the
table as an alternative to bad governance. In other countries we
see politics is about policy issues not just getting rid of someone,
otherwise people lose the focus of the struggle for democracy. Like
what is happening here. We need to look at the bigger picture and
that is exactly what my poetry represents.
like you feel your work is being appreciated? And what is the future
of the craft in Bulawayo?
There is still very little regard for the arts in Bulawayo. When
there are poetry festivals in the city you see low crowds. Consumers
for art are not there and you see it even when Owen Maseko was taken
to court. There was no one to show support. There is also a lack
of respect for artists as some view our art as a confrontational
tool and that is why sometimes we get arrested. Others see it as
more on the lighter side of things. You see it when there is workshop
or gathering and someone asks, "can you give us a piece"
in a disdainful way. Some artists tend to put themselves in straitjackets
and seek themes that really are not from the heart. There are poets
and artists who decide to pursue a kind of art that seeks to draw
donors. Then the artists start insulting others, and obviously you
will get into trouble. But I think generally poets need originality.
They must shake off any stereotypes that emerge about Bulawayo so
that our poetry has relevance in contemporary Zimbabwe.
Visit the Kubatana.net
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.