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Bulawayo mourns Zimbabwe’s lost decade
September 23, 2013
View this article
on the New Zimbabwe website
Bulawayo, who is nominated
for the prestigious Man Booker Prize has, called for new leadership
in her country where President Robert Mugabe has been returned to
power in elections disputed by his rivals.
been with one set of leadership from right before I was born. That
is really not healthy in a democracy,” said the 31-year old,
whose debut novel “We Need New Names” is one of six
titles shortlisted for the literary award.
we need a constant injection of new ideas, as in new personalities.
It makes any space richer,” she told AFP in a recent interview
in South Africa where she was on tour.
something is not working, you need to change it. So we need really
a new breed, a new culture of politics to carry us to where we need
to be,” said the author, whose real name is Elizabeth Zandile
to power in 1980 as an independence hero bringing democracy to millions
of black Zimbabweans, and was widely credited with health and education
leader was sworn in for another five years in August. But in the
last decade, the economy has crumbled following the introduction
of disastrous land reforms in 2000.
came out of Zimbabwe’s lost decade,” said the writer,
who grew up in Bulawayo before going to study in the United States.
“What inspired it is so fresh in people’s imaginations.”
The semi-autobiographical novel’s sums up the message.
I was saying was we need new ways of living, new ways of imagining
ourselves, new ways of leadership, just a revamping of systems -
starting from the self to the larger communal,” she said.
Life is a daily
struggle for the main character, a 10-year-old girl named Darling
and her friends who live in a slum area named Paradise in Zimbabwe.
Darling is lucky
to emigrate to the United States, though there she finds that the
grass is not always greener on the other side as she starts to grapple
with foreign cultures.
loses a large part of herself,” said Bulawayo, “and
the book ends with her still trying to negotiate with the American
left Zimbabwe 13 years ago, only returned home this year and was
happened to my country? It was a shock to the system. The able and
beautiful country of my childhood had given way to something so
new that I couldn’t relate to,” she said.
She found herself
grappling with realities such as electricity outages or water cuts.
Born in 1981,
a year after Zimbabwe gained independence from colonial power Britain,
she is part of the so-called born-free generation and said she yearns
for the country to recover its lost glory.
She uses the
pen name NoViolet - which means “with Violet” in her
native Ndebele - in honour of her mother who died when she was 18
months old. She also took the name Bulawayo, after the city she
grew up in.
A fellow at
Stanford University in California, Bulawayo authored a short story
Hitting Budapest (2010), which won the 2011 Caine Prize for African
Writing. Her novel has also been nominated for Britain’s Guardian
newspaper’s First Book Award.
first Zimbabwean shortlisted for the Booker, will be the fourth
African winner if she triumphs on October 15.
J.M. Coetzee won in 1983 and 1999. His countrywoman Nadine Gordimer
was joint winner for her novel “The Conservationist”
in 1974, while Nigerian-born Ben Okri won for his third novel “The
Famished Road” in 1991.
surprised at her nomination for the Man Booker Prize. “I feel
very lucky and honoured especially as this is my first novel,”
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