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Tafataona Mahoso: A man of many hats

17 Feb 2019 at 16:09hrs | Views
Rupise: Poetry of Love, Separation and Reunion 1977-2017; By Tafataona Mahoso; Mutare, Samwasika Heritage Products.

136 Pages

ISBN: 978-1-7706-070-9 (Paperback)

INDEED Tafataona Mahoso, an academic in his own right, is a man who wears so many hats, with many not even aware of the artist in him.

Says Mahoso to the Daily News on Sunday; "I was in the same class at St Augustine's with (the late) Dambudzo Marechera. We crossed paths at Oxford in the 1970s but never met again."

Marechera is, without doubt, one of Zimbabwe's best known artists, but one who left the scene too early but perhaps the Oxford interaction for Mahoso may have apprenticed him into a refinement of the Romantic and Victorian epochs of verse.

Rupise: Poetry of Love, Separation and Reunion 1977-2017 - which is available at Innov8 and National Gallery bookshops in Harare and Sleek Media - reflects an accomplishment of how tone and feeling in poetry can help create meaning.

For Mahoso - an accomplished poet whose first anthology Footprints About the Bantustan was published in 1989 - elements of form and structure combine with stylistic devices to communicate meaning.

The symbolism of Rupise - hot spring or geyser - is something drawn from Manicaland, where Mahoso hails from. Because of the geographical reality of Rupise, placed "variously at Chakohwa, Nyanyadzi, Save and Lower Odzi, all in Chimanimani", according to the preface, there an element of realism that sets in the poetry.

Something very striking comes to the mind of the reader; the water that is found in the hot springs is hot but is always there in the very same form. Water, in most cases, is seen as nourishing, giving life and living. Water in the poetry of Rupise is not different; it is life-giving.

In the poetry anthology, Rupise symbolises the ideal love relationship that is "deep, enduring, faithful, inexhaustible" in the same way we see the heat in the water from the hotspring - forever hot and forever there - whose energy source is not "rationed by meter or subject to load-shedding".

In one of the poems "Before You Appeared in My life" the persona says:

Before you appeared I was not sure

What I wanted in or with a woman:

The allure of your dark dreamy eyes

Rooted in ancient memory and primordial passion,

Like the charged aftermath of lightning

Just earthed and disappeared in dark deep soil. (p2)

It appears there is an admission that there now is a change after meeting this woman. He says "I feared my own imagination

Like a child surprised by its own giant shadow

At sunrise and sunset." (p2)

The comparison with the "surprised child" carried in the simile "like a child surprised…" is effective in giving a vivid picture of the timidity hitherto evident in the persona before. The visual image of the giant shadow appeals to the sense of sight and gets the reader visualising how huge the threat was.

Although not widespread, the use of alliteration as in "Deep and dark mud stuck" creates interesting rhythm.

As opposed to prose, poetry usually expresses the inner self, conversations that may be taking place within the self on a variety of issues and experiences.

Rupise therefore becomes Mahoso's expression of his feelings on the subject of love.

Poetry is divided into distinct sections - each standing for a unique set of poems - making it easy for the reader to follow through. There are five sections: Unlit Lanterns, Separation, Rupise: Where, When Does Love Stay?, Lifefolds and Gleanings.

Traditionally, in the writer's own admission and consistent with older generations boys and girls could actually swim together, undressed in the same pool without arousing the other sexually. No one would be raped or molested, a striking difference with what we see today. A girl dressed in a tight mini catches the attention of everyone around and there are whistles from all directions as people hurl obscenities at her.

Mainini Rupise is said to have been older than the writer and others and "remained selfless and disciplined enough not to take advantage of our sexual vulnerabilities".

Most readers still need to be reminded that poetry is best read quietly, aloud for one to understand the various technical aspects that add to the ultimate and overall enjoyment of the art genre.

Poetic devices like the simile, imagery, comparison, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration and other obscure ones like metre among others have the best impact when poetry is read so.

In other words, they become optimally effective when the reader interacts with the art form quietly, aloud.

Ideally, it is the spoken word and as such is best heard.

The poem "Waiting" in the section titled Separation is an example of those that show distance between the lovers.

"Your absence lingers, a series of El Nino droughts;

But my love is a miracle seed, life's selfless desire

To thrive with little outside driver except your returns in kind." (p19)

The image of the El Nino just to show the sense of loneliness caused by the lover's absence combines well with the "miracle seed" just to show the determination in the persona to continue loving despite the distance between them.

"My Love, My Beauty" in the third section, Rupise: Where, when, does love stay?

"Your beauty exudes from the molten core

Of your substance,

Moisturising every pore of your skin,

Radiant skin so provocative to view by day

And to touch by night." (p38)

The imagery used in this poetry is very powerful as seen in "the molten core", "moisturising every pore of your skin" and "radiant skin".

Throughout the poetry, Mahoso makes extensive use of imagery that helps to make the poetry understood better.

A comprehensive analysis of the poetry in Rupise may not be possible here. This is not to suggest that interpretations proffered herein are cast in stone.

Every reader is bound to react differently to the poetry but there is one thing no one can take away from the anthology - the fact that it carries real poetry, in short it is a manifestation of master craftsmanship.

The anthology is a must for any bookshelf and could have been a choice for a Valentine's Day gift for any lovers, at least those who love reading about love.

Mahoso is the current chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe Media Commission, regular columnist in the Sunday Mail and visiting lecturer at the Zimbabwe Film and Television School for southern Africa.

He holds a BA degree in Literature and History from Roberts Wesleyan College in the United States, an MA degree in Literature from Ohio University (USA) as well as a PhD in African Studies and History from Temple University, again in the US.  Formerly director of the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe until 1992, Mahoso also served as principal lecturer and head of the Division of Mass Communication until 2001.

He has another poetry anthology Footprints About the Bantustan, published in 1989.

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Source - dailynews
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