Title: A Fine Madness
Author: Mashingaidze Gomo
Publisher: Ayebia Clarke Publishing Limited, 2010
Style is a simple matter; it is all rhythm . . . which goes far deeper than words.
A sight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit it.
(Letters 3 p247)— Virginia Woolf.
A Fine Madness articulates in its defiant prose-poetic voice the philosophies, anger, pain, dreams and hopes of a Zimbabwean airman who experienced in mind, flesh, blood, eyes, time and distance the DRC war of 1998.
Armed with an unapologetic command of Pan-Africanism and indeed a fine madness, Mashingaidze Gomo audaciously plunges the reader into a battle against the legacies of colonialism to probe the current state of African nations and their leaders.
Poverty, corruption, Western notions of human rights and world democracy, African colonial education systems, the disarticulation of African languages and cultures and the burden and beauty that African women carry, are all investigated through the terrain of conflict and its sometimes dire effects as observed by Gomo.
A unique passion in words engulfs the pages of this memoir.
A passion and loud rage that bleeds and forces you to notice as he cries out in pain and ultimately in a maddening madness that becomes beautifully defiant.
For Gomo, Africa, as he observes in the Congo, has long been an economic victim and destitute, first of slavery then of colonialism and after that of neo-colonialist agendas.
This relationship (between Africa and the West) is most strikingly metaphorically illustrated in the chapter titled, The Rape.
“And the land stood bold, wild and divided against itself like a wild virgin driven by an inexorable sexual awakening and yet chained to celibacy by religious and cultural protocol.
A virgin whose ‘no’ could sometimes also be a ‘yes’. . . A virgin with strong thighs
. . . And virgin Africa had unintentionally defied Europe and America to love her.
And now she lay sprawled on her back. . .
raped by exploiters from the West . . . And when her African kinsmen sought to abort the puppet progeny already restless in her womb, the affluent rapists demonized and publicized the abortion to the four corners of the planet . . . it was no longer the rape that was evil but the bid to abort the puppet progeny. . .
And hapana akambotaura kuti yaive nhumbu yemabhinya.” (p88-89)
As a result Africa birthed poverty, corruption and a complex dependency syndrome that all need to be exorcised.
Gomo’s answer: “Our children need to know that Nehanda and her generation unwittingly welcomed usurpers with the gift of a black cow and they were dispossessed and slain (thus) if they don’t revisit the past they risk committing the same suicidal mistakes.
. .” (p118); “African history must be made by African judges determined to revisit the past to make amends on the present. . .” (p43) and “. . . the day of the linguistic freedom fighter is now . . . To rise up and to speed up development by imparting knowledge in African indigenous languages through which the majority think and reason most effectively. . .” (p57)
Gomo also explores the burden and beauty of African women as seen in the lives of Congolese women during the war.
At one end their protection from rape and starvation is the same thing that makes them vulnerable yet beautiful and at another end the inevitable need to pawn it for “security” dehumanises them.
His sad observation reveals the complexity of that period in Congo’s history.
It also echoes the vulnerability of women that Yvonne Vera illustrates through Mazvita in Without A Name making the memoir a must-read.