A Ndau poet and author Ishmael Penyai has finally realised his dream of publishing a poetry anthology in Ndau, a journey that has taken him nearly 10 years.
Six years ago, Penyai said at the International Book Fair that Ndau, a language spoken in Chipinge and Chimanimani areas of Manicaland, was slowly dying and that he was determined to keep it alive.
He has since established a forum on Facebook called Rekete ChiNdau which now has over 800 members where people communicate in Ndau.
This is a forum where people of Ndau origin openly discuss interesting issues about their social lives.
“I want people to communicate and discuss in both Ndau and Manyika varieties. Hazvineyi Sakarombe aka DJ Chilli is my hero for she has done a lot in promoting Manyika on television and radio. I am so proud of her,” said Penyai.
Martha Tholana, a prominent gender activist, seems to be one of the many people that constantly stir debate on that forum.
It is for these reasons that Penyai, who hails from Chief Muusha’s area in Biriwiri, Chimanimani district, took the initiative to write children’s books in Ndau to ensure that he captures them young.
He said he was aiming at celebrating and preserving these two Shona varieties by fusing them. He argued that there is nothing like standard Shona because the Shona dictionary was compiled mainly incorporating the Zezuru language and leaving out other Shona varieties.
“75% of our written Shona is derived from just one form so how can we then talk about standard Shona? There is nothing like that and I challenge anyone to devise standard Shona from just five forms and see if they will succeed. Standard Shona is one-sided. ”
The book Nhekwe Dziri Kanyi is being published with financial assistance from the International Institute for Development, a Mutare-based non-governmental organisation.
Penyai has already received an order for 100 books that will be distributed in schools.
“I want to focus on children’s books because adult literature does not impact on children at all. Apart from the Bible, there are only two other books written in ChiNdau and these are Kuhamba kwemuhambi by John Bowan who was a missionary and the other by Joyce Simango called Zviuya Zvirimberi.
The only other Ndau book is the Bible and hymn books which are mainly used in the United Church of Christ and United Baptist Churches that predominate in his district of origin.