This is my last column. No, I am not riding into the sunset on a horse like Bud Spencer and Terence Hill in those cheesy Westerns I loved so much in my childhood.
Rather, I am taking some time off to think through and, hopefully, implement some projects I feel very passionate about. They are an eclectic mix of journalism, photography and online media.
You see in a different country a person half my age,with the necessary drive and creativity,would already have done these things I am trying to do now and, most probably, thrived.
But I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth and the environment I grew up in still does not reward creativity and innovation. The upshot is that I have had to work all my life — doing things I enjoyed some of the time, but they were always part of a salaried job someone had offered me. But now I wish to do things I enjoy — in my own time and space.
As usual, allow me to belabour the point. When I was growing up luck was supposed to play a very important factor in our lives. All the men “played” horses — meaning they were into horse-betting, but the Shona folk frown on undramatic language so we had to call it kutamba mabhiza. Now “playing” horses was not just about waking up, studying the races and picking your favourite stallion (although these guys could tell you a whole pedigree of a thoroughbred, courtesy of the radio broadcasts of the legendary Peter Lovemore).
For the old men of my youth it was about ancestral spirits invading your sleep and causing you to dream the winning numbers. The ancestors, being typical Africans, preferred to speak in code like the Mafia. So a man would rush to Matongo Shopping Centre to get his Mashonaland Tote Club betting slips and then discuss with his best pal the meaning of his dreams:
“Ndarota sekuru wangu wakabata demo (I have dreamt my grandfather holding an axe). And then a snake fell down the tree . . .”
Aah! Axe = 7, snake = 9. I am sure the ancestors wanted everyone to win, but I don’t remember any family in Dangamvura that became suddenly rich because of horse-betting. But the old men of my time never gave up.
My old man still keeps a slip from 1972 when he messed up the sequence of certain numbers. I am told that could have catapulted us from the working class ranks into a respectable black bourgeoisie, albeit one that could not have moved to suburbia then because of Comrade Ian Smith’s prevailing residential segregation laws. Anyway, I am not waiting for the lotto or the Castle Tankard to give me an alternative destiny.
This column has been part of what I have always wanted to do – to write, to tell the little silly stories of our lives that somehow matter. But I need time to rethink the direction of my creative work.
The feedback from you the readers has been touching. Your own comments, encouragement and the humour have really renewed my faith in you the people. You are a people with a keen sense of fairness, a quest for truth and desire for a different reality. I thank you.
Maybe the biggest compliment I got was when a traffic policeman caught me doing 90km/h in an 80km zone in some obscure part of the country. He took my driver’s licence in that slow and chilling way cops everywhere do, glanced at it and said: “Chris Kabwato, Zimbabwe in Pictures. I will let you go for today.”
Allow me to thank my mother and my niece, Nadia. These two have been my most avid readers. If an article struck a chord with them I knew it was a winner.
But I would not have been able to write like I do without the inspiration of my father — a self-made man who literally educated himself and passed on the value of knowledge to his family. A man born with amazing memory and an equally fascinating gift for storytelling, I am a poor carbon-copy of him.
It was from “Mr Wise”, as we call him, that I took the habit of reading anything that came my way – James Hadley Chase, Nick Carter, Irving Wallace, Robert Ludlum, John Grisham, Mills & Boon (yes, that’s right) and, occasionally, my school textbooks.
Whilst others played any of the three sports of our childhood (soccer, soccer and soccer), I was the killjoy that could sit by the gate all day reading Kusasana Kunoparira from page one to the end! Not sure if I listened to the moral of those stories but I would pay the price with an extreme case of short-sightedness, but there are no regrets on that front.
I want to thank Vincent Kahiya, Editor-in-Chief, Alpha Media, who finally relented to persistent requests for a column 15 months ago. I hope I have repaid the faith he showed. I also want to thank NewsDay Editor Brian Mangwende, who rebranded my column and encouraged me to continue writing. My column appeared nice and proper only because Kamurai Mudzingwa, Chief Sub Editor, and his colleagues would have cleaned it up. Many thanks, Kamurai and crew!
So maybe now I should shout like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator II: “I will be back!”Or should I just whistle the Jim Reeves way and sing: “Adios, Amigo”. Jim Reeves? Yes, can you imagine I grew up listening to Don Williams, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers and on the wild side, Thin Lizzy, Boston, Kiss, Uriah Heep, Black Sabbath, Adam and the Ants and worse . . . But I am getting carried away. I am supposed to simply say, “bye”.
Hasta la vista! Kenge!
About the Author
Chris Kabwato is publisher of www.zimbabweinpictures.com