ABOUT a month or so ago, someone posted an eerie condolence message on Brian Tafadzwa Penny’s Facebook wall claiming that the young creative had passed on.
By Phillip Chidavaenzi
I contacted a number of people within our circles to establish what was going on after failing to get through to him on his mobile phone. Several of them were not sure, until Brian later returned my call and said he was alive and well, but adding that his Facebook account had been hacked.
So when Milton Chitsime, a mutual friend and fellow author, sent me a message on December 23 to the effect that he had just heard that Brian was no more, my first instinct was to take the message with a large helping of salt.
But by end of day, it had been established that, indeed, Brian had perished in a fatal car crash at Wengezi turn-off at the 68km peg along the Mutare-Chimanimani Highway. He was travelling to his rural home in Chimanimani for the festive season alongside his wife and two girls as well as his younger brother’s family.
I wondered if the social media hoax about his death about a month or so earlier could have been a dark premonition of what was just about to happen.
Just a week before the tragic accident — which also claimed the life of his younger brother’s wife and daughter, leaving Brian’s wife and two kids griveously wounded — the young man had sent me two stories for possible publication in NewsDay.
Ironically, one of the stories was about veteran actress and casting director, Spilisiwe Kaikeni, partnering with the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe on a week–long, road carnage awareness campaign. It probably never dawned on Brian that he was going to die on the road soon.
I first met Brian around 2005 or 2006 after attending a book lovers’ meeting organised by the now-defunct Zimbabwe Readers’ Association run by Shupikai Chakanetsa. My then editor at The Sunday Mirror (now defunct), the late Ruzvidzo Mupfudza, yet another creative, had tasked me to cover the meeting. I became friends with Brian.
Nearly 10 years later, he started writing arts stories as a correspondent for NewsDay. His passion for the arts was indisputable, from books, through music to theatre and more.
With the passage of time, Brian boldly walked out of the shadows to claim his place in the sun, churning out a number of pieces of literature, particularly poems and short stories, published in various anthologies, contributing to Zimbabwe’s rich literary tradition.
Just recently, Brian compiled a short story anthology titled Outside the Garden of Eden, featuring the works of eight authors — Victoria Tapera, Gloria Murindi Dangah, Cheryl Matizamhuka, Tamuka Gurure, Nkosiyazi Kan Kanjiri, Medeline Angel Machonesa, Edmond Shonhiwa and himself. The stories explore a wide range of themes including sexual abuse, murder, HIV and Aids.
In 2015, Brian was among the 14 poets who contributed their pieces to yet another anthology, Flowers of A Dry Season. He was one of those few multilingual artistes proficient in both English and Shona, editing the poetry anthology, Tsuro Ndisunge (Nduri Dzinotapira), which was issued by Forteworx Press in 2015. He also contributed some pieces to the multi-authored collection.
The fact that Brian was featured in almost every poetry anthology published in the last few years — including Dzinonyandura – Svinga Renduri (2014) — was testimony to his rising stock as a pathfinder among Zimbabwe’s current generation of poets. The young creative was celebrated for his largely experimental romance with words as a poet both on paper and on stage.
Born on September 27, 1981, Brian was so passionate about his creative leanings that 18 of his poems have been published on the global website, www.poemhunter.com.
Because of his passion for the written word, Brian had also studied journalism with City and Guilds Institute (London), becoming part of a very small group of writers that straddled both the journalistic and creative literary spaces.
Brian was also featured in True Lies (2015), a collection of 10 short stories by 10 emerging Zimbabwean writers, whose thematic concerns range from the macabre, bizarre, scary, heart-rending, and yet hopeful.
To Brian I say, go well, comrade! May your soul rest in eternal peace.