Between the Lines: BENIAH MUNENGWA
Dambudzo Marerechera’s writings may have been known to be recollections of life through the lens of a man not in tandem with a sanitised existence and nothing else, but a reading of selected pieces; Night on my Harmonica and The Sound of Snapping Wires in one of his posthumously published collections, The Black Insider, stand as evidence of art serving an ignored purpose in today’s society.
This purpose is the ability to read between the lines of the uncensored makeup of the human soul, his struggles and yearning, as he tread upon earth in his limited days and have them shared all out in the open. Many a time, mankind is confronted by inner demons that he mostly either fails to comprehend or manage to share with others. This feature is not exclusive to these cited works alone, but in most of Marechera’s writings.
Marechera is deemed by many as a persona, who one must not become and that in itself has driven many towards his work using only eyes filled with disdain to the extent that, a lot have missed out on an opportunity to learn from the philosophy that he left to this world.
Not only does mankind encounter demons alone, but he also encounters moments of humiliation and defeat that he feels safe in not sharing and then end up corroding inside.
But Marechera shares
Looking around and listening to stories emergent from my circles, I get a feeling that many, from the societal divide of being either the parent or the child, are now roaming, degenerating and operating within the confines of the Marechera complex.
In my view, there has been an escalation of people among all ages succumbing to drug, alcohol and other intoxicant abuse, self-mutilation or suicide as means of escaping realities thereby resulting in the conversion of valuable energies and futures into waste.
A reading of the late Marechera’s works moves one closer to finding a conception of what situations drives man towards developing an unstoppable desire and quest to escape reality.
Ernst Fischer in his profound text, The Necessity of Art writes: “The de-socialisation of art and literature produces the recurring motif of flight: The motif of deserting a society which is felt to be catastrophic in order to attain a supposed state of ‘pure’ or ‘naked’ being.”
The search for the “pure” comes at a time when people are now increasingly finding themselves in low satisfying circumstances, be it unsatisfying jobs, poor living conditions, a fractured social make-up, hence resorting to use of intoxicants.
In, Night on my Harmonica, Marechera writes: “My neighbours were mostly squatters, dossers, derelicts, single parents who had given up. Young old men who passed themselves off as sculptors and painters. These now were my people. I was one of them. A down-and-out drifter who happened to write books. Something inside me tore. I shuddered.”
This is a portion of people who have found life too hostile, the end result being, they create their own artificial worlds that only them can live and feel, thus regrettably becoming abusers of a lot of substances as a gate pass to invade new bliss.
Marechera’s character, upon facing circumstances of being perpetually broke, ends up only wasted in alcohol. His situation does not end here, but he also becomes a habitual women beater, emotional abuser and a candidate for a painful suicide.
Through the reading of Marechera’s works, one then gets to understand that, these people, like Marechera’s characters, do regret their deeds, do wish for better, do wish they would not kill themselves among many other feelings, only that their worlds have limited their capability to get to know how.
The people around have, however, mostly sought to apportion blame towards such individuals alone and have rarely approached the path of seeking to understand how people get up to those low points and if any attempts are made, there are usually approached from the angle of minimum knowledge.
A reading of, The Sound of Snapping Wires details: “All week he had stayed in, reading endlessly, jotting down notes, refusing to open the front door if anyone knocked.”
This line reveals the deeper struggle in a man that leads many into some sense of emotional wilderness, therefore, pushing one towards the edge of the unknown, in search for meaning and fulfillment that can be thought to be found in drugs, alcohol or in death.
Night on my Harmonica adds clarity to the element of feeling wretched and to the thoughts of one who undergoes the process of trying to escape from the distasteful everyday life. The persona contemplates: “I was trying to cut my own throat, but I missed the vein. I am once more sitting in here, my neck thickly bandaged up, writing this very short story.”
It appears mostly that, the consumer of intoxicants and the recipient of the actions done by the consumer, both are victims of the greater world, which is likened to a slippery road with a broken bridge, housing a river full of worms and crocodiles, which mostly a lucky few are not to fall into.
This is the reason why, many, in spite of financial or social standings, have fallen into traps of social rot but the world stands, eternally unforgiving and banishing.
A line from The Sound of Snapping Wires reads: “If you do without thinking the world will try to think out your business for you; with kicks and punches,” but is that the sole way we can solve the sullen state of substance abusers aged from as low as post-toddlers?
It is time The Black Insider finds what truly is inside of him and bridge the gaps of dysfunction fast devastating him.
Beniah Munengwa writes in his personal capacity. He can be contacted through email on firstname.lastname@example.org