By Richmore Tera.

Harare, Zimbabwe. (News of The South) –
WHEN United States President Donald Trump announced that he is planning to construct a border wall dividing his country and Mexico in a bid to stem to the influx of illegal immigrants into the US, he received a vociferous outcry from human rights activists who denounced the move as a ploy meant to separate easy co-operation, diplomacy and relations among citizens of the global village.

While the envisioned Trump wall help in physically isolating citizens of the two countries – symbolically taken to mean global isolation of the citizens of the world – no wall is big enough to separate people intellectually, culturally and literary.

One of such people who believe in this ethos that a physical wall cannot separate people from one another but instead helps in honing their desire to reach out to each other is none other than Zimbabwean poet, Tavengwa Kaponda, who, after heading the call by the editors of the international poetry anthology, “Over Land, Over Sea: Poems of Those Seeking Refuge” (Kathleen Bell, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan, Logan Five Leaves, 2015), took it upon himself to translate some of the poems featured in this book as a way of cementing diplomacy, building bridges and at the same time breaking down barriers through the literary arts.

Kaponda has translated some of the poems which are featured in “Over Land, Over Sea: Poems of Those Seeking Refuge” from their original English language versions into his mother-tongue of chiShona, which is one of Zimbabwe’s major indigenous languages alongside isiNdebele, Chimanyika, among others.

He also wrote a tribute poem to the editors of this anthology, whom he said did a noble job by encouraging other writers from different parts of the globe to feel free to translate the poems into their different languages.

And Kaponda did just that, when he translated Malka Al-Haddad’s poem titled “Children of War” to “Vana Vemuhondo” and Ambrose Musiyiwa’s “The Man Who Ran through a Tunnel” to “Nyakuvanga Nemumwena” before solidifying this with the tribute poem “Nhurikiri, meaning interpretation or translation.

These three poems are featured in Kaponda’s latest collection of Shona poems, “Chisveru” which was published by Civic Leicester, a publishing company based in Leicester, England, in the United Kingdom.

In his own words, Kaponda said: “‘Journeys of Translation’ encourages those who speak other languages to interpret the poems that were selected and featured in the anthology ‘Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for Those Seeking Refuge’, into their own languages.”

When the editor and publisher of Kaponda’s poetry collection, which carries a total of 38 poems, Ambrose Musiyiwa, noted that the poet was probably one of Zimbabwe’s unsung Shona poets currently writing in the country, he was spot-on in his observation because Kaponda is without doubt a master of both the English and Shona languages and exhibits an in-depth understanding of their nuances which are required when it comes to translation.

His translations whet the appetite of the reader to want to look for the original versions of the English poems and compare and contrast the translated versions, which were well-done, to say the least.

Kaponda further shows his artistry and dexterity with language, when he shifts from the translations to his own original compositions which are rich in the Shona heritage of the Shona language. If you are one of those people who liked Dambudzo Marechera’s approach towards his poetry, then this book by Kaponda is just for you since it reminds you of the late great writer who put Zimbabwe on the literature map with his no-holds-barred and rather ‘unorthodox’ literary thinking and style that jolted many to approach life with a rather philosophical and critical view of things.

Poems like “Chituzu”, Urefu”, “Tsamwa”, “Ngano”, “Mwene Wayo Nyika”, “Misha”, “Africa”, “Pepuka Mozambique”, “Weropa Rangu”, Fuza”, “Nditengere Mucheka”, “Ndasurukirwa Vanangu”, “Mbirimi”, “Nhengo Inomirira”, “Pawakairasa”, Uchadini”, “Mhiri Kwenyika, Mhiri Kwenyanza” and “Nhemamsasa, ” among others, all point to a man who is very sensitive about his cultural erosion, unrequited love, tribal wars, dereliction of political roles, destruction of the home and social fabric, diseases, plunder and want.

In the conclusion, readers are reminded of Tavengwa’s exploits: “Apart from being a poet, Tavengwa Kaponda has also reviewed books for the Zimbabwean Herald. ‘Chisveru’ is his first collection of Shona poems, while the poem, ‘Nhemamsasa’ which is featured in this book, was translated from the Shona language into English during the New Leicestershire Poetry Stanza event held in England in 2016. Some of his poems were also published in the magazine Tsotso.”

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