BRIEF CHAPTER OUTLINES FOR THESIS ON DAMBUDZO MARECHERA’S SHAMANISM as of
5 May 2008
1. Introductory chapter:
A. Who was Dambudzo Marechera: his historical context, his early life and upbringing, his giftedness.
B. His identity as “a shaman” – a metonymic term in some respects, given Marechera’s Modernity. Yet there were traditional aspects to this classification, too – spiritualist resonances that Marechera’s aesthetics plays upon.
(I have already collated notes for this chapter.)
2. Chapter on The House of Hunger.
This chapter looks at the “shamanising” process that the writer underwent. Shamanic initiation breaks down the conventional structure of character, and enables one to undertake “soul journeys” in the realm of “nonordinary” reality. The outcome of this process involves opening the doors of the imaginary and being able to nurture the soul through a heightening experience of fantasy.
Draft completed 25 April 2008
3. Chapter on The Black Insider
The chapter looks at the author’s exiled life in Britain, as a vagrant, after he was no longer allowed to be there on a student visa, having been expelled from Oxford for disorderly behaviour. He revised a version of this novel in 1979, during the time of the interim colonial/majority rule government of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia (1979-1980). The author’s state of limbo patterns that of the national government of his homeland. He reflects upon his status as an intellectual (a definitively outsider status in either Rhodesian or Zimbabwean terms). He reflects upon the possible need for a warlike response. He engages on a soul journey to retrieve missing parts of his self, whilst acknowledging that interpellation by a different society creates numerous selves that one might not realise are being created. Finally, he prophesises a showdown between two parts of himself (the warrior and the intellectual), as he feels that war may be inevitable given his emotional state of seige (he was put in jail as an illegal immigrant). The same emotional dynamic is possibly reflected on the stage of state politics, with the “abandoned Arts Faculty (representing the intellect) under seige by the militia. Oddly, this reflects an actual scenario that was almost played out in 1980. The Rhodesian forces planned to attack sections of the University of Rhodesia (including the visual arts building) in order to remove Mugabe’s forces from power if he won the election in 1980. (This same scenario has present day resonances with regard to Mugabe’s intention to sabotage state elections – and perhaps indicates the degree to which his mindset was formed by the right wing colonials’ notions of how to win an election. The legacy of this mindset would have been something that a very sensitive psyche would have been able to base predictions upon. An almost exact replication of “Operation Hurricane” as it was planned but did not take place, is featured at the end of The Black Insider.”)
Draft completed 29 February 2008.
4. Chapter on Black Sunlight.
This chapter looks at a soul journey into the realm of “immanence” a la Bataille. The destruction of the conventional, everyday self through wilfully embracing a condition of immanence leads to an anarchistic adventure (or nightmare!) The result is a kind of transcendence of self, through an embrace of the spiritualisation of suffering.
Draft completed Dec 2007, with additional amendments May 2008.
5. Chapter on Marechera’s poetry.
A. Throne of Bayonets
B A Portrait of a Black Artist in London (Choreodrama).
This chapter looks into the possibility of shamanist vision. In the case of “Throne of Bayonets”, the writer adopts a prophetic role, admonishing the nation of Zimbabwe in much the manner of an old testament prophet.
In “A Portrait of a Black Artist in London”, the writer is violently hostile against British society, which he sees as being racist. He speaks from a number of different subject positions: his interpellated self (the self that sees himself as racists seem him), the resentful self (the self with a chip on his shoulder), and a 15 year old female character.
In “Throne of Bayonets” his perceptions of hypocrisy in politics are well honed (insights that could be applied to the Zimbabwe of today – eg “viking socialism”.) His tone is overall that of a lover, admonishing the sins of his beloved.
In the choreodrama, however, he seems to want to use sexuality to violently bring together parts of the unconscious and conscious mind of his readers. Is it a shamanistic move to destroy the sensibilities equivalent to transcendence without a cost that he attributes to his host nation?
6. In chapter 6, I will look at a play, called The Alley. It’s a pantomime, in Beckett-style, about a white and black tramp, which have both fought each other during the war. It is in this play that Marechera is most tender toward the suffering of black and white women – whom he sees as the ultimate victims of the war of liberation. This is where Marechera’s own shamanistic insights into the nature of suffering come to the fore against patriarchy as a social system representing itself as a social ideal:
RHODES [a black male]: Your daughter, Judy, is right there with [my sister, behind the wall]. I can see them. They are kissing.
ROBIN [a white male]: My daugher kissing who? Be careful what you say. She was a pure, innocent, beautiful young thing until your comrades did things to her and slit her throat.
RHODES: She’s kissing Cecilia. They are very much in love with each other. What you did to both of them left them with nothing but sheer disgust for men. For this world. [Pauses. Looks away]
The author also examines what is in Lacanian terms “the Real” – which is to say the underlying nature of war trauma that has been superficially overwritten by official versions of history.
7. In the final chapter I will look at Mindblast, particularly the journal entry published in this limited edition collection of works. Here he talks about his life on the streets of Harare, writing in the pubs during the day. His physical condition declines, but he still manages to survive, driven by his need to “give without limit”.
8. Concluding chapter about violence and shamanism (involving psychological insight and heightened creativity).