Julius Sai Mutyambizi-Dewa is the author of Preaching to Priests (Timeless Avatar, 2007); Candid Narratives (i-Proclaim Books, 2010); and, Two Faces One Woman (i-Proclaim Books, 2011):
In this interview, Mutyambizi-Dewa talks about his latest play:
How would you describe Two Faces One Woman?
The story I tell in Two Faces One Woman touches on contemporary post-colonial societies, especially the crossroads that Zimbabwe finds herself in post-2000. In approaching the topic, I had to set aside my own political affiliations and sympathies and approached the topic from the position of an innocent bystander. I liked the whole idea of a Debbie Scott, a young white Zimbabwean, being the chief defender of the black government where Takubona Mapembwe, the son of a war veteran, comes out as black Zimbabwe’s chief antagonist.
What motivated you to take this approach?
I have this thing in mind that tries to get the races seeing beyond race and I believe writers have a role to play.
Readers will notice that my writing, especially where it regards the whole point of the liberation struggle and the post-colonial Zimbabwe, will be approached from this philosophy. I want to see a stronger Zimbabwe emerge which is not painted in colour and which is based on merit. We have to demistify this thing of race war in Zimbabwe. There were more blacks in the Rhodesia National Army than there were whites and we have white Zimbabweans who died fighting for the liberation cause. We also have people like Rob Monro, Professor O.T. Ranger, Jeremy Brickhill, A.V.M. Welch and others who suffered in one way or the other during UDI in Zimbabwe. Post-independence we have people like Ian Kay, Roy Bennett etc who helped black farmers in their neighbourhoods.
I am driven by this philosophy, to tell a story of integration... white, Indian, black, Kalanga, Shona, Venda, Ndebele, Tonga etc... we are all a mix of villains and saints but unfortunately we have created a society where the villains and saints are identified by race, tribe and creed not deeds. This therefore sets Two Faces One Woman apart from any story I have told so far.
The issue of racial, ethnic and religious integration will continue to define my characterisation and writing for the forseeable future.
In what way is Two Faces One Woman similar to other things you have written?
It is similar to other work that I have published and that I will publish in future because I am that same writer who never took an English literature class in high school. I believe I am original and I do not have so many literary influences speaking to me as I write. I enjoy this aspect so much as well.
How did you choose a publisher for Two Faces One Woman?
All my books are self-published. I write in genres that are very difficult to place with mainstream publishers... poetry and plays... and this has meant I have to self-publish.
I started Two Faces One Woman in 2010 and finished writing it in 2011. I then sent it to Penguin in South Africa but although they expressed interest in the idea be book, they advised that they did not publish plays as there is no market for plays. After trying two more publishers and they too expressing some doubts about a market for plays, I abandoned the project and started writing the story in the form of a novel. But something wasn’t coming out even as I tried, the idea had been a play originally and to change it would kill off the very qualities I want to maintain. I then decided to self-publish and bring the story out that way.
Some colleagues have said they will be serialising the play in an online newspaper, which, to me is welcome news.
What are your plans for the future?
I have already finished my next book, Ndimirwa, a play about a Lozwi/Rozvi heroine.
I think I have written my last play for now as I am now concentrating on the novel form.
My previous work with Mapupo Theatre Group, a drama group that I founded in 1991 in Zimbabwe may explain why I have this love for plays. However, my first piece of writing was a novel in Shona which I wrote in 1988. Those days it was very difficult to get published. It was also very difficult to self-publish. So, members of the Budding Writers Association of Zimbabwe decided that performing our work was the only way we were going to be heard and that’s why we had Albert Nyathi, Cynthia Mungofa, Nhamo Mhiripiri, Titus Motsebi and many others becoming dub-poets. To me drama and plays became a natural choice as I tended to write more stories than poems.