Find Content

Every Stone That turns analysis: Thomas Sukutai Bvuma

Every Stone that Turns ~ an analysis of poems

 Author: Thomas S Bvuma

Title: Every Stone That Turns

The anthology opens with the piece, The Snake Never Stirs, which sets the tone for the anthology’s somewhat futurist predictions of a dysfunctional economy. It hints at promises that are made and not realised at a centre stage, leaving people in unending queues behaving like “hungry mongrels”.

Faced with a case, where the most appraised have been the survivors, Bvuma poses the haunting question: “The real heroes, are they not the dead?” in the poem, Survivors.

The anthology also illuminates post-war disillusionment and disappointment in the case of the freedom fighters. This comes out in Petals of the Unknown when the persona hints, “the son owns no sod of soil,” without any land either in Borrowdale or Budiriro, or even a name written in honour or in history.

The poet, however, puts some of the blame on the “liberators” themselves when he explicitly amounts their current passivity to self-castration in the poem, We Surrendered Our Balls. He shows that when the guerillas submitted their guns in the disarmament phase, they also lost their critical voice and hence they are now living and suffering like villains.

The belt of disillusionment moves on to the national discourse and it also becomes confrontational in tone, as Bvuma keeps on employing juxtaposing techniques and rhetorical questions to bring an evaluation of the promised outcome of the war and the here and the now.

This is quite evident in the piece, Years After, which is brutal as it asks a question that is not allowed to be asked even now. The persona asks: “So many years after/the stones and revolutions/how much grain have we gathered into grandmother’s granary.”

Like Hove in Bones, Bvuma also explores how it felt to have a son involved in the war. The pain that comes out of it to a mother whose umbilical code yearns to know whether its beloved product is safe or not.

How mothers went to the towns in search of their children, only to hear that they are either dead or alive, but with mental or physical incapacitations is explored in the poem, Smile Mother, as Bvuma seeks to play the role of healer in a daunting world of unlikable outcomes, fighting for a war that only a few individuals would savour its fruit.

Still on the disruption of the family unit in the face of war, Bvuma bemoans the death of the persona’s sister after she was shot by a stray bullet from a Rhodesian soldier. Free Sod For My Sister captures the feelings of loss and the disgust the system of war as an elixir to the birthing of a new product.

He summarises the liberation struggle in the poem, Grabbing the Bull: “Finally/he played leading actor/producer and director/the script/albeit/he did not write.” This illuminates the opportunism that characterised the rise to power of some individuals.

The title Grabbing the Bull carries heavy weight along tribal lines on the history of the nation in the liberation and post-independence war narrative of Zimbabwe.

Bvuma’s pen then manoeuvres towards social criticism as seen in How Can I Weep. Like in Charles Mungoshi’s story Shadows on the Wall — off the anthology, Coming of the Dry Season —the persona is a boy who has been brought up in a hardened manner and now no longer shows any emotion, even at the passing on of his father.

Bvuma shows how an orientation in upbringing children can have undesirable outcomes that have got negative impacts on both the parent and the child’s interaction with the world.

To Bvuma, war brought with itself a mixed bag of fortunes as the title poem Every Stone That Turns shows that, apart from the disappointment that most faced, the war catapulted some from the bush to shopping malls and five-star hotels. And such is the reality.

He also lambasts the “wafa wanaka” narrative in the poem Good Citizen. Men of cloth are portrayed to be using the funeral to lure new congregants whilst politicians use it as a campaign rally to garner votes and relatives are no exceptions.

And one of the biggest recurring subjects of the anthology is the poet’s loss of Yeukai. Yeukai is the lover who is left by the persona because he has to go to war, and to serve the cause. However, when the persona returns, he discovers that, Yeukai is already Warming Another Man’s Groin.

This disappointment that haunts the persona even after landing a dream job, is characteristic of many fictitious works set in this period and can be deemed as also prophetic.

In the anthology, Every Stone that Turns, Thomas Bvuma takes liberation beyond the scope of just the war of liberation.

Here is a revolutionary poet who understands that the liberation struggle is only part of an entire process of resisting all forms of oppression.

History and all its ups and downs is captured in the very image of a revolving stone.Throughout the anthology, Bvuma attempts to capture the many struggles people wage against fellow mankind and against the excesses of nature.

He also demonstrates struggles that are waged during life as well as in life after death.

Yes, as Chirere puts it, “Under every stone that one may overturn, there are new and different scorpions to be dealt with.”

The depiction of life as a struggle is best captured in the poem ‘Real Poetry’. We are reminded of the ‘centuries of chains and whips’ of slavery and of the ‘red streams of blood’ of the people resisting ‘effective occupation’ (colonialism).

We are reminded of the killings in Katanga (reference to the murder of Lumumba in Zaire).

We are also reminded of the betrayals of the Mau Mau in Kenya; betrayed by sellouts during the liberation struggle and even after uhuru when the leadership of Kenya abandon the socialist ideals of the struggle as they embrace their erstwhile colonisers as partners in under-developing Kenya.

The poet laments such betrayals which are symptomatic of most post-independent African economies.

Bvuma takes the struggle further to include the suffering of the impoverished peasants of Africa and the languishing factory worker.

He argues that these too are the subject of real poetry by which he meant useful and worthwhile art.

It is true that serious art is not about private and personal indulgence or about personal lamentations, but about ‘the pain and pleasure of people in struggle’ as they traverse different epochs in history.

‘Real poetry’ is a fighting poem which insists, through both content and form, that poetry should not only be revolutionary, but “must spring from life’s struggles and not from back-sitting imagination and fantasies”. (ibid).

Bvuma’s other poem, ‘Mafaiti’ dramatises the communal and selfless nature of the struggle.

Here you find Mafaiti taking time to pluck plumb lice from a fellow comrade’s hair; itself an act which symbolises the liberation struggle, the louse representing the fat parasitic capitalist and Mafaiti himself representing the cause of the collective oppressed such as the enslaved, the colonised and oppressed peasant and factory worker of the previous poem.

What is pathetically deplorable is the way Mafaiti (including all he typifies) is betrayed by the very people he fought along with as well as those he died to liberate.

When the ‘fire ceased’, Mafaiti himself, his wife and son, remain on the fringes of history.

The persona “wonder(s) whether (he) should visit mother and son and tell them how dad loved to pluck a plump louse off a famished comrade’s skull”.

When you come to the poem ‘Neither Fruit Nor Shelter’ you realise that the plight of the majority of Africans is hardly quenched by the dawn of political independence.

Ironically, this new turn of the stone ushers more misery.

The continent scratches and clutches in decaying chaos orchestrated by both external and internal deficiencies of love.

Widespread poverty and disease become the hallmark of a once thriving continent.

“The baobab (Africa) offers / neither fruit no shelter” as a result of the wars, the mass displacements, the accompanying diseases and famine, and above all, the pervasive perverse ignorance.

Is it not a pity that independence turns Africa into a cannibalistic giant feeding off its own children?

Aren’t we ashamed to stare reversals of high expectations without being moved?

Bvuma captures with unrelenting detail “desires distorted / hopes mutilated / (as) the continent mutate (s) / into a moaning monster / suckling children / in foreign lands / (and) holding out a bowl / to feed its own children”.

Bvuma’s analysis of the relationship between Africa and the West invokes profound poignancy.

Africa is again held in a neo-colonial grip which is even more damaging than slavery and colonialism combined.

The dependency syndrome seems so deeply entrenched that Africa seems to fail permanently to develop a local vision that can transform its economies without external hand-lift.

What is more lamentable is the fact that even when Africa turns away from the West it bypasses itself and proceeds to look elsewhere other than unto itself?

Bvuma surgically bares the cause of this barrenness of wit and poverty of philosophy.

It comes from centuries of psychological battering through colonial education, colonial religions and colonial media.

In his other poem ‘Marrow’ the poet shows how self-doubt has been implanted right into the marrow.

Africans have been colossally alienated into doubting their own languages, their cultures and ultimately themselves.

Today, “Africa / Lies obscene on her back / One leg pegged to Europe / The other to America / One handcuffed to Japan / The other clutching / At straws and fireflies”.

Through this awakening poem and many others in the anthology, Bvuma invites Africans to search for answers to their problems in their own hearts and minds. This is the ultimate level of liberation, mental liberation which will bring about humanisation and the return of dignity and confidence in the self.

In ‘Marrow’ we are warned against, “Aid / from East / aid / from West / aid / from North,” for all these total ‘AIDS for Africa’.

Indeed, history has taught us that there is no benevolence from a neighbour. Chese chemutorwa chinouya nemuseredzero.

To this end, Bvuma navigates with us the vicissitudes of the past, present and the future, demonstrating that the only compass we can trust is our own compass.

Hence the parting cry: “Sink your bucket where you are.”

Like Hove in Bones, Bvuma also explores how it felt to have a son involved in the war. The pain that comes out of it to a mother whose umbilical code yearns to know whether its beloved product is safe or not.

How mothers went to the towns in search of their children, only to hear that they are either dead or alive, but with mental or physical incapacitations is explored in the poem, Smile Mother, as Bvuma seeks to play the role of healer in a daunting world of unlikable outcomes, fighting for a war that only a few individuals would savour its fruit.

Still on the disruption of the family unit in the face of war, Bvuma bemoans the death of the persona’s sister after she was shot by a stray bullet from a Rhodesian soldier. Free Sod For My Sister captures the feelings of loss and the disgust the system of war as an elixir to the birthing of a new product.

He summarises the liberation struggle in the poem, Grabbing the Bull: “Finally/he played leading actor/producer and director/the script/albeit/he did not write.” This illuminates the opportunism that characterised the rise to power of some individuals.

The title Grabbing the Bull carries heavy weight along tribal lines on the history of the nation in the liberation and post-independence war narrative of Zimbabwe.

Bvuma’s pen then manoeuvres towards social criticism as seen in How Can I Weep. Like in Charles Mungoshi’s story Shadows on the Wall — off the anthology, Coming of the Dry Season —the persona is a boy who has been brought up in a hardened manner and now no longer shows any emotion, even at the passing on of his father.

Bvuma shows how an orientation in upbringing children can have undesirable outcomes that have got negative impacts on both the parent and the child’s interaction with the world.

To Bvuma, war brought with itself a mixed bag of fortunes as the title poem Every Stone That Turns shows that, apart from the disappointment that most faced, the war catapulted some from the bush to shopping malls and five-star hotels. And such is the reality.

He also lambasts the “wafa wanaka” narrative in the poem Good Citizen. Men of cloth are portrayed to be using the funeral to lure new congregants whilst politicians use it as a campaign rally to garner votes and relatives are no exceptions.

And one of the biggest recurring subjects of the anthology is the poet’s loss of Yeukai. Yeukai is the lover who is left by the persona because he has to go to war, and to serve the cause. However, when the persona returns, he discovers that, Yeukai is already Warming Another Man’s Groin.

This disappointment that haunts the persona even after landing a dream job, is characteristic of many fictitious works set in this period and can be deemed as also prophetic.

1 comment on Every Stone That turns analysis: Thomas Sukutai Bvuma

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!