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By Khumbulani Muleya

Sensational afro-jazz artist Hope Masike launched her second poetry book collection titled ‘Dzevabvazera’ last Friday at Theatre in the Park just in time to give lover’s the perfect valentine’s gift. The poems in the book are sizzling hot and deeply sensual, it is an anthology that celebrates the art of skillful lovemaking and creatively interrogates love and sexuality in an environment of complete creative freedom. The launch was fused with a live music concert and book reading and also featured as guest performer veteran Township Jazz crooner Tanga Wekwa Sando and a poetry recital by Fadzai Katanda.

The book is a work of art that celebrates the healing and liberating power of love in its sensual and spiritual manifestations. Its pages contain 14 steamy poems written in Shona with a brief English overview which the artist recited alongside music supported by the mbira’s unique tone, the rattling sound of the hosho, the mighty bass guitar, drums, and a brass set comprising of the alto and soprano saxophones.

Nominated for the Kora All Africa Music Awards in 2016 Masike looked stunning in hoop earrings, a tight-fitting décolleté outfit that had a design of the iconic fertility symbol the chevron motif flowing down from her waist to the hem of her dark red dress.

There is an awkwardness to sexual education in Zimbabwe and by launching ‘Dzevabvazera’ Masike has opened up a discussion in this area since sexual topics are rarely addressed in the public realm, writing erotica as a genre is equally perceived as risky yet historically erotic poetry has a very long tradition and is renowned in African cosmology and just like a lot of our customs it is one of those values that is gradually disappearing.

Storyteller and author of ‘Chibarabada’ Tinashe Muchuri said ‘Dzevabvazera’ is a “reprimand giving hope in fighting the challenges that ruin happiness between lovers. The feared things have found a bold writer who has named them succinctly with depth as we relax and laugh while healing some of the challenges found in love’.

Through music, lyrics and metaphors Hope Masike and her band managed to take the crowd on an enticing and tantalizing initiation into the riches and beauty of this venerable poetic tradition as she paired her outstanding vocal agility with experimental literature themed around sexual knowledge dissemination and the delicate evoking of vivid sexual imagery giving fans who braved the rain an opportunity to ponder on how joyful and gratifying sex can and should be.

On why she chose erotic expressions in her second book Masike says “I wanted something different, I wanted to capture a theme that is not often spoken of” she explained as she took breaks in between recitals to have conversations with the audience. “The book was born out of inspiration from a book that I was given by my friend the late Jazz musician Friday Mbirimi titled ‘How to write erotica’, a book that I got deeply immersed in during the pandemic” She added.

Veteran township jazz crooner and one of township music’s custodians Tanga Wekwa Sando is also celebrated in one of the poems titled ‘KwaTanga wekwaSando’ which depicts two lovers on an outing, ‘the lovers upon getting home continue to enjoy their beautiful world of just the two of them, life, jazz and making love’. The crowd sang along as the ‘Mahobho’ hitmaker deftly strummed his guitar backed by the youthful six-piece band as they performed yesteryear hits like ‘Nyenyedzi’ and a remix of the song ‘Wake’ a track that is celebrating its 21st anniversary this year.

Spoken Word poet Fadzai Katanda also blessed the launch with a beautiful recital of her poem titled ‘Zororo’ which gave testimony that the future of Shona poetry is in safe hands.

Masike has done a great job of compiling poetry and prose of an otherwise very difficult-to-find subject and for opening up discussion in this area.

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