Pioneer Chirikure Chirikure relives journey


Poetry is one of the most precious forms of art.

It is a culmination of words and rhythm, giving the audience the greatest gift of individual creation.

It takes a lot more than just literacy for one to be appreciative of words, to love morphemes, prefixes, suffixes, conversion and compounds.

It takes a lot more than an understanding of meanings; it’s a rare and beautiful gift.

Such a gift was bestowed on one Chirikure Chirikure, born in 1962 in Gutu District in Masvingo Province.

The place was the best setting for a genius to be born and raised.

As if they had peeked into the future his parents who were both teachers gave him a name no one could forget.

Perfect for the stage!

And a name that would stand out even if he failed.

Chirikure’s patronymic naming was quite an honour conferred on the first son under the Karanga /Shona tradition to ensure that the name of the founding father does not die.

Today he stands proud of his name.

But, as a teenager he went through a phase when he thought his name was not cool and so got to use the name ‘Carlos’. Teenagers!

Raised by teachers, this meant that they would be posted to different schools and areas in the Masvingo province.

Every holiday his parents would send him off to their rural home where he would be surrounded by his artistic extended family of which the late legendary Shona novelist Mordecai Abenia Hamutyinei, considered as one of the best writers in Zimbabwe, was part of.

Hamutyinei is his uncle.

He played a big role in Chirikure’s life.

Chirikure admired Hamutyinei’s prowess with words and read all his books, content to bask in his shadow and learn all he could from him.

The prolific poet, songwriter and author, was a born performer, always ready to hit a stage and do what came naturally to him.

Years later watching Chirikure perform at The Book Café his first grade teacher- his mother- would remember what a performer he always was in class.

Through primary and high school he was always scribbling and writing stuff as well as performing in all sorts of skits.

In the lower six he won a prize for a poem he wrote and that is his earliest memory of a finished poem he worked on.

When Chirikure Chirikure was 17, his family made a big move to Harare and lived in Kambuzuma.

Settling there he found himself on the same street as Aaron Chiundura Moyo, who became a great influence as well.

After high school, Chirikure, was accepted into the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) where he studied History and Shona and earned himself a postgraduate degree in Religious studies.

He found a lot of inspiration from the crop of lecturers who taught him between 1982 and 1985.

It was at the University of Zimbabwe where he became a great poet.

Great thinkers such as Aaron Hodza, Solomon Mutsvairo, Herbert Chimhandu and George Kahari played a huge role in motivating and encouraging Chirikure.

After graduating from the UZ, Chirikure continued to work with them as a publisher, writer and performance artist.

His first job was at College Press Publishers as an editor.

Whilst doing this, Chirikure always found time for music, poetry and theatre, a job he passionately served for 17 years until 2002.

Chirikure Chirikure’s peers have described him as somebody who has ‘a clever way of teaching using his poems, and when he performs there is a calmness about him as he pours into words’.

They said Chirikure’s poetry seems to adopt a critical position and a satirical tone at times both at the same time. Using highly symbolic imagery, Chirikure evokes the collective cultural tradition using syntactic and lexical repetition, ideophones and alliteration.

Chirikure has written and translated quite a number of children’s books and text books too.

In the 1980s, Chirikure wrote a string of educational poems in vernacular and English.

His first volume of poetry, Rukuvhute, received honourable mention with the 1990 Noma Awards.

In 2005 he contributed some pieces in a Shona poetry anthology, Zviri Muchinokoro,  with the Zimbabwe Publishing House.

In 2014, he recorded eight records one of which was collaboration with the late mbira queen Chiwoniso Maraire.

It has been a ‘work in progress’ the past few years and its working title at the moment is Chimanimani.

 Chirikure hopes to release the records soon.  

He performs regularly, accompanied by the mbira and with various artiste, including the mbira ensemble Dete Mbira, with whom he released an album called Napukeni in 2002.

The poet has written songs for the late Oliver Mtukudzi, Chiwoniso Maraire, Okay Machisa and this reporter (Patience Musa).

Currently he has been with Alexio Kawara who is soon releasing some new music.

Chirikure is an Honorary Fellow of University of Iowa, US and was a fellow in Germany under the DAAD Berliner Kunstlerprogramm (Artists in Berlin Programme) in 2011.

He has several poetry books to his name including Rukuvhute,  Chamupupuri,  Hakurarwi ,We Shall not Sleep and Aussicht Auf Eigene Schatten, which is made up of  Shona and English poems with German translations.

All of these poetry books received first prizes in the annual Zimbabwe Writer of the Year Awards.

Hakurarwi was selected as one of the 75 Best Zimbabwean Books of the 20th Century and was chosen as one of the best five Shona publications of the 20th century.

He is also celebrated for fostering a love for performance poetry in the country and recognised as one of the pioneers of professional performance poetry in the country.

Over the years he has participated in numerous local, regional and international books, music and poetry festivals including the Zimbabwe International Book Fair and Harare International Festival of the Arts.

Currently, Chirikure is director of LitFest which runs the Literature Festival, the Khanyisa Poetry slams and is part of several arts programmes in the country.

Back home in Gutu where his heart truly lies, he has raised funds to develop a community resource centre.

There is still a lot that needs to be done for the centre but the work has begun and a number of youth are benefiting from the centre.

Chirikure has a new video of poetry, music and animation produced in collaboration with locals and Glasgow based colleagues and will soon be a part of an international exhibition put together by the University of Glasgow and UNESCO.

Chirikure is passionate about sincerity and this is visible in the way he manages his affairs and the many people he has met along the way who have become family over time.

Chirikure Chirikure is an editor, art manager, actor, poet, performer, art curator, a father, a husband and a huge fan of the world’s art in all its different forms.

He continues to dream big, think broad as he inspires generations just like he was inspired many years ago in a little village in Gutu.

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