Charles Mungoshi

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By Elizabeth D.T. Taderera

A writer and an actor, Charles Lovemore Mungoshi was born on the 2nd of December 1947. He is said to have developed a thirst for writing short stories and poetry when he was still in primary school. Mungoshi said that his first poem was inspired by a girl called Siphiwe who sat next to him in class. His first short story, “The Love Story”, was published in the school magazine while he was in high school. It was later published in a commercial magazine in Salisbury (now Harare). He joined the Forestry Commission after finishing his studies.

Mungoshi’s work was and is available in both Shona and English. His first novel, “Makunun’unu Maodzamoyo”, was published in 1970. He was employed at Textbook Sales and later joined the Literature Bureau until 1981 as an editor. He was also a writer-in-residence at the University of Zimbabwe and the University of Durban from 1982 up to 1985. Mungoshi was a Resource Person in 1996 at Groningen Children’s Book year workshop in the Netherlands. In 2000 he was a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Florida in the department of African Studies. He also received an honorary doctorate (Doctor of Letters-DLitt) from the University of Zimbabwe. He also worked as an editor and translator.

Charles was also an actor who took part in local dramas, “Ndabvezera”, produced by Aaron Chiundura Moyo, “Zivakwawakabva”, “Makunun’unu Maodzamoyo” (adapted from his novel) as well as “Julius Caesar”.

Charles preferred prose, viewing his poetry as a “mere finger exercise”. His material varied from anti-colonial writings to children’s books. His work was initially banned by the colonial government. He eventually wrote about post-colonial oppression as well. Most of his books are used as literature set books in Zimbabwean schools. He was awarded the International PEN Awards in 1975, 1981 and 1998. He also received Noma Honorable Awards for Publishing in Africa in 1980, 1984, 1990 and 1992.  In 1988 he received a Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best Book in Africa for “The Setting Sun” and “The Rolling World” in 1988. He received 7 awards at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair over the years. In 2006 he received a NAMA Silver Jubilee Award.

He was married to the actress Jesese Mungoshi who played the role of Neria in the 1993 Zimbabwean film “Neria”. His brother, David, was also a writer and an actor. Charles suffered a stroke in April 2010 leaving him nearly paralyzed. He died in Harare on the 16th of February 2019.

His publication timeline spans from the year 1970 to 2017:

  • Makunun’unu Maodzamoyo (1970)
  • Coming Of The Dry Season (1972)
  • Ndiko Kupindana Kwemazuva (How Time Passes) (1975)
  • Waiting For The Rain (1975)
  • Inongova Njakenjake (1980)
  • Some Kind Of Wounds (1980)
  • The Milkman Doesn’t Only Deliver Milk (Anthology) (1981)
  • Kunyarara Hakusi Kutaura (1983)
  • The Setting Sun And The Rolling World (1987)
  • Stories From A Shona Childhood (1989)
  • One Day Long Ago (1991)
  • The Axe (1995)
  • Gwatakwata (1995)
  • Walking Still (1997)
  • Writing Still (Anthology) (2004)
  • Branching Streams Flow In The Dark (2013)
  • How Will The World End (2017)