Kwarantynketting: "Playing cat and mouse with anxiety" by Chirikure Chirikure

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Photo: Hannah Mentz

Writer Chirikure Chirikure tells more about Zimbabwe’s Covid-19 lockdown:

Coronavirus reflections

A couple of days into the Zimbabwe Covid-19 lockdown, a cousin sent me a WhatsApp message: “How are you coping with the lockdown, uncle? I guess it’s easier for you because you work from home most of the time.”

For sure, most of the time for the past few years, I have worked from home, because of a number of factors. And I had actually taken the lockdown in my stride – working on my PC whenever I felt inspired, then taking a break to catch up with the news, or to make a few calls, or simply to stretch my legs.

But, as the week progressed, I began to realise that things were no longer the same. The more Covid-19 updates I saw on TV and social media, the more my mind shifted from work to a hard-to-define form of anxiety. It was much more than anxiety about my personal safety. It was anxiety about the folks in the village, old and in constant need of provisions, supervision and attention; anxiety about my children, who have left the nest and are fighting hard to shape their own destinies in the diaspora; anxiety about my siblings and their families, all scattered around the globe, struggling to make better lives for themselves; anxiety about the entire extended family and friends dotted around the world, sweating for a brighter future.

As each day passes, the anxiety drives my mind into higher gears. I look back at my childhood and early adulthood – those memorable years in the village, growing up surrounded by this huge family. Playing, working hard and even mourning in difficult times – but always with so many loving people around. Moving into the city a few years later for further studies and eventually for employment. Struggling to adjust, fumbling, but eventually finding my calling, following my passion wholeheartedly. Yes, and securing a comfortable life, beginning my own family, making significant contributions to the growth of our new nation – all going relatively well because of the support and encouragement of the huge family, partly still in the village and partly in the city.

I reflect on the joys of the regular family reunions: driving or hiking back to the village to celebrate Christmas as one happy family, one big family – the folks, siblings, kids, cousins, uncles and all the distant relatives – feasting, merrymaking, but always making time to catch up on each other’s progress, encouraging and directing each other.

I look back at the occasional get-togethers in the city. Same pattern. Huge gatherings. Massive fun. Support.

Of course, there were also some dark days – sickness, accidents, death. But we would all be there to lean on each other’s shoulders – picking ourselves up, healing and moving on as one big family.

As the lockdown progresses, so does my reflection. Sad memories of how the national politics started getting muddy, of the economy slowly withering down. Memories of the younger family members packing their bags and leaving the country in search of greener pastures – some using the legal routes, some opting for the unorthodox means – each one going in their own direction, following their survival instincts.

As the coronavirus figures keep rising, so does the media coverage. And social media helps propagate the reports. And as I look at the tables, the graphs and the visuals, I keep realising that in almost each of the corners of the world, there is a family member of mine. Or a family friend. Right across the length and breadth of the globe. Global village, indeed.

Due to the national lockdown, the few remaining industries are closed, and so we have a constant supply of electricity in our homes. And, thanks to technology, we can keep track of each other on social media and by the occasional phone call. Everyone, so far, seems safe. The solidarity of the yesteryears still remains very solid in the family. Even when you can detect the anxiety in the voice or message of the daughter, brother or cousin who is thousands of miles away, you can still feel their determination and unwavering love.

I am supposed to continue working from home to keep food on the table. I am one of the few still in the country who are fortunate enough to have some form of a job, and who are able to work from home. I am forever grateful.

But the opportunity comes with its own huge challenges. The muse is a tricky character. It needs a number of factors to be in the right place. If any of these factors falter, it is basically impossible to open your PC, let alone write any piece of creative work, or even a report.

Yet, once in a while, something unexpected fires up your inspiration, and you find yourself doing what you are supposed to do: shutting out the Covid-19 anxiety and working. And one of those unexpected inspirations was a post on one of our family group social media platforms. One of my brothers forwarded it from another platform, so I guess no credit is required, as is the case with most stuff on social media. The post basically said: “We survived the Chimurenga struggle for independence, bilharzia, malaria, cholera, HIV/AIDS, droughts, cyclones, hunger, repression – and we will survive the coronavirus.”

Yes, the coronavirus is a huge challenge which will ravage humanity. Casualties will be many. But the future will always be there in one form or another. The likelihood of my huge family ever getting to gather again in the village at the same time in merriment is almost zero. But we will remain one family, marching into the future with one heart, despite the bruises.

I am back on my PC. I am sure that every now and then, I will keep getting the writer’s block induced by the Covid-19 anxiety. Cat-and-mouse games with the anxiety.

Twists and turns

the more
the twists and turns
this road takes us through
the more
this journey
feels smooth and comfortable

that’s pretty much the result
of burning too many precious hours
trudging with no destination in mind
just drifting for the sake of moving

maybe now is the time
to get back to base and plan anew

Chirikure Chirikure

This sound clip is a studio recorded performance of a poem entitled “Hazvigoni”.
The clip is from Chirikure’s CD entitled “Napukeni” (Chirikure Chirikure and DeteMbira (2002), Tuku Music/Gramma Records, Harare):

Read more poetry by Chirikure Chirikure (Aussicht auf eigene Schatten (poetry in Shona and English, with German translations) (2011), Heidelberg, Germany: Verlag Das Wunderhorn):

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