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For The Hip Hop Nerds: ‘Watch The Throne’, A Shakespearean Play By Lev Novak

I love Hip Hop. And I love Shakespeare. While on the surface these two art forms might seem incompatible at their core they are actually quite similar. It’s all in the wordplay. Both art forms appeal to the logophile in me. So you can only imagine how thrilled I was to come across a Shakespeare inspired drama based on some of my favourite Hip Hop artists.
‘Watch The Throne’ is a Shakespearean drama written by Lev Novak wrote that deals with the power struggles in Hip Hop. The play features Kanye West, Pusha T, Ludacris, J. Cole, Kim Kardashian, 2 Chainz and the big homie Jay Z amongst others.

‘Watch The Throne’ A Shakespearean Drama By Lev Novak

Act I, Scene I

Kanye is sitting upon the throne of rap. His trusty lieutenant, Pusha T, stands beside him. On the other side is Kim Kardashian.

PUSHA T

My liege,
As Jay-Z hath ascended
Past this mortal realm
The throne has become watched by those that would seek it for themselves
The guilds of rap grow restless, my Lord.
MMG of the north waits patient,
and YMCMB rake their coals in darkness
Even the fiefdoms seek their claim;
A$APs require attention, Asap,
Taylor Gang and TDE watch us from afar,
And, though I hate to report it,
There is a whispering of evil within the very halls of G.O.O.D

(J.Cole enters, triumphant)

J.COLE

I have long said the same,
Oh Pusha.

PUSHA T

Yeuchh.

KANYE

Jermaine? Ah!
So good to see you!

(The two embrace as Pusha watches)

KANYE

Have you found success?

J.COLE

Indeed, Yeezy.
As befitting my princely status,
I have completed my first quest:
I have solidified our treaty with Kendrick of the West.

KANYE

Excellent!
The West, slumbering
May threaten West
Nevermore, without Kendrick’s flow.
But aligned,
The two might prosper.
You have done well Jermaine.

J.COLE

Thank you, Yeezy.
But I have taken a name unto myself: J.Cole

KANYE

Christened by Yeezus, I approve your nameship.
May pressure make you a diamond.
Like the Roc-a-fella’s before us.

(They look skyward)

J.COLE

Praised be J-Hova.

KANYE

Praised be he.

J.COLE

And yet…

KANYE

Yet what, Cole?
Speak.

J.COLE

It was odd;
As I left the palace gates,
I found myself without reinforcement.
Guest verses undelivered,
My album was assailed by critics.
I survived, and persevered but this;
(shows a scar on his face)
Is damage from Pitchfork.

PUSHA T

The fool Don Glover
Found his head upon one.
‘Tis but a scratch.

J.COLE

You shroud your meaning, Pusha,
And speak of my scratch
As though it were not upon my flesh,
But rather a mark upon your records,
And thus fully inconsequential.

PUSHA T

Though you say “Cole World”
You would be wise to be wary of heat;
heated words, of course.
Forgive the entendre.

J.COLE

You are modest in your estimation.
I fear no weapon.
But am wary of he who wields them.

(J.Cole leaves, an eye to Pusha.)

KANYE

This is heavy news to ponder.
Pusha, I require my jester

PUSHA T

Yeuch.

(Pusha T summons 2 Chainz enters in his jester gear.)

KANYE

Two Chainz,
my head is weary, as though two chains,
each heavy,
hung around my neck.
Tell me, oh Jester,
Is ruling yet a fool’s errand?

2 CHAINZ

If it were, your majesty,
you’d have sent me in your stead.
(Ludacris enters, in all his finery.)

KANYE

Hear, oh wise Ludacris,
That you are welcome in my presence.
Oh, wise Luda, hear how Jay-Z hath ascended
And left me to follow in his wake.
It is I, now, who must watch the throne
From King Richard the Ross and of Weezy F. Baby,
The occult swamp-man who threatens to devour us all.

LUDACRIS

Ay, and you have asked for my partnership.
A wise decision, Kanye.
For indeed, my clan of DTP is mighty
In the southern realms of this land,
And together,
We can rule this land as brothers.
Though shrouded in irony, we may keep the peace.

KANYE

Nay, Ludacris;
I cannot split my rule of this kingdom.
I ask not for your partnership, but for your service.

LUDACRIS

A knee?
Nay!
Wise Luda, you have called me,
Yet you play me for the fool.
I serve standing, never hunched like your jester.
He used to be a rapper, a man amongst us,
Though he ran from my service only to find your favor?
An outrage!
He hath 2 Chainz, oh Yeezy,
But no honor.

2 CHAINZ

Aye, take me for a fool?
Perhaps, and that path be quite oft taken to my benefit.
They laugh, oh Luda, but I do so to the bank.
Why, for me to be forgotten or broke,
Why, that would be Ludacris.

LUDACRIS

Knave!

(Ludacris draws his sword)

KANYE

Luda!
There shall be no violence in this halls.

LUDACRIS

Hear, Yeezy, how I work alone.
But for respect to you, I swear an oath of separation.
I will not be disturbing the peace.
Keep your clan-mates with you, but be wary, O Yeezy,
Some watch the throne
When they should watch their court.

(Ludacris exits.)

KANYE

Pusha!
Oh, my trusted advisor!
How might I handle a foe, oh Pusha?

PUSHA T

My liege?

KANYE

A foe.
In glorious battle, with the colors of banners
And the roar of my warriors, the clashing of weapons and diss-tracks-
What a spectacle!
But tell me, Pusha, who radiates a glory near mine?

PUSHA T

None, my lord.

KANYE

Indeed, Pusha, and this worries me greatly.
Jigga, the king before me,
rests amongst the greats
Having defeated countless foes.
But who may I face?
Who can match my luster?

PUSHA T

One may exist.

KANYE

You are kind, Pusha
But I doubt that.
Still, as I pursue greatness.
Can I trust you,
Pusha,
To do what is necessary?

PUSHA T

By Biggie’s Ghost,
I pledge my loyalty, now and forever,
To the ‘Ye.

KANYE
I sense in you the truth.
I retire gladly, Pusha.
I leave to examine leather skirts.

(Kanye exits)

PUSHA T

For truth, I am loyal to the ‘Ye.
The yeyo, cocaine, sweet white.
Hard white, they call you,
though you be soft in my embrace.
Kilo’s, soft as pillows,
how I long for you in my bed.
Caine, oh Caine!
It is for you, my love,
that I will ascend the throne myself.
Forgive me, Pac! Forgive me, Biggie!
I betray for love, of the game and of the game.
As Cain killed Abel, I too am able for ‘Caine.
Yuch.
See how I have come to loath the man Yeezy
For now the throne is watched
Observed by paparazzi
Bloggers and more
Nerds, hovering over us
Casting a shadow over rhymes
This doth provoke in me a malice
And such as Malice is my brother
I find it inseparable from my motivation.
That I may avenge Clipse with clips
And take the throne I have earned.
(Offstage he hears the click of heels)
Yea, for the strumpet approaches
I must keep my plans disguised.
Yuch, I say, Yuch,
For the Kardashian comes quick.

KIM

Oh Pusha,
hath thou seen my husband?

PUSHA T

Kris Humphries is out,
m’lady.

KIM

Rouge! My husband, my love,
the famed and talented-

PUSHA T

Ray J?
KIM

Yeezy. Oh Pusha, push me not.
My plans move beyond you,
With rapid steps measured in weeks and years.
My wealth exceeds yours, as does my wit.
You pushed cocaine?
I too sold poison-
Myself!
Loved, loathed and consumed
By every fiend across this country.
Do not doubt me, Pusha.
Keeping up with the Kardashians is a fools errand.

PUSHA T

Such that your viewers are. I am inclined to agree.

KIM
You are an ass, Pusha
And one that rivals even my own.

(Kim moves beyond Pusha to the kingly chamber, her eyes at the mirror behind the throne)

You can read the rest of Act I, Scene 1 here, Act I, Scene II  ( ft Drake, Nikki Minaj, Lil Wayne & Tyga here

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Follow Friday: Teju Cole (Writer)

Blaise Pascal once wrote that writing succinctly can be hard. It’s something many of us aim for, yet few of us master. As awriter who is often guilty of rambling on and subsequently going off on tangents I couldn’t agree more. Writing succinctly is hard for me. My words are my babies. I want them all to shine on the blank page. After the first draft is done I find it difficult to edit out the unnecessary words. Brevity has never been my forte. Neither has been simplicity. But that is something that I continue to work on improving.

To be able to condense an idea into as few words as possible without compromising it requires clarity of thought and a ruthlessness with words that eludes me on most days. And that is one of the reasons I like Twitter and admire those who I regard as masters at tweeting. A tweet gives you only 140 characters to express yourself. It is the perfect training ground for writing succinctly in that regard. Especially for someone like me who needs the practice. But it’s not just having a platform to practice on that appeals to me. There is also the added bonus of getting an insight into the workings of the minds of other writers and ‘Creatives’, one tweet at a time. (Sidebar: I have never been a fan of people calling themselves ‘Creatives’. Doesn’t sound very ummm … creative. Intellectual property developer on the other hand…)

If there is one person who is brilliant at the art of writing succinctly it’s the Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole. Teju Cole a published author of the 2011 bestselling book ‘Open City’ is a master of tweeting. He puts the wit in Twitter. He is able to play the most beautiful games with language using just 140 characters. 

This is not an easy feet by any means. I have tried. And failed. Dismally. I first became aware of Teju Cole a few years ago when he was doing his Small Fates project on Twitter. He would tell a story based on stories he read in the papers in just one tweet. He was somehow able to paint a complete picture while leaving out almost all the details. I was in awe. I still am.

“I don’t normally do this kind of thing”: 45 small fates (Tweets) by Teju Cole

Ever since his timeline has continued to be a both a source of inspiration and a reminder of the beauty of simplicity.

Teju Cole’s musings on Twitter provide a haven from the clutter of all too similar tweets about the latest breaking story. Unlike a lot of people on Twitter, Cole doesn’t spend much time regurgitating other people’s opinions.This makes him one of my favourite people to follow on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As these tweets suggest, Teju Cole can run the gamut of literary genres on Twitter: reportage, epigram, autobiography. But what I find most refreshing is how much they revel in their simplicity. And therein lays his genius.

You can follow him @tejucole

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Dambudzo Marechera – His Life and Work (In His Own Words)

Dambudzo

There’s an intimacy, a familiarity with writers and their readers unlike any other relationship. They allow us access to their lives. And not just their peripheral existences, but their deepest fears, their most uncomfortable memories, their subconscious motivations, their haven’t-yet-showered morning mirror reflections. They allow us to know them without us actually knowing them. They give us their lives. We give them our attention.

And, when a writer dies, they leave behind a dichotomous legacy that’s equal parts surreal and…tender. You mourn their death while appreciating the fact that their work — the thing that made them so vibrant, so kinetic, so alive — is immortal.

One of Zimbabwe’s and Africa’s greatest literary minds Dambudzo Marechera would have been 62 today. Dambudzo Marechera might have died years ago. But Dambudzo Marechera will always be here. He will continue to teach. He will continue to challenge. He will continue to inspire. He will continue to be. His legacy lives on.

Dambudzo Marechera, Cemetery of Mind. (In his own writing here.)

Dambudzo Marechera, Cemetery of Mind. (In his own writing here.)

 

According to information gathered from a series of audio interviews conducted in Marechera’s flat at 8 Sloane Court, Harare, Zimbabwe, by Alle Lansu in February 1986:

‘Dambudzo Marechera was born on June 4 1952 in Rusape, Zimbabwe and baptised Charles William Marechera. His father, Isaac, was a trucker and mortuary attendant, and his mother, Masvotwa Venezia was a nanny. However, Dambudzo won scholarships to St Augustine’s Secondary School, to the University of Zimbabwe and to New College, Oxford. He has the distinction of having been expelled from all three.

After his expulsion from Oxford, Marechera hitchhiked to London, and claimed to have lived in a riverside tent there while he wrote ‘The House of Hunger’ – a novella and some short stories. With a theme that questioned what had happened to his generation–that of the first politically conscious, educated Africans–the book caused a literary stir and won several impressive reviews when it was published by the esteemed Heinemann publishing house in 1978. It was championed by well-known writers, and earned the Guardian newspaper’s prize for debut fiction the following year.

House of Hunger was followed by four other novels, ‘Black Sunlight’ (1980),’The Black Insider’ (1990) and ‘Mindblast’ (1884). His poetry, collected together in ‘Cemetery of Mind’, was published posthumously in 1992.

After his departure from Oxford, he lived and wrote in London until his return to Zimbabwe in 1982. Dambudzo died an untimely and tragic death on August 18 1987, in Harare.

Marechera’s work, his ideas and his defiance, live on in Zimbabwe, particularly amongst the youth, who find inspiration in his willingness to be the lone outsider, challenging conventional and authoritarian views.’

Dambudzo Marechera; His Life and Work an Interview by Alle Lansu

Childhood

Here he offers some insight into what it was like growing up in Vengere Township in Rusape , in the then Rhodesia ( now Zimbabwe). He talks about how he got his first books from a rubbish dump in the white part of town.

You can listen to this part of the interview below

 

Escaping the House of Hunger

‘Getting out of the House of Hunger is easy if you know that there is a way out. It’s about education and ignoring the poverty around you. It’s very selfish. Reading is what taught me that there was another world out there and I wanted to break into it’.

He goes on to speak on how he became the first black African student to score 20 points (Straight A’s) for his A’ Level exams and that is how he won a full scholarship to study any university in the world. He chose the University of Zimbabwe because he ‘wanted to experience what it was like going at our highest education institution. I wanted to become part of our national struggle’. He was expelled from the University of Zimbabwe in 1973 and went on to attend Oxford University in the UK.

You can listen to this part of the interview below

 

Oxford and London

He talks about his bookish knowledge of the UK which he had picked from the authors he read and how the reality of being on British soil was so disappointing. He points out that by being a scholar at Oxford he became a member of the aristocracy by default. He couldn’t drink with other black people because they considered him other and he didn’t really fit in the student pubs either. ‘All the time I was in Oxford I didn’t belong anywhere. So I just read and drank and listened to my classical music. This showed him the ‘irrelevancy of being part of Oxford University.’ He goes on to say this experience ‘radicalized my mind in an international way’

You can listen to this part of the interview below

Back In Zimbabwe 

 

Here discusses his homelessness and run ins with the authorities upon his return to his homeland after his return to Zimbabwe in 1982. He also discusses his relationship with a German expatriate teacher who taught in Mutoko who would feed him and book a hotel room for both them when she was in Harare for weekends. During the week he would sleep in the streets. This was the period in which he wrote Mindblast. In is own words ‘I was having a normal life by installments. Each Sunday morning I would wake up and we would know that she is going back to school to teach and I am going back to the streets.’

 

On the Future of Zimbabwean Literature

‘If every writer is actually helped to not only discover his vision and talent but also to fashion it out in such a way that he re-evaluates himself and at the same time achieves both national and international recognition then there is a tremendous future for Zimbabwean literature.’

You can listen to this part of the interview below

 

His Vision for African Literature

In this part of the interview he shares his thoughts on traditional and modern African Literature as well as his views on the works of Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka , Ngugi wa Thiong’o etc as well as the concept of negritude. His speaks of Wole Soyinka and Ngugi wa Thiong’o as the African writers who had the biggest influence on him as a writer. Ngugi wa Thiong’o ‘Weep Not Child’ was the first book by an African writer that he read. Up to this point he had never thought that blacks could be writers. In his own words he thought to himself ‘If another African can do it then I am going to do it.’

You can listen to this part of the interview below

 

Let Me Write and Drink My Beer

‘There is a disconnection between my profession as a writer and the needs of a developing country like Zimbabwe. People considered my writing as an indulgence. There is no tradition in Zimbabwe of writing as a profession. People thought of me as unemployed and merely as a vagabond who refusing to do any constructive … Just live me alone to write and drink my beer.’

You can listen to this part of the interview below

 

Thank you Dambduzo. For the words. And the inspiration.

 
 

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Sam Smith: A Really Soulful Dude. I’m A Fan.

Unrequited love is a hell of a muse.

Just ask Adele. And Frank Ocean. And Sam Smith. Who? Sam Smith. Sam Smith is one of the latest in an impressive production line of soul singers that have come out of the UK in the last couple of years. Could it be all that tea and crumpets? Oh the fish and chips perhaps? Whatever it is I am just glad they are putting the soul back into our radios. Shouts to Emeli Sandé.

Personally I think Sam Smith owned the Queen of R&B herself Mary J Blige on ‘Stay With Me’ duet. I actually prefer his solo version to be honest.

 

Sam Smith’s voice is sublime. You feel it before you hear it. And that’s just about as soulful as it gets. When I found out he was a 22 year old white guy I was even more impressed by the soulful inflections in his voice because traditionally the most soulful singers have tended to be black. And Sam Smith is just as soulful as any other cats out there. Fact. His voice speaks for itself. Admittedly I only caught onto his music a few weeks ago. But as soon as I heard his beautifully soulful voice on the radio I fell in love with his music. At the time I had no idea who the artist was. Where is Shazam when you need it? Sigh. It would be a few days before I would finally found out that the man behind the voice was none other Sam Smith. And the song that had initially piqued my interest? His latest single ‘Leave Your Lover’ of his debut album the ‘‘In The Lonely Hour’.

 

Since then I have made it my mission to listen to this young soul impresario’s music. And as I embarked on this journey I become more and more of a fan. Songs like ‘Money On Mind’, ‘Stay With Me’ and ‘Nirvana’ reminded of how of an old soul I actually am. That even in this increasingly digital world I am an analogue at heart. There is a certain warmth and humanity in Sam Smith’s voice that is so refreshing especially when juxtaposed against most of the mainstream vapid ‘music’. This is something that he addressed in a recent interview with The Fader magazine when he said;

‘I want to make the music that’s not there anymore. I’m so passionate about the singing voice. I genuinely feel like there’s a snobbery in the industry where people feel like playing an instrument makes you a better songwriter or musician. What I’m trying to do actually with my album is show that it’s my voice that’s leading. It’s my voice that’s the instrument. It’s hard, it’s difficult—I watch artists around me that have 200 fans waiting outside of hotels and venues for them and they can’t sing.’

Outside of his music I also dug a little into the story of the man behind the voice. And the first thing I picked up on was the parallels between some aspects of his story and that of Frank Ocean, another soulful singer whose music I absolutely adore. Like Frank Ocean before him the inspiration for Sam Smith’s Album ‘In The Lonely Hour’ was drawn from love gone wrong. Unrequited love to be specific. And for both artists the person who they loved was a man. It seems men are quite the muses when it comes to this thing called unrequited love. Shouts to Adele.

In some instances both Sam Smith and Frank Ocean’s music is confessional and serves as a platform for them to ‘come out’ per se. ‘Leave Your Lover’ is to Sam Smith what ‘Bad Religion’ was to Frank Ocean. As a listener whilst I have never been in love with a man, I have experienced unrequited love. I think everyone who has ever opened themselves up to love has at some point. It doesn’t matter how beautiful or charming you are. It doesn’t matter if you are gay or straight. At some point we have all loved someone who hasn’t necessarily loved us back. Life.

And that’s the beauty of art. Our experiences don’t have to be identical. They just have to resonate. Therein lays the magic in Sam Smith’s music. It resonates. It tugs at your heartstrings. It moves you. And if you are lucky enough it makes you more appreciative of the love that you currently have in your life. In the same cover story for The Fader magazine Sam Smith had this to say about the inspiration behind his album.

‘In the Lonely Hour’ is about a guy that I fell in love with last year, and he didn’t love me back. I think I’m over it now, but I was in a very dark place. I kept feeling lonely in the fact that I hadn’t felt love before. I’ve felt the bad things. And what’s a more powerful emotion: pain or happiness?

What’s a more powerful emotion; pain or happiness? That is a very good question. One that I will leave you to marinate on whilst I continue marinating on Sam Smith’s music.

 

You can read the full The Fader cover story on Sam Smith in which he opens up about his life and love here.

 
 

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Once A Tarzan, Always A Tarzan (Part 2): ‘End of The Road’

Earlier, I introduced the story of Jane, a pretty young thang I had a crush on for a few years.My story of Jane has some epic fumbles on the part of one Tafadzwa Tichawangana. That’s me. Two in particular for which I can do nothing but hang my head in shame at the missed opportunity due to my attempts to be so cool in the situation that I completely skied it. Embarrassingly so.

When we last left our hero, Tafadzwa, he was looking like a damn fool after being given as much of a green light as possible in a mall in Perth, Western Australia by the object of his admiration 3000km away from their normal center of dalliance.

Now that you all caught up on Part 1, let’s continue shall we.

My final year went by like any other last year. Fast as f*ck as I attempted to figure out what I was doing with my life. I would see her again millions of times and never say a word. To be honest, by this point, I was over myself. And it wasn’t like I wasn’t hooking up with other women anyway. Jane had gone from woman I was intrigued by to symbol of my need to step up to the plate more. She achieved a purpose in my life by being a reminder of just how useless I was in certain areas of life. Hell, final year of uni I fell all the way in love with another woman who I would eventually end up dating most of that year. Point is, while I was still checking for Jane, I’d chalked it up as loss and sort of moved on.

For most stories, this would be the end. I graduated and started working and she went off to do whatever it is she was going to do whether we ever met or not.
But God has a sense of humor. Which brings us to the final chapter in this tawdry affair.

A couple of my workmates wanted to make the trip down to Geelong to watch the footy (Aussie Rules) and they invited me to come along. Footy wasn’t really my scene and outside of the footy tipping competitions we had at work I hardly paid much attention to it. But I have never been one to turn down a road trip and I had lots of friends who lived in Geelong so I was all in. This was also the first time I would get to watch a live game of Aussie Rules even though by this point I had been living down under for five years.

Anyway me and the compadres make it down to Geelong and the atmosphere in the stadium is unlike anything I have ever experienced in any other sporting code. The stadium was packed to the rafters. The Aussie’s love their sport, but they take it to a totally different level when it comes to Aussie Rules.

Geelong Cats players celebrate their win over Hawthorn (Image via: The Herald Sun)

Geelong Cats players celebrate their win over Hawthorn (Image via: The Herald Sun)

We are sitting in the stands waiting for the game to start when out of the blue, who but who do I see walking up the steps and then sitting down like two rows in front of me and across the little aisle.

Jane.

At this point I just freeze. I couldn’t believe it. I was stuck like Chuck and am pretty sure I said, loudly, “GET THE F*CK OUT OF HERE!” at no one in particular. She didn’t hear me but like all people do at games when you’re sitting in the stands you look around to see who else is there. She looked behind her about 87 degrees and our eyes locked. The moment totally caught me off guard. 30000 people in the stadium and we ended basically sitting next to each other. What are the odds?

Jane on the other hand wore a riddle wrapped in an enigma on her face. I’m fairly certain our faces shared that look.

Did I go speak to her? Of course not. For the rest of the game we both did the “Look and pretend we didn’t thing”. Later on some of her friends showed up and she ended up rushing off while I looked on in a tortured…what am I doing with my life manner.

Fast forward to later that night. The Geelong Cats had won so the whole town was buzzing. Now, Geelong is a pretty small town and I had comfort in the fact that if she was going to be out I would most likely run into her again. So we are out having a jolly good time at one of the busier spots in town. And lo and behold, she showed up with some friends, a few of whom I recognised from La Trobe.

Keep in mind, this is two years after La Trobe and I’m kind of in a different lane so I’m a lot more confident at this point. So this time I was determined to go speak to her. Sounds like I’m about to win the game right?

I see her by herself and I walk right up to her and say, “Hello…how are you? I remember you from La Trobe and the many times I saw you around campus. What’s your name?”

Her: I’m Jane. I remember you too.

Me: Well it’s nice to finally meet you.

Her: What is your name?? (Important to note, she asked me this with some urgency)

Me: I’m Tafadzwa

Her: Do you live here?

Me: No, I live in Melbourne. I just came down for the game.

Her: Oh. Do you make it down here often?

Me: I’ve got quite a few friends who live here so I make the trip whenever I can.

Her: Oh. I’m glad you came over to say hello! Well (dawdling), my friends and I are about to leave…so….

Does he do it? Does he go in for the kill? Does he man up and ask for her number and say, hey, I would love to stay in touch if it’s possible because I’d like to get to know you better?

Me: Cool. Well it was nice to meet you Jane. Enjoy your evening!

Walks off.Again.

In the history of green lights, I’m pretty sure that was the greenest light I’ve ever been given. Almost as if it the light itself said, “Dumb a**, all you have to do is ask for it. Literally, that’s all, just say the words, “Can I have your number to call you sometime?” That’s it. But I couldn’t do it.
She looked at me funny then left into the night. I kicked myself AGAIN for not even trying to get her information or giving her mine. My email or phone number or something….anything.

Thus ends the tale of Tafadzwa’s ‘Immaculate Fumble’. I feel like I had been given as many opportunities as one man deserves. If you choke that many times, it’s just not meant to be. Forget what could have been; it’s unimportant.

I literally sucked at attempting to talk to the woman that I had been interested in, in a very real way, for years. Obviously, I’m over it and I don’t have that problem anymore. But Jane reigns supreme in my life as a memory of a real time and a real lesson learned. In that sense, I’m glad she happened. She’s one of those women I’ll never forget, even though I never even knew her.

She represented a young Tafadzwa’s inability to act. While I’ve grown up and into a confident (and bordering on arrogant) individual, these two instances in faraway places showed me that maybe, just maybe, I was supposed to meet this woman. And both times I blew it with such tremendous aplomb that I’m writing about it today because I was reminded of Jane a few days ago.

She’s happily married now and doing quite well based on what I know. Again, we share a few mutual friends. And I can’t complain about life either. Things happen the way they’re supposed to. But I still think back to how bad I fumbled in this regard.

You can take Tarzan out of the jungle, but no matter where you put him, he will always be a Tarzan deep down. Once a Tarzan, always a Tarzan.

The END.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Once A Tarzan, Always A Tarzan (Part 1): ‘The Immaculate Fumble’

Back in my high school days I was what you might call a Tarzan. Tarzan was the name given to guys who either could not or were just never seen talking to girls. The socially awkward brothers with no game. Despite being interested in girls I never invested my time or resources to interact with them. I was about that nerd life instead. I always had my nose in a book. Right up until the start of my A-Levels which are the last two years of high school I was your stereotypical Tarzan.

Tarzan giving Jane Flowers

Tarzan giving Jane Flowers

My high school was an all-boy Catholic boarding school located in one of the most remote areas in the country and was run by the Marist Brothers. We did not have a single female teacher. In fact the entire school only had three female employees. Yes, three. And they were all ‘Waxers’ who only worked part time shining the school corridors a few days of the week. The nearest girl’s school that we had social engagements with was at least a good 100km away. This meant whenever there was a function only a busload of girls would grace our school of about 600 boys and the reverse was true for when our visited. I only really started interacting with girls when I was doing my A-Levels. Now a senior I now had the opportunity to visit the girls school more frequently and the odds were stacked heavily in my favour.

Fast forward to my university days and I found myself riding on the wave of being the token black guy. I was the ‘exotic’guy with the accent and boy did I milk it. My Tarzan ways quickly became a thing of the past, for the most part.
Most of us have had crushes at some point in our lives. Most of us put our crushes on a pedestal even before we get to know them properly. We project our romantic idealism onto them. I was no exception.

In my second year I found myself enamored with this girl without ever having uttered as much as a word to her. At all. But that’s pretty much standard fare for most guys at some point who have determined they have something to lose in life. Many, many people have stories of a love interest they never knew. Today I am going to share my story of a girl I had a crush on for years but never acted on it. There was a failure to launch on my part. Thinking back on it my inaction was so mind blowingly asinine that I sometimes can’t believe that it actually went down the way that it did.

Anyway, for the purposes of this story I will call this girl Jane, because … Tarzan.

I remember the very first time I saw Jane. It was early first semester and I was sitting in the Student Union in between classes with one of my boys when I see Jane. She was gorgeous. Like absolutely stunning, without fail, easily a ten. The kind nobody questions. Well, I’m trying to tell my boy how fine she is and he keeps asking me which one she is. My attempts to describe apparently fell on deaf ears – odd considering he easily agreed how hot she was – so I did the only thing I could think of to illustrate to him who I was talking about.

I pointed at her.

And said, “Her, that one right there is the one I’m talking about. The hot one!”Loudly. Or at least loud enough amidst the relative quiet of the Student Union that a few people turned to see who was talking. Mind you, there are maybe 15 -20 of us in the SU so they all saw me pointing. And so did Jane. And she smiled at me. A huge smile. One of those, “awww” smiles. One of those, “I see you, I’m flattered and that’s cute.”

I was embarrassed, but all I could do was laugh. And smile back. We exchanged a smile. She knew I was alive. For those of you who have been cool your entire lives, a woman that you find attractive that knows your alive is pretty much where you can pack it up and go home. You’ve achieved it all. Funny thing is, in every other facet but this woman, I was actually considered one of the cool kids.

Later that same day on my way to my tutorial I saw her again. She looked directly at me, smiled again, and then kept it moving. My boy was like, “Yep, she definitely isn’t forgetting you. You’re in.”

True enough, she didn’t forget me. How do I know this? Because for the next three years, we danced without ever touching.

Because the purpose of this little anecdote was to talk about missed opportunities, I won’t dwell on the regular see her on campus sightings and mutual stare downs, though they happened frequently. So much so that even my boys were annoyed that I never tried to holler because it was clear that just from our visual interaction, she would at least give me the chance to fail.

Which, really, is all any man needs in life, at the very least the opportunity to blow it. Maybe you win and you ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. Maybe you lose, but you went down swinging and you live to fight another day.

Anyway, during the course of what was my second year (her first year) we of course saw one another a million times throughout the La Trobe University Campus. I’d see her randomly at the library or whenever I had tutes in the Business building. And at the Cafeteria.We’d always lock eyes for at least a second. Always. Almost as if she was just waiting for me to take a chance. I never did. In fact, if I was her, I’d have thought I was a lame. Which given this story, is accurate. But it got taken to a new level Roberto Baggio in ’94 levels  one fine summers day in Freemantle, Perth.

Well, that summer I went up to Perth, about a 4hr flight from Melbourne to spend Christmas with my cousin who lived up there. Perth might as well have been a different country, hell it was a different time zone altogether. One Saturday my cousin and I hit up the mall to do some last minute shopping. The whole of Perth must have been at the mall that day.

And yes, you know exactly where this is going.

So we’re walking through the mall and who (but who) do I see walking towards me looking like the goddess that she was? Yup, you guessed it.

Jane.

She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw me. I pretty sure my jaw was on the floor at this point.
We look at each other and she kept walking towards me. I stop her (see I did speak finally) to say the only thing I could think of.

“Excuse me, you look familiar…do you go to La Trobe?” (Of course she goes to La Trobe you have been stalking her for the whole year, Why did you say that?

Her: “Yeah…I do. Do you go to La Trobe?” (Aww she played it coo, I might be in love)

Me: “I sure do! You’re in the business faculty right?” (Dude! you know she’s in the business faculty but at least she’s playing along…this is going well…)

Her: “I am…are you from here?????”

Me: “Nah. I’m up visiting my cousin who lives here….
And this is where, I, Tafadzwa Tichawangana, pulled the most ridiculous sh*t known to man in the history of evolution.

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

Me: “Well nice to see you, take care!”
Walks off.

As I walked off, she just stood there standing, dumbfounded. My cousin had the total sh*t face.

I didn’t even ask her what her name was. (I already knew it but that’s neither here nor there).

She was carrying the biggest shopping bags in history. I could have asked her if she needed help carrying them to her car and prolonged the conversation and parlayed that into exchanging information or at least a “See you on campus.” Something.

Anything.

My cousin, after a few minutes, said, “Taf, you my man, and I love you, but I’ve never seen a person f*ck up a green light like you just f*cked it up. I mean that was super bad how hard you fumbled. She was talking. She was smiling. She’s fine as hell. And she was right there. And you f*cked that one all up. Cuz, you disappointed me today.”

He just shook his head and kept telling me how dumb I was.

And dumb I was. So dumb. And lame.

But wait it gets worse … There’s more.

Ah, but of the awkwardness of young lust.

Part II will be the ultimate icing on the cake. This Tarzan’s Immaculate Fumble with Jane has not reached its conclusion.

Le sigh.
To be continued …

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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The Names They Have Called Me

first-names

Mum: Tafadzwa?!

Me: Ma –aah!

Whenever this exchange took place between my mum and I when I was a kid I was almost always in trouble for something. My name is Tafadzwa. It’s quite ironic that the few times that my mum actually called me by my full first name it was usually because she wasn’t too happy with me or whatever it is I had done. Why is this ironic? Well, glad you asked.

My name is a Shona name that means ‘You’ve made us happy’. And therein lays the irony.

Despite my conditioned response to immediately tense up and fear the worst whenever my mum shouted Tafadzwa across the house I have always loved my name. I love the way it rolls of the tongue when pronounced correctly and I love that it means something. According to my parents my name is a testament to how they felt when I arrived into this world. They were happy. I’m glad they stuck with Shona, because ‘Happy’ as a name just doesn’t have the same panache too it. Tafadzwa on the other hand. So much panache.

When I wasn’t in trouble and my mum was actually happy with me she called me Fafi. So did my baby sister. My dad and brothers called me Tafi. Very few people in my life have consistently called me by my proper first name Tafadzwa. Even those who are Shona like me and would not have any difficulties pronouncing it always seemed to opt for shortened variations of Tafadzwa. That or they called me by one of the many nicknames I went by in primary and high school.

This probably explains why every time anyone consistently makes an effort to call Tafadzwa I fall in love with them a little, especially if they are not Shona and they pronounce it right.

Consider me sprung as soon as my name rolls of your tongue. Mummy issues, perhaps? I don’t even know if that’s even a thing, but I do know that just about all the non Shona speaking women I’ve dated have had this in common. They have all called me Tafadzwa.

Nowadays most people call me Taf. It’s been that way for the last decade or so. Most of the responsibility for that lies between me and the time I lived outside Zimbabwe. It was only during that period that I started introducing myself as Taf. And it has stuck like glue. Even my own family now calls me Taf. It still feels weird being called Taf by my own parents.

Before I started uni I don’t actually remember anyone calling me Taf. Ever. It was Tafi,Taffy Tooth, Fafi, Fadzi or some other variation of my name but never Taf. It was only after I moved to Australia that I started going by Taf. Most Australians were either just too lazy or too intimidated to try and say my name. And most of those brave enough to try pronouncing often strangled all meaning out of it when they did. On my arrival down under and after only a few attempts to introduce myself as Tafadzwa I resigned myself to being Taf. A name with no grace, no meaning, no history and one that doesn’t belong in any language.

I deliberately didn’t introduce myself as Fafi, because that was reserved for my mum and my baby sister thing. They were the only people I allowed to call me Fafi. It was scared in that regard. So why not Tafi?, which until I became Taf was the more popular name I went by. Now that I was in university Tafi all of a sudden felt and sounded too effeminate. Tafadzwa is actually a unisex name and for the first time I felt Tafi was more appropriate for the girls called Tafadzwa. Taf on the other hand sounded more macho and to my 19 year old self this was a no brainer. Taf, it was.

It didn’t help ‘Tafi’s’ case that every time a girl I fancied called me that it was a clear an indicator as any that I had fallen into the mythical black hole that is the friend zone. On the flip side two girls I have dated call me Taf Taf. So nice they have to say it twice.

Allow.

Anyway back to the chronicles of Tafadzwa.

Even though when I started uni I started going by Taf, some people for reasons best know to themselves still found it cumbersome, and that is how a few people actually ended up calling me Jeff. Of all the things I have been called in my life, this in particular annoyed me the most. Jeff? Really? You can’t say Taf but you can say Jeff.

Le sigh.

One nickname I did like though was the one my football coach who happened to be Italian gave me. And it was Teflon. Awesome, right? Unfortunately it didn’t stick. (See what I did there?)

Most of my university professors didn’t even bother with my name. The first day with each knew lecturer plays out the same always.

After calling out a long line of Scott’s, Michael’s, Sarah, Rebecca’s, etc they rest on my name in silence. They squint. They have never seen this combination of letters strung together in this order before. They are incomprehensible. What is the z doing after the d? Maybe it’s a typo.

They smother my name in their mouths. It is a hindrance for their tongues. They hand me papers silently. One of them mumbles it unintelligibly whenever he calls on my hand. Another just calls me “T.”

But like most things in life there is always an exception.

At the start of my second year, I walk into a microbiology class. My lecturer is blond and blue-eyed. Her name is Beth. When she comes to my name on the roll call, she takes the requisite pause.

I hold my breath.

Lecturer: “How do I pronounce your name?”

Me: “Just call me Taf.”

Lecturer: “Is that how it’s pronounced?”

Me: “No one’s ever been able to pronounce it.”

Lecturer: “That’s probably because they didn’t want to try,”“What is your name?”

Me: Ta-fad-zwa

When I say my name, it feels like redemption. I have never said it this way before. Tafadzwa. She repeats it back to me several times until she gets it. It is difficult for her British tongue. Hers has none of the strength, none of the force of most native Shona speakers. But she gets it, eventually, and it sounds beautiful. I have never heard it sound so beautiful. I have never felt so proud of my name. My name feels like a crown.

From that moment on hardly a lecture goes by without her calling out my name for one reason or the other. Every time she poses a question and no answers, you guessed it,

“Tafadzwa, what are your thoughts?

For this reason I am always at attention during all my Microbiology lectures. I become more engaged than I am in all my other units. And the results show for themselves. I ace my Microbiology exam. All this because my lecturer was able to say my name properly.

I am in love with my name again. I fall in love with next girl to say it right.

Years later after I graduated, my name almost kills me. Sort of. That’s what I thought when I was desperately trying to keep the Grim Reaper at bay. I had been the victim of a violent robbery and as I lay there in a pool of my own blood the first respondents kept asking me to say my name. I kept saying Tafadzwa. And they kept asking me to say it over and over again. I remember getting frustrated and thinking that I was going to die because the police couldn’t understand me when I said my name. In those moments I briefly resented my name. ( I have no idea why I didn’t just say Taf). But I later found out that it was standard procedure for them to repeatedly ask Trauma patients questions just to make sure they maintain consciousness.

I remember hearing a story once, about a tribe in some remote, rural place that has no name for the color blue. They do not know what the color blue is. It has no name so it does not exist. It does not exist because it has no name.

My name is Tafadzwa. It’s a tough t clinging to a sharp a, which melts into a frivolous ffff, which loosely hugs an a that falls into a deep d, chocked by a z and released by a w and accentuated by an a at the end. Ta-fad-zwa .You have to accentuate that last a. Tafadzwa. My name is Tafadzwa. My name is a valuable undertaking. My name requires your rapt attention. Say my name in one swift note – Tafadzwaaaaah.

Tafadzwa. My name is an endeavor. My name is a song. Tafadzwa. It means you’ve made us happy or we are pleased depending on the context. Tafadzwa. Wrap your tongue around my name, unravel it with the music of your voice, and it will make both you and I happy.

Footnote: I am convinced that my full name Tafadzwa Tichawangana is one of the many reasons I love writing. In Grade 1 when I was still learning to write my teacher would make me write my name over and over again as practice. I had the longest name in my class, so you can imagine that I got more practice that all the other kids. I loved writing my name. And so began my love affair with writing.

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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