Bio: Tariro Ndoro, a Zimbabwean poet and storyteller is the author of Agringada: Like a Gringa, Like a Foreigner (Modjaji Books, 2019). She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Rhodes University in South Africa. Her poetry has appeared in various publications including 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Best New Poets 2015 Anthology, Cyphers, Kotaz, New Coin, New Contrast, Oxford Poetry, Poetry International and Puerto del Sol and Cyphers. Tariro was shortlisted for the 2018 BN Poetry Prize and was awarded second place for the 2017 DALRO Poetry Prize.
Abstract: In her debut poetry collection, Agringada: Like a Gringa, Like a Foreigner (2019), Zimbabwean writer Tariro Ndoro investigates the identity politics of the “other” against a southern African backdrop. Agringada is a bildungsroman detailing the life of a female narrator as she tackles racism, classism, misogyny, and xenophobia through the use and disuse of language, and in some instances, silence. In this essay, she details the role of colonialism as both a political and cultural act in the shaping of post-colonial narratives, as it was the act of cultural colonization of Africa by the West that resulted in the fragmented lingua francas that are appearing in today’s African literature. She further details that the use of disobedient poetics (straying from the standard English language) since the focal point of her argument is not so much the translation of African works for Western audiences but the translation of cultural experiences of African writers into their own disobedient poetics. British colonial authorities began policing Africans through languages, which had an effect on the narrative voices of Zimbabwean writers including Dambudzo Marechera and Yvonne Vera, who in turn subverted the English language for their own purposes. Both of their life experiences translated to their use and (dis)use of the English language. Following Amiri Baraka’s assertion that language is culture, this essay details postcolonial African writers’ narratives in both content and form while reflecting fragmentations between both the imposed and native language and identity.
Currently, African poetry is experiencing a shift in the movement of its writing from traditional prose and poetry to more experimental forms used by writers such as Momtaza Mehri, Safia Elhillo, and Koleka Putuma. Most of Africa’s young poets are using unique and novel ways to express thought. Although Arthur Rimbaud asserts the need for a universal (poetic) language in his letter to Paul Demeny and Amiri Baraka found what he called the black voice through jazz and blues, Ndoro asserts here that contemporary African writers translate their own experiences differently. Moreover, each writer’s history informs their poetics and, by extension, the way in which they should be read.