The Stranger's Own Peculiar Custom -- Writing and Orality in Yvonne Vera's Nehanda

In the section of Nehanda in which the priest tries to convert Kaguvi, one of the leaders of the Chimurenga, to Christianity, Yvonne Vera brilliantly dramatizes a clash of cultures in which two sincere, believing individuals misconceive each other's positions. Kaguvi, whom Vera presents as the embodiment of oral culture, finds the notion that a printed book could contain divinity intensely problematic, in part because for him, like Socrates, writing separates the words of the speaker from his or her presence. Since he does not come from a print culture, the kind of multiplicity characteristic of a book puzzles him, and as he points out to the Christian, his is a "strange" god who "is inside your book, but he is also in many books." In contrast, to this book-bound divinity, he explains:

My god lives up above. He is a pool of water in the sky. My god is a rain-giver. I approach my god through my ancestors and my mudzimu. I brew beer for my god to praise him, and I dance. My mudzimu is always with me, and I pay tribute to my protective spirit."

[Yvonne Vera, Nehanda, Harare: Baobab Books, 1993, 39-40.]

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