Telling the Story of Zimbabwe’s Subversive Creatives


Greta Rainbow was the writer, researcher and interviewer for this feature article

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“Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of Zimbabwean independence, which came after nine decades of colonial rule, 15 years of a white segregationist government, and 13 years of war. Through it all, the country’s writers never stopped. But in order to continue working, they had to get creative.

The first book to be published in the Shona language, Solomon M. Mutswairo’s Feso, came in 1956. That date is not the starting point for the exhibition Beautiful Words Are Subversive, on view at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch through January 5, 2020. Black Chalk & Co., who organized the exhibition, is interested in what came before then (texts published overseas during colonial rule; black writers writing in the colonizer’s language), what could have been (clandestine, anti-state writing behind closed doors) and what exists in the present day, at a time when the country’s once-robust publishing industry is government-censored, Feso is banned, and the indigenous literary archive is underground.”