Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Legitimising the Status Quo through the Writing of Biography: Ngwabi Bhebe's Simon Vengayi Muzenda & the Struggle for and Liberation of Zimbabwe

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Legitimising the Status Quo through the Writing of Biography: Ngwabi Bhebe's Simon Vengayi Muzenda & the Struggle for and Liberation of Zimbabwe

Article excerpt

Summary

Simon Vengayi Muzenda & the Struggle for and Liberation of Zimbabwe (2004) is a biography written by historian Ngwabi Bhebe in honour of illustrious Zimbabwean nationalist and politician, the late Vice President Simon Muzenda. The book calls for debate on the way it was constructed and its assumptions about the writing of biography and the larger questions concerning national identity and unity. Human society is differentiated along various variables such as social classes, ethnic and racial groups, gender, age and even geographical environment. Individuals and social groups hence are heterogeneous due to these variables. The individuals and social groups have differing, often conflicting, needs and interests and occupy different and at times dissimilar positions of socioeconomic and political power and status. These groups have values, opinions and attitudes towards other individuals, groups and the world that they articulate or express in literature and the media. These expressions can reveal different types of individual and group differences. Due to these differences, each act of expression by an individual or group, or each act of writing, is a potential site of struggle because there are competing needs and interests, as well as competing systems of values and work meant to justify the needs and values.

Opsomming

Simon Vengayi Muzenda & the Struggle for and Liberation of Zimbabwe (2004) is 'n biografie wat deur die historikus Ngwabi Bhebe ter ere van die vermaarde Zimbabwiese nasionalis en politikus, wyle Visepresident Simon Muzenda, geskryf is. Die boek is 'n oproep tot debat oor die wyse waarop dit saamgestel is en die aannames wat dit maak oor die skryf van 'n biografie sowel as die groter vrae oor nasionale identiteit en eenheid. Die menslike samelewing differensieer sigself op grond van verskillende veranderlikes soos sosiale klasse, etniese en rasgroepe, geslag, ouderdom en selfs geografiese omgewing. Individue en sosiale groepe is dus heterogeen as gevolg van hierdie veranderlikes. Die individue en sosiale groepe het uiteenlopende, dikwels botsende behoeftes en belange en beklee verskillende, en soms ongelyke posisies ten opsigte van sosio-ekonomiese en politieke mag en status. Hierdie groepe het waardes, menings en houdings jeens ander individue, groepe en die wereld waaraan hulle uiting gee of wat hulle artikuleer binne die raamwerk van letterkunde en die media. Hierdie gevoelsverwoordinge kan verskillende tipes individuele en groepsverskille openbaar. As gevolg van hierdie verskille is elke uitdrukking deur 'n individu of groep, of elke skryfaksie, 'n potensirle worstelingsterrein aangesien daar mededingende behoeftes en belange, sowel as mededingende waarde- en werkstelsels is wat bedoel is om hierdie behoeftes en waardes te regverdig.

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All types of writing are a "site of struggle". Historian Ngwabi Bhebe's biography of the late Zimbabwean nationalist and Vice President Simon Vengayi Muzenda challenges several key issues about social and political contestation (Clark & Ivanic 1997). These issues include the "art" of writing biography as a genre and its ideological purpose; the writing of biography has implications for discursive narratives of all types. The second key issue is how Bhebe attempts to build a popular sense of national identity through the person and image of Simon Muzenda. The above-mentioned issues inevitably demand the enunciation of the role of biographer and all imaginative creative narrators in constructing discourses of nation-building, the promotion of particular class and ideological positions, and to legitimise the hegemony of the ruling ZANU (PF) political party to which Muzenda belonged and was party Vice President. There are instances when the reader becomes curious to know the relationship between the biographer Bhebe and Muzenda and the ruling ZANU (PF) to better understand the way Muzenda's story--and by extension the history of Zimbabwe--is constructed. …

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