Academic journal article NAWA: Journal of Language and Communication

Rethinking Survival: Metaphors of Hope and Peaceful Conflict Resolution Methods during Crisis Times

Academic journal article NAWA: Journal of Language and Communication

Rethinking Survival: Metaphors of Hope and Peaceful Conflict Resolution Methods during Crisis Times

Article excerpt


This paper is about the literary representation of the persistence of hope during times of political repression and ways of negotiating survival, as well as peacefully coping with perceived tyrannical regimes. As a form of rhetoric of hope and a way of imagining a peaceful future, the paper assumes an ideologically progressive strand that questions the status quo and yet invites the reader through exposure to the short stories, to consider alternatives to the existing order as a means of coping. The paper explores how short, imaginative narratives mirror the desirability of peace, the innovative ways to prevent violence and the democratisation processes ordinary people hope for. The axiom which states that the pen is mightier than the sword finds home in the form of literary analyses like the one attempted in this paper. This remark is particularly insightful in the wake of the Arab spring uprisings that have rocked North Africa, the Kenyan post-election violence and the incessant wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, to mention but a few. The present analysis can be understood to be falling into the realm of progressive literature, which is a way of interrogating life and its attendant contradictions in a hopeful manner. This form of literary analysis is ultimately valorising peaceful and peace-oriented coping mechanisms, though at the same time without silencing activism, as these short stories demonstrate.

In the words of a renowned critic of Zimbabwean and African literature, Ngara (n.d), creativity and responsibility are Siamese twins in art. Taking the thread of argument from Ngara, therefore, the submission being made here is also that in the literature explored in this paper, what we see is a commitment by the writers to boldly and critically examine the political ground in troubled Zimbabwe and to do so with plausibility, passion and responsibility. The underlying principle is couched on how people devise mechanisms to survive, which can be summed up by the popular expression of the day tofira mutrial. This is a popular colloquialism which, when literally translated, means "we will die trying". This has become the de facto modus operandi and in this paper the central concern is on how the people cope with and survive the political onslaught they face.

In other words the major concern in this paper is on protest literature and its relevance in times of political crisis as the Zimbabwean one in question, inviting the reader to experience moments of recognition, revelation, protest and rebellion alongside the characters, and thereby participate in that rebellion through the act of reading.

To fully explore and appreciate what these short stories are communicating in the context of the political survival and coping mechanisms of the ordinary people, there is a need to briefly explain what chronotope means. The chronotope emphasises the interpretation of texts as determined, shaped and informed by the time and space interplay in the story. The guiding principle in this paper is a Zimbabwean setting of political upheaval which can also be described as a dystopian chronotope. A literary representation of a dystopian chronotope therefore in this paper is captured here and this is corroborated by a concept that will be termed dystopian hope.

To clarify and justify these two concepts (dystopian chronotope and dystopian hope) in relation to this paper, first there is a need to capture the basic tenets of what dystopia in fiction means. A form of negative utopia, dystopia is characterised by a community or society that is in some way undesirable or frightening; where dehumanisation, totalitarian governments, poverty, political repression, societal collapse are evident, and where humanity suffers from a lack of true freedom and liberty (Baccolini, 2008). Dystopian hope means a positive interpretation of the representation of nightmarish societies, hegemonic and totalitarian governments, in a hopeful manner (Baccolini, 2008). …

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