Photography: The Bearer Nation

November 12, 2014 ART/PHOTOGRAPHY

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By

Tendai R Mwanaka

I took this photo of the Zimbabwean bearer cheques, on a coffee table, in my home, March 2013, as part of the cover suggestions for my book of essays entitled, Zimbabwe: The Blame Game, Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon, 2013.

I was drawn into revisiting this difficult point in our history when we dealt with a spiraling hyperinflation rate (2003-2009). In order to deal with this, the Reserve Bank Governor, Gideon Gono, resorted to cutting the Zeroes from our currency, and just a couple of months after doing away with, at one time 12 Zeroes, the Zeroes found their way back on the currency, thus the title A Game of Zeroes. It is a satirical play at this game that the reserve bank governor seemed to be playing with the Zeroes on the currency. As you can see on the photo, it is trillions and trillions of dollars that are in this picture, and even all the economies in this world could be bought with the money displayed, leaving a lot of change, but back then, you wouldn’t buy a plastic bag’s worth of grocery.

This is a portfolio of works that deal with the bearer cheques, which for some years, were the monetary unit we used to trade with. I have been thinking and writing (stories, essays and poems) obsessively about these bearer cheques for years.  They were recently suggested to me, in trying to figure out the front cover of the book of essays, Zimbabwe: The blame game, by my publisher, Langaa RPICG, 2013. Ever since, I have been obsessing about them again, and especially now as the talk, in the streets, offices, rural communities, and homes of Zimbabwe, is about these monster ghosts.

People are afraid that the bearers, with the political dispensation obtaining now in Zimbabwe, might find their way back into our lives, again. This has made me think, I want to admit, obsessively about them. In the images in this portfolio, I try to explore ways of dealing with this ghost. The first one is to create artwork out of them. Friends I have sent these images to, think that they are beautiful, but some thought I am losing it, and I laughed at that. It’s fun finding such beautiful uses for them, but dealing with them, back then, wasn’t beautiful. Maybe I have moved too far away from that time to find such aesthetic use of them.

The other way was to use them as alternative sources of energy. You can see, in the images, these bearers replacing firewood, and electricity for cooking. We are dealing with power shading, and when electricity is out, we can find the bearers useful. I find it as a way to exorcise the ghost of the bearers. Maybe it is a protest against the possibilities of this ghost returning to haunt me again. One of the most effective ways to deal with a demon, or a ghost is to burn it in a fire, or just creating a fire. Growing up, we used to be told if you light a cigarette or fire at night, the ghosts wouldn’t haunt you. That’s what I am trying to allude to.

 

 

A Game of Zeroes

A Game of Zeroes

 

Cooking with the Bearers

Cooking with the Bearers

 

A Stack of Firewood

A Stack of Firewood

 

When there is no electricity

When there is no electricity

 

Bearers for electricity

Bearers for electricity

 

Bearers for making electricity

Bearers for making electricity

 

Holding the Bearer Cheque Nation

Holding the Bearer Cheque Nation

 

 

 

 

 

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Tendai R Mwanaka

I was nominated for the Pushcart twice, 2008, 2010 and commended for the Dalro prize 2008.  I was nominated for and attended The Caine African writing workshop, 2012. From January- April 2014, I was a Mentor for 3 budding writers in CACE Africa Writivism. I have also published over  250 pieces of short stories, essays, memoirs, poems and photographic/visual art in over 150 magazines, journals, and anthologies in the following countries: USA , UK , Canada , South Africa, Zimbabwe, India , Mexico, Kenya, Cameroon, Italy , Ghana, Uganda, France , Zambia, Nigeria, Spain , Romania, Cyprus, Australia and New Zealand.

VOICES FROM EXILE, a collection of poetry on Zimbabwe’s political situation and exile in South Africa was published by Lapwing publications, Northern Ireland in 2010. KEYS IN THE RIVER: Notes from a Modern Chimurenga, a novel of interlinked stories that deals with life in modern day Zimbabwe’s soul was published by Savant books and publications, USA 2012. A book of creative non-fiction pieces, ZIMBABWE: THE BLAME GAME, was published by Langaa RPCIG (Cameroon 2013).

My photography can also be viewed here:

http://mwanaka.photoshelter.com/#!/index

2 Comments

    • Administrator November 12, at 08:26

      Dear Wallace, this can not only be accessed on Facebook (via the 'Tuck Magazine' or 'Val Michael Tuck' pages), it can be shared on there also using the web link to the appropriate page.

      Reply

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