Chipo Musikavanhu Interviews Aaron Chiundura Moyo
Chipo Musikavanhu (CM): WHEN AND WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
AARON Chiundura Moyo (ACM): I was born in Gweru, Guinea Fowl. My parents worked at a farm owned by a
Mr MacLean. The farm was called Clifton Down Farm and nicknamed Shoe Shine. It was 12 kilometres from Gweru
town. My birth certificate says I was born in 1954 but I was actually born in 1950.
CM: REALLY? I HAVE HEARD ABOUT THIS CHANGING OF NAMES AND BIRTH DATES IN THE PAST. HOW WAS THIS POSSIBLE? THE SYSTEM IS QUITE STRICT THESE DAYS.
ACM: I needed to reduce my age so that I could get more years in school. Back then it wasn’t mandatory to get birth certificates to start school. It was only in 1969 when I needed to write my Grade 7 exams that we had to get identity documents. What you needed to do was to go to the registry with two people who were old enough to be your parents who would witness that you were born on the day that you would have stated. It was quite easy and many people gave false birth dates. My first name is Chiundura but when I was getting my I.D it was changed to Aaron for simplicity sake. I
included the name Chiundura as my middle name later on in life. My Grade 7 certificate which I still possess has my name as Aaron Moyo.
CM: TELL US WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE FOR YOU AS A CHILD?
ACM: The farm I grew up in was close to town and to my rural home. So I had exposure to three kinds of life. I also grew up at a time when black people were under oppression in the country. Black people had no rights. I remember a black person at a close farm was shot dead by a white farmer for fighting with the farmer’s son and the farmer got no punishment for his crime. We had lots of entertainment in my family. My father loved music and movies. For entertainment, the farm community would hold concerts. My father used to have many of these concerts at his house.
We would write posters and paste them on trees to inform people of the concert dates and the featured artists.
We would prepare some beer, surround the house with Musasa cover and charge people one tick to enter into the home made arena. My father became the first at the farm to get guitarists from outside the town like John White and Ngwari Mapundu, so his concerts became more popular.
My father had a car which he used to ferry the family to watch movies in town. He made sure every Monday, Wednesday or Friday he would go to watch a movie. Because our family was large sometimes I would get room in the car to go and watch but sometimes I wouldn’t. We would watch cowboy films. The environment we were living in as a people was conditioned to brainwash us. I remember I would enjoy seeing the red Indians defeated by the white fighters. I would also get mad
when I saw a black person challenging a white person.
My father was a builder at Clifton Farm. He had many wives. He really was not a supporter of education and this was also the case with many parents at the farm. The aspirations of life that people had were to grow up, get married and work at the farm. Parents feared that if their children became educated they would go into politics and get killed.
I started school when I was 15 years old at the farm school which was called Shoe Shine School. I only managed to go to school then because my father had bought a farm and relocated there and I had stayed behind with my older brother.
Grade one back then was called Sub A. Because of my age I had to fast track through school. So I ended up doing Sub A, Sub B, and Standard 1(which is now grade 3) in the same year. The year was 1965. What they would do to fast track us was to give us exams and if we passed they would allow us to proceed to the next level. We had only one teacher at the farm who taught about a hundred students. The school was not a government one but a farm school started by the farm owner. The teacher managed to handle all of us by writing on notice boards in advance in the various classes. So
when lessons started he would go and teach one class knowing the others were covered.
In 1969 I did my Grade 7 at Connemara School which is also in Gweru. We used bicycles to go to school from the farm as it was a bit of a distance by foot. Connemara was a Governement school, and had enough teachers unlike the farm school.
I passed my Grade 7 with a one in English and a two in Arithmetic. The overall pass was a two. If you had a one and a two you could proceed to secondary school for the full four years. If you had a three going up you would only be allowed to reach Form 2, in other words you would be allowed to do two years of high school. Even though I had a pass that allowed me to go for four full years I was rejected in three schools namely, St Patrick, Ascot and Bumburwi because of my age. The headmaster at Bumburwi school told me to go and get married because I was a grown man. I remember walking home, sad and discouraged, about to give up totally on school. When I was at the farm school it never occured to me that I was a too old. Most of us at the farm went to school late. I only realised when I had gone to the government school that I was too
old when people made fun of me. I was called Two-boy in class because the teacher said there were two boys in
So when I was walking back home after rejection at the three schools I decided to go for what were called
Removed classes. Removed classes were classes that were offered to those who had attained an overall mark which
was more than two. They were only offered two years of high school. So I had decided that it was better to go to school for two more years than to not go to school at all. I decided to make one last effort to get a place. At the first school I went to, Mambo School, the headmaster accepted me and my spirits got raised again. So I finished high school.
CM: YOU REALLY PERSEVERED TO GET AN EDUCATION. I’M SURE OTHERS WOULD HAVE GIVEN UP. SO WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DID YOU HAVE LATER ON AS AN ADULT?
ACM: I have a professional qualification as a journalist attained in Germany. I also went to Zimbabwe Open University for some years but did not attain my degree because I started work on the Soap Studio 263. The load became too much for me so I decided to stop.
CM: WHEN AND WHY DID YOU START WRITING?
ACM: I think I was influenced by my father a lot. My father used to tell us, my siblings and I, a lot of traditional folktales. He also loved listening to the radio to programs like dramas and poetry. I remember the likes of Mukadota and Wilson Chivauro. Going to watch the movies known as mabaisikopo at the time also helped ignite in me the passion for writing, especially for television. The Literature Bureau came to my school selling books in 1968. One of the sellers said that to write one does not need to go to school. That statement encouraged me to write. I remember I started writing my first piece of work when I was sitting in a scotch cart. An uncle came and asked to read what I was writing and when he read it he
said he liked it very much. However, one of my brothers came along and when he read it he realised that it was one of my father’s folktales. So he brushed off the idea of me writing by telling uncle that the work was not even mine. I got so
discouraged that I tore the piece of paper.
Just then a friend of mine Tichaona Sibanda came along and he told me that I should not have torn that paper. He then told me about a radio program called Mabhuku Nevanyori (meaning Books and Writers) where people sent in their stories to be read live to listeners. With this in mind I wrote another story called ‘Mahwekwe naSarudzai Patsime’ (Meeting Sarudzai at the well) in 1969. The story was read a year later and the presenter encouraged me to keep writing. From then on every story I sent to radio was read. I later developed this story to a book which I named “Uchandifungawo”.
CM: WHICH IS THE FIRST BOOK BY AN AFRICAN AUTHOR THAT YOU READ?
ACM: Garandichauya by Patrick Chakaipa.
CM: HOW MANY WORKS HAVE YOU WRITTEN SO FAR?
ACM: I have written 8 books, 5 plays, a short story collection and a quiz book.
1. Uchandifungawo (novel), 1975, Mambo Press
2. Ziva Kwawakabva (novel), 1976, Longman
3. Nhamo Ine Nharo ((novel), 1978, Rhodesia Literature Bureau
4. Wakandicheka Nerakagomara (novel), 1982, Mambo Press
5. Chenga Ose (play) 1982, Mambo Press
6. Kuridza Ngoma Nedemo (play) 1983, ZPH
7. Matekenyapfungwa (quiz book) 1984, Books for Africa
8. Nguwo Dzouswa (novel) 1985, Mambo Press
9. Yaive Hondo (novel) 1985, Mambo Press
10. Wandibaya Panyama Nhete (play) 1986, Longman
11. Ndabvazera (novel) 1992, Mercury Press
12. Chemera Mudundundu (novel) 2002, Priority Publishing
13. Pane Nyaya (play) 2004, Priority Publishing
14. The Other Side
of The River (short story collection) 2012, Lion Press
15. Kereke Inofa (play)2012, Book Love
CM: ONLY ONE OF YOUR WORKS IS IN ENGLISH. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO WRITE EXCLUSIVELY IN
ACM: When the Literature Bureau came to my school in 1968 selling books one of the things they said was that we should write in the language we understand best. I was better at Shona than English. I also used to think that my messages were not relevant to white people and that they were just domestic issues. The latter was of course biased thinking on my part.
CM: HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT OF GETTING YOUR WORK PUBLISHED INTO OTHER LANGUAGES?
ACM: I always left that for the editor because the editor did all the other stuff like marketing. But I wouldn’t mind having my work translated.
CM: SOME OF YOUR BOOKS HAVE BEEN USED FOR TELEVISION. SO YOU ARE AN ALL
ACM: Yes, Ziva Kwawakabva and Ndabvezera have been turned into television dramas. Some books that were
used as radio plays are: Wakandibaya Panyama Nhete, Nguwo Dzouswa, Yaive Hondo and Chemera Mudundundu. I have
written 9 tv dramas and many scripts for radio programs. My works include the following television programs:
i. Ziva Kwawakabva (tv drama) ZTV
ii. Chihwerure (tv drama) ZTV
iii. Madhunamutuna (tv drama) ZTV
iv. Zviri Mudendere (tv drama) ZTV
v. Zevezeve (tv drama) ZTV
vi. Chikomuhomwe (tv drama), ZTV
vii Tiriparwendo (tv drama) ZTV.
viii. Masimba (tv drama) ZTV
CM: WHAT HAS BEEN THE WORST CRITICISM FOR YOUR WORK AND WHAT HAS BEEN THE BEST?
ACM: Whichever principle you lean on you are criticised because it is very difficult to please everyone
at the same time. I wrote some of my work leaning on culture. Culture oppresses women most of the time. I guess the best criticism has been people from these different perspectives airing their views about what they liked and what they didn’t like about my approach. However, the worst has been when some churches fasted for me to die; some people chased me wanting to beat me up when I wrote the drama Madunamutuna. It had the theme of the corruption of some church pastors.
CM: YOU HAVE RECEIVED AWARDS FOR YOUR WRITING. PLEASE TELL US MORE ABOUT THIS.
ACM: I received a lot of awards ranging from Kingstons Literary Award to Outstanding Contribution to the Arts Award.
CM: YOUR BROTHER JONAH MOYO SINGS AND I NOTICED THAT YOU PLAY THE PENWHISTLE. SO THERE IS ALSO A MUSICAL GIFT IN THE FAMILY?
AARON: Yes, as I mentioned earlier we grew up surrounded by music. My older brothers also used to play some music instruments like the pen whistle.
CM: CORRECT ME IF I AM WRONG. ONE OF YOUR T.V DRAMAS HAS SOMEONE PLAYING THE PEN WHISTLE ON THE THEME SONG? WAS THAT YOU?
ACM: Yes it was me. I started in a drama called “Chiwoko Muhomwe”where I played the pen whistle for my girlfriend while we are having a picnic. I played it for the theme song for the drama “Zvirimudendere”.
CM: WHAT OTHER TALENTS DO YOU HAVE?
ACM: I also carve wooden ornaments and I have acted in some of my dramas as well.
CM: WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE WRITING OVER SINGING?
ACM: I wasn’t as good in music as I was in writing.
CM: HOW MANY CHILDREN DO YOU HAVE?
ACM: I have three children. Two boys and one girl.
CM: DO YOU THINK THEY WILL FOLLOW IN YOUR FOOTSTEPS?
ACM: One of the boys acts and the girl likes writing. They participate in some of my writing.
I encourage then to do what they want. I don’t encourage them to follow my footsteps neither do i tell them not to follow my footsteps.
CM: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU LIKE TO GIVE ASPIRING WRITERS?
ACM: There are two kinds of writing. Writing for commercial purposes and writing from the heart.
You need to know the difference. If you are writing literature don’t look for money, it doesn’t pay,
especially in Africa. Write to reach people. If you are a poet you need to also perform or turn your poetry to music if you want to generate some revenue. I was fortunate that my books were put into schools. I also grew up at a time when many people bought books and there was also no piracy back in the day. These days many people don’t buy books because they are in a rush to achieve a lot of things. Back when I started writing, many people did not have a lot of open opportunities and they were in no rush at all. However, times have changed. I think people nowadays read more on the net than to sit down and read a book. Writers should not be discouraged as books are in permanent form. There might come a time in the future
when people again get time to read. Also note that school text books sell more.
CM: ANY LAST WORDS TO YOUR FANS?
ACM: The people who read my books are the people I live for. God put me on this earth for these people.
The feedback they give me helps me to be better in my understanding of the world. They help me to better
myself. They are more important than me.
This interview was originally published at Let's Talk African blog.
Chipo Musikavanhu is the founder and editor of Let’s Talk African blog, a blog
that promotes the transferring of the African heritage through literature.
She has a BA in English and Communication Studies and has a passion for
helping people. As a devoted Christian, Chipo strongly believes in upholding
God's moral standards. Chipo admires the power that literature possesses in
engaging the mind to open up many avenues of thought. It is with this view that
Chipo agrees with Samuel Beckett's statement: Art has nothing to do with
clarity, does not dabble in the clear and does not make clear. Her aspirations are to share her work with a multitude of readers by publishing locally, regionally and internationally in print as well as online.