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It’s Lit! Writer & Lawyer Petina Gappah In A Tell-All Profile With Al Jazeera English

Petina's head is a space where patriotic activism and art collide. 

Ms Petina Gappah may be best known for her work as an international trade lawyer, but her NAACP Image-nominated latest and second novel “Out of Darkness Shining Light” is more than a pop-cultural phenomenon.

The book, which recounts the death of explorer David Livingstone after his failed attempt to find the source of the Nile and imagines the journey taken by Livingstone’s faithful sixty-nine servants as they carry his corpse across Africa for nine months, is a conjuring request and calling for African wordsmiths to rewrite history in their own context, with particular attention to the weaker, less-privileged, faceless, nameless and the forgotten.

She wants to flip the script and tell the story of Africa from the African perspective.

In her recent profile video by Al Jazeera English, “‘’My Zimbabwe is greatly misunderstood”: Writer Petina Gappah” the optimistic quadragenarian writer paints a story of Zimbabwe that’s fraught with betrayal.

Commending on the post-coup Zimbabwe and whether the “New Dispensation” has shown any difference from the previous Mugabe regime, Petina said that the general populace was justified to be angry at the status quo as they feel used in a power retention scheme.

“What that was, what that coup was, was just so extraordinary. We all imagined that there was a real shift in policy, in just the way government, y’know, treats people because people were part of that transition. Those marches in the streets; we thought we were fellow stakeholders. We thought this was our thing, y’know. People have every reason to be angry because no one wants to feel used. Y’know, no one wants to feel that they were simply instrumental in a power retention game between factions,” she told Al Jazeera English.

Petina’s passion for her work remains strong as she writes about Zimbabwe’s failings and injustices hoping in the face of darkness, change can be achieved.

“Patriotism is loving your country in a way that allows you to be truthful about it and sometimes it needs to be critical about it. I just want my country to do well. I want my country to prosper and I want my government to do better, to honour the founding document of our nation which is the Constitution of Zimbabwe. I want us to maintain our dignity on the world stage but we are never going to get to that stage until we sort ourselves out and until we take our responsibility to our own people seriously,” she said as a Parthian shot.

The video also includes her work raising a million dollars for the rehabilitation of Harare City Library, a visit to the National Archives, Rotten Row and Mbare Musika.

NewZWire editor Ranga Mberi also makes an appearance voicing the plight of journalists as artists, so does MDC Alliance VP Tendai Biti, who hinted that he would love to write a work of fiction about a woman’s fight during the liberation struggle who was fighting triple oppression: gender, class and race. One can only imagine the deluge of diction that the body of work would embody.

What else? The Princess of Mbira Hope Masike also delights braai guests with her mbira.

You can watch the profile below:

ImChris Charamba

Head Storyteller/Critic at Large in Culture at Enthuse Afrika

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