Chenjerai, as I struggle with my tears, I keep remembering the times we spent together. Creating stuff, critiquing each other’s new materials, translating my poems, judging competitions, attending to family matters, dancing to music, travelling around together. One such occasion was the “Poetry Caravan” from Goree Island (Senegal) to Tombouktu (Mali) some time way back.
There we were ten poets from all over Africa, travelling by bus, train, boat and ceremonial camel rides. We spent many weeks performing our poems in our mother tongues in villages, towns and other settlements. We performed with local artists wherever we were, sharing our cultures.
You were ever so energetic and passionate about every aspect of the venture. You would suck in every little bit of the performances. You would listen carefully to every conversation or discussion we would have with fellow artists, students, village elders, Imams, griots, mothers and fathers. And you would proudly and confidently share your Zimbabwean experiences.
When we finally arrived in Tombouktu, I remarked to you that we had never eaten eggs throughout the tour. Quick as usual, you suggested that we make a special request for eggs, to the hotel management. We were told that, because of the harsh Sahara desert environment, chickens were very few, and as such, eggs were rare. However, the hotel ordered eggs for us from Bamako, the capital city.
I clearly remember the day when the eggs arrived. The chuckle in your face, the twinkle in your eyes. A little later, we realised that we were stuck with a whole crate of fresh eggs, with a few days before we had to leave for our home country.
After extensively debating as to whether we should boil, fry, or scramble the whole lot, you came up with an idea. We had to throw an egg party. Yes, a real egg party. We invited fellow poets and some hotel residents whom we had befriended. We had a wonderful evening of boiled eggs and drinks, accompanied by kora music.
The day before our departure, I developed a fever. The doctors confirmed that I had picked up malaria. They gave me some medication, to which I reacted badly. It was only when we were in transit in Bamako that I was given suitable medication for someone from sub-Saharan Africa. By then, I was delirious.
But, Chenjerai, you were by my side throughout that ordeal. You checked me in at the airport, you carried my hand luggage and kept encouraging me to hold on strong.
When we got back to Harare, our wives picked us and drove us home. You spent the greater part of that day at my house, ensuring that I was stable and arranging further medical attention for me.
That was you, Chenjerai. Much more than a writer friend, but a brother. Caring, sefless, genuine. It was a big honour to travel the journey of your life with you. An honour I will cherish forever.
Brother, rest in peace, knowing that you touched many more hearts and minds than mine alone. Through your writing, performances, teaching, lectures and personal interactions. The world is my witness.
Chirikure Chirikure is a writer and a poet.