Chirikure: 'I assert my right to express myself'

August 2005 -

Chirikure Chirikure draws strength from the cultural history of his country, Zimbabwe, which currently stands on the brink of economic and political ruin. This poet, writer, singer and organiser has had to deal with physical threats both direct and indirect, as his son has been threatened too. Nevertheless, Chirikure says: 'The age-old Shona tales, the music, the carvings, the language - I draw strength from these to carry on. No-one can destroy these manifestations of our culture. We simply have to keep on going - there is no other option.'


Chirikure was visiting the Netherlands as a guest of the Hivos Culture Fund, which was celebrating the tenth anniversary of its foundation. He often performs his poems to a musical accompaniment and sometimes sings, almost always in Shona, not in English. Despite his belief that the Shona culture is shatterproof, he still feels he has to fight to prevent its eradication at the hands of creeping globalisation and poor education.

Chirikure is busy with the production of an animated series of children’s stories. He wants to record these old stories - many of which feature animals - for posterity and transform them into cartoons, so that they can be broadcast on television and captivate a new audience of today’s children.

Chirikure is part of Harare’s artistic world, which is an active, close-knit community. The capital of Zimbabwe still plays host to the prestigious Harare International Festival of the Arts and the Zimbabwe International Book Fair. The artists view these events as important meeting-places: as lifelines, if you will. Chirikure still believes that one day things will improve. 'We will carry on making art, with our eyes and ears open. I am simply asserting my right to express myself. The basic premise must be that you always have the freedom to think. It’s a freedom that no-one can take away from you.’