What is black writing?

What is black writing?

I spoke before I writ, and before then I uttered incorrigibles before I could speak, and after getting the drift of the art of scribbling utterances into letters and words and sentences in school rooms and academia, I became a critic of the same letters that made the words that expressed the ideas and ideals I imagined, observed, judged, and in the end deemed myself fit enough to write on the events and characters imagined and real that I came across the span of the years I have so far lived: from the onset, the quest was to achieve the perfect long sentence whose meanings were simple for everyman to read and to understand; for what is the purpose of a writing if not for it to be understood by all that come to read of its verbs and nouns, subjects and objects, adjectives and connectives?

For the longest time, the writing became a daily preoccupation, expressing itself in the form of compositions, essays, letters to lovers and ministers, critiques, arguments, lyrics, poetry, observations, journals, commentaries, documentaries, research papers, CV’s, requests, memos, stories, eulogies and other forms of papers formal and non-formal gathered in carefully bound copies and scattered scraps of paper that were the result of private brainstorming sessions taken in the privacy of the quarters I live in, or, on those long distance journeys to somewhere in the company of interesting loquacious characters or silent partners.

The itch to pen what we speak into what is writ never ends, it nags like a bullying mistress, beckons one closer like a sultry temptress, then orders one to scribble letters into words, words into phrases, phrases into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into chapters, and those chapters end up as one volume or book whose number of pages can only be determined by the editor at the end of the final edit.

The fecund mating session between the pen and the paper ends, until the next itch comes along and the familiar notes of the ballpoint jotting dotting the sheet with words from one margin to the other can be heard.  In all that time, I hardly remember being focused on the race of the characters or the audience, because I found out long ago that a good composition can please anyone no matter their race or affiliation.

The colour of a writing lies not in the author, it lies in the words with which he or she expresses it, or, in the pigeonholes of the mind of the critic that chooses to judge its worth dependent upon clear understanding or dismal lack of it.

For often, the work of the poor writer is subjected to open surgery without the benefit of anaesthetic; critics come and tear it into pieces, laymen will bring their doss uninformed opinions to the table, and then the final and most painful cut will come from a quarter that questions: what is the race of the writer, that is, what colour is he or she?
Then the long knives are unsheathed again, and the spirited attack on the body of the writer and his writing begins.

Why the colour of the writer is of any matter is just simply due to the basic human instinct guided by some misguided superiority complex, for writing, like any other feat of excellence in sports or some other field, is dependent upon constant practice, the assimilation of good writing habits from other more experienced authors, and a selfless basic need to share a story or an idea with the rest of the world.

Confining a piece of writing to some pigeonhole or placing it behind some colour bar may lead to the true content of the work being misinterpreted.
This act of limiting a work on the basis of the colour, race, or tribe of the author does not just apply to the sphere of difference in the three or more aspects of human existence; it applies even in the case of style.

Some of us hold the false notion that certain racial groups write or compose their works of art in a given pattern, and when out of those “groups” stems an individual who uses a style “presumed” to “belong” to another group or genre, the interpreter or critic is left listless and lost for words when the true race or genre of the writer is revealed.
I remember feeling stupefied when the credits for the motion picture The Shawshank Redemption, revealed to my presumptuous self that it had been written by Stephen King, a well-known horror writer who under normal circumstances would pen a ghost story, and not the tale of a man surviving and escaping prison against all odds.

I had pigeonholed Stephen King into the genre of horror and totally missed the plot when it came to analysing him and his work. Writing has no limits, and it is not limited by the presumptuous prisons of expression we often attempt to confine it to in our quest to be the ‘best’ critics of other men’s works.

The truth is that our brains are stimulated by the five senses (sometimes even the sixth (instincts) and seventh (dreams) have a huge role to play in inspiring a work), and these senses work in tandem with the processes of maturing a writer into being the individual whose work ends up in the hand of the reader.

A writer matures through constant practice with the words he or she pens, through the process of observing the trends unfold and age with the passage of time.
Race and tribe are just mere appendages, and they only matter in the case where there is clear or thinly veiled oppression of the individual on their basis, that is; where all are granted equal opportunity to express themselves, then race and tribe fade and all can speak as they freely would as permitted by their level of skill in terms of writing.

The critic who judges a work on the basis of its author’s race is just providing an avenue of convenience to misinterpret the work, and often, such a critique is limited from the onset by its skew-eyed view which leads to some of the salient points the work seeks to explore being missed and in the end totally lost to the rest of the audience that may themselves be affiliates to the critic and his position in academic, scholarly, or, social circles.

One sees and hears the words of venerable writers and speakers being misconstrued on the basis of race, self-interest, or, as happens oftentimes in modern-day debates; works are judged out of their true contexts simply because the individual judging them wants to win an argument and drive home their point as superior to those of the other debaters.
What the five senses regard as true can be declared an untruth just so someone can prove their point as right.

Being right and wrong is often the focus of many arguments on the words of a work, and I personally believe this is the wrong way to go about it.
A work of literature or philosophy is not right or wrong; it is an expression of what has been observed by the author, and it should in no way whatsoever inflame other individuals into tantrums and fits of rage in the process of its analysis.

A work that soon becomes the mantra of the masses soon runs the risk of losing the true original content of the message intended, being limited to a large extent by what is often quoted out of its passages which is not of more significance than what is left out of the debates.

One sees this kind of behaviour when it comes to the works of certain famous authors, where only the lines by the more popular characters in the plot are given attention and the rest of the script is dismissed.

My question is: what if the true meanings of the work are found in those dismissed sections?
Claiming to know the gist of the meaning of the work when the only thing one did was to focus on the popular lines in the work is in simple terms, self-delusion of the sort that says the viper is more harmful to the man than the python is because the former is venomous and latter non-venomous.

One cannot read part of a work and claim to know the whole; understanding the whole and what is in between the lines is of more substance than understanding only the part and then proclaiming to know the whole.

Such mundane criticisms, as, “ . . . can’t you write simpler English . . . this English you write is of the English . . . you force me to use the dictionary each time I have to read your pieces . . . can’t you be simpler . . . ” lead to one being frankly irritated by the self-deprecating manner in which a larger part of the African population approaches anything written in a foreign tongue.
The problem here is not that the kind of writing one pens is hard to read; the problem is only that the author is not blue-eyed and does not speak with a cockney accent.

Conceding to the demands of race would sooner limit the author’s broad point of view to that of the occasional reader whose favourite kind of reading entails watching those wedding dress programmes, and watching tree houses made of glass suspended on the branches of Canadian cedars.

One as an author does not write to a limited audience or to a given era, one writes because what he writes of has to be written to a whole worldwide audience that will hopefully advance to the next generation.

And one as an author cannot afford to be limited by their race, because the interest of the humanity as a whole surpasses that of a continent, country, or ethnic group.
Limiting oneself to the demands of the moment just plain kills imagination, and submitting to the laws that are said to control the lore of the world due to the cowardly need to fit in will surely silence the authorial voice needed to express the observed.

If one is in a bus of the blind who believe that the bus is a chest on a carriage, it should not mean that what is seen through the clear glass window cannot be recounted to the blind by one who has the benefit of sight.

It is as if, oftentimes, one as a writer in English (a ‘foreign’ language) should submit to the demands of their audience and go on and pen their works using a simplistic nursery school technique. The reality is that one did not read the amount of literature they did, and write the more than a million words about a myriad of experiences, and still bow to the temptation of being limited by such fascist terms as race and ethnic group.

One knows that the reality (soon to go away) is that there are groups of individuals still hooked on such primitive beliefs as ethnic ties and racial ‘reality’.
A good composition or piece of writing is good, no matter whether the forces that be attempt to label it otherwise based on the race of its author.

What is is . . .  trying to define it in any manner different from its original form is in plain terms desecration. The good author will at all cost avoid being judged on the basis of their personal character and form, or, on their deeds outside the circle of the masterpiece/s he penned. I often confront literary critics with the question: what do you think of Dambudzo Marechera’s writings?
I am met with the trite and the banal answers referring to his free-spirited nature, his exploits with “white” women, his threats to burn Oxford University, blah, blah, blah . . . and on the incisive manner with which he expressed himself and his life’s experiences in his works, one hears very little; even though it is a reality the black masses of Africa and other parts of the world still have to live with these many years after “independence”, after ‘freedom’, and after “emancipation”.

Write if you must write, just forget and refuse to be limited to being black or white by buzzing paperback critics drunk on the peyotes of racial superiority and demarcation of art for personal gain and stupid sake.

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