The Portfolio: Tinashe Mushakavanhu

Some Writers Can Give You Two Heartbeats is a conceptual book that employs a wide range of visual, typographic and structural strategies. Drawing from a 40-year archive of interviews from and with Zimbabwean writers, the ambition of the book was to make the reader eavesdrop on a multigenerational conversation about writing as craft and as a process.

We spent hours and hours scouring the internet, listening to old tapes, watching and transcribing old videos, and searching through the archives. Some of these interviews are locked up in information vaults such as Jstor and Project Muse — subscription-based digital libraries.

There is an extraction that happens in the academy — tourist academics visit our country for a day, a week, months, years or multiple times over a period of years. The finished products never come back to Zimbabwe; they get archived or sold in overpriced hardcover books.

We were also aware of how present-day culture and competing priorities add up to forces that undermine the imagination and deep analysis of our identities, experiences and aspirations.

We chose to format the book as a long extended conversation that brings many Zimbabwean writers, from different generations and backgrounds, together for the first time. There’s no other book like it in the African literary canon; it is unique and individual.

The book is a sledgehammer knocking down the artificial walls of genre and closes the distance between primary and secondary sources, thus providing an opportunity to revise existing narratives, often crafted by academics from Euro-America.

We took what we needed from different literary traditions and bent them into new, exciting shapes.

Visual composition was an integral part of the text — the making of the book was a three-way conversation between writer and scholar Tinashe Mushakavanhu and graphic designers Nontsikelelo Mutiti and Preston Thompson. We sought to discover, in the collaboration, the shape of thought, uphold the materiality of the literary archive, give form to metaphors, reflect different kinds of relationships between syntax and rhythms of speech and reflect on ways of reading.

Some Writers Can Give You Two Heartbeats is a meditation on literary criticism and mythmaking; on writing and reading; and a sustained exercise in combining different fragments.

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Tinashe Mushakavanhu
Tinashe Mushakavanhu works from Harare. New York. Everywhere.. PhD English, University of Kent. Tinashe Mushakavanhu has over 3094 followers on Twitter.

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