Zimbabwe’s last hangman retired in 2004. As the nation drifted towards abolition, no determined effort was launched to find a replacement. However, the discovery of carnivorous flame lilies at the Great Zimbabwe monument triggered a spirited search for a new executioner. Those who know why this discovery energized the recruitment effort refused to talk.
The frantic attempts to find a new hangman were impeded by the lack of suitable candidates. Well-placed sources confirmed that the fear of ngozi was a deterrent. According to this traditional belief, the spirit of a murdered person torments the killer and his family for generations. However, this is only half the story. Several promising applicants did come forward. None met the minimum requirements for the job. The selection criteria were designed to exclude the mentally ill, the vindictive, and the sadistic. However, they did not rule out the desperate.
The Sprout of Disruption (Book 1) introduces the pantheon of characters whose lives have been set alight by the plant which sparked the recruitment effort. It tells the story of the aspiring hangman who was obsessed with securing the job, the sympathizers who fought to protect him from his prize, and the anxious men who believed that emptying death row would end their horror before the meat-eating plants constricted around their necks.
Targeted Age Group:
I started writing because I could not find enough books that were written in a style I could relate to, and about subject matter relating to the African continent. I decided to start writing the sort of stories I would love to read.
What Advice Would You Give Aspiring Writers?
Keep at it. Your first draft is never good enough. Edit relentlessly. Put your manuscript through a thorough critiquing process by people who are fair but candid. But do not wait for perfection by tweaking the text to death. At some point you have to let it go. If you have written the best story that you can under your circumstances, do not be discouraged by bad, negative or malicious reviews. No book is for every demographic. Focus on your audience. They may not be easy to identify at first but over time, as your reviews increase, it will become easier for them to find you. Keep writing and do not lose momentum.
Taona Dumisani Chiveneko is the author of ‘The Hangman’s Replacement’ series. The Zimbabwean citizen was born either between the Zambezi and the Limpopo rivers, or along the road which runs from Mutare to Hwange. Mr. Chiveneko has refused to confirm which option is true. He is also equally circumspect about his age, which he has pegged at: ‘More than ten, but less than a hundred-years-old.’
Mr. Chiveneko is widely regarded as the most anti-social African author. He is rumoured to have based the Luxon Hurudza character on himself. Even as a child, Mr. Chiveneko was not personable. The boy ignored anyone who tried to start a conversation with him. This behaviour won him the nickname, ‘Hombarume’, the Shona word for ‘hunter’. According to the village elder who gave him the name, the young Taona was destined to spend his entire life hunting for a sense of social etiquette. The elder’s prediction turned out to be wrong. The boy never embarked on the quest at all. As a recluse, he spent his life hunting for something else: solitude.
Mr. Chiveneko is rumoured to live in a remote location with a hypertensive pangolin, three shrews, and a termite colony (enclosed in a large glass tank). He is also the half-proud owner of two cats. Apparently, he only loves one of them, but is compelled to keep them both. The creatures are inseparable companions.
In fact, when Mr. Chiveneko sold the cat he did not like, the remaining one went on a three day hunger strike. Eventually, Mr. Chiveneko was forced to buy back the tubby feline for thrice the price he had sold it. As a miser, this incident was highly traumatic for him. This unusual sacrifice for another living creature reflects a tender side of this enigmatic writer. Nevertheless, that part of the man is very small indeed.
During the only interview he has ever granted, Mr. Chiveneko confessed that his childhood dream was to become a taxidermist. However, this ambition was shattered when he realized that taxidermy had nothing to do with replacing the bodywork of taxi cabs. In grief, he bought a diary and vented his sorrow on its pages with a feather quill. The experience was refreshing. Through tragedy, he found his calling. The rest is history. To this day, he still writes with feather quills that he picks up along a popular flight path of migrating geese.
There are only two pictures of Mr. Chiveneko in existence. Neither image portrays his features clearly. In the first, he wears a thick scarf to hide a recurring case of mumps. He is also wearing an ill-fitting hat that he bought at a second-hand store thirty-two years ago.
The second image is a drawing of the author’s alter-ego. The picture depicts the mournful face of an unnamed man with thick dreadlocks. When asked whether this face was a self-portrait, Mr. Chiveneko said it was not. The face came to him during a dream in his youth. For reasons he cannot explain, he felt a strong and instinctive bond with it. ‘I felt like it was an alternative expression of me.
Mr. Chiveneko only communicates with the wider world through his long suffering lawyer. Any demonstration of courtesy expressed in his novels, (including the acknowledgements), are the work of his tireless legal representative.What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
An article in a Zimbabwean newspaper which reported on Zimbabwe’s efforts to hire a new hangman after the last one retired in 2004.
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