Author: Audrey Ndakaitei Chirenje
Published: May 2021
IN a recent social media video, which went viral, Mwendaz “we drip”, an 82-year-old social media sensation, seems to have popularised the term tanha dzaunosvikira (aim for your class)
But in Appearances or Not – Audrey Ndakaitei Chirenje seems to be echoing Mwendaz’ latest U-turn statement tanha dzaunoda — aim for what you desire — if her latest romantic novel is anything to go by.
Set in Harare, the text is a romantic tale featuring two protagonists — Farai Banda, a young gentleman residing in Glen Norah, one of Zimbabwe’s oldest southern suburbs, and Margot Biriri, an upper-class young lady residing in the leafy suburb of The Grange — otherwise classified as North of Samora.
In as far as relationship, dating and courtships is concerned, it is undeniable that the phrase tanha dzaunosvikira (aim for your class) is usually thrown when men are encouraged to pursue women of their class or — to be precise — women whom they can afford in as far as upkeep is concerned but in Appearances or Not, Farai — Chirenje’s male protagonist who hails from the South of Samora — proves otherwise.
At the beginning of the text Margot’s personal car goes for service and she finds herself and personal assistant seeking public transport and immediately, a black Honda Fit driven by Farai stops right in front of them. They get into the vehicle and thus at first Farai appears to be a mere mushikashika driver making several advances on Margot but as the text progresses, he turns out to be a respected technical manager at a manufacturing company. Later on, Farai ends up taking Margot out on a thrilling lunch date at Preggos and the two eventually fall in love.
During their courtship, the two lovebirds encounter disapproval from their families with Farai’s family judging Margot by how she appears and not befitting qualities of a muroora (daughter-in-law). On the other hand, Farai is judged by Margot’s family based on his general outward appearance and Glen Norah background (except for her father). Through this, Chirenje explores two themes — firstly, how appearances can be misleading and, secondly, how perceptions can stand in the way of genuine love.
Chirenje also makes use of geographical settings of Glen Norah and The Grange to portray perceptions of how North and South of Samora appear to be and are perceived in the Zimbabwean context.
Farai is used by the author to demystify and bridge the geographical divide between North and South of Samora as he turns out to be a millionaire at the end of the text. Even Margot, the “upper class” girl from The Grange, is shocked at the sudden dramatic turn of events––when the guy she at first thought had been a mere mushikashika driver turns out to be a millionaire at the blink of an eye. Thus, it is fair to say that in Appearances or Not, Chirenje’s prevalent message is for people not be fooled by appearances for they can be deceiving.
Moreover, Chirenje’s consistent style of encompassing perspectives of her protagonists Farai and Margot on a rotational chapter format is an easy-to-understand style which enables the reader to get into the minds and get to see the two sides of the coin on prevalent issues in the book. Chirenje also seems to be obsessed with taking the reader through her joyrides and explorations — a good example being the lunch date at Preggos and the wedding setting which crosses the border and takes the reader to Lilongwe, Malawi, at the end of the text.
Whilst I had the privilege to assist Chirenje in her latest novel as her editor, I have to admit that we disagreed on many things during the writing process of the book and she was very stubborn in most instances — including her preference of the title for the text and how she broke some writing conventional rules — but her stubbornness in some instances seems to have paid off. The book is easily relatable to many especially through her use of vernacular and street lingo which I felt she overdid at first.
But like fine wine, Chirenje’s romantic tales seems to be getting better by the day.
The writer Fungayi Sox is a Harare-based communications consultant with special interest in education, book editing, digital media technologies and publishing. He can be contacted on +263 776 030 949 or on email@example.com.