Writer and poet Tariro Ndoro has an astute ability to share with readers what it’s like to cross borders of language, countries and gender. Rather than relying on statements to get her thoughts and ideas across, Ndora enacts situations through objective observations that force us to enter into her detailed view of the world.
During an emotional and intimate reading, Ndora shared with the audience a few of her poems on Tuesday 2 July at Wordfest 2019, from her debut poetry collection, Agringada: Like a gringa, like a foreigner.
Reading the title and being unfamiliar with Shona, you wouldn’t think Ndora – who has a BSc in Microbiology and is currently studying an MSc in epidemiology at Wits University – hails from Harare in Zimbabwe, so why does she use a Latin American slang word to introduce her work?
“I started reading a lot of Latin American books,” she explains when asked about her use of language, “and realised that they included a lot of vernacular sentences and, instead of trying to explain what they meant like a lot of African writers do, they would just carry on. If you don’t understand, get a dictionary!”
Agringada refers to something or someone that resembles USA culture or “the American way” of life much like Ndora felt at school: forced to attend an elite English school in Zimbabwe, she had to adopt its conservative social norms and beliefs in order to be succesful in the foreign space. But when she left school, remnants of this assimilation lingered making her feel like a gringa at home.
Influenced by the unapologetic attitude of Latin Americans who write in English, it becomes clear how fitting Ndora’s use of the word agringada is – also because, throughout her poems, she plays with words and their dictionary definitions as seen in the poem Mustang:
Ndora sees herself as an international poet, and her collection opens the flood gates on what it means to be different, both in the world and in her style of writing.
Watch Ndora read Swept Away below:
Ndora’s book, Agringada: Like a gringa, like a foreigner, is available through African Books Collective: http://www.africanbookscollective.com/books/agringada-like-a-gringa-like-a-foreigner