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Watch: Pilot Episode Of 'My Zimbabwe' By Al Jazeera Starring Petina Gappah Titled 'My Zimbabwe is greatly misunderstood'

Petina Gappah Image: Al Jazeera

My Zimbabwe is a new show by Al Jazeera that goes beyond the headlines into people’s homes, offices and inside their imaginations to figure out what makes Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe. 

The show's pilot episode features Petina Gappah, a top tier successful Zimbabwean creative and lawyer whom according to her own words, is lucky to do things she loves. ".. I m a Writer and an International Trade Lawyer, I am very lucky to be able to do two things that I love at the same level of intensity." 


In this episode, Petina Gappah discusses her new novel and speaks with enthusiasm about life and the challenges and rewards of being a Zimbabwean today. "My Zimbabwe is greatly misunderstood, my Zimbabwe is full of hope, It's full of broken and sad people, but it is also full of happy, industrious, resilient people. My Zimbabwe is a Zimbabwe of stories, and those are the type of stories I want to tell." she explains in her first opening lines.

Petina Gappah always wanted to be a writer but didn't know how to be one until she read Tsitsi Dangarembga's debut novel titled Nervous Conditions. "I decided early on that I wanted to be a writer but I couldn't see how, It's only when I read Tsitsi Dangarembga's book, when I was already in law school, that I realized that a black Zimbabwean woman could write a novel in English because she was the first person to do it."

She also reflects on her award winning debut book, a collection of short stories about ordinary people in Harare titled 'Elegy For Easterly' published in 2009. "When my first book came out, It was received very negatively by state media in Zimbabwe. I had a newspaper article in the Herald and the headline was 'Today's Judas Iscariot: Petina Gappah.' It created the impression that I was an anti government and therefore anti Zimbabwe writer. Once you read my work, you realize that I'm just talking about the ordinary, every day life of Zimbabweans who are influenced by the acts and deeds and works of the so called great man."

The film follows her busy schedule as she cuts across Harare’s different layers – She starts off by visiting the National Archives, "I love the archives because the kind of stories I write, are set in the past and because I m a writer of realist fiction, I want my stories to reflect accurate facts for example accurate events."  

She goes vegetable shopping at Mbare Musika, "Its easy to be fooled into believing that everything is normal, you know, that people have their coffee mornings, sushi at the Queen Of Hearts, you know that kind of thing but once you cross a certain road, life just changes." She says walking around vegetable hawkers.

Petina also visit the streets, starting with Rotten Row, her favorite. "...It's the road that connects the city center to the famous township of Mbare and is a street that is riddled with history, with memory. It's the street down which the Pioneer Column came and planted the flag of United Kingdom. We have the Zanu PF Headquarters, we have the Magistrate's courts and it is actually for that reason that I wrote a book called Rotten Row, which looks at how important this street is and all the different institutions that are on it." 

She then visits George Silundika Avenue. "The history of the city is embedded in the streets. So, the road we are on is actually George Silundika but the pavement still says Gordon Avenue." 

She also goes to a craft fair, and meeting up with friends and colleagues who are musicians, educators, writers, and civil servants. 

Petina is plugged into the intellectual undercurrent in her city, is busy with a new play in rehearsal, and is involved in an ongoing project to keep Harare's central library functioning and relevant. 

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