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Eyewear Publishing

Chisungu

Chisungu

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By Gloria Zewelanji Raen

Poetry - Paperback

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A nod to Zambian-British poet Kayo Chingonyi’s collection entitled Kumukanda, referring to the male initiation ceremony, Chisungu is the initiation ceremony of young women in the Bemba tradition. The work is a series of lyric essays and poetry, which explore loss and the history of a family centering on the suicide of a brother. It examines parental relationships in an interracial context, the possibility of new love in the wake of grief and the ongoing trauma of racism. There are echoes and slippages between and across individual narratives, layering experiences and personal histories. Both lament and wry commentary, the collection immediately establishes a displacement from community and cultural traditions as the writer proclaims herself a ‘watered down, diluted, genetic and cultural bastard’ who questions her  right to the ‘authentic rite’ of Chisungu. Nonetheless, this is an incendiary exploration of identity and the injustice of race. Rather than participating in the traditional rite, the author describes her initiation through loss and liminal experiences. Working within and across aphoristic statements is the longing for a lost brother who visits in dreams, speaking to the grief and fear of inherited mental illness. The collection encompasses shifts of mood and  focus: loss, wit, identity tension, absurdity, with vernacular asides, polemical statements, lyrical prose and images of great beauty.


Primarily a performer and screenwriter from Zambia, Gloria has appeared in several independent films, and recently worked as a writer on Netflix’s first African animation show Supa Team Four. Her debut screenplay Mosi-oa-Tunya, was selected for the Cannes Cinefondation Atelier program, while her second feature length concept Afterbirth is a recent recipient of a Neo grant from the Norwegian Film Institute.  Her first short film Angst won awards at Aguilar de Campoo and the Milan International Film Festival. As a theatre performer Gloria jointly won a Bessie,  New York Dance and Performance award, for her role in the production Pent Up: A Revenge Dance. Her short story Endless Loops, was published by Afreada, a site dedicated to writing from Africa and the diaspora. Turning to poetry, following the loss of her brother, Gloria wrote Chisungu as part of her dissertation for the Cambridge’s Masters in creative writing; it is her first published collection.  

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