The wish that one day the great city of stone, Dzimba-dza-mabwe would be rebuilt and freely open arms to welcome all who fled the war as a result of land reforms are locked up in hopes and expectations that ‘…one day, no one will be exiled far from home, but all will be free to return…’ (p344)
Na’ima B Robert’s Far from Home is a powerful outlook into the political uproar in former Rhodesia but now Zimbabwe; coupled with the heavy burden of colonial legacies while not sparring both sides of the coin, both blacks and whites. With the retelling of how white men, the varungu, first came to settle in Zimbabwe, we get a vivid understanding of the history of Zimbabwe from the days of the colonial era through to the claim for independence. From the days of Cecil John Rhodes through to Robert Mugabe’s post-independence era, Na’ima gives an in-depth narrative while we encounter the many disruptions and interruptions that have hampered the erstwhile great city of stone, Dzimba-dza-mabwe. By the time the varungu had crossed the Limpopo River, they named places ‘as if they were the first people to call that place home.’ (p31) For the two main characters, Tariro and Katie, to live and grow under different umbrellas – from black and white backgrounds respectively – the resulting land reforms decidedly gives each one of them their own perspective of the place called home.
Na’ima’s narrative is divided into three parts of different time periods: Rhodesia, 1976 (Part 1), Zimbabwe, 2000 (Part 2) and Zimbabwe 2001 (Part 3). We first meet Tariro in the first part, an intelligent young girl who is in love with the brave, handsome Nhamo: ‘the only boy who could make my heart race and fireflies dance in my belly.’ (p15) Tariro is deeply rooted in the land from which she’s born, recalls the baobab tree as the symbol of her birthplace, loves her family and the people of Karanga, enjoys the freedom around her until one day the white soldiers arrive which overturn events as the lives of the people are deeply affected.
Katie’s narrative begins the second part of the book. She is a privileged young girl born into a white settler family with adoring and loving parents. Katie is a farm girl brought up on a farm just outside Masvingo and her small world quite charming. She enjoys the life of a farm girl, taking walks with her father until they get to the big baobab tree which she often calls ‘the upside-down tree.’ (p169) Katie’s life suddenly takes a different turn when the war- veterans strike and they had to move to the cold, rainy London.
In the end, Tariro and Katie’s narration run into each other and they are forced to face the realities of the painful history of Zimbabwe. Na’ima ought to be commended for pulling a strong narrative out there, painting the political turmoil of Zimbabwe from the past to the present and weaving believable characters into the story for us to enjoy. Na’ima’s Far from Home is a thrilling and intensely emotional story. I cannot recommend it better.