Crisis and “Hustler” Identities in Zimbabwe: A Critical Analysis of the Complexities of Survival in Panashe Chigumadzi’s Sweet Medicine (2015)
Keywords:economic crisis; Tsitsi; culture; relationship; Catholic; compromise; Panashe Chigumadzi; Zimbabwe
This article critically interrogates the complexities of modes of survival embraced by ordinary Zimbabweans in response to the post-2000 economic crisis as portrayed in Panashe Chigumadzi’s Sweet Medicine. The political-economic crisis that rocked Zimbabwe in the post-2000 period affected citizens in all spheres of life. The protagonist in Chigumadzi’s novel, Tsitsi, is a young woman who grows up in a deeply religious family that teaches her to trust in God and work hard in order to be successful. She embraces these teachings and successfully completes her economics degree at the University of Zimbabwe. However, when she graduates, she realises through experience in the marketplace that nothing she has learnt formally and informally has prepared her sufficiently for the new realities of the economic crisis. Contrary to the teachings of her mother and the Catholic Church, Tsitsi ends up in an illicit affair with a married man in order to access financial resources that she desperately needs for survival. She is confronted with a moral/faith crisis in which she must reconcile the realities of her present life of “living in sin” and the beliefs and values of her Catholic upbringing. In view of this, the article draws on Mbembe’s theorisation of the postcolony and Bhabha’s notion of the “third space” to investigate how ordinary citizens navigate the economic crisis of post-2000 Zimbabwe, and interrogate the complexities (and contradictions) of survival in a crisis as portrayed in Chigumadzi’s Sweet Medicine.
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