Interesting facts about Chenjerai Hove

He went into self-exile in 2001 after he was harassed and threatened by authorities.

He is widely regarded as one of the best writers of Zimbabwe.

In 2001, he received the German Africa Prize for literary contribution to freedom of expression [quite an interesting category, don’t you agree?]

Chenjerai Hove is well capable of writing in his native language as well as English, this is quite rare in the African literary scene.

Who was Chenjerai Hove?

He was the son of a local chief father, and a storyteller mother (both peasant farmers), and thus was born into a world of stories — so he told his. Him, Dabudzo Marechera, Charles Mungoshi, Yvonne Vera are now honored as the leading figures in Zimbabwe’s post-colonial literature.

Chenjerai Hove was born in Mazvihwa, near Zvishavane, in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and was a prominent writer, poet, storyteller and often is regarded as one of Zimbabwe’s most brilliant literary minds.

He is widely known for his highly socio-political and critical works including poetry but most notably more as the author of Bones, [a semi-fictional novel published in 1988 by Baobab Books, the book is set after the independence of Zimbabwe from the British Empire on a white-owned farm, and asks what difference the end of colonial rule in 1980 really made in his country, Zimbabwe.]

The book, Bones gained prominence for its message, won the Noma Award a year after its publication and is rated as one of Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century — a project compiled by the African Studies Centre Library.

As Poetry International Archive includes in their bio of Chenjerai Hove “His critical, social and political commentary in the weekly newspaper, The Standard (2000-2002) gave rise to threats that he was forced to take seriously … and yet for a writer for whom ideals were central, such loss was intensified by what he believed to be a betrayal of governance in an independent Zimbabwe.”

His Education

Chenjerai Hove attended Kutama College, the same college attended by later-ruler Robert Mugabe. He graduated from a teachers’ training college in 1977 and worked as a teacher until 1981, then worked for a publishing house, studying in his spare time for degrees in Language and Literature at the University of Zimbabwe.

From being a literary observer, Chenjerai who would later transition into a cultural politician. He was the Chairman of the Zimbabwe Writers’ Union (ZWU) between the years 1984-1989 and in 1989 he won the prestigious Noma Award for his break-out novel, Bones.

After leaving Zimbabwe, he mentored and taught poetry across the European nations he stayed.

Chenjerai Hove in Self-Imposed Exile

After releasing a couple of works, writings and poetry books that heavily criticized the state of the nation, and especially its leader, Robert Mugabe, who had failed to leave the position and was being dictatorial, Chenjerai received threats from different factions and had to embark on self-exile from the country of his birth. 

The last straw that broke the camels back was when his house was broken into (secretly by police) and his computers, along with unpublished works and manuscripts, were stolen. His family was threatened and he remained under constant surveillance by the police. He decided to follow his friend’s advice to leave the nation unless face death and successfully exited Zimbabwe in 2001 with the help of the International Parliament of Writers, who found him a temporary space in France, then US, and finally Norway, where he lived until the time of his death in 2015.

However, as a global individual himself, Chenjerai got accustomed quickly to life outside Zimbabwe and continued to write. He continued with his writing expeditions and kept telling his own stories, the story of Zimbabwe and her people.

He wrote four novels including Masimba Avanhu (Is This the People’s Power?), which looked at the situation of women in Zimbabwe, and it was that, along with his political criticism, which got him noticed by the authorities, the International Writers Project at Brown University said.

When asked about his intentions on moving back to the nation in April, (a year before his death) Hove told a privately-owned Zimbabwean radio station, Radio VOP that broadcasts from outside the country, that returning home would mean more harassment for him. “If I were to go tomorrow it will become worse because I will be criticizing more”.

Complete Literary Works Of Chenjerai Hove

Honours and awards for the works of Chenjerai Hove’s

  • 1983 Special Commendations for the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa, for Up in Arms
  • 1984 Inaugural President, Zimbabwe Writers Union
  • 1988 Winner, Zimbabwe Literary Award, for Bones
  • 1989 Winner, Noma Award for Publishing In Africa, for Bones
  • 1990 Founding Board Member, Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (Zimrights)
  • 1991–94 Writer-in-Residence, University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe
  • 1994 Visiting Professor, Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon, USA
  • 1995 Guest Writer, Yorkshire and Humberside Arts and Leeds University, UK
  • 1996 Guest Writer, Heinrich Böll Foundation, Germany
  • 1998 Second Prize, Zimbabwe Literary Award, for Ancestors
  • 2001 German Africa Prize for literary contribution to freedom of expression
  • 2007-08 International Writers Project Fellow, Brown University

How did Chenjerai Hove Die?

Chenjerai Hove died at 59 on the 12th of July 2015 in Norway after he had liver failure. Unfortunately, he never returned back to his home-nation, the land he so vehemently fought for through his writings until his death.

Further Readings


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