Hollows Left Behind: A Women's 'biography' of Zimbabwe/Rhodesia

Bell, Zana
Mountfort, Paul
O'Connor, Maria
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

Hollows Left Behind comprises an exegesis and a postmodern, polyphonic novel which seek to provide a feminine, ‘biography’ of Zimbabwe/Rhodesia wherein female protagonists trespass into liminal spaces, exploring binaries: coloniser/colonised, black/white, male/female. The novel is framed as ‘biography’ for it offers counter memories as an alternative to orthodox, largely masculine- inscribed histories, often influenced by political and social agendas. Silence is the core of the project and the intention is to ‘unconceal’ minor voices in pursuit of ‘truth’.
The novel ‘translates’ silences into three interweaving narrative strands. Each strand is set within a tumultuous era of Zimbabwe/Rhodesia and they depict the lived experiences of three female protagonists: Billie, Ruth and Clea. Billie’s (1890s) strand re-enacts the establishment of the British colony, Rhodesia. Ruth’s strand focuses on the Liberation War of the 1970s while Clea’s strand is set in Zimbabwe, 2015. These characters have been silenced, but they have also silenced themselves, and represent groups that have been largely written out of the historic canon: women settlers, female guerrilla fighters and birth mothers who relinquished babies. The ‘unconcealment’ (aletheia) of their stories reveals lacunae in the ‘grand narratives’. The bricolage exegesis tests the often opaque boundaries between history, biography and fiction, and interrogates the nature of ‘truth’. It investigates the complicity and resistance of women settlers to the imperial vision and engages in debates circulating the appropriation and depiction of O/other stories. The exegesis is a biography of the novel, incorporating its journey from conception to completion as it maps my personal journey into the country’s contentious history. It explores the influence of particular research methodologies –archaeology (Foucault), hauntology (Derrida) and psychogeography (Dubord, Benjamin, Holmes) and records the creative decisions which underpin the strands. I aim to provide a more nuanced interpretation of Zimbabwe/Rhodesia as well as to explore themes of personal and national importance: identity, memory/myth-making, and personal agency/complicity. However, the quest to ‘unconceal’ truth has been a lesson in humility and caution so therefore, in keeping with my feminine approach, I offer my novel and exegesis as my experience, my truth.

Zimbabwe , Rhodesia , Woman pioneer , Female guerrilla , Birth mothers , Bricolage , Counter memories
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