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Philtrum : A Poetic Journey In Zim Politics

Philani Nyoni has been able to embody the history, present and future hopes of the Zimbabwean people and immortalise it in only 99 pages.

Philtrum : A Poetic Journey In Zim Politics
Philtrum : A Poetic Journey In Zim Politics

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Philtrum              /ˈfɪltrəm/



noun: philtrum; plural noun: philtrums

  1. the vertical groove between the base of the nose and the border of the upper lip.
  2. ,the junction between the two halves of an animal’s upper lip or nose.

(Before we go any further some of our non-scientifically oriented brothers and sisters might need to know this definition…. Asante Sana.)

Philtrum : A Poetic Journey In Zim Politics
Philtrum : A Poetic Journey In Zim Politics

When Zimbabwe was making historical leaps into what many referred to as the “post-independence independence”, one man was taking leaps of poetic justice on the Robert Mugabe system that had been uncouth to Zimbabweans for close to 4 decades.

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On the 25th of November 2017, when Zimbabwe ushered in a new era, record breaking poet Philani Amadeus Nyoni (PAN) dropped his biggest surprise to the poetry world; Philtrum. This anthology has proved to be a must read for those who are not up to date with what transpired in Robert Mugabe’s last hours as Zimbabwean president. Philani Nyoni has been able to embody the history, present and future hopes of the Zimbabwean people and immortalise it in only 99 pages.

The poet using his unique disjointed style of writing which speaks of a myriad of experiences that have defined his existence, employs a different persona when sharing his thoughts with each and every poetic journey he explores on.

Many Zimbabweans are familiar with the statement “It was a moment of madness”, a declaration that has come to define a time of difficulty and suffering to most Zimbabweans who were living in Matebeleland in the 80s.  It is in this fashion that the poet fathomed his masterpiece (well a masterpiece to me) as “A MOMENT OF MADNESS” where he speaks to a generation that has more questions than answers to the happenings of that time. He touches on the taboo subject of GUKURAHUNDI, a stain on the history of a post independent Zimbabwe. The oxymoronic introduction into the poem reflects how taboo, yet necessary the topic of the poem is for the progression of our society. It is an alarming reflection of how as Zimbabweans we are still caught in a dilemma of what to do next.

The silence was deafened

By the soles of the soulless Fifth Brigade

Slashing across the face of the Matebele regions

He profiles the trauma of a woman, a mother who loses her child to the unforgiving “bayonet” (an allusion to the 5th Brigade Forces) that is not selective of gender or age, The “bayonet” directs her every movement as she unwantedly pounds her child with a pestle.

              Empires raised on skulls!

                         The mother salted the flesh of her child

                With tears as she ground him with a pestle

Rid the earth of them; a pestilence

And what is the crime committed? It is being alive at the wrong place and time for an innocent mother and child. The poem paints gory images of a dark historical event overshadowing what should have been a period of euphoria and festivity, a transitory period when the goals and aspirations of a majority would become a reality. Unfortunately for some hopeful Zimbabweans, the Promised Land never came. The images that remain are ground children and the smell of burning-plastic-tortured flesh.

By painting a graphic tsunami of occurrences in “A MOMENT OF MADNESS”, PAN stirs raw emotions as those whose names will never be known are given an echoing voice. In the poem a hint of regeneration rears its head as if to say a new dawn beckons. However before it does, the parched ground should and will reveal its dark secrets.

                  The blade and its prey will decay

                  That ‘moment of madness’

                  Will be but a blur and some will read

                My words and ask: did he speak myth or sooth?

This poem reflects the same sentiment as that of many Zimbabwean people who believe there is no healing of the country without truth and reconciliation.

“Pros & Cons” is another worthy read from the anthology. This poem is a dedication to all the young people who always fight the dilemma of having to stay or leave the country, it is a dedication to all those on the streets doing what is popularly known as ukuphanda/kujingiridza. The persona is caught up on whether to leave his motherland for what are seemingly greener pastures where his “lover is” or stay and endure more suffering. The persona talks to his lover, a personified country whilst weighing the ‘pros and cons’ of leaving;

I sometimes think to leave this place

Of pros and cons to retire to you

For prose and cones, prawns and cones

Good books, good food and ice-cream

Licked right off your belly button….

I think of leaving my homeland for you

I am tired of this place tired of this theft….


The Poet suggests that Zimbabwe has become a land of compromise where options have to be weighed before taking decisive action. This is reflection of what most young people are forced to do because of lack of opportunity hence the persona’s frustration because he feels robbed of what is due to him.

The poet  using this poem touches on corruption. Through his exceptional diction PAN uses puns (no pun intended), to juxtapose how the pros have become the cons at the expense of misleading the masses into making them believe they are messiahs here to help in “directing” the people.

True the pros are not cons

They are too smart to get caught

The pros are on the streets, like traffic cones

Directing us right off the cliff.

Pros and Cons is an eye opener into the deepest frustrations that the youth of Zimbabwe feel and most of them can relate to this poem.

In the poem “Coup de Grace” 06/11/17 the poet yet again proved to be a master of allusion Pregnant with political hints, the poem suggests characters such as Joyce Mujuru,  Grace Mugabe and Jonathan Moyo using chess pieces. It is a satirical way in which the author portrays the former first lady’s ascension to power

Risen from minute stature and minutes; to palace prawns

Stepped forward. Both Bishops and rooks seem powerless

To deter her intention. One more step and she will harness

All the power any piece can imagine in this checked space

Soon she dares the harmed knight to salute her: ‘your Grace”….

The poem requires an open mind when reading and an understanding of the political landscape in Zimbabwe. Many people blame (or acclaim) the former first lady for the November 2017 political outcome in Zimbabwe. She was linked to be the “queen” of the chess board despite her unsuccessful attempt at ascending her husband’s throne.

Philani has grown in his artistic works and continues to dominate the poetic scene. Gone (but not forgotten) are the days when he was a form 2 pupil at Mzingwane Boys High School and he used to write novels on an A4 exercise book for the whole stream to read. The award winning poet has once again outdone himself and can boldly claim to be the ED of poetry.

Philtrum is PAN’s 3rd solo publication and proves to be his best. There a lot of poems in this anthology others being Sceptre, Evan Mawarire, Angel with horns and Elusive Female orgasm. With PAN’s style of writing, some poems will leave you in stitches whilst other will leave you horrified and crying for redemption.

However despite the spine chilling rushes Philtrum is a good read. As an investment into the future (this book will one day be worth thousands of dollars) get your copy for $15 and enjoy poetry at its best.