By Bekezela Tshuma
Many will remember the outstanding and touching movie Neria that was shown on the small screen a number of years back that reflected on the plight of women after the death of their husbands where relatives loot all the property leaving the widow with nothing.
The movie’s storyline was meant to expose the repression that most African women were silently suffering from at the hands of relatives where there was no respect of women in issues to do with inheritance of their husbands’ estates.
Those that were not yet born may only know the song Neria whose lyrics were composed by prolific musician, Oliver Mutukudzi, during one of the scenes in the movie.
The lyrics gave a soothing ray of hope to the starring character, Neria, who was sucked into an inheritance ordeal, after her husband, Patrick, passed away.
In the midst of all the excruciating torment she received from her brother-in-law, Phineas, Neria remained meek and calm.
Her life story as Neria on television is known to many. But how she carries on with her real life chores, her successes and pitfalls have somehow remained shrouded in a mist of the movie character. It remains unchronicled.
It is perhaps befitting to say that the now 60-year-old Jesesi Mungoshi who ably played Neria in the movie, is not very far in real life to the one in the movie, just that the setting and the script of her real life is a bit twisted from the movie one.
Like in the movie, Jesesi the wife to established Zimbabwean author, Charles Mungoshi, reflects on how steadfast she has remained during the illness of her husband, amid allegations that she once fled to South Africa in the first few months of his illness but eventually returned.
Despite these claims, her words echo strength when she also discloses that her husband’s health has improved and he is now strong although not fully recovered.
“We went together to South Africa, I did not leave him. God has been there for me — I get my strength from Christ, he takes care of everything for me. He says let the weak say they are strong so I am strong. My husband is also strong now. I do have some Neria traits and I think every woman does too,” she said in a recent interview with Sunday Leisure.
Maintaining utmost serenity, she narrated how her husband fell ill in 2010.
“He was sleeping when he just fell into a coma. We went to a neurosurgeon and some tests were done and nothing was said to be the cause of his sudden sickness. He just could no longer talk. The doctor even confirmed that it was not a stroke,” she said.
She has been married to the renowned writer for 39 years and they have been blessed with five children, four sons and a daughter.
Jesesi reveals how part of the years of her marriage were a bumpy road, putting paid the assumption that writers, just like artistes, are romantic.
However, she is proud to have withstood the storms, outbursts and heated misunderstandings in their 39 years, managing to handle her husband who she said was sometimes quite difficult to understand.
“I have been married for 39 years and I have been blessed with five children. The children are Farayi 37, Graham 35, Nyasha 30, Charles 27, and Tsitsi 24. Most writers are difficult to understand, some end up living without wives. At the beginning yes, he was difficult but through the years I have learned to understand him, starting by loving what he does, his writings. There is not a single book of his that I have not read,” she said.
In spite of the hassles, she learnt to love and support him more.
“As you know, most writers are lonely people and their writing portrays loneliness so I made sure he felt my presence and support to such an extent that he would discuss some characters of his books with me,” Jesesi added.
She started her acting career in 1984 in the movie, Inongove Njake Njake and from there she never looked back as she landed roles in movies that followed.
The soft-spoken Jesesi landed the lead role as Neria after she was spotted by the producer of Neria, John Riber, who is also the director of the Zimbabwean top-notch film, Yellow card, in a TV series.
“The producer of Neria, John Riber sent for me to audition after seeing me on African Journey, which is a Canadian TV series. That is how I landed the role,” she said.
Her experience as an actress has perhaps enhanced her skills in the arts industry, so much that she has become a producer of documentaries.
“Neria opened doors and opportunities for me and that is what led me into producing documentaries. I have produced documentaries such as The Mystery of Mt Nyangani, Journey To The Ocean and recently I worked on a yet to be released documentary in Zimbabwe called Presidenta. It is based on the life of the late President of Mozambique, Samora Machel. It received a mention in the Dubai International Film Festival,” she said.
With her family, Jesesi is set to establish an arts centre called Mungoshi Arts Centre.
“The arts centre business is still in the pipeline,” she said.
As someone who worked closely with Mtukudzi in the movie Neria she was asked to comment on the myriad of accusations about his escapades with women in a controversial book titled Tuku Backstage by his former publicist, Shepherd Mutamba and whether he never tried his luck on her.
And she had this to say: “I do not know anything about the book, I have not read it but Mr Mtukudzi is a very professional man and a dear brother to me. He even endorsed my husband’s latest book Branching Streams Flow in the Dark, which is the first publication by Mungoshi Press, which I guess makes me a publisher as well,” she said. Sunday News