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“Kudu*” by Mike Hagemann

“Kudu*” by Mike Hagemann

The steel war beast’s
grass-grown carcass
rots in the sun.
Its ballistic glass eye
the iron flanks cancered
with blisters and pits
abandoned to the slow,
relentless cycle of decay and erasure
just like this once house of memory
and its collections of time frozen relics,
that whisper of a lost, lonely war.

*Usually associated with a species of African antelope, the name “Kudu” was appropriated by Rhodesian engineers in the 1970s to categorise an indigenously designed mine and ambush protected vehicle that was widely used by the white minority regime’s forces during the Zimbabwe liberation war. In 2009, I made a pilgrimage to Zimbabwe to confront my own complicity in the war and took this photograph of an abandoned “Kudu” in the overgrown grounds of the sadly neglected Mutare museum.

Mike Hagemann is a retired former school teacher who lives in George in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Zimbabwe born, he was conscripted into the Rhodesian security forces at age 17 and served in the last year of that war. In the years since then, he has rejected the fatally flawed colonial project and grappled with his own fractured sense of identity. In 2017 he completed a PhD at the University of the Western Cape, with a dissertation on the war poetry written by Chas Lotter – a man who served as a combat medic for the duration of that war and who similarly grappled with uncomfortable questions and realisations.

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