Project Description

Hilton Mendelsohn

Hilton Mendelsohn was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in November 1970 to the Mendelsohn family of the then coloured neighbourhood of Forrest Vale in the racially segregated Country. His father was an Army Officer his mother a home maker with Hilton being the second last born of 8 children.
Hilton began taking an interest in writing when he was in high school taking particular interest in the subjects of literature, History and English. In the fourth form at Northlea high he co-wrote his school house play receiving special commendation and finishing second overall with the only original play in the school contest. During this time he received marginal success in the few school writing competitions despite being generally reluctant to enter. Hilton generally preferred writing love letters for his friends delivering scribbling his thoughts out in private note books.

In 1992 Hilton began working for a marketing company whose offices were based next door to the Chronicle Zimbabwe’s second largest newspaper at the time. Encouraged by the editor of the sports desk Shaun Orange, Hilton began writing a twice weekly column covering basketball for the newspapers sports desk. An avid sports fan he also founded one of the largest basketball clubs in the country, at the time initially formed as a youth project to help keep the kids of the city off the streets. During this time Hilton had short stories and poetry published in various periodicals in Zimbabwe receiving limited but encouraging recognition.

After moving to London in 1998 Hilton continued to write working with Apples and Snakes at the Battersea Arts Centre, Exiled Writers Ink! and co founding a group of exiled Zimbabwean Writers called Writing Wrongs. By this time the social and political situation in Zimbabwe had deteriorated with an escalation of the violent oppression of opposition and many of his former colleagues being forced to flee the country. Hiltons writing began to take a new direction becoming more contemplative and patriotic. Hilton began work with the Movement for Democratic Change, the main Zimbabwean opposition party, and human rights organisations The Freedom or Zimbabwe Campaign, The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO forum writing and publishing several articles critical of the Robert Mugabe regime. He also co founded one of Zimbabwe’s most successful UK based projects of recent times, the London based charitable organisation WEZIMBABWE. In the process he has become an outspoken and well known Zimbabwean Human Rights Activists placing him amongst the hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans who would not be safe in their country of birth.

Hilton continues to write, working on a play to be staged at the Blue Elephant Theatre in London with the Writing Wrongs group and is still working with Exiled Writers Ink! He is currently based in Manchester and is working on his first anthology of poetry for submission for publication.

Another African catastrophe Another African catastrophe
born out of apathy.
Black men and women
will always talk
and talk
bring up Apartheid,
and slave boats,
and exploitation
by white folks.
but what about when it’s our own?
You all join in
when we fight colonials
but when we fight to be free
from the brutality
of African Tyranny
I don’t see you,
Proud black man,
do a God damn

So I put it to you,

That you would leave those
you claim to be your own
to the beast
just because you
share the colour of his skin?

That you would leave
to be
your own
accuse me
of notbeing
I just don’t know.

Surveying a trendy London street

Surveying a trendy London street.
With all it’s manufactured cool,
The new commodity.
No need for a free spirit,
thought, belief, or will

The faded jeans
look lived in.
The faces worn
from numerous trips-
and anti aging creams.

I wonder,
do people die here?
Or is this slow cycle
too slow to notice.
They’ve already mapped the road.

We have lived with death
Sometimes a visitor next door,
sometimes our own guest.
always there.
His scent constantly in the air.

Here death seems to be a celebrity
In magazines or on the news

When he visits me.
There will be a large gathering of my family.
My people will crying sing

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see

Then bury me.
Each a hand full of dust
for memory.
‘He was a strange one.. him
like his father
he stared at clouds.
Far beyond the trees’