Registered under the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe

06 July 2011

WINZ Newsletter, Issue No 30

By WINZ Staff Writer

 Blessing Musariri with school children 
(Photo: Google images)

Children have stories to tell to excite their ‘adventure instinct’ but chances of being accorded a platform to showcase and publish their creative talents are few, hence the need for writers to play the medium and bridge the gap.
In Zimbabwe, there are gifted writers whose works have a social importance but few of the works are specifically done for the children. Gweru-based author Ignatius Musonza prolifically published material for children mainly with Macmillan but it has been long since his pen stopped to 'sound'. His friend, the late Stephen Alumenda produced more than ten titles for children and soon after his passing on, children’s literature seemed to have taken a respite and only a few writers occasionally write for children. These include Memory Chirere, Ignatius T Mabasa, Tendai Makura, and others.
Win-Zimbabwe caught up with one of the few specialist children’s book writers to find out the story behind lack of books for young readers.
Blessing Musariri, who has won awards for her children’s books, decried the absence of motivation in writers and publishers to give to children what belongs to them.
“It’s a shame really because other countries have huge collections of children’s literature. Publishers are not publishing children’s books maybe because it is not feasible for them,” she said.
Due to harsh economic conditions during the last decade, some local publishers scaled down their business, which, in some cases, meant putting aside reprinting of books they published for young readers. This further impoverished the children intellectually.
Musariri’s books, which include Going Home: A tree’s Story (Weaver Press, 2005), The Mystery of Rukodzi Mountain (Hodder Education, 2008), and Rufaro’s Day (Longman Zimbabwe, 2000),  are out of print and efforts to make some reprints have hit a rock, mainly due to lack of resources.
“Irene (Staunton) and I tried to source for resources to reprint one of my books but nothing came by,” said Musariri who encouraged other women writers to venture into writing for young readers.

The solution to this dilemma, she said, would be to encourage writers to write for this young generation, award children’s book writers and entice children to read.
While Musariri acknowledged that there seems to be no recognition for children’s books locally, she commended some writers and related stakeholders from the region who have done so much to encourage the development of children’s literature.
“There is the regional Golden Baobab Prize that is doing very well,” she said.

However, the local premier arts awards in Zimbabwe, the National Arts Merit Awards, used to have two categories that at least recognised children’s and/or teenagers’ books. There was the Best Illustrated Picture Book (0-8 years) and the Best Junior/Young Adults Literature categories in the literary section. Musariri’s Rufaro’s Day won NAMA Award in 2002 for being the Best Illustrated Picture Book (0-8 years). However, from 2004, NAMA lumped the two categories into one, that is, the Outstanding Children’s Book.
This down-scaling, among other factors, watered down the motivation.
Born in Harare, Musariri’s passion for writing for kids emanate from her strong wish to instil positive values in children and encourage them to be pro-active.
Musariri, who is described in the literary circles as notably one of Zimbabwe’s exciting emerging writers, also writes poetry and has been published on various websites and international anthologies. She is also a well-travelled writer. Her next book titled The Adventures of Baraka Blackbird will be published soon by Mkuki na Nyota, a publishing company based in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Musariri added that she is working on contemporary fiction for adults.


Tinashe Mutumwapavi Muchuri

Lack of fresh poems at the House of Hunger Poetry Slam

Every first Saturday of every month poets converge at the Book Cafe for the House of Hunger Poetry Slam, which is run by Pamberi Trust.  Rules of the slam include a three-round battle for top honours.

Those who have more points in the first round go into the second round. Those who have more points in the second round graces the last and final round where the one with the more points than the other becomes the ‘lucky poet’ not the winner. There are no winners in the Slam because the objective is to treat every performance equally. This could be incomprehensible but this is one of the excitements of the Slam.

These judges will give every performance their scores between one (1) and ten (10). The judges have no final say. The audience can protest on behalf of the poet if they think the poet has not been given deserving points.  This can make the judges change their figures or stick to them.
Every Slam has a theme but these themes are hardly adhered to. There are no discussions after the performances to assist the poets to improve certain areas of their performances.

The judges and audience say nothing about the poet’s rhyme, rhythm, tone, content, originality, stage management, poet’s creativity, confidence, gestures, voice, and many other things that enhance performance poetry.

The million dollar question then becomes:  what are the judge’s decisions based on? Maybe this is the reason why the poets recite their old pieces repeatedly. They don’t bring new poems onto the stage. This way, we can say the Slam has failed to groom poets into creating new pieces. It has only given them space to showcase their old poems which they believe are popular with the audience.

I talked to one of the participating poets at the July House of Hunger Poetry Slam and he said on condition of anonymity, ‘I cannot perform new poems because I will lose points. This game is about points. So I recite my popular old poems that have come to be identified with me so that I make points.’

One experienced performance poet, Xapa, openly bemoaned lack of new poems performed at the Slam. She said, ‘Poets must give new poems please. We are tired of the same poems earning the same old points.’ She was part of the poets who slammed at the July 2011 House of Hunger Poetry Slam. She was also one of the luck poets. She was my best bet after she recited one poem that makes me feel good. In the poem Xapa ask those Africans who have gone to the Diaspora to come back with their skills and develop the economy of their countries. ‘Afrika’s lifeblood is going down the brain drain/ her skilled and educated people don’t remain.’ The poem is called Come Home.

Other July 2011 luck poets were Chenjerai Mazambani aka Vasadza, Madzitateguru, Xapa, Illmatrics, and Jerimos Mugweni aka Keepchange. The luck poets walked away with book and CD prizes that included the latest Together, a compilation of poems and short stories written by the late Julius Chingono and John Eppel.



This poem refuses to mourn with you
As you surrender your freedoms
To flatterers and charlatans

By Tinashe Muchuri

No comments:

Post a Comment