Registered under the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe

12 December 2012

Merry Xmas and A Happy New Year

By Beaven Tapureta

Phases in the Zimbabwean writing industry’s outgoing year were mingled with celebration and grief. Losses, book launches, competitions , writers' workshops, book fairs and awards dogged the writing and publishing industry throughout the year; yet a certain sense of togetherness provided the stoicism needed for writers to move on.
The National Arts Merit Awards, coordinated by the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, have always been a trailblazing event happening in February of every year. In the 2012 NAMA literary arts section, there were new voices winning than the usual time-tested voices. The book Lazaruses and Devases (Heritage Press, UK) by Wellington Kusema grabbed the Outstanding Fiction Book award while the Outstanding Children’s Book award went to seasoned writer Shimmer Chinodya for his book Tindo’s Quest. The third and last category under literature, Outstanding First Creative Published Book, was won by Violet Masilo for her book African Tea Cosy. Masilo is a member of Zimbabwe Women Writers which published her book.
Earlier in February, writers, friends and relatives including Chingono’s widow, assembled at the Theatre in the Park, Harare, to celebrate the life and works of the late writer Julius Sekai Chingono (1946-2011) who passed on in January 2011. The event was organized by the Spanish Embassy.
The Culture Centre at the Spanish Embassy, although devastated, and so was the whole arts industry, by the death of Pilar Fuertes Ferragut, the then Spanish Ambassador to Zimbabwe who died in a car accident in Namibia on April 2, was most visible in 2012 with literary initiatives such as the launch of its Book Club in March which saw Lawrence Hoba’s book The Trek and Other Stories and Dorothy Chanakira’s A Mother’s Desire being the focus of its first discussion. The late Ambassador Pilar was a stout supporter of Zimbabwean arts. Following her death and the subsequent transfer of her supportive diplomatic staff Victoria Tur and Marina Gomez to other countries, the Book Club took a few months’ lull before resuming activities in October. On October 16, 2012, the Club hosted NAMA award-winning Memory Chirere who read from his translated Shona collection Tudikidiki with an open discussion following afterwards. Another planned Book Club meeting to discuss Valerie Tagwira’s Uncertainty of Hope was cancelled due to uncontrollable forces.
The month of April plunged the arts industry in grief as it lost artists such as renowned actor Walter Lambert Muparutsa (1941-2012) who passed on on April 12, 2012, after a long battle with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and writer Elseworth Benhura (1979-2012) who also died in April in a bus accident that claimed twenty more lives in Ngundu. It was sadly the same month that Pilar died.
While a commemoration for Pilar was held at the Domboshava Interpretive Centre on April 10, Muparutsa was commemorated on May 18 at the Book Café where artists called for the immortalization of the veteran actor. It is at least refreshing to note that the artists’ wish has been partially fulfilled as on November 27 a bust was sculptured in honor of Muparutsa’s contribution to the community through his art. The bust was officially unveiled at Theatre in the Park, with artists, friends and relatives witnessing the event.
Discussions of legendary writer Dambudzo Marechera’s life and works never cease to inspire the international literary community. A conference held in 2009 in London to honor the undying legacy of Marechera produced a multimedia collection titled Moving Spirit: Legacy of Dambudzo Marechera in the 21st Century (edited by Julie Cairne and Dobrota Pucherova, published by LIT Verlag, Berlin). The book, which is accompanied by a DVD, was launched in Oxford, UK, and not yet in Zimbabwe.
Marechera (1952-1987) was this year (2012) commemorated at the Zimbabwe-German Society in Harare. This event, held under the topic ‘Revisiting Dambudzo Marechera: Old Texts Brought to Life’, came on the heels of revelations about Marechera’s love affair with his biographer and friend Prof. Dr. Flora Veit-Wild. Flora, who published anecdotes in the Wasafiri magazine of international contemporary writing, revealed the life she shared with Marechera and the cause of his death in 1987. Flora moderated the event which however confirmed the everlasting inspiration that Marechera is to many academics and writers, locally and internationally. Thought-provoking among other presentations at this event was the paper titled ‘A Psychobiography of Dambudzo Marechera’ by South Africa-based academic Kudakwashe C Muchena. The paper used Alfred Adler’s theory of individual psychology to explore and describe Marechera’s actual motivations and psychological workings.
Hope is on the horizon as the Dambudzo Marechera Trust which Flora is helping to revive in Zimbabwe will, among other objectives, aim to ‘republish, reprint, distribute, grant rights of copyright in all media, translate, edit and generally promote the published and unpublished works, writings, books, manuscripts and poems of the late Marechera in Zimbabwe and worldwide’. The Trust, which has been dormant for years now, will do much to resuscitate local interest and encourage reading of Marechera works and facilitate the writing and publication of new works by new Zimbabwean writers.
New books by Zimbabweans were published in 2012 although some of these are yet to hit the local bookshops. Internationally acclaimed girl child activist Betty Makoni’s A Woman, Once a Girl: Breaking Silence, Where did African Leaders Go Wrong’ (LAP) by Josephine Muganiwa, which is an analysis of selected texts by Ayi Kwei Armah and Peter Abraham, Running with Mother (Weaver Press) by Christopher Mlalazi, Shadows (Kushinda, UK) by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, The Polygamist (Logogog Press, South Africa) by Sue Nyathi, and My Daughter (Lion Press Zimbabwe Ltd) by Albert Nyathi, are some of the new babies born in 2012. Some Christian and motivational literature was also produced such as Seasons of Purpose (self-published) by Pastor Grace Jessica Chapfiwa, A Timeless Marriage (self-published) by Nonhlanhla Siziba, and Becoming Champions of Today (Victory Management Institute) by Simbarashe Vhovha. Becoming Champions of Today has a foreword by celebrated musician Oliver Mtukudzi. Seasons of Purpose, Novuyo’s Shadows and The Polygamist, were officially launched in Zimbabwe.
There were several books published in 2012.
Other book launches in Harare included Chioniso and Other Stories by Chinodya Shimmer, which was launched at the Zimbabwe-German Society and Basic Shona Guide for Spanish Speakers by Victoria Tur, then Chargee Affaires of the Spanish Embassy in Harare, which was launched at the Harare City Library. The launch of Basic Shona Guide for Spanish Speakers saw celebrity Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi being guest of honor at this literary function, sending the message that the book industry can make use of the country’s celebrities to encourage the general reading of books.
Of awards and residencies, Zimbabwe continued to shine on the international literary scene. Two major awards worth mentioning are the Caine Prize for African Writing and the Baobab Golden Prize. Mellisa Thandiwe Myambo, the author of Jacaranda Journals (Macmillan South Africa, 2004), was shortlisted for the 2012 Caine Prize for her story titled La Salle de D’part (The Waiting Room). Although Myambo could not win the Prize, her being shortlisted added glamour to Zimbabwean writing as the Caine Prize earlier tasted home in 2004 and 2011 when Brian Chikwava and Noviolet Bulawayo respectively won it. Later in the year, eighteen year old Rutendo Chabikwa did the country proud by winning the Baobab Golden Prize in the Rising Writer category.
Award-winning author Christopher Mlalazi, now with three books up his sleeve, was offered a creative writing residency at the University of Iowa, USA, under its International Writing Program which ran from August to November 2012.
2011 Caine Prize winner Noviolet Bulawayo came on board in 2012 with a major achievement when Chatto and Windus acquired UK and Commonwealth rights in her debut book We Need New Names at a highly contested auction.
A local writing competition that has gained popularity is the Yvonne Vera Award which is coordinated by the Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo.
The Yvonne Vera Award, named after the late poetic fiction writer Yvonne Vera, seeks to ‘promote original writing talent in English’ and the 2012 winner was Violette Kee-Tui who grabbed the $500 cash prize.
The writing and publishing industry would not be complete without the annual Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF) which this year took place from July 30 to August 4 and was held under the theme ‘African Literature in the Global and Digital Age’. The theme explored the ‘prevailing mood of digitization in the educational, literary, publishing, bookselling and library sectors, including the civic and public sectors’.
Apart from the Indaba Conference which happens before the main Book Fair, book exhibitions and other events, writers had the opportunity to mingle with all kinds of stakeholders in the book industry. ZIBF had in April organized a writers’ workshop under the topic ‘The Writer, the computer and Copyright’ which tallied well with the 2012 ZIBF theme. This workshop, facilitated by ICT expert Rudo J Nyangulu and renowned author Virginia Phiri, was a follow-up to the workshop held under the same topic at the 2011 ZIBF.
The ZIBF this year resumed the provincial Mutare Book Fair which took place from September 28 to 29 at the Mutare (Queens) Hall. The outreach to Mutare by ZIBF signaled the coming back of the former ZIBF glory that seemed to have dulled over the years.
Literary discussions which were regularly conducted by Zimbabwe Writers Association (ZWA), an inclusive, umbrella writers’ association, under its serial ‘How  I Create’ topic, brought together local writers, especially those in Harare, to discuss pertinent issues affecting their craft. The discussions, which took place in an informal environment, were graced by seasoned writers such as Aaron Chiundura Moyo, Albert Nyathi, Chiedza Musengezi, Shimmer Chinodya, Petina Gappah, Barbara Nkala and David Mungoshi who sacrificed busy schedules to rub shoulders with unpublished and other published authors.
Chinodya and Gappah also conducted separate creative writing workgroups at the Book Café where they met with new writers and shared some skills and knowledge. The workgroups were conducted courtesy of Pamberi Trust. Gappah also moderated a conversation with writer Alexandra Fuller at the Book Café on October 23, 2012.
There are lots of writers events that happened around the country not reported here. All in all, 2012 proved a busy year and hopefully all be well in 2013.


  •  WIN altogether published seventeen issues of its WIN Newsletter, that is, from Issue 44 to Issue 61.
  •   WIN successfully incorporated a Tonga language column ‘Rhythms of Tonga Drums’ in its WIN Newsletter.  
  • WIN launched the Epworth Outreach programme, successfully launched Bilaal Islamic Academy Writers’ Club and mobilized more members outside the school setting in Epworth   
  •  WIN received book donation from Zimbabwe Reads  
  • WIN/GAT Short Story Writing Competition and Workshop was launched, supported by Zimbabwe Reads  
  • WIN partnered with Centre for Development of Women and Children (CDWC) to conduct a series of writing workshops for students drawn from Glen View 2 High Writers Club, an affiliate of WIN, and Hope Centre, an out-of-school study group. Memory Chirere and David Mungoshi facilitated the workshops. The aim was to come up with booklets of stories and poems for use by other disadvantaged children in out-of-school study groups and communities.  
  • WIN received books from Theresa Muchemwa, a local poet. Other book donations had previously come from Beatrice Sithole and Virginia Phiri.  
  • WIN welcomed volunteer Moira Marangwanda who has since graduated from the University of Zimbabwe with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in Theatre. Moira is helping WIN as voluntary Assistant Administrator  
  • WIN/GAT Short Story Writing Competition and Workshop succeeds  
  • WIN launched 2013 Poetry Anthology Project  
  • WIN received back issues of Wasafiri magazine of international contemporary writing 
  • WIN Manuscript Assessment Programme is ongoing  
  • There were various networks with individual writers, organizations, in and outside the country, which WIN created throughout the year, networks which will be helpful in the following year. Above all, we are grateful for the support we received from all of you. Thank you so much.

Writers International Network Zimbabwe Board and staff wish you all a happy Christmas and good health and writing in 2013. 
Stay blessed.

"Unclipping wings of the imagination"

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