May we take this opportunity to express our heartfelt condolence to the Mukonoweshuro family for the passing on of writer Sharai Mukonoweshuro a few weeks ago. Mukonoweshuro wrote gripping Shona novels such as Ndakakutadzirei, Ndakagara Ndazviona and Akafuratidzwa Moyo (1983). It is Easter season and hoping that you are bracing up for 2014 HIFA (April 29 - May 4) in Harare and various other literary activities happening everywhere near you. WIN would like to encourage its members to attend a Members Meeting to be held on Saturday, May 24 once all details are made available soon. The meeting is two-fold, that is, it will address the status of WIN as well as be part of the 2014 Culture Week celebrations (more info on Culture Week is below in this newsletter). Please enjoy.
YOU ARE INVITED
WRITIVISM MOVES TO NEXT STAGE
Now that the Writivism workshops, conducted by Centre for African Cultural Excellence a few months ago, have been successfully held in five African cities, including Harare, new writers should now gear up for the Short Story Prize and the Writivism Festival to be held in Ghana in June this year.
According to Writivism, about 47 flash fiction stories have been produced from the workshops and the first batch of the stories is accessible at Books Live SA.
The Short Story Prize submissions are open to all emerging writers resident in Africa and close on April 30, 2014. The five shortlisted writers will have an opportunity to attend the Writivism Festival where winners will be announced. The overall prize is worth $400, First and Second Runner-ups will get $200 and $100 respectively while regional winners will be awarded $80 each. Adjudicators of the Short Story Prize include Ellen Banda-Aaku, Zukiswa Wanner, Emmanuel Sigauke, Abubakar
Adam Ibrahim and Glaydah Namukasa.
Adam Ibrahim and Glaydah Namukasa.
Submission guidelines are found HERE.
THE MUNGOSHI’S JOURNEY OF LOVE, TRIALS AND TRIUMPHS
By Beaven Tapureta
(Article first appeared on Munyori Literary Journal)
The year is 1974. Jesesi Mungoshi, then a single young woman, is lying ill in her room at her sister’s house. She is apparently in pain. In a short moment, her sister’s husband comes into the room in the company of a friend and a fellow artist named Charles. Introductions are made. Charles has already published his first book Coming of the Dry Season (1972) but this information escapes the intros and Charles keeps it that way.
Jesesi is not sure if the men are drunk or not but the first words Charles says are, “Ah saka tinoziva vakareba sei kana vakarara? (Ah, so how do we know her height when she is lying down?)
Although she is in pain, she bursts out laughing. Why is she laughing? She cannot tell. Later, the two men leave the house. But Charles has done his job like a doctor of love with the romantic poetry of his few words.
The above is but one of the fondest moments Jesesi Mungoshi, a gifted actress and wife of the great author Charles Mungoshi, remembers about her early days of acquaintance with her husband.
Jesesi, who featured in the Zimbabwean film Neria as the main character Neria, narrated touching episodes in the life of her family and the great writer at a Zimbabwe Writers’ Association organized writers’ gathering themed ‘Writers’ Family Reminisce’ held on Saturday, April 5, in Harare.
In 1974 Charles was working for the then Book Centre (now Textbook Sales) while she had finished school but had not yet decided which career to follow in her life. When she then fell in love with Charles after the first encounter, he proposed to marry her that year but she refused.
Her refusal to get married disappointed the young lover Charles whose intention had been to work and raise money for the bride price.
He told her he was resigning from his job because there was no more reason to work. And he actually left his job and used this free time to finish his two books Ndiko Kupindana Kwemazuva and Waiting for the Rain which simultaneously came out in 1975.
Love is an invisible twine that draws two hearts to each other regardless of strict decisions made earlier. It is even more true that the heart knows what the mind may not.
With a brother strongly advising her to first proceed with her education, Jesesi found herself in a tight spot where she had to choose between getting married and lose his brother’s trust and perhaps his support or lose the man of her heart.
Jesesi said she decided to get married. Immediately after receiving the good news, Charles right away went back to work but for a different employer. He found a job at the Literature Bureau after being recommended by the late great actor Walter Muparutsa who by then worked at the Bureau. In a few months, Charles saved his money and married the love of his life in 1975. The following year the couple was blessed with their first born son and named him Farayi (Be happy).
Charles’ deep passion for writing exhibited itself even at unusual times, said Jesesi.
At some point soon after getting married, Jesesi said she boarded a bus with Charles to Mbare. It was supposed to be a romantic day out.
“As a woman I was excited to be sitting next to my man in the bus and I expected a conversation,” she said.
But the writer Charles always made sure he carried a notebook in his pocket. On this day in the bus he fished it out and started jotting notes about what he observed around him. His nature made Jesesi want to know him better and be part of his life.
Jesesi said Charles would later at home condense his notes and it would take him a few days to finish a complete manuscript. During the period when he is writing, he would enter and live in his own world.
“He would literally get possessed by writing that he would not see you walking into the room,” said Jesesi.
She remembered Charles once told her about an experience he had after completing his manuscript Makunun’unu Maodzamoyo which is set in Manyene, Chivhu.
Charles was living in Kambuzuma but what happened was that while writing the book, he lost sense of where he was. At 3am, after he finished what would become a masterpiece, he rose, stretched out arms, satisfied with the completion of a task. But something was wrong in his mind. He could not tell if he was in Harare or Chivhu.
As told to Jesesi by Charles, this was a moment the author drifted on the edges of insanity as his mind immediately plunged into a vexing cloud of reality and imagination. But he slept only to be awakened later by birdsongs and then he sobered.
Although Charles’ drinking habit could have scared her out of her marriage, Jesesi said she stood strong by him because she had accepted her husband wholeheartedly. For her, marriage is a matter of committing oneself to the promise of love and faithfulness even during hard times.
“At some point he worked at the UZ and I would some days get a phone call informing me Charles has been arrested for drunken driving and sleeping in the car parked in the middle of the road. I would go and collect him from the police station. I would know his writing troubles as I wanted to be part of him. I kept going strong because I knew God had a purpose for us,” said Jesesi.
She went on to rubbish claims made by the media some years ago that she had divorced or abandoned her husband.
In 2010, the Mungoshi family faced the biggest challenge. Charles had taken a long break from drinking but one evening he just could not sleep because of severe pain. Jesesi said her family thought of prayer before they thought of the hospital and thank God he got better and slept very well that night.
On another evening Jesesi was invited to an all-night prayer at the church by her sons Farayi and Charles Jnr. Before she went out, she checked on Charles in the bedroom. He was asleep holding in his hand a beer bottle that still had almost all its contents. She took the bottle, replaced the beer with water and put the bottle back on the bedside table.
The next morning when she came back home Jesesi said she simply slipped in and slept beside Charles, not wanting to disturb him.
At around 12 noon their daughter came in and she was the first to discover that neither Charles’ eyes were blinking nor his body moving. Jesesi was awoken by her daughter’s scream. Her two sons joined her and efforts to resuscitate Charles were fruitless. The family started to pray and prayed before they took him to hospital.
“I grew up being a fearful woman but when I received Christ I was strengthened to the extent that when Charles fell in a coma on that day, my children and I believed he was going to be fine,” said Jesesi.
During the time when Charles was hospitalized, some relatives lost hope and others suggested taking Charles to their rural home. Arguments erupted. On the other hand, the doctors were beginning to lose hope. The children stuck with their mother and assured relatives that their father is going to be alright.
Then one day, a nurse on duty walked into the ward where Charles was and there he was, Charles sitting in his bed. What seemed a hopeless situation suddenly transformed itself into a triumphant scenario.
Later the family took Charles to St. Giles Rehabilitation Centre in Harare and his condition improved. He had begun using a wheel-chair but at St Giles he gradually started to walk.
An organization from Kenya and the government of Zimbabwe assisted the family in paying for the costs incurred in hospital and at St. Giles, said Jesesi.
“At home, prayer kept us hoping and to date, I have seen tremendous improvement in Charles’ health,” she said, adding that she would have brought him to the meeting had she found proper private transport.
Jesesi also hinted on some of Charles’ publishers’ insensitivity, saying she remembered during these trying times one publisher demanded that Charles (who was not able to walk or talk) and nobody else should come to speak with the company. However, the hiccups with publishers have been solved now with the help of lawyers, she said.
In all the problems which she faced during her husband’s illness, Jesesi said she is very much indebted to her sons for the togetherness ad maturity they exhibited. Today, the family has set up a publishing company called The Mungoshi Press which published Charles Mungoshi’s latest and NAMA Award winning novel Branching Streams Flow in the Dark.
Writer Shumirai Nhanhanga who also attended the writers’ gathering thanked Jesesi for being a woman of strength.
“You are a woman of a kind who stood up by your husband. Many women would have given up in such hard times but you were there for your husband. You did not break the promise. You are his hope. Even the children and relatives will be proud of you as their hero. As a woman also I am proud of you. We thank you so much for standing by our fellow writer,” said Nhanhanga.
Writer and actor Lexta Mafumhe Mutasa, son of the late renowned author Nobert Mutasa, also spoke at length about how his father related to his family as a writer. The Dambudzo Marechera and Solomon Mutsvairo families, who were also expected to present under the same theme ‘Writers’ Family Reminisce’, were not able to attend due to forces they could not control.
The meeting was held at the Centre for Applied Social Sciences in Belgravia and was chaired by writer Memory Chirere and attended by a group of about sixteen writers. The meeting also provided an opportunity for ZWA members to get updates from their Chairperson Musaemura Zimunya.
HERBERT WANTS TO COME HOME – MASIMBA MUSODZA
UK-based Zimbabwean writer Masimba Musodza’s horror fiction Herbert Wants to Come Home is moving upwards on the Jukepop Serials, an online publishing platform which gives readership statistics. According to a press release, the book is the most read horror story by a Zimbabwean writer on Jukepop. We were interested, according to Jukepop, that the story is becoming popular with Zimbabwean female readers. What could be the ‘hook’ for women in this particular horror story?
The book can be accessed here.
ZIMBABWEAN WRITERS’ TROUBLE IN PARADISE
By Beaven Tapureta
(Article first appeared on Munyori Literay Journal)
Lexta Mutasa, son of the late novelist Nobert Mutasa, presenting at a ZWA writers' meeting last week
Zimbabwean artists, particularly writers, have been skeptical of wills and this has led to the mismanagement or utter neglect of their artistic estates when they pass on. While families of deceased artists may largely carry the blame for not raising a brow, artists need also to take responsibility of their creative works as these constitute wealth in other terms.
A large number of local writers have died and their contribution to literature is remarkably great yet they have had their legacies dwarfed either by the commerce of the publishing industry or by family apathy. Their unpublished works are forgotten somewhere in a relative’s home or their royalties, in some cases, which must benefit the surviving spouse or children, have no one to claim from the publishers.
At a Zimbabwe Writers Association meeting held in Harare last week to discuss Writers’ Families Reminisce, writers supported the need for them to write wills before they die. They noted with concern that family support is vital to ensure continuation of a deceased author’s writing vision.
Much of the discussion on writers’ wills was hinged on part of a presentation made by Lexta Mafumhe Mutasa who briefly gave an account of his family’s attitude towards setting up a Trust in honor of his father, the late writer Nobert Mafumhe Mutasa who died in 2004.
Lexta, who is also a poet, writer and gifted Shona ‘linguist’, said when his father died he left no will and therefore his creative unpublished works remained scattered within his family and up to now, no one has taken the initiative to gather them for possible publication.
“Most of the family members and relatives like to associate with the popularity of the name Mutasa but only a few have actually read his works or think about keeping his legacy in different ways. Much of the blame is on us the family,” said Lexta.
Mutasa, who died a polygamist with eight wives and about fifty two children, penned eleven books including the old world trilogy ‘Mapatya’, ‘Runako Munjodzi’ and ‘Hondo Huru’. Some of his books were popular as Shona literature study material at school.
Mutasa’s immense contribution to Zimbabwean literature was visible in ‘the golden ages’ of the Shona novel, during which period also emerged the first generation of black Zimbabwean writers.
Although it’s sad that his family, aware of such greatness of their father, has detached itself from his writing legacy, Lexta said he is determined to carry it forward.
“When my father died, he already knew that I was to follow in his footsteps,” said Lexta whose gift of Shona language was demonstrated when he featured in a local TV soap called ‘Tiriparwendo’ a few years ago. He also was a script writer for the local soap Studio 263 with about 500 episodes penned by him.
“My father would even publicly say that I am the one whom he wanted to carry on with his writing legacy but this is not in a will,” said Lexta.
Asked by Chirere what he foresees and his advice to other living writers, Lexta said he also needed advice on how to set up a Trust which could help organize Mutasa’s unpublished works and speak with one voice in matters regarding his writing. This, he said, would also influence living writers to take responsibility of their works beyond death.
The eleventh book by Mutasa was a Shona children’s story titled ‘Kushereketa Kwepwere Nemapere’ which Lexta said he helped his father translate into English and it was published by Zimbabwe Publishing House (ZPH) as ‘The Dangerous Journey’ in 2000.
As an artist in his own right, Lexta said he is haunted by his father’s shadow as he cannot separate himself from the great name Mutasa.
“I am a very haunted artist. I cannot escape the shadow of my father just like children of late great musicians who have embarked on music. They cannot hold a show without playing their father’s music, otherwise it will be no show,” said Lexta, giving examples of the Dembos and Chimbetus whose fathers (Leonard Dembo and Simon Chimbetu) are known musical greats in Zimbabwe.
While family trusts could pose an answer to the ‘writers’ trouble in paradise” as Lexta described it, and may ease the tension of negotiating with publishers for royalties, they (the trusts) can only stand through family, corporate and national support.
Family trusts play a pivotal role in keeping a deceased writer’s legacy as, for example, the successful Yvonne Vera Award, which is held annually by the family in partnership with the Intwasa Arts Festival to honor the late Bulawayo-born writer Yvonne Vera.
The Dambudzo Marechera Trust, formed in 1988 to carry out various activities in honor of legendary writer Dambudzo Marechera, has in the past assisted in the posthumous publication of his works such as ‘Cemetery of Mind’ (1992) and ‘Scrapiron Blues’ (1992). The Trust is in the process of revival following the exit of other Trustees who are now based abroad.
In 2010, speaking at a tombstone unveiling ceremony to honor the late writer and cultural guru Solomon Mutsvairo, the then Deputy Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Lazarus Dokora called for the formation of the Prof Mutsvairo Foundation or Fund which would facilitate bursaries, scholarships and grants to deserving pupils and students yet until today, little has been done to honor Mutsvairo.
Musaemura Zimunya who attended the writers’ meeting said in the absence of a Trust or authentic heir to the deceased writer’s estate, the situation is worsened as it gives oxygen for corruption.
One publisher who confided in Zimunya told him that ‘writers are their worst enemies’ in the sense that they do not leave wills when they die.
“Zimbabwe at the very moment is awash with conmen and some conmen (who are at times employees in the publishing houses) connive with children of the deceased to get royalties from publishers without the knowledge of the deserving heirs,” said Zimunya, adding that family conventions involving spouses of the deceased need to be held to resolve family differences.
THE YOUTH PERSPECTIVE
Writing in the real world
By Mimi Machakaire
I’ve known what I wanted to do since I was fifteen years old but there are others who weren’t as lucky as I was and only figured out what they wanted to do later on in life. However, for those who are in the same boat as me and want to become writers, I think it’s safe to say that it is hard to be noticed as a young writer within the older generation. Due to our age and lack of experience it is almost as though some adults tend to use that as an excuse to not take us seriously.
Just recently I was approached by a young upcoming writer on Facebook who expressed his difficulty on being noticed within the older generation as he felt that the people whom he spoke to did not really understand what he was attempting to portray within his work. He felt that it was easier to confide in me since I was within the same age group as he was.
“No one really wants to help me. I just want you to read it...so that you give me honest impressions about the book, ” he says in his email in which he also explains that his work touches on genres such as romance and fantasy which is what’s become popular as of late.
This is a clear example of how ambitious, yet serious young writers are and the only thing we ask for is to be given a chance to show just how talented we can be. Even if it is not as great a novel as we thought it was after we have written it we would still appreciate some assistance or direction as to how we can improve in our later years to come.
We tend to look up to authors who have made it in Zimbabwe more so than authors who have made it overseas. This reason being that if we can start small and become popular in our home land then we can slowly gain reassurance that there’s a chance we can make it to other places as well.
These authors such as Alexandra Fuller who was originally born and attended boarding school in Zimbabwe but her other nationalities include the USA and the UK, wrote her first book while she was still at school which was entitled Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, which touched on a memoir of her life with her family living all around Africa. She was able to gain popularity from that book when she won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize in 2002. Other notable awards she had won for several books she had written include the 2002 Booksense best non-fiction book and the 2004 Ulysses Prize for Art of Reportage. From the way she started from her local knowledge and used it as information for her novels makes us see that it is easier to gain recognition from your own people first than to gain from others who cannot relate to your background; unless you figure out a way to portray your novels such that it can be internationally known. This can be hard to do at times, so looking at authors who have done that and have been admired for it helps us as the younger generation see how we can approach the same manner.
Other notable authors who were born and raised in Zimbabwe are Catherine Buckle who has written books for children, her life stories in Zimbabwe and has outlined some of Zimbabwe’s history as well. This history is under her novel entitled Beyond Tears, Zimbabwe's tragedy. So to sum up, as the younger generation we look at all these authors for inspiration as they have managed to become successful not only locally but overseas as well. We hope that one day we will be able to be successful like them but we cannot do that if we are being shot down or discouraged in any way. Even there are those who say no, we will still continue to find someone who will say yes because that’s how determined we are to get noticed. We look to adults for advice, guidance and growth because we know that with time we will do our best to become as great as or greater than they are. Please help us see how we can improve and become better writers because without that knowledge from people who have already experienced what we want to experience, then we won’t know how to get there despite the fact that we already know how to start.
(Editor’s Note: This is a powerful expression of aspirations from a young writer and WIN, together with various local writers’ organizations, has a mandate to attend to these aspirations. There are many who share her sentiments. We hope to do our best.)
2014 CULTURE WEEK IS HERE
Dates: May 17 -24
In 2001, UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity proclaimed May 21 the World Day of Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. The National Arts Council of Zimbabwe coordinates the week long commemorative events each year to mark this day. Culture Week celebrations give Zimbabweans an opportunity to reflect on culture and the need to preserve the rich cultural heritage. The week is an opportune time to promote the uniqueness of Zimbabwe’s different cultures. The National Arts Council every year encourages arts and culture practitioners and consumers alike to come together to celebrate and harness cultural diversities for economic development. Hotels, restaurants, retailers, schools are also encouraged to come up with activities as a way of celebrating our Culture.
Thank you for reading.