Saturday, August 27, 2011

'amaBooks at the Jozi Book Fair

Following the launch of Where to Now? Short Stories from Zimbabwe at Wits University Writers Centre, 'amaBooks took part in the 2011 Jozi Book Fair at Museum Africa in Newtown, Johannesburg.
As well as selling books, meeting existing and potential writers, and attending round table discussions, including 'Women and South African Publishing', 'Social Media, Reading and Writing' and 'The Arab Spring', we attended several book launches. 'amaBooks led a discussion group on Publishing in Southern Africa during which links were made with fellow independent publishers from the region.
Contacts were also made with several independent bookshops in South Africa, so that copies of Where to Now? and other 'amaBooks publications are available in Xarra Books of Newtown, Boekehuis of Auckland Park, Love Books of Melville, Imbizo Gallery at the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, Guyo Books of Makhado and Clarke's Books of Cape Town. Arrangements were made with a distributor, Bacchus Books, so that copies of Where to Now? will be obtainable from various Exclusive Books branches and other bookshops across South Africa.
Where to Now? can also be bought online elsewhere in the world, apart from the United Kingdom, through the African Books Collective, Amazon and other websites. Parthian Books will launch the book in the United Kingdom in March next year.
'amaBooks were supported in travelling to Johannesburg by Art Moves Africa, and for having a stand at the Jozi Book Fair by the Goethe Institute.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Together, reviewed on

Together By Julius Chingono & John Eppel


Published by ‘amabooks in Zimbabwe and Europe, and in South Africa by University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, Published in North America by UNO Press and distributed by National Book Network.

Together is a collection of short stories and poems that were written by Julius Chingono and John Eppel. They tackle serious social issues with wry humour and flowery language. They explore aspects such as politics, Gukurahundi, religious hypocrisy. One laughs through and through. This is a must-read for people who have a good sense of humour and a no-go-area for those whose humour wires take long to heat up.

The book has a balanced narration as it is told from the mind of both a black and a white Zimbabwean, who live in different set ups. Chingono is from the eastern part of Zimbabwe and Eppel is from southern Zimbabwe but both believe that their main agenda is fighting poverty and social injustices. They castigate greed by those in power especially political leaders and blame them for the squalid conditions most citizens live under. This theme is felt in the work of the two writers.

Chingono’s Leave My Bible Alone criticises religious hypocrisy. Gore goes to the Anglican services every Sunday but proceeds to the pub as soon as the Sunday service is over; taking his Bible with him and the scene is just hilarious. Adults and children alike make fun out of this weird scene and he makes a fool of himself.

His work focuses on the hardships and challenges of everyday situations in the lives of mere citizens of Zimbabwe where the poor get poorer in a socialist revolution and the rich get fatter and richer from exploiting the poor. This mentality is also challenged - that of the capitalistic value system in the poem I lost a Verse.

A business person thinks his business is more important than what the poet is writing and in the process the poet forgets what he wanted to write. All that matters to the business person is the deal he is working on with a caller on his phone while the poet’s work is deemed less important.

However, there are times when the less privileged also exploit each other as in the case of the toilet cleaner in Shonongoro. She tries to supplement her meagre salary from the council by swindling the public of the money they have when nature calls - something they do not have control over.

His political commentary is felt in We Waited. Voters in Norton try to regain control of their party but the candidates they choose are disqualified by their party’s elite.

They are forced to vote for someone who is imposed on them and when they expect to be helped by the local party leader they are taken aback as she gets them arrested.A number of them are run over by a truck but the newspapers report that only seven Zanu PF supporters were killed in an accident that they are yet to look into.

Eppel on the other hand dwells much on Gukurahundi events and the class struggle. Most of his work is satire and criticises the failures by political leaders especially in the Government of National Unity, their greed, abuse of power and self-centredness. Bloody Diamonds for instance emphasises the greed of the leaders who want to get all the diamonds for themselves instead of developing the nation. The main character is killed by helicopter fire as he fills his bag with the diamonds.

He even criticises his race in the story The CWM where the newcomer, a white woman terrorises older occupants of the suburb as she feels they are not civilised and make a lot of noise with their chicken, stray pets and children. The fight between the Blacks and Whites is captured in the Pact where the land issue takes centre stage.

The Debate tells of Mr Wynken, Prof Blynken and Cde Nod and these characters have an uncanny resemblance to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Deputy Prime Minister Professor Arthur Mutambara and President Robert Mugabe. They all get the same applause after presenting their different viewpoints on how the economy should be revived. The winner is determined by the magnitude of applause so no one wins this particular contest as all of them get the same volume of applause.

Democracy at Work and at Play tells of the futility of the whole COPAC process where citizens are told of things they do not understand. In this story, the COPAC delegation is sent to Matabeleland but amongst them there is no one who can speak IsiNdebele beyond salutations. The people do not understand all that is being said because it is in English and they end up bringing their own grievances which have nothing to do with the making of a new constitution.

The ex- combatants as always present their case that the want a life-president and everyone is forced to buy into the idea after threats that anyone who thinks otherwise will have their homes burnt down. The delegation is later kicked out because they are thought to be people from the MDC.

Gukurahundi stories include Two Metres of Drainage Pipe where the narrator tells of the story of how he and his brother and friend were captured and taken to Bhalagwe base where they were tortured day and night. His brother was tortured in a drainage pipe and beaten until he died. Then the victim was buried in a grave he was forced to dig. In a way it addresses the psychological trauma people bear from the Gukurahundi experience.

The narrator remembers the event because he sees his neighbours’ children playing in an asbestos drainage pipe. There is also a poem carrying the experiences at the Bhalagwe camp; Bhalagwe Blues, where he talks of other ways of torture like castration and suffocation especially of ex-ZIPRAs that they suffered at the hands of the 5 Brigade after the then Prime Minister Mugabe urged them to destroy the Matabeleland part of the country.

The two writers present their work from the side of the general populace commonly known as the povo and expose the injustices they are made to suffer at the hands of those in power and those that have money amassed more possessions than the rest. – Reviewed By Sibusiso Tshuma.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Where to Now? Short Stories from Zimbabwe launched at Wits Writers Centre

Where to Now? Short Stories from Zimbabwe was launched at Wits University Writers Centre on August 5, as part of 'amaBooks at the Jozi Book Fair. The event was attended by an appreciative audience of over 60 people, who listened to readings from three of the writers in the book - Novuyo Rosa Tshuma from her story Crossroads, Sandisile Tshuma from her story The Need and Thabisani Ndlovu from his Making a Woman. Jane Morris read an excerpt of NoViolet Bulawayo's story from the collection Snapshots. The audience participated in a lively discussion about writing, publishing and Zimbabwe after the readings. 'amaBooks have a stand throughout the Jozi Book Fair, held at Museum Africa in Newtown from 6 - 8 August.

The Zimbabwean reports Where to Now? at the Jozi Book Fair

Zim authors in spotlight

’amaBooks put Zimbabwean authors in the spotlight at the Jozi Book Fair this week, where they launched their latest short story collection - Where to Now? Short Stories from Zimbabwe.

It features 16 Zimbabwean writers - Raisedon Baya, NoViolet Bulawayo, Diana Charsley, Mapfumo Clement Chihota, Murenga Joseph Chikowero, John Eppel, Fungai Rufaro Machirori, Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, Christopher Mlalazi, Mzana Mthimkhulu, Blessing Musariri, Nyevero Muza, Thabisani Ndlovu, Bryony Rheam, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma and Sandisile Tshuma.

“The writing in this collection, at times dark, at times laced with comedy, is set against the backdrop of Zimbabwe’s ‘lost decade’ of rampant inflation, violence, economic collapse and the flight of many of its citizens. Its people are left to ponder – where to now?,” say the publishers.

“In the pages of Where to Now? you will meet the prostitute who gets the better of her brothers when they try to marry her off, the wife who is absolved of the charge of adultery, the hero who drowns in a bowser of cheap beer and the poetry slammer who does not get to perform his final poem. And many more.”

The collection is the fifth book in the award-winning ’amaBooks Short Writings series, the most recent being Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe, chosen by New Internationalist as one of their two ‘Best Books of 2009’.

Where to Now? is being co-published with Parthian Books of Wales and the book will be available in the United Kingdom in March 2012. Parthian will launch the book together with Bryony Rheam’s debut novel This September Sun, published by ’amaBooks in 2009.

Jozi Book Fair takes place from 6-8 August at Museum Africa in Newtown. “As with the previous ’amaBooks collections, Where to Now? contains stories from both well-known and new writers. This time we are particularly pleased to have a story from 2011 Caine Prize winner NoViolet Bulawayo,” said Brian Jones of ’amaBooks.

The Sowetan covers Jozi Book Fair and the Launch of Where to Now?

Reading gets a boost


IT IS all systems go for the annual Jozi Book Fair with the organisers Khanya College having confirmed the exhibitors and the guest speakers.

The fair takes place from Saturday August 6 to Monday August 8.The book fair, which takes place every year at Museum Africa, Newtown in Johannesburg, seems to be growing bigger and better as more publishing companies and authors attend.

And to demonstrate how the fair is now assuming a serious life of its own, a number of pre-book fair events have been lined up, including a reception on Saturday at Movement House on Pritchard Street.

These will be attended by an assortment of authors and publishers. This year's special guest is Ellen Banda-Aaku, originally from Zambia but now lives in the UK with her two children.

Banda-Aaku was born in Woking, Surrey, in 1965. The middle child of three, she grew up in Zambia and has lived and worked in Zambia, Ghana, South Africa and the UK.

She has a BA in public administration from the University of Zambia, an MA in financial management with social policy from Middlesex University and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town. She has tutored in literary studies and was a writing consultant at the University of Cape Town.

She has published three books for children and her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in Australia, South Africa, the UK and the US.

Her first book for children, Wandi's Little Voice, won the 2004 Macmillan's Writers Prize for Africa. In 2007, her short story, Sozi's Box, won the Commonwealth Short story competition.

This year she published her first novel, Patchwork, which she will chat about at the book fair. The book is set in Zambia at the end of the 1970s and is written from the vantage point of a child growing up in that country.

Patchwork is the 2011 winner of the Penguin Prize for African Writing in the fiction category.

Besides launching Patchwork, Banda-Aaku will also discussWomen and South African Publishing: between gloss and literature.

Banda-Aaku will host a workshop on writing skills for young girls.

She will also be involved in other events, including the children's programme, which runs for three days at the fair.

Another event associated with the book fair, which is bound to attract interest in both literary and political circles, is a book launch t by Zimbabwean publisher, amaBooks, tomorrow at the Jozi Book Fair.

They are one of the regulars at the annual event and will set the tone for the fair at the University of the Witwatersrand by launching Where to Now? Short Stories from Zimbabwe.

This launch is the first of its kind since the Jozi Book Fair was started three years ago and it will take place at the Writers Centre, Wartenweiler Library, East Campus, Wits University between 4pm and 6pm.

The writing in this collection, at times dark and at other times laced with comedy, is set against the backdrop of Zimbabwe's "lost decade" of rampant inflation, violence, economic collapse and the flight of many of its citizens. Its people are left to ponder - where to now?

All the voices are Zimbabwean. Even though some speak from the diaspora, their inspiration comes from their homeland and their stories are of Zimbabwe.

In these pages, you will meet the prostitute who gets the better of her brothers when they try to marry her off, the wife who is absolved from a charge of adultery, the hero who drowns in a bowser of cheap beer and the poetry slammer who does not get to perform his final poem. And many more.

Some of the writers in this collection include Raisedon Baya, NoViolet Bulawayo, Diana Charsley, Mapfumo Clement Chihota, Murenga Joseph Chikowero, John Eppel, Fungai Rufaro Machirori, Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, Christopher Mlalazi, Mzana Mthimkhulu, Blessing Musariri, Nyevero Muza, Thabisani Ndlovu, Bryony Rheam, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, Sandisile Tshuma with readings by Thabisani Ndlovu, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma and Sandisile Tshuma.

Together, reviewed in The Witness

Poignant African stories

Celebrating resilience

From The Witness, August 6 2011

Together: Stories and Poems by Julius Chingono and John Eppel

The stories and poems in this brilliant volume will hit you in the gut with horror even as you relish their intelligent analysis and cogent wit.

They are written by two very different Zimbabwean writers, one a black former rock-blaster from the mines near Harare, and the other a white English literature teacher from Bulawayo, both of whom have won international acclaim and have been previously published, but not together.

As the title implies however, they have much in common in their clear-sighted scrutiny of socio-political issues as they are evidenced in everyday life in Zimbabwe.

Their differences bring both a diverse perspective and a critical solidarity, which adds to the reader's engagement.

The stories are set in a variety of situations, from the cramped confines of communal toilets to political gatherings, and from the down-at-heel homes of old white women to recently discovered diamond fields. The poems particularly catch the poignancy of a people caught up in the traumas of civil war, torture and poverty.

A primary response to the writing is enjoyment at the perspicacity of ordinary people who cannot rely on any form of formal social organisation to support them.

The writing strongly but subtly criticises the human penchant for self-aggrandisement and self-deception, and this presents a moral challenge that strengthens and sustains those who still have the ability to read distortions, misrepresentations and mismanagement clearly. In doing so, the writing celebrates resilience.

The volume has an informative introduction by Drew Shaw from Midlands State University, Zimbabwe, who I presume is also responsible for the arrangement of the poems and stories into a varied and yet linked collection. This is southern African satirical writing at its best and despite the situations, it describes much to be enjoyed.

Hazel Barnes