Monday, December 19, 2011

Short Writings from Bulawayo II: A must have piece

The Herald, Monday, 19 December 2011 00:00
Title: Short Writings from Bulawayo Two
Author: Various
Publisher: 'amaBooks
Pages: 116
ISBN: 0-7974-2896-8

Aristotle said politics is the highest form of art because other goods and services borrow their life from people who bow to the force of whips that are cracked in Parliament. This year the main political parties in the country, Zanu-PF and MDC-T, brought many people to attend their meetings in Bulawayo.
Hotels should have used this opportunity to interest them in reading Short Writings from Bulawayo Two for the benefit of the whole hospitality industry in Zimbabwe. This collection of short stories and poems is about the life of people in the City of Kings and its surrounding rural areas. It deals with how people in high-density suburbs make ends meet in the face of economic hardships.
The guests staying in hotels can borrow books from the reception desk for reading in their rooms. Tourists enjoy reading books like this very much. An increase in sales of indigenous literature would have artists smiling all the way to the bank.
Its time hotels saw themselves as part and parcel of the culture of people. A family can go and watch a play at the theatre or it can go and sample an exotic dish at the local inn. Chefs know best that cooking is an art.
Eco-tourism binds art and culture and the hospitality industry together and books fasten that bond. It's natural for birds of the same feather to flock together for their mutual benefit. People of Bulawayo have a crush on Wim Boswinkel. He was born in Holland in 1947 and 'amaBooks published his first novel, Erina, in 2003. In his short story, 2084, he writes about a future that has no language and no alphabet. People express their feelings using their hands and faces.
The artist sees this weird world through the eyes of 17-year-old John and his sweetheart Nomakha. Theirs is love across the colour divide. As they walk through the park, they reflect on what life was like during the Dark Ages compared with the Light Age in which they live.
"People had all become equal," says the author, meaning equal in material possession. "Terrorism and crime had disappeared from the earth, and so had superstition and prejudice." The artist is good at evoking atmosphere.
"They loved," he says of the two, "to roam through the dense vegetation, to dig with their hands into the moist soil and to bring some to their noses to inhale the fragrant aroma of the top layer. It made them feel part of nature, as once mankind had been, in long forgotten primitive days."
Environmentalists should love this story.
Now, any woman worth her salt would feel what MaSibanda goes through when a gunman rapes her while Ncube is lying prostrate. The title of the story, Between Two Men, sums up the position of the husband. Hwange-born educationist Addlis Sibutha describes how the two of them leave the beerhall at closing time. A lone gunman accosts them along the wasteland and warns Ncube to be sensible.
MaSibanda asks herself why Ncube didn't do something to fight off the rapist. Ncube thinks that perhaps MaSibanda knows this man from somewhere. Children, knowing their parents to be boisterous when they are in their cups, ask them why they are in a sullen mood.
Ncube meets the rapist at the bar and other men help him to mete instant justice on the scoundrel. The artist leaves you to imagine how MaSibanda will revenge herself when she has remained at home.
Rapists in Zimbabwe go to jail for seven years. In other countries it's 40. Plumtree-born Christopher Mlalazi (39) is a product in creative writing from Crossing Borders project of the British Council. He tells, in My Meat, the story of Zama.
He shows off to Nsingo the beer that Marx, who has come from South Africa, has bought for him at the bottle store. A dog makes off with braai meat that Zama had hidden in his jacket from the other guy. Zama runs after the dog as Marx buys himself a quart and talks of his girlfriend. Nsingo wishes he could go and work in Egoli. It's a sad story about youth and unemployment.
Derek Huggins joined the BSAP at 18 in 1959. He was CEO of the National Arts Foundation for 13 years up to 1988. Weaver Press has published his first collection of stories, Stained Earth.
P/O Greg Stanyon, in Crossing the Devine, is driving from Enkeldoorn back to camp in Sabi Valley. He finds workers poking a bird with sticks on the side of the road. Stanyon takes home this giant eagle owl and decides to put it down when he finds out that its wing is broken. He makes a bad shot and the bird takes a long time dying. In his remorse, a poignant past event pricks his conscience.
Seeing the bird fighting for its life becomes unbearable to him. This brings to mind the way the chicken tries to defy death when you have cut off its head. Horrible! The picture that Zambian-born Hezekela Mlilo (30) drew for the cover depicts the ideal woman by any standard - stout as a drum and strong enough to collar four oxen to the span single-handed. He won an award for graphics at the Mbira Art Exhibition and was nominated for Nama award.
The draw-card in the collection is Pathisa Nyathi. This member of the Zimbabwe Academic and Non-Fiction Authors Association has done justice to AmaNdebele culture through his works.
Pathisa Nyathi is first among equals in literary journalism in Zimbabwe. He ran columns in four publications at the same time and is public relations officer at Town House in Bulawayo.
In Illuminating Flames, this prolific writer pays tribute to the ancients who gave him wisdom.

The leaping crimson flames
Of mopane wood fires
Out in rural Kezi
Still flicker large in my city mind.

Another poet is John Eppel, born in 1947. His first novel, Great North Road,

won the M-Net prize in South Africa. In My Dustbin, he says:

These children
have acquired the patience of queuing;
children of neighbourhood; suburban;
queuing at my bin for a lucky dip.

Books, rights activists should have Short Writings from Bulawayo Two on the shelf.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Zim Writers document 'lost decade'

Zim writers document ‘lost decade'

Diana Rodrigues

IN spite of the warnings and advice of our teachers and parents never to judge a book by its cover, it would be difficult to ignore Veena Bhana's cover design, based on a sculpture by Arlington Muzondo, for amaBooks of Bulawayo's latest collection of short stories, Where to Now?

The earthy colours and ancient striations of the stone carving give more than a hint of the dreams, aspirations and adventures of some of Zimbabwe's most important writers, all to be found within this slim volume. Most of the writings in this collection have been inspired by events taking place between 2000 and 2010, a time that has come to be called Zimbabwe's "lost decade". These were the years of violence, inflation and economic collapse, when many fled to the diaspora, seeking new livelihoods and ways to support their siblings and the ageing parents they left behind. These stories are important in their placing of Zimbabwe in a history of events, that will determine all our futures, and eventually provide an answer to the question "where to now?" Although the writers deal with serious issues, a light touch and sense of comedy often temper the darkness and despair wrought by poverty in the lives of the characters. In Tomato Stakes, John Eppel describes school holidays spent with his friend Lofty Pienaar in his parents' house, a pondok made of burlap coal bags sewn together that "flapped" in the wind. Adventures trapping mice in the bush and swimming in algae-infested reservoirs ended when the boys left school. Lofty trained at Gwebi Agricultural College and became a successful commercial farmer. When the farm invasions began, he was left with a mere 10 acres of his original 350-acre spread at Umgusa. The resourceful Lofty, like a character from Boys Own Adventures, then embarked on a five-year plan to grow catha edulis, a tree whose leaves and bark are used to make Bushman's Tea, a stimulating beverage with medicinal properties. Rejoicing that Lofty has remained on the land, and will be able to support his wife and four children, the reader is astounded by a turn of events in the narrative. The outcome is as shocking as it was unexpected. "Your white masters must be delighted with you!" Mark hissed into my ear as we filed out of the general manager's office into the wide corridor, is the intriguing first sentence in a story by Mzana Mthimkulu, entitled I am an African, am I? Accused by his work mates of being un-African and a sell-out because he eats sadza with a knife and fork and because he returns his unused fuel allocation to his white boss, Timothy begins to question himself and his motives as a purchasing manager in a beer brewing company. When a colleague accuses him of preferring to watch satellite TV to visiting his relatives in the townships and rural areas, he takes this criticism to heart. Loading his Mazda 626 with two bags of mealie-meal, he drives to Pumula Township to visit his aunt. Delighted, the aunt calls down blessings on Timothy. He eventually returns to the city, happy that the spirits of his ancestors have spoken to him: He resolves in future to give up golf in favour of family visits. Like an enticing box of chocolates, there are many more stories in this collection to read and enjoy at leisure. Where to Now? is to be launched next year by Parthian Books, one of Wales' most respected publishers. Both amaBooks and Parthian are diverse and contemporary in their range. Publishing a wide variety of novels, short stories, poetry, local history and culture titles, they provide encouragement and support for many of Zimbabwe's established and budding writers. - (You can also visit the publisher's website:

Review from the Financial Gazette (

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Song of the Carnivores School Competition

The prize-giving ceremony for the schools component of the Song of the Carnivores Lyric Writing Competition was held on 29 November at the Academy of Music in Bulawayo. The four winners from the Bulawayo schools are shown in the photograph - the overall winner being Jordan Edwards of Whitestone School.
The competition was organised and judged by 'amaBooks and the prizes were presented by Brian Jones of 'amaBooks and Maureen Stewart British Council Zimbabwe. Dr Netty Purchase, the coordinator of the project, talked to the audience about the importance of the five carnivores - Cheetah, Leopard, Wild Dog, Spotted Hyena and Lion - during the ceremony.
The entries from the four winners will be considered, together with the winning entries from the adult competition - from Edgar Langeveldt and Peggy Lendrum, to be put to music by composer Richard Sisson and performed during the Bulawayo Music Festival in 2012.

Publishing Workshop in Bulawayo

A workshop on publishing was held at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo on Saturday 3 December. The event was organised by the Zimbabwean Academic and Non-fiction Authors Association and was facilitated by Isaac Mpofu, Brian Jones of 'amaBooks Publishers and Pathisa Nyathi.

Friday, December 2, 2011

World AIDS Day and a library at Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo

World AIDS Day was commemorated at Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo with the announcement of support from the US Embassy in Zimbabwe for the Opportunistic Infection Clinic Resource Centre at the hospital for young people living with HIV/AIDS - the only one of its kind in Zimbabwe. All 1500 young people between the ages of 13 and 24 who are registered at the clinic can take advantage of the facilities of the resource centre.
'amaBooks are helping to set up the library at the centre, which will include non-fiction and fiction titles, including those from Zimbabwe. As Ambassador Charles Ray stated in his speech at the event: "The pieces of literature will, we hope, inspire readers and broaden horizons." This project follows on from 'amaBooks' involvement in helping to establish reading groups of young people in the city.
A similar library is also to be set up in Matabeleland North, as part of Kariyangwe Mission Hospital's Home Based Care Programme.

John Eppel and Julius Chingono’s Together nominated for a Pushcart Prize

Together, which features stories and poems by John Eppel and the late Julius Chingono, was co-published earlier this year by ’amaBooks of Bulawayo, the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press and the University of New Orleans Press.

The Pushcart Prize, published every year since 1976, is considered the most honoured literary project in America. It is a prize for the best “poetry, short fiction, essays or literary whatnot” published in the small presses of America over the previous year. The work of John Eppel and Julius Chingono qualifies because of the co-publication with the University of New Orleans Press.

The founding editors for the Pushcart Prize were Anais Nin, Buckminster Fuller, Charles Newman, Daniel Halpern, Gordon Lish, Harry Smith, Hugh Fox, Ishmael Reed, Joyce Carol Oates, Len Fulton, Leonard Randolph, Leslie Fiedler, Nona Balakian, Paul Bowles, Paul Eagle, Ralph Ellison, Reynolds Price, Rhoda Schwartz, Richard Morris, Ted Wilentz, Tom Montag, and William Phillips.

Writers who were first noticed from being nominated for the prize include Raymond Carver, Tim O’Brien, Jayne Anne Phillips, Charles Baxter, Andre Dubus, Susan Minot, Mona Simpson, John Irving, Rick Moody, and many more.

Together is available in outlets throughout Zimbabwe, South Africa and North America, and can also be purchased outside of those areas online through the African Books Collective and other websites.