Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Gonjon Pin launched in Harare

Harare’s Book CafĂ© attracted a capacity audience for the launch of the 2014 Caine Prize anthology, The Gonjon Pin, where four of the authors – Isabella Matambanadzo, Violet Masilo, Lawrence Hoba and Philani Nyoni – were in attendance to read from their work, sign copies of the book and to discuss issues relating to their writing and the Caine Prize.
The authors responded to a variety of questions, including whether or not the Prize influenced their work, why they wrote short stories as opposed to novels or poetry, how to inject hope into “African stories”, what constitutes an “African story” and the absence of laughter in the “African story”.
The Gonjon Pin features 17 short stories by the writers from across the African continent, including three other Zimbabwean writers who were unable to attend: Barbara Mhangami, Bryony Rheam and Tendai Huchu. The other writers published in the anthology are from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Somalia.
The event was chaired by Roger Stringer of Harare City Library and the discussion facilitated by Memory Chirere. The Guest of Honour was the Kenyan Embassy Consul, Ms Damary Nafula.
The book, published by 'amaBooks in Zimbabwe with the support of the Beit Trust, is available in outlets across the country, and as an ebook through
'amaBooks would like to thank British Council Zimbabwe, Harare City Library, The Red Fox Hotel, The Book Cafe, Lawrence Hoba and the other writers for their support of the event.

Photographs courtesy of Lawrence Hoba and British Council Zimbabwe

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bulawayo, Oduor, Huchu, Kahora and Chela Tackle the Tricky Subject of African Writing, and Hail the Rise of Afro-futurism


NoViolet Bulawayo, Okwiri Oduor, Tendai Huchu, Billy Kahora and Efemia Chela have all been in the news recently, contemplating the controversial topic of African writing.
Feast, Famine and PotluckThe Gonjon Pin and Other StoriesWe Need New NamesAmericanahGhana Must Go
Zimbabwean Bulawayo, whose debut novel We Need New Names won the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes’ Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature, was a guest at the Writivism Festival in Kampala recently.
Bulawayo took part in an event hosted at the FEMRITE Readers and Writers club, alongside Abubakar Adam Ibrahim and 2014 Writivism regional winners, Kelechi Njoku and Ssekandi Ronald Sseguja. On the question of African literature, Bulawayo said that despite seeming reductive the classification still has an important place. Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire, who chaired the event, describes the conversation:
"Abubakar tells us that whether African Literature exists or not is not important. He thinks that the debate is exaggerated. He says that when he is writing, he never tells himself that he is writing an African story. He just writes. The rest is the business of the academics. Kelechi agrees with him. He is not bothered by the debate. Any position is fine. NoViolet takes a strong stand on the matter. African Literature exists to her. She is interested in where literature comes from. She notes that African literature was never recognized by gatekeepers of so-called ‘human’ literature. Its existence is thus in itself a protest against what was essentially ‘European’ literature masquerading as universal ‘human’ literature. She adds; “Literature does not become less of literature because it is African. I am Zimbabwean and so everything I produce is African”. Ssekandi agrees. I am pleased. How can literature, cultures of a whole continent disappear? I want to thank NoViolet for spelling out why African Literature will never disappear, but I restrain myself. I must remain a balanced moderator."
Oduor, winner of the 2014 Caine Prize, said: “I don’t know what ‘African Literature’ means, but I think there are many ways of thinking about it. I would hope for it to diversify – I’d like to read more science fiction, multiculturalism.”
Zimbabwean Huchu, Kenyan Kahora and Zambian Chela, who were all shortlisted for the Caine Prize, agreed that there is a need for experimentation with genre fiction, and argued against the over-simpiflication of the idea of African literature.
“I would hope for more diverse literature – by this I’m saying a lot more stuff in different genres,” he explains. “There’s the pulpy, entertaining stuff that goes to the masses but at the moment, we have a situation in which you do a story and someone says: ‘What does this tell you about Africa?’ which is problematic.”
For Zambian writer Efemia Chela, also shortlisted nominee, just talking about African literature is “a bit of an absurd idea.” She explained: “You could say European literature is like talking from Russia all the way to the Hebrides – no one really does that and it’s a bit tricky with African literature. It’s 54 countries and so you know, there’s so much scope and range of voices.”
Meanwhile, Kahora, also shortlisted for this year’s Caine Prize, said that this desire for different styles and genres was already on its way – and growing.
“A lot of people now are very interested in afro-futurism,” he said. “A lot of sci-fi, a lot of fantasy, a lot of erotica, and then a lot of cross genre — a kind of cross pollination of genre,” added Kahora. “You will also see [more] forms — you will see some straying to visual storytelling online that attempts to do what a book does.”
But despite these complications, most Africans would not deny feeling a twinge of pride when a writer from the continent bursts onto the world scene. 

Caine Prize anthologies as ebooks in Zimbabwe

The 2012, 2013 and 2014 Caine Prize anthologies - African Violet, A Memory This Size and The Gonjon Pin - are all available as ebooks in Zimbabwe through Also on the new website are other 'amaBooks titles by Pathisa Nyathi, Bryony Rheam, John Eppel, Christopher Mlalazi and others. More titles are to follow soon.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Gonjon Pin to be launched in Harare

The Gonjon Pin and other stories, the 2014 Caine Prize anthology, is to be launched in Harare at the Book Cafe, 139 Samora Machel, at 5.30pm on Thursday 14 August. All Welcome, Free Admission.

The book features short stories from the winner of the 2104 prize, Kenya's Okwiri Oduor, from the other four shortlisted writers and from the twelve writers from across Africa who participated in the 2014 Caine Prize Workshop, which was held this year in Zimbabwe.

There are seven Zimbabwean writers in the anthology: Tendai Huchu,  Lawrence Hoba, Violet Masilo, Isabella Matambanadzo, Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, Philani A. Nyoni and Bryony Rheam. It is anticipated that four of the Zimbabwean writers will be at the Harare launch, which will include readings from the anthology and a discussion about Zimbabwean writing, the short story form and the Caine Prize. There will also be an opportunity to have your copy of the book signed and to chat with the writers over a glass of wine.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Zimbabwe International Book Fair 2014 and 'amaBooks

Lawrence Hoba with his copy of The Gonjon Pin
 'amaBooks had a stand in Harare Gardens displaying their books as part of the Zimbabwe International Book Fair 2014.
'Best sellers' at the stand were the books that were available for the first time in Harare - the 2014 Caine Prize Anthology The Gonjon Pin and the collection of stories and poems by students at King George VI School and Centre for Disabled Children, Small Friends.
There were interesting discussions about Zimbabwean creative writing with those visiting the stand, including school groups.
Bookshops in Harare that were re-stocked with 'amaBooks publications during the Fair include the Book Cafe, Blackstone Books, Avondale Bookshop, Fairway Stationers and the National Gallery.
The launch of The Gonjon Pin will take place on August 14 at the Book Cafe in Samora Machel Avenue. The collection features seven Zimbabwean writers - Tendai Huchu, Lawrence Hoba, Violet Masilo, Isabella Matambanadzo, Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, Philani A. Nyoni and Bryony Rheam - and it is anticipated that four or five of those writers will be present at the launch. The other writers featured in the book are Okwiri Oduor, the 2014 winner of the Caine Prize, Diane Awerbuck, Efemia Chela, Billy Kahora, Abdul Adan, Martin Egblewogbe, Clifton Gachagua, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Elnathan John and Chinelo Okparanta.
Discussion with a school group at the 'amaBooks stand

The 'amaBooks stand at ZIBF 2014