Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Why Read? by Lauri Kubuitsile

    Serendipity. We have been running a series on our blog, 'Why I Read' and, today, we read Lauri Kubuitsile's column 'It's All Write' in Mmegi, where she asks other writers 'Why Read?'. Lauri kindly agreed for us to post the column here.

In interviews and when I’m on panels at literary festivals I’m often asked about the importance of reading, especially for writers. For me it seems crazy that a person would choose not to read, especially fiction. From as soon as I learned to read I knew that books held thousands and thousands of lives that I could step into just by opening the covers. I’ve never understood a person who would choose to live a single life when they could live hundreds of different lives. And as for a writer who doesn’t read—or me that’s a person who can’t be taken seriously. Books are your school. You can attend as many writing workshops and MFA programmes as you like, but if you don’t read, your writing will show it. It makes no sense to me.
            I decided to ask some of my writing friends the question: “Why read?” Below are their beautiful answers.
“To develop a critical skeleton. As someone who struggles to read recreationally — preferring theory or critical opinion driven writing — I read because it keeps me thinking of multiple approaches to subjects. However, when I do sit with a casual book, it also adds to my conception of self and my library of imagery, metaphors, and expressions. It gives me the opportunity to discover how other people express things that I have felt or experienced but never had the words to use. That's why, for me, reading is necessary.” - Katlego K Kol-Kes, poet, performer, and writer
“Reading is mind-food, and the only key to the encyclopaedia of life. One must read, the same way one eats nutrients. Without a nutritious diet, malnutrition sets in, and so it is with the mind; it deteriorates for lack of feeding. Today’s healthy & successful lifestyle is in the written word; that’s our life manual for raising children, successful relationships, wellbeing, wealth creation etc.
Your mind has limitless growth for success when you read, but when deprived of such feeding, it only grows into a vegetable. Reading is an acquired excellent habit that is easy to develop; start slowly and watch your interest grow.  -Andrew Sesinyi, writer
 "I read stories to widen my ears to the lives I've never lived. Because a person is only given one lifetime, but that does not stop us from living  through the eye's of others." - Tiah Beautement, writer

 “I've been to France under Louis the XVI; the Carribean in the late 19th Century; India in the glory days of the Maharajas; America as it was "discovered" and Botswana before it was a Protectorate of the British Crown. I have also been to the future. And yet I was born in 1976. 
Why read? 
Because reading carries you to lands unknown in the past and worlds not yet seen in the future. In the present though, reading takes you to countries you may not be able to afford to go to and then you realize how we all love, laugh, hurt and ache. Reading shows you that the other may just not so much be another but a lot like you. That someone somewhere has experienced the struggles you have which you assume are unique to you. I read because I seek to understand.”- Zukiswa Wanner, writer
“Reading is especially imperative for writers for the simple reason that you can’t write if you don’t read. Writers must be readers and they must do so intensely… and extensively!”- Barolong Seboni, poet and writer
“Reading is an escape that allows me to travel anywhere in the world and intimately know a people, culture, food and walk with the locals. It is a great workout for the brain, entertaining and greatly increases knowledge”. - Caiphus Mangenela, writer

“Read to understand yourself and others, to investigate human nature, to experience the full spectrum of human emotion, to develop empathy and compassion, to see different perspectives, to learn new things, to explore new places and to stay sane in an insane world.” -Cheryl Ntumy, writer

 Lauri Kubuitsile is an award-winning writer living in Botswana. She has numerous published books for both kids and adults, across various genres, and her short stories have been published around the world. She has won the Pan-African prize for Children's Writing, The Golden Baobab (twice), the Bessie Head Literature Award for short story, the 2007 AngloPlatinum Short Story Contest, and the Botswana's Department of Arts and Culture, 2007 Botswerere Award for Creative Writing. Lauri was shortlisted for the 2011 Caine Prize. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Poetry, Wine and Togara Muzanenhamo in Slovenia

If you are interested in poetry and wine, and happen to be in Slovenia this week, why not pop along to the 'Days of Poetry and Wine Festival', featuring, amongst others, Zimbabwean poet Togara Muzanenhamo.

On Tuesday 22 August, Togara will read from his work with China's Ouyang Jianghe and India's Sharmistha Mohanty at the Villa Podvin in Radovljica from 19.00 to 22.00.
As well as poetry, there will be tasting of Marof wines, with dishes by Chef Uros Stefelin.
Entrance: 5 EUR, includes 2 glasses of wine.

On Friday 25 August at 8pm, there will be another reading by Togara, this time with America's Ani Gjika and Mexico's Pura Lopez Colom, at Franc Ksavar's Meska Ormoz Library, again as part of the 'Days of Poetry and Wine Festival'.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Why I Read: Raisedon Baya

My first serious read was a strange one – very strange for a young boy living right in the middle of the township. I was in Form 1 at Sobukhazi Secondary School and had just joined the Mzilikazi Community Library’s senior section. Why I joined the library when most of my friends and young boys my age were not members, and not interested in becoming members of the library, I don’t know even up to this day. Some of my friends and peers even went to their graves without seeing the inside of a public library.

Books were not the in thing for young boys growing up in Makokoba then. Young boys my age played hard, smoked hard, gambled hard, and hustled hard. There was no time to waste, no time for books and what many called girlish activities. The decision to join the library changed the course of my life and steered me away from danger and early death.

So there I was in the library, moving from one shelf to another looking for my first serious read. The library was always a cool place. The place had a good air conditioner that tirelessly blew a soft breeze around the room. Its floors were always sparkling clean as if the building didn’t belong in the township. You entered the building and immediately forgot that you were in the middle of Mzilikazi Township. After walking around, marvelling at the stacks and stacks of books neatly covered in plastic, I stopped at the African Section. This section was to become my favourite corner of the library for many years.

I remember picking a few titles before I saw it. I don’t know what drew me to the book but I remember holding Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood in my hands and feeling very excited. A strange choice for a young boy you might think. Why this particular title I have always wondered. I was just a boy, and very adventurous too, so why was I attracted to The Joys of Motherhood? My mother was not a joyful woman or mother then – she had too much to do and too many children to look after for her to sit down and savour the real joys of motherhood. Perhaps I took the book because it was the kind of book I wished her to read – just so that for a moment she could feel some happiness for contributing to the human race. (The basis of the novel is the necessity for a woman to be fertile, and above all give birth to sons – and my mother has six sons!)

Whatever the reason, I took the book home and plunged into the world of literature. My love for words and my serious flirtation with literature began that week. I was also very lucky to have a big brother who was an avid reader as well. My brother read anything printed. He ate words for breakfast, lunch and supper. He devoured books, in all their sizes, shapes and smells. He introduced me to the likes of Desmond Bagley, Robert Ludlum and to naughty writers like James Hadley Chase and Nick Carter. I remember him trying to hide Nick Carter's novels from me but I always found them.  I learnt to read faster so as not to get caught or to avoid him taking the books back before I finished reading.

In books I discovered a lot. I discovered priceless treasures. I discovered things neither my parents nor friends and peers could tell me. I discovered a world bigger and much better than Makokoba, Mzilikazi and the other townships I knew. I discovered that words could give me wings, wings I used to fly to places far and beyond. Books took me to countries I never imagined, books introduced me to many cultures. I travelled to Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Cameroon, Senegal and other African countries – countries I didn’t even know where to place on the world map – through the eyes of writers like Ngugi, Es’kia Mphahlele, Njabulo Ndebele, Ousmane Sembène, Kalu Okpi, Micere Mugo, Can Themba, Grace Ogot, Nadine Gordimer, Wole Soyinka, Miriama Bâ and Chinua Achebe. I travelled to Europe and America on the pages of works by the likes of Agatha Christie, Desmond Bagley, Jeffrey Archer, Len Deighton, Leo Tolstoy and many, many others. Long before I knew what a passport was I had crossed borders. I was introduced to fascinating characters by these writers, some of these characters have stuck with me to this day.

I discovered that I could temporarily escape the poverty and monotony of township life through the pages of a book. Books became some form of escapism. With the years I realized the more I read the more better I became at seeing the world. The more I read the more I saw possibilities of getting out of the township. The more I read the more I wanted to write, to share my own stories – stories about where I came from and the people around me. I suddenly wanted my life, my friends’ lives and the world I lived in to also be on pages of books. Reading inspired me to write. 

Now I read for pleasure. I read to escape the harsh realities of my surroundings. I read to expand my horizons and knowledge base.  I read to feed my insatiable brain. Sometimes I read just to experience the sumptuous taste of good words strung joyfully together into beautiful phrases and sentences. – remember writing is like cooking, it’s art. I read because there is nothing that uplifts my spirits better than good literature. I read because there is so much joy wrapped up in ink and paper and this joy is much better than pizza, a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine. And so today I say enough respect to all writers and storytellers of the world. Thank you for writing and keep the stories coming.

Raisedon Baya is a leading playwright, theatre director and festival manager based in Bulawayo. He has published a novel, Mountain of Silence, an anthology of plays, Tomorrow’s People, and features in an anthology of folktales, Around The FireFolktales from Zimbabwe. Some of his stories appear in Short Writings from Bulawayo II and III, and Where to Now? Short Stories from Zimbabwe, and his short story 'The Initiation' is to appear in Moving On and Other Zimbabwean Stories.
A former teacher and National Arts Council employee who worked at ZBCtv as a producer and commissioning editor, he has written over a dozen critically acclaimed and award-winning plays for television and stage. Several of his plays have toured Africa and Europe.
Two of his plays, Super Patriots & Morons and The Crocodile of Zambezi, are banned in Zimbabwe. In 2009 Raisedon Baya was a recipient of the Oxfam Novib/PEN Award for Freedom of Expression. He writes a weekly arts column for The Sunday News.