Valerie Tagwira

Archive for April, 2009|Monthly archive page

The 12th Time of the Writer Festival

In Books, Festivals, Interviews, Literature, Reviews, The Uncertainty of Hope, Writing on April 30, 2009 at 5:31 pm

Time of the WriterA few weeks ago, I appeared as a guest contributor on Petina Gappah’s blog.

In my article, I talked about the Time of the Writer Festival which took place in Durban, South Africa from 9-14 March. The event was hosted by The Centre for Creative Arts, University of KwaZulu Natal. I was one of 20 writers who had been invited to attend.

Events included newspaper, radio and TV interviews as well as book launches, forums and discussions. These were held at various venues in Durban, including prisons, schools and youth centres. Like the festival itself, these events were organised and coordinated by a team from The University of KwaZulu Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts and all invited writers had scheduled participation.

I must say that I was very impressed by the amount of talent shown by school pupils in two Creative Writing Clubs that I visited during the festival.

The forum that I enjoyed most was: “African Women Writers: Where are we now?”. This was held at the historical Ike’s Books and Collectables bookshop. It was attended by female participants of the festival and was open to the public. We discussed our experiences as women writers. As part of my own contribution to the forum, I talked about some of the advantages and disadvantages I had experienced as a Zimbabwean writer writing from outside the country and compared those to the experiences of my fellow women writers who are writing from within Zimbabwe.

I also attended panel discussions and book launches that were held in the evenings at The Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at the university campus.

My panel discussion was co-chaired by the Nigerian writer, Sade Adeniran who was also the 2008 winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book Africa Region. The panel facilitator was Karabo Kgoleng, a SAFM radio journalist who has special interest in literature and the arts. Our topic of was: “Writing Home’’.

We discussed a series of questions presented by the facilitator.

The discussion, which was open to the public, centred on the concept of home, one of the themes that are explored in my novel, The Uncertainty of Hope and Sade Adeniran’s Imagine This. Issues discussed included questions about what makes up that place which a person calls home, factors that give a person security within the home, identity and home, how “tribal identity” may factor into a sense of home, the type of security provided by a home for the characters in our novels and whether people who have been dispossessed can ever re-create a home. We also talked about the challenges of writing about “home” while living abroad.

An important question raised by another writer in the audience was why we wrote in English and not in our native tongues. My response to this was that I write in English to reach out to a wider audience. Writing in Shona, which is my native language would restrict the audience that I can reach. I suggested translation of English novels into vernacular where funds are available.

A highlight of the festival was the announcement of the 2009 winners of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book and Best First Book Africa Region. The prize for best book went to one of the festival participants, Mandla Langa of South Africa for his novel , The Lost Colours of The Chameleon.

All in all, it was a wonderful week. I came back to England feeling inspired to become a better writer.