Thursday, March 16, 2017

Why I Read by Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende


Reading is an addiction. I am a slave to words beautifully strung together in eloquent notes. Reading gives me a high akin to the ecstatic experience one might get from a good dance song. As the body winds itself around the rhythm and melody and finds freedom in the deep thud of the base, so my mind gluts itself on the highs and lows, the tension and the tranquility offered up in a deeply satisfying story.

I read because it is from other people’s stories that I learn what works for me and what does not in my own writing. Like cooking, reading fires up and feeds my own creative process. I cook and I read so that I can write. Reading preceded my life as a writer, so I can safely say without reading there would be no writing.

I read because the possibility of somehow being transformed as I immerse myself into the story is so compelling that I cannot pass it up. I read to satisfy a hunger for more and more knowledge. I am intrigued by the complexity of being human and the most satisfying stories for me are those in which the characters, the worlds in which they exist and their interactions are thoroughly explored. I consider myself an active reader: someone who engages with the characters on an emotional as well as intellectual level. I cry with them, feel their anger and frustrations, rejoice in their victories and laugh out loud at the ridiculous.

The reading experience is sometimes a sacred act for me.  This act begins the moment I get a new novel or anthology of short stories. I reverentially inspect the workmanship of the book; the quality of the paper, and the font. It is not uncommon for me to even bring the book to my face and smell it. Then I will delve into the words with the excitement of a child ripping away the wrapping on a gift. Within the first few paragraphs I know what kind of relationship I will have with the book. I know whether it is one that I will sip slowly like a hot cup of tea, prolonging the pleasure or whether I will binge-drink it like a first-year college student, staying up two nights in a row until it is finished.
I read because it allows me some ME time. As a mother of four highly energetic girls, time alone is a rarity. However, if I am reading the girls will usually get their own books and we will read in companionable silence.

Reading is one of life’s exquisite pleasures for me. I have travelled to many worlds, met some interesting people and sat in on their private conversations or even their thoughts. I have sampled various cuisines all through reading. It satisfies the hedonist and voyeur in me    thank goodness  – because who knows what trouble those two character traits might get me into.





Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende is a scholar practitioner in public health, with a focus on minority women’s sexual and reproductive health, and founder/director of the Africa Research Foundation for the Safety of Women. She is originally from Zimbabwe. She holds degrees from University of Glasgow, Scotland, Walden University and attended the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She writes opinion editorials on the status of women with a focus on Africa. She consults on policy and has written policy briefs with recommendations on ending violence against women. She has been on panel discussions around the issue of FGM and looking at novel ways to end the harmful cultural practice. Barbara is a vocal activist and advocate on issues to do with gender-based violence, economic justice for women and gender parity in government institutions. 




She is a writer published in the short story anthology Where to Now? published by amaBooks Publishers, Zimbabwe, on Storytime online literary journal, on Her Zimbabwe, feminist website, in the anthology of short stories, Still by Negative Press, London, in the Journal of African Writing, 2014, in the annual short story anthology, African Roar, 2013, the Caine Prize Anthology 2014, the Gonjon Pin and Other Stories by New Internationalist, amaBooks and others, and Guernica Magazine, USA. Her poetry has been published in the anthology Muse for Women, 2013 and African Drum by Diaspora Publishers, 2013. She was a 2014 Hedgebrook Writer in Residence and Caine Prize for African Writing workshop attendee. She is a mentor with the Writivism programme at the Centre for African Excellence (CACE) Foundation and a member of Rotary International.




Friday, January 20, 2017

Castles in the Air by Bryony Rheam


The afternoon is still bright as the electricity clicks off. The sky is a deep blue and the garden is alive with the softness of butterflies as we make the rounds of flower pots with our watering can. My little girl holds it clumsily over each mass of flowers while I hold the bottom and push it upwards so the water sprays out through the spout. The pink of the daisies contrasts starkly with the soft brown of the garden. At the bottom of the rectangular strip of ragged lawn looms an enormous green-grey cactus, its many flat, round hands frozen in a manic mime of a wave. I collect the debris of tea things and load them on the cane tray: a teapot and a chipped milk jug with a cracked handle; a mug and a child’s cup and saucer with a soggy digestive island in a shallow sea of cold tea.
Inside, it is dark. The sun has begun to turn from the house and already there is a coolness in the kitchen, that faint reminder it is winter, however warm the afternoon has been. I grab lightweight jerseys and the house keys, and we trot off down the drive to the gate. We have escaped back into the light as we walk down the road. Motes of dust rise and fall in what shafts of sunlight manage to penetrate the jacarandas that line the road and stretch across it, branches touching like a couple in an old-fashioned country dance.
We pass people on their way home: a man in a weathered suit and a grey hat perched jauntily on his head clatters by on his bicycle with a nod and a smile; a woman walks briskly past, her maid’s uniform hanging shapelessly from her, a little too long and a little too big. A gardener with an old, fat Staffordshire Bull Terrier ambles slowly along. They make an interesting couple; the man himself is old, too, but he is upright in a dignified manner. The dog is short and squat. Despite the gentle walk, he pants hard and his pink tongue lolls out of his mouth. His owners live in Australia, but he and the gardener live at number seventeen, up the road. Two runners in Lycra shorts and vests overtake us, earplugs in, sweat glistening on their faces. They hardly look our way, so intent are they on their run.
We pass a motley of houses, some old, in disrepair, with chickens pecking in the dust and mangy dogs who bark and snarl behind buckled ribbons of barbed wire fences, but run, tail between bony, twisted legs, at even the smallest movement towards them on our part. Old post boxes, paint peeling, lean apathetically in at misshapen gates tied together with electrical wire and torn plastic bags. Occasionally, there are remnants of a name: Utopia, The Range, Pathways. Dusty driveways lead to ramshackle houses whose doors are always bolted shut and at whose windows curtains are irregularly looped.
Rusty metal archways, which once bent under the heaviness of honeysuckle and jasmine, now lean drunkenly across paths that lead to fragments of entertainment areas; cracked paving stones end abruptly at yellowed grass and sandy outcrops where nothing grows. The sad, dark windows of the houses look out on empty swimming pools and skeletons of flower- beds, the once-ambitious desires of long-gone owners for middle class respectability. The tennis courts have been dug up, some optimistically ploughed into vegetable patches where clumps of chomolia are the only signs of green. Ragged squares of asphalt hint at the dreams of the past. A straggle of bauhinias along a fence leans, not so much with the weight of the trees, but with the wait of the years.
One of the houses issues a sign of life. A dog yaps, a child looks shyly round the carcass of a rotting car, a mother shakes nappies from a collapsing washing line and folds them into a bucket. The veranda of the house is piled high with old furniture and machinery and wound round with a piece of rope – a vague warning to any potential trespassers to keep away.
‘That’s a witch’s house,’ whispers Rosie, her finger on her mouth. ‘She keeps children and eats them. Ssh! Let’s go past quietly.’ We tiptoe along the dry grass verge, exaggerating our movements and sharing a suppressed giggle. The child watches us, a shy smile on her face, then runs to her mother’s side. A black car with tinted windows roars down the road and I pull Rosie to my side.
‘It’s all right,’ she says in a matter of fact tone of voice. ‘If it hits me, I’ll just fly away. Fairies can do that, you see. We never die.’ The car turns in at the gate of the house and the scrawny dog rushes out, hackles up, barking. The woman calls to someone in the house and the child shrinks back into the shadows as a man comes out the house and kicks the dog. He opens the gate, but the car doesn’t go in.
‘That’s the witch’s servant,’ Rosie informs me with a knowing glance. ‘He’s an evil goblin who has to work for her for a hundred years because he once tried to steal her cat.’
 An arm stretches out the window of the car and hands the man a small brown packet then hangs limply over the door. The man talks, he nods, gives a brief wave and the car reverses, the exhaust booming like a foghorn in the night. Rosie nods as though this confirms some long-held suspicion of hers.
At the corner of the road is our favourite house. Cinderella’s house. It is small, but neatly compact. The garden is empty of rusting cars and bedraggled dogs. The low hedge of Christ thorn is always kept trimmed and a small hand-painted sign asks you to please close the gate after you. Not a blade of grass survives the daily sweeping routine, but, on the veranda, an oasis blooms. Palms and cacti proliferate from tin cans and plastic yoghurt cartons. Various succulents spill out of old ice cream containers and creep down the side of the veranda wall.
In the middle of it all is a chair and table and this is where we imagine Cinderella sits and surveys her humble surroundings. It is here that she meets with her friends the squirrel and the mouse and tells them of her life before she was confined to being a servant. It is here that she sings as she mends her ragged clothes in the evening and it is here, on this very chair, that she will sit while the prince fits the glass slipper on her foot and discovers who she really is.
During the day, Cinderella may be found in front of the house managing a small stall, an upside down box on which she has placed sweets, single cigarettes, tomatoes and phone cards. She is tall and thin and today she wears a tight fitting black top and has wrapped a brightly coloured piece of material around her for a skirt. We stop to survey her wares, Rosie picking up and turning over each sweet.
‘The magic ones are red,’ she whispers to me. ‘Those are the ones that make you fly.’
Cinderella smiles. She often joins in Rosie’s game. I choose an orange sweet.
‘No, no,’ says Rosie, her hand on mine. ‘Those ones make you freeze.’ She stands still, as though playing a game of musical statues. ‘Then you can’t move until the wizard of the snowy mountains says the spell.’
‘The wizard of the snowy mountains?’ I say, replacing the sweet on the box.
‘Ye-es,’ Rosie assures me with a firm nod of her head, as though she cannot believe I have not heard this information before. She looks for confirmation from Cinderella who nods her head at me.
‘Well, best to stick to flying,’ I say, picking up a red sweet and handing Cinderella a couple of coins.
‘Thank you,’ Rosie whispers to me as we move away. ‘Now she can buy the material for her dress for the ball.’
At the corner of the next road, Rosie slows considerably and her voracious talk dies away to nothing. She looks up at me uncertainly, a finger pressing down her bottom lip, and then across at a dark shape seated next to a fire. The shape does not register our presence. He sits on an old paint tin, huddled over the small flames, poking and prodding them to life. His long hair is matted into thick, twisted coils. All around him is the debris of suburban life: empty tins that once contained baked beans and tuna fish and Woolworths Extra Thick Cream of Asparagus Soup. An empty bottle of conditioner for dull, lifeless hair and a tub of Vaseline. There are boxes and tins and packets and wrappers, each inspected carefully for any remnants that may exist. He talks, but not to us.
‘Who’s he talking to?’ my daughter asks, squeezing my hand.
‘No one,’ I reply, still in a whisper, as though he will suddenly notice we are there watching him.
‘How can you speak to no one?’ she wonders suspiciously.
‘Maybe they’re invisible,’ I say, knowing this will rest better with her.
‘Yes, maybe,’ she says, a hint of excitement in her voice. ‘Is he a giant? He looks very big.’
‘Yes, I think he is,’ I say. ‘He’s a big, angry giant and he’s turned his servant invisible because he was cheeky to him.’
‘Or maybe,’ she replies, after thinking a couple of moments, ‘maybe his servant wants to be invisible to teach the giant a lesson.’
I nod in agreement. ‘That’s right. He stole the giant’s invisible spell and the giant is cross because he can’t see where his servant is and whenever he thinks he’s found him, he moves.’
She giggles and at that moment, the man turns to rummage through an old hessian bag. Tins clank and something rustles and we jump and carry on our journey. We are approaching new country; even the light is changing. It is a deep green, the green of tranquillity, of assurance, of money. To get there, we need to cross the Magic River.
‘Quickly! Over the Magic River! One, two, pink and blue, magic, magic, keep us safe and true.’ Rosie jumps over a ditch and waits for me to do the same. I take an exaggerated leap. ‘Aah, you didn’t say the magic!’ she says, despairing at my lack of knowledge of these things. ‘All fairies have to say the magic otherwise the goblin will make their boats sink.’
‘Their boats?’ I ask incredulously as I look down at the ditch laced with empty Chibuku cartons and condom packets. I can quite easily imagine a goblin hiding amongst the rubbish waiting to purloin any unsuspecting wayfarer, but I am a little more sceptical about fairy boats for it is winter and the ditch is dry.
‘Yes, the fairies sail their boats from here every evening to go back to Fairyland.’
 I go back and invoke her little charm and then jump across the ditch again.
‘Don’t let the goblin get you,’ she squeals. ‘I can see his hands and the top of his head!’ She grabs my hand. ‘Whew! You’re okay. I’m so glad.’
We pass the row of houses that have been saved the shame of decline and converted into the regional headquarters of aid organisations. Their gardens have been turned into squares of carpark with blue and white striped awnings to protect the shiny vehicles parked beneath. They have signs on the walls with slogans like ‘One World, One Future’ and a little sentry box in which a security guard sits with a school exercise book in which to record all the comings and goings of all the shiny vehicles. Next to them is a dentist’s surgery with a short strip of clipped lawn in front of the wall and the bland perfunctory garden of a business behind it.
Some houses we cannot see; they exist behind walls and electric gates. We hear the tic-tic of their garden sprays and imagine neat lawns of green; flowerbeds overflowing; doors closed against the cold; hot food; the lull of television; warmth. Sometimes we pass huge plots with tennis courts and swimming pools and jungle gyms and swings; where earlier in the afternoon, nannies in smart uniforms sat with toddlers in puddles of sunshine on lush green grass and where now fierce dogs growl and bark behind high fences and closed gates; where notices give warning of alarmed premises and armed response units ready to be deployed. Enormous houses tower above us, like fairy-tale castles with their many rooms and roofs and chimneys, reaching up and up and up, competing with the surrounding jacarandas and eucalyptus trees, while fountains of multi-coloured bougainvillea spill over six foot walls lined with razor wire and through electric fences that zing softly in the dying light.
Outside one, a lawn stretches from the gate to the road’s edge – a piece of soft manicured emerald, an unusual sight in drought-ridden Bulawayo. Suddenly, my daughter runs at it with her usual childish gusto.
‘I’m a fairy!’ she cries, opening her arms wide and flapping them up and down. ‘I’m off to the Magic Wood.’
She runs and tumbles, glorying in the smooth green velvet. ‘I’m off . . . off. . .’ she intones, turning round and round. I stand and watch, basking in motherly pride, but aware, too, of the walk home, the gathering darkness. It is then that she grabs my hand and pulls me along with her, and suddenly I am flying, too. We flutter, we jump, we soar and swoop. Across the grass and back, close to the wall and the shut-fast gate and back down to the road.
‘I’m a fairy and you’re a pixie,’ she shouts, commanding the situation. ‘Fairies can fly higher than pixies.’
‘Ah, but pixies are cleverer than fairies,’ I say, as I run up and down the grass verge.
‘No, they aren’t!’ she insists. ‘And, anyway, fairies live in flowers and pixies live in toadstools and I think flowers are better.’
‘Let’s fly home,’ I say. ‘Let’s see if pixies or fairies fly faster.’
And so we are on our way home. The sun slips orange over the horizon as generators whirr into life and electric lights flicker on. Garden sprays are off and gardeners have long ago wound in hosepipes and gone home. Maids have returned to their own children who, heavy with sleep, catch glimpses of their mothers as strange visiting angels before their eyelids close. The old dog and his companion will have reached home a while ago.
Past the Magic Stream with the boats lined up to go to Fairyland and the goblin chuckling with menace as he scuttles off to hide amongst the used sanitary towels and broken glass; past the giant who pokes at his fire and then rocks back and forth, talking all the time to his invisible servant. Past Cinderella who has packed up her stall and returned to her duties inside the house. Past the witch’s house where the chickens are now in their coop and the stolen children are in their beds and the dog growls menacingly but without enthusiasm.
By the time we get home, the world is grey with twilight. Our house stands dark and impassive. If we are lucky, the power will be back within the hour; if we aren’t, we can hope for it in the morning. I open the door and reach for the candle and matches strategically placed on a shelf round the corner of the door jamb.
The night stretches before us, cold and dark. Rosie is tired now and hungry. She forgets the litany of fairy tales as easily as a piece of litter dropped into the Magic River. I warm milk on the gas ring and cut some sandwiches for supper. By candlelight, we read another story of witches and fairies. We fall into bed, Rosie heavy with sleep, holding my hand tightly against her chest until she drifts off and her grip loosens. I lie awake, imagining that the glimmer of generator-fuelled lights from my neighbour’s house are but fairy lights floating in the darkness of the Magic Forest; that our tiny home is a tower that stretches up, up, up into the air, commanding mystery and majesty and wonder in all who pass it by.
I am Rapunzel in my room, letting down my hair every evening, watching it cascade in a blue-black waterfall through the feathery gauze of night, wondering if some handsome prince will make himself known tonight and set out through the forest, sword in hand, slashing through the thorns till he reaches the cold stone wall of my tower and stares up at the dark window far above him.
Or I am a princess in a many-turreted castle with a rose-filled garden that stretches all the way to the cliff’s edge and a high wall that no one can climb over and fierce dogs that guard the gate. I have children who spend long, hot afternoons tumbling on pea-green lawns or sailing boats in the pond whilst kept out of harm’s way by a host of nannies and maids and gardeners while I dine at banquet tables that overflow with food and wine.
The generator next door switches off for the night and a cold black silence descends. I return to the room alone, folding myself back into my broken dreams. I imagine Cinderella threading her needle and settling down to chat to her animal friends. I envy the Giant his invisible servant and the ancient dog his ancient keeper. But I am happy, for although my tower is tall and dark and lonely, I have not forgotten how to sprout wings and fly. I have never stopped believing in the magic that will one day pick you up off your feet and let you glide and flutter and swish and swirl and take you off to places you never imagined existed and yet always, always, bring you home safely to the tower at the end of the road.

 I settle under the covers and take Rosie’s small hand in mine, listening to her soft rhythmic breathing. Satisfied: the darkness is kept at bay.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician reviewed in 'New Germany'


Several continents in the head

In his new novel, Tendai Huchu draws a lively panorama of the multicultural everyday life in the UK

New Germany 16 Jan 2017 Manfred Loimeier

No, the Zimbabwean writer Tendai Huchu says his new book is not a novel about immigrants in the UK.  Huchu has been living there, in Edinburgh, for several years and is known as the author of the fun-political debut novel "The Hairdresser of Harare" (2010). Political and easy to read is also his new book "The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician", which also bears witness to a considerable literary development of the author.
It is mainly about three, actually four Zimbabwean men, who live a new life in Edinburgh: The Maestro, filling shelves in a supermarket and losing himself in reading books; The Magistrate, a former judge who succeeds as a nurse and recollects; The Mathematician, who devotes himself less to his doctoral thesis than to the nightlife; And not to forget Alfonso, who will give the plot an abrupt turn.
With "The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician", Huchu links everyday life in Harare with that in Edinburgh. It mixes the music of the continents and shows the isolation of immigrants as well as cultural jolts and successful integration. Because the Magistrate has a family, the Mathematician friends and the Maestro a girlfriend, there are protagonists who complement the events. This creates a lively panorama of multicultural everyday life, which is convincing above all by its stylistic design. The Magistrate is portrayed as almost melancholic, the Mathematician almost hectic. And the Maestro loses himself in books - and thus his relationship to reality is one of the numerous literary allusions, of which the novel is permeated.
The author convinces by linguistic lightness, stylistic diversity and a psychologically differentiated characterization of the figures.
The attention paid to Zimbabwe's politics and the setting in the United Kingdom are not drawbacks in our understanding of the everyday life of the people. 



from https://www.neues-deutschland.de/artikel/1038681.mehrere-kontinente-im-kopf.html

and the review in German:

Mehrere Kontinente im Kopf
Tendai Huchu zeichnet in seinem neuen Roman ein lebendiges Panorama des multikulturellen Alltags in Großbritannien
·   Neues Deutschland
·   16 Jan 2017
·   Von Manfred Loimeier
Nein, sagt der simbabwische Schriftsteller Tendai Huchu, sein neues Buch sei kein Roman über Einwanderer in Großbritannien. Dort, in Edinburgh, lebt Huchu seit etlichen Jahren und ist als Autor des vergnüglich-politischen Debütromans »Der Friseur von Harare« (2010) bekannt. Politisch und leicht zu lesen ist auch sein Buch »Maestro, Magistrat und Mathematiker«, das darüber hinaus von einer beachtlichen literarischen Entwicklung des Autors zeugt.
Vornehmlich geht es um drei, eigentlich vier Männer aus Simbabwe, die in Edinburgh ein neues Leben leben: Maestro, der in einem Supermarkt Regale füllt und sich sonst in der Lektüre von Büchern verliert; der Magistrat, ein früherer Richter, der sich als Krankenpfleger durchschlägt und Erinnerungen nachhängt; der Mathematiker, der sich weniger seiner Doktorarbeit als vielmehr dem Nachtleben widmet; und nicht zu ver- gessen Alfonso, der der Handlung zuletzt eine abrupte Wende geben wird.
Mit »Maestro, Magistrat und Mathematiker« verknüpft Huchu den Alltag in Harare mit dem in Edinburgh. Er vermischt die Musik der Kontinente und zeigt die Isolation von Einwanderern ebenso wie Kulturschockerfahrungen und gelingende Integration. Weil der Magistrat eine Familie, der Mathematiker Freunde und der Maestro eine Freundin hat, kommen auch Protagonistinnen vor, die das Geschehen um ihre Sicht er- gänzen. So entsteht ein lebendiges Panorama des multikulturellen Alltags, das vor allem durch seine stilistische Gestaltung überzeugt. Fast melancholisch wird der Magistrat porträtiert, nahezu hektisch der Mathematiker. Und dass sich Maestro in Büchern – und damit den Bezug zur Wirklichkeit – verliert, gehört wohl zu den zahlreichen literarischen Anspielungen, von denen der Roman durchdrungen ist.
Der Autor überzeugt durch sprachliche Leichtfüßigkeit, stilisti- sche Vielfalt und eine psychologisch differenzierte Charakterisierung der Figuren.
Dass es dabei auch noch um die Politik in Simbabwe und das Zusammenleben im Vereinigten Königreich geht, ist kein Nachteil, um den Alltag der Menschen authentisch und sympathisch zu schildern. Tendai Huchu: Maestro, Magistrat und Mathematiker. Aus dem Englischen von Jutta Himmelreich. Peter Hammer Verlag. 384 S., geb., 26 €.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Stories Invited for a Zimbabwean Short Story Collection

amaBooks Publishers are planning a collection of Zimbabwean short stories, to be published in 2017.  We are inviting submissions by February 14, 2017. There are no restrictions on the length of the stories, and there is no particular theme.
Stories for consideration should be emailed as Word attachments, with no artwork or photographs included, to amabooksbyo@gmail.com. Unfortunately, we will be unable to give feedback on those stories that are not accepted for publication.
The writers whose work is accepted will each receive a copy of the book and they will retain copyright of their stories.

The previous collections of short writings published by amaBooks include Where to Now? Short Stories from Zimbabwe, Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe and Short Writings from Bulawayo I, II and III. Where to Now? was co-published by Parthian Books in the UK and was translated into isiNdebele as Siqondephi Manje?, and Long Time Coming was selected by New Internationalist as one of the two best books from across the world in 2010.









Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Why I Read by Sandisile Tshuma


Hi. My name is Sandisile Tshuma and I am an information junkie. More than ten years ago I underwent the Clifton strengths finder assessment as part of a team building exercise at the youth-focused HIV prevention organisation I had just joined.  The test revealed that one of my top five strengths was something called Input. Input was defined as having a craving to know more and people with Input like to collect and archive all kinds of information. While I normally like to convince myself that I am “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” I had to admit that the test was spot on.  

I read because I like to know things. I love knowledge for its own sake and I hoard it in my mind, my electronic devices, journals, notebooks and a book shelf that is so heavily overloaded it teeters precariously on the verge of collapse under the weight of all manner of books, lovingly collected over years.  My insatiable appetite for information and ideas in the form of words is well documented. I can’t help myself. Reading let’s me know things and discovering new things fills my heart with unadulterated joy. Literacy is the greatest gift my parents gave me.


When I was a child my parents kept an old school trunk full of books well older than I. That black trunk was a treasure trove of books, all classics. My mind traveled from The God of Small Things and Coriolanus, to Harvest of Thorns and Petals of Blood, from Gray’s Anatomy to Toohey’s Medicine for Nurses, Charles Mungoshi to William Blake. One day while digging through the old black trunk I found a tatty old exercise book in which my father had written the first few chapters of an autobiographical creative fiction book. I knew it had to be something he wrote in his youth because the pages were almost disintegrating and the ink was faded and blurred making it hard for me to read some of his flawlessly scripted cursive. He had never once mentioned this work or expressed the desire to write. He was a military man, a man of science, a businessman, anything but an author. And yet he wrote beautifully. Lyrically. He was reflective and generous in his descriptions. I was mesmerized. We never discussed it but it completely changed the way I saw him. He revealed his complex layered thoughts and helped me understand my own dark, broody complexity. I recognized myself not only in his words but also even in the very act of writing out his life, documenting his story for an audience of unknown existence.
I read to rekindle the feeling I got when my father unknowingly shared his life with me, as do so many other authors I love. In a world where it’s hard to feel anchored my love for reading showed me a new connection to the source of my being. I read because this is a privilege.



Sandisile Tshuma is a Zimbabwean storyteller, health, development and human rights practitioner who has studied molecular and cellular biology, public health, disaster management and acting from the University of Cape Town (South Africa), the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa), the National University of Science and Technology (Zimbabwe) and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (United Kingdom).
Sandisile has a professional background in monitoring, evaluation and communication in sexual and reproductive health programmes with the United Nations and other International Organizations in East and Southern Africa. She is an award winning short story writer, the founding editor of AntuAke online magazine, and has curated a personal blog for five years. Sandisile's short stories, "Arrested Development" and "The Need" were published by amaBooks Publishing in two anthologies of Zimbabwean short stories. "Arrested Development" won an Honourable Mention for the 2010 Thomas Pringle Award in the short story category, has been translated into a number of languages and is included in an anthology titled "When The Sun Goes Down", a set book in the Kenyan English language curriculum at secondary school level. The Need has been translated into isiNdebele. Her first full length book, "Dandelion Dreaming," tells the story of marginalised youth in South Africa using the "photo-voice" methodology. 

Sandisile has a special interest in young people, particularly those made vulnerable by HIV and AIDS, and is involved in supporting the work of  Aluwani and COPESSA. Currently, she works in leadership development as the South Africa country manager of the Emzingo Group aiming to inspire responsible leadership, prepare individuals to tackle global challenges and connect business to society.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Remembering Julius Chingono, 6 years gone


 Tired Feet

A man arrived
in a park,
kicked off shoelace-less shoes
from his fetid feet.
Tired feet stared
at a notice written –
‘stay off the grass’.
Lush grass sneezed,
the smell of dirty feet
choked its shoots.
The legs bent and creaked –
we cannot go further.
The man dropped
to sleep 
on an empty stomach.




and then there was his humour...

Drunk

In the photograph
I was so drunk
that I would stagger
out of the picture.


(both from Together, Julius Chingono and John Eppel, 2011)


Getting Together, poems and short stories by John Eppel and Julius Chingono ready for publication was a cooperative effort. Getting the work from John went smoothly as John lives in Bulawayo, our base, and is online. Julius lived in Norton, outside Harare, and did not have access to a computer. It was 2010 and time to call in the help of friends. The poet, Togara Muzanenhamo, didn't live far from Julius and offered to get the poems from Julius, type them up and email them to us. This worked well, we made suggested edits, sent them back to Togara, which he then shared with Julius. And so we progressed... The same routine was adopted for the short stories. The writer Tinashe Muchuri came to the rescue. He took on the task of typing Julius' stories from which we selected those which we chose to include in the collection and proceeded to edit them with Tinashe kindly acting as the go-between. In this way the anthology, Together, came into being.

The book now complete, we negotiated co-publishing deals with the the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal and the University of New Orleans. All was going well and then we received the tragic news that Julius had died on January 2nd, 2011, before we had brought the collection out. So the launch became a tribute to Julius, where we played a video of him reading his work.

We will remember Julius.