Thursday, May 17, 2018

Monday, May 14, 2018

'Textures' published in North America

Textures, poetry by John Eppel and Togara Muzanenhamo, is now available across North America through Canadian publisher Guernica Editions.

Textures was published in Zimbabwe by amaBooks in 2014, and is available elsewhere in the world through the African Books Collective. The book won a Zimbabwe National Arts Merit Award for Outstanding Fiction.

Dan Wylie, Professor of English at Rhodes University, in his review of Textures, commented that:

"In a way, the two poets are united by so high a degree of craft that almost every poem – they are not all equally weighty or felicitous – serves as a kind of meta-meditation upon poetry itself."
Togara Muzanenhamo reads 'Gondershe' from Textures, with Leo Svirsky.
Togara Muzanenhamo:
Born in 1975, Togara Muzanenhamo studied Business Administration in the Netherlands and in France. He has worked as a journalist and a film script editor. His poems have appeared widely in international magazines, journals and anthologies. In 2006 his debut collection of poems, Spirit Brides, was published by Carcanet Press and shortlisted for the Jerwood Aldeburgh First Collection PrizeThe Times Literary Supplement welcomed the poet as a young writer of solid distinction: ‘he can be “cool” but seldom “light”. His best writing makes no reference to itself, does not allow itself to be damaged by over exuberant metaphor.’ In 2012 Muzanenhamo was chosen to represent Zimbabwe at Poetry Parnassus in London, ‘the biggest gathering of poets in world history’, where he read at the gala event with Seamus Heaney, Kim Hyesoon, Bill Manhire, Kay Ryan and Wole Soyinka at the Royal Festival Hall. Poetry Parnassus was part of the Cultural Olympiad that preceded the 2012 Olympic Games. His second collection, Gumiguru, is published by Carcanet Press. Muzanenhamo's short story 'The Silt Path' is published in Moving On and Other Zimbabwean Stories (2017).

John Eppel reads 'A Suburban Night in August' from Textures
John Eppel:
John Eppel is an award-winning poet and novelist. His first novel, D.G.G. Berry’s The Great North Road (1992), won the M-Net Prize in South Africa. His second novel, Hatchings (1993), was short-listed for the M-Net Prize and his third novel, The Giraffe Man (1994), has been translated into French. His other novels are The Holy Innocents, The Curse of the Ripe TomatoAbsent: The English Teacher and Trafickings.
His first poetry collection, Spoils of War (1989), won the Ingrid Jonker Prize, and his collection Landlocked was recently published in the UK. His short story and poetry anthologies are The Caruso of Colleen Bawn, White Man Crawling and Together (with Julius Chongono). Other poems have been featured in anthologies that include The Heart in Exile: South African Poetry in English 1990-1995 (1996) and Intwasa Poetry (2008), while his short stories have appeared in anthologies that include Short Writings from Bulawayo (2003), Short Writings from Bulawayo II (2005). Writing Now: More Stories from Zimbabwe (2005), Short Writings from Bulawayo III (2006), Laughing Now (2008), Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe (2008), Where to Now? (2012) and Moving On and Other Zimbabwean Stories (2017). 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Three Men, Three Stories, One Novel

Tendai Huchu's The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician reviewed in The Herald

Tanaka Chidora Literature Today
Tendai Huchu

“The Maestro, The Magistrate and the Mathematician” is a dense novel. It’s that kind of novel whose publication makes you assume that the author has written his last book and would go on an eternal sabbatical.
It’s written in a way that makes you think that the author wanted to tell many stories at once: the story of Zimbabwe, the story of Edinburgh, the story of the Magistrate, the story of the Mathematician, the story of the Maestro, the story of a man trying to come to terms with all the books he has read and the emptiness of existence.
It is a novel that mixes soccer and bohemian excesses with very deep philosophies like those of Deleuze, Lefebvre, Derrida, Walter Benjamin and many other prominent thinkers, writers, politicians, artists and so on, sometimes without necessarily directly referring to them.
During the course of reading it, I had to visit some of the philosophies that the Maestro, one of Tendai Huchu’s intriguing characters, reflected on. My suspicion is that Huchu did a lot of research before writing this novel.
The novel is a story of three men who, throughout the course of the narrative, predominantly live separate lives.
The author seems to have no intention of making them meet, but when they finally do, the author makes sure that the meeting is mentioned in a nonchalant way, as if the author had not foreseen it, as if the meeting is of no consequence.
The covers of the Nigerian, German, American and Zimbabwean versions of the book
I actually liked this part. I liked the idea of three lives not being forced to be intertwined for the sake of telling a story. This makes it truer to life and less affected. I don’t like affectation. I don’t like it when I am watching soccer. I don’t like it when I am listening to the news. I even look forward to its absence in prayers and sermons. Lol!
So, we have these three men living in Edinburgh: one is a former Magistrate who, even though he is aware of the irony of the continued use of the title after his downward class traffic to the abject spaces of caregiving, has no qualms with being addressed as the Magistrate.
He is in a continuous search for somewhere to firmly plant his feet (physically and symbolically), an exercise that keeps him wandering, physically and mentally, along obscure paths of migrant life.
He only finds a modicum of purpose when he gets involved in the politics of the home he left behind, but this too is just fallacious.
We also have the Maestro: an enigma even to himself. His profuse love for books and cryptic philosophies makes those pages dedicated to him a thesis into the various philosophies that attempt to explain human life.
These philosophies are so deep that in the mind of the Maestro they even become more cryptic so that one day, the Maestro himself burns all the books and curls himself to sleep.
Then we have my favourite, Farai, a young man who dabbles in academic life and the bohemian mental and physical pleasures that it offers, especially when that academic life involves being a PhD student with research grants pouring into his account and rich parents back home (anxious about their son who is studying abroad) sending lots of money to him.
He is a likeable character, Farai. His presence in this novel allows Huchu to experiment with social media typography in a narrative of serious literary merit.
Another major highlight (for me) in the narrative of the Magistrate is that of occupying physical and symbolic spaces of Edinburgh by invoking the music of the home he left behind (Chibadura, James Chimombe, etc) and pasting it on the Craigmillar Rises of Edinburgh.
This demonstrates a level of creativity that comes when the writer is a reader.
To conquer vast swathes of space by just connecting rhythm to landscape is one of this novel’s major selling points.
Here is how the Magistrate does it: “He got on the bus, switched on his Walkman and caught a song halfway through. He laughed at the irony of Chimombe singing, ‘Zvikaramba zvakadaro, ndinotsika mafuta, ndiende Bindura, handina zvinoera.’
“Now this song would fix his memory to the 14 going past the Craigmillar high rises, which stood at the edge of the estate, a stone’s throw from Peffermill” (p. 71).
His sense of landscape does not only require this exercise, but also demands walking: “Travelling on the bus, he did not feel quite the same intensity traversing the city as he did while walking. It altered his perception of space at a mental and physical level.
“On his morning walks, he felt tiredness in his muscles, the full topographical awareness of how he was oriented on a gradient, a connectedness not possible at the same level of consciousness on the bus” (p. 48).
Huchu pulled this off effortlessly to the effect that I still suspect that he might have studied such philosophical iterations like those of Lefebvre, De Certeau and Walter Benjamin before writing this story.
I love reading narratives by writers who read and the truth is that Huchu is completely on another level. He reads. He writes.
My friend’s favourite is Alfonso. Alfonso is everything. He is the man to go to when you need a job in the UK. He is the man to go to when someone dies and no one knows what to do with the body.
He is the kind of man who turns up at your doorstep with a bottle of brandy in his pocket at a time when you are craving for some brandy. And oh, he is also capable of getting slain in the spirit and rattling of in that cryptic language of divine fervour right there in front of his drinking buddies whose wives can testify that Deacon Alfonso is a man of God. Lol!
I had read (and enjoyed) “The Hairdresser of Harare” before reading this 2014 offering. But the narrative strength and depth of “The Maestro, The Magistrate  and the Mathematician” came as a surprise.
This one is a completely different narrative and the way it was handled demonstrates Huchu’s versatility.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Tendai Huchu and Black Panther star Danai Gurira

Tendai Huchu's novel of ideas The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician has been selected as recommended reading for those planning to attend Danai Gurira's play Familiar, which is to feature at Seattle's Bagley Wright Theatre from April 27 to May 27, 2018.

Written by Black Panther star and 'Tony'-nominated playwright Danai Gurira and directed by Taibi Magar, Familiar focuses a lens on the messy, hilarious, spirited dynamic of a modern first-generation Zimbabwean-American family, revealing the layers of complexities rooted in the search for a sense of belonging. Tendai Huchu's novel explores the lives of three Zimbabweans as they struggle to reconcile their past with their present lives in Edinburgh.
Danai Gurira, from Wikipedia

Danai Gurira, born in the USA of Zimbabwean parents, moved back to Zimbabwe after the country gained independence. She attended Dominican Convent High School in Harare, before returning to the USA to study at Macalester College and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. She is perhaps best known for her role as Okoye in Black Panther and as the writer of the play Eclipsed, which was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play and which won the Tony Award for Best Costume Design in a Play.

The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician is published in the USA by Ohio University Press, in the UK by Parthian Books, in Nigeria by Farafina, in Germany by Peter Hammer Verlag and in Zimbabwe and elsewhere by amaBooks.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

'This September Sun' in Art

This September Sun (Catherine Phillips)

'Nothing is Certain' is an exhibition of twelve experimental abstract paintings by Catherine Phillips based on book titles. The exhibition, which is part of a wider project celebrating books and libraries, is at Putney Library, Disraeli Road, in London until 27th April 2018.

One of the paintings is inspired by Bryony Rheam's novel This September Sun, which is published by amaBooks in Zimbabwe, by Parthian Books in the United Kingdom, by Longhorn in Kenya and, soon, by Al Arabi in Arabic.

The Zimbabwean cover of the book is based on a painting by the Zimbabwean artist Jeanette Johnstone.

The books celebrated in the exhibition are:

Designing with Natural Forms by Natalie d’Arbeloff
Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys
Rhapsody in Green by Charlotte Mendelsohn
Spirals in Time by Helen Scales
Sunquakes by J. B. Zirker
The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt
The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch
The Sound of Things Falling  by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
The Sun & Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
This September Sun by Bryony Rheam

More information can be found on

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Looking into the Future of African Creativity

by Stanely Mushava Arts Correspondent
James Arnett with Tinashe Tafirenyika, photo courtesy of Tafadzwa Gwetai

In a good year for African heritage at the box office, “Black Panther” has flared up discussions for its daring, optimistic and controversial reinvention of the continent. While the top-grossing movie has made Afrofuturism pop worldwide, literary Africa has been also warming up to science fiction as a platform for floating big ideas about a century tangled in big problems. The Bulawayo Science Fiction Reading/Writing Workshop, incepted in November last year, is one such initiative.
Between April and June this year, James Arnett, a visiting literature professor from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, conducts the second and final season of the workshop at the NUST-American Space. Arnett, who currently teaches in the NUST Journalism and Media Studies Department, registered his presence on the Zimbabwean literary scene last year, giving an Afrofuturism-themed talk at LitFest and Intwasa, in between studies on the Bulawayo book sector and Zimbabwe-raised Nobel laureate Doris Lessing.
Aspiring science fiction writers will interact with classic texts, local publishers and the visiting scholar whose interest in African writing has found expression in journals such as African Literature Today, Genre, Ariel and LIT: Literature Interpretation Theory, with a view of coming up with their own future-leaning stories. Bulawayo-based author Stanely Mushava (SM) sits down with workshop convener James Arnett (JA) for a wide-ranging interview on the workshop and Afrofuturism.
SM: Welcome to Wakanda!
JA: Wakanda forever.
SM: What’s happening at the Bulawayo Science Fiction Workshop?
JA: For the second iteration of the workshop, I wanted to expand the nature of it to include reading influential American science fiction writers, and develop our critical reading abilities to sharpen our own writing abilities.
SM: You went to Litfest and Intwasa last year preaching the gospel of Afrofuturism – the idea of science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction breathing new energy into Zimbabwean literature. What makes Afro-futurism “that thing”?
JA: Afrofuturism is a way to apply a kind of natural Afro-optimism, I believe. It’s a way to use exploratory, imaginative thinking to pose and solve problems, project future issues, imagine alternative outcomes to present narratives.
SM: We have seen Afrofuturism approvingly reassessing the myths, cosmologies and self-concepts that we lost in the colonial crusades, and challenging the cold tyranny of history and science. How does this moving of the centre enrich literature and the arts?
JA: I think that Afrofuturism allows for a pragmatic embrace of modernity – I’ve never seen a country wield cell phones more potently than in Zimbabwe – as well as a way to pull through traditions and knowledges from precolonial cultures.
SM: Let’s talk Zimbofuturism. Which of our writers anticipate high-concept fiction and how do their pioneering contributions expand the canon?
JA: The first, most sustained Zimbabwean (Rhodesian) explorer of speculative fiction was the Nobel-winner Doris Lessing. Although her experiments in science fiction and space opera are often tedious and difficult to read, she also sometimes strikes a rich vein. I’m particularly fond of her Mara and Dann, which explores Africa (“Afrik”) in the future, after climate and conflict have done irreparable harm to the planet.
SM: How fair is it to suggest that the wheels of culture only begin to turn when the metropolis points the way? Cultural innovators working outside big tents and big phases seem condemned to toil away in the underground. 
JA: I understand that that’s a common feeling, but so long as literary publishing and the mass culture industries are intertwined, all creators of popular art get swept into prevailing currents until a new disruptor is crowned, and a new strain of imitation emerges. I think that African cultural producers have to jostle hard against market forces (God, how chilling to think) that privilege certain forms and genres of writing at certain times. Zimbabwe has produced writers adept at merging with emergent tastes – Yvonne Vera, during the era of postcolonial trauma narratives; Petina Gappah during this Afropolitan phase. Zimbabwe has a long history of producing terrific writers; and I think the time has come for Afro-SF.
SM: What partnerships have made the Bulawayo sci-fi workshop possible?
JA: Happily, the US Embassy in Harare, and Bulawayo publishers amaBooks are sponsoring the event, and I’m thankful to the American Space, Bulawayo, for its donation of space and time and technology, as well as to the NUST Departments of Journalism and Media Studies, and Publishing Studies for providing a home for my research and teaching this year.
SM: I understand you are bringing a speculative fiction writer to the workshop.
JA: Yes! We’re still working to confirm her visit, but when we do, we’ll make an announcement.
SM: What would be your essential reading list for an aspiring writer approaching Afrofuturism for the first time?
JA: There are some obvious classics, mostly American, as that’s the cradle for Afrofuturism. A terrific origin point is the jazz musician and poet Sun Ra’s Space is the Place – a documentary of his ideas; and a good follow-up is his syllabus for a class at UC-Berkeley in the early 1970s. Samuel R. Delany is another classic African-American science fiction writer, whose works are really cerebral and challenge a lot of underlying assumptions about the workings of the world. And Octavia Butler is the third is this triumvirate; her novel Kindred uses time travel to explore and challenge American attitudes about race and gender; and her two Parable novels, Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents are both really prescient speculative works.
SM: How do you plan for this workshop to live on?
JA: Students will always be encouraged to submit their work to appropriate venues, and calls for stories will be circulated. Ideally, we’re hoping that we can produce an anthology of contemporary Zimbabwean science/speculative fictions, together with established writers, some from the diaspora, for a well-rounded and eclectic collection.
SM: What have been some of your observations on Bulawayo’s book sector, and Zimbabwe’s? 
JA: I think that Jane and Brian of amaBooks are founts of energy who do a lot to keep the literary scene going; John Eppel has hosted workshops and readings in the area; book launches have happened at Intwasa and over the course of the year. There’s an active literary scene, all told, even if it is a little sparse and a little estranged.
SM: Things are looking up for Afrofuturism. We are looking at popular inroads by distinctly Afrocentric voices like Nnedi Okorafor, and publishing incentives for writers on the continent in the form of fantasy-themed awards, magazines and workshops like your own. Do you foresee speculative fiction becoming the next big phase of African literature?
JA: I think that as we move through the Anthropocene – the term for the latest geological age, defined by the irrevocable intervention of man onto earth, often contiguous with colonialism’s history – we are trying to learn to express and explore our anxiety. I think that speculative fiction is a way of struggling with the feelings of the inevitability of a deeply altered future.
SM: The Anthropocene is coming up more often in discussions of the future like a horseman of the apocalypse. Who must lose sleep over this creature?
JA: The Anthropocene goes by several names – the Capitalocene, the Chthulucene (after HP Lovecraft’s amphibious demon). Under any guise, it’s the scientific and social-scientific consensus that humankind has interfered so dramatically with the natural produce, function, and systems of the earth, that it is a whole new era of geology. In one reckoning, the Anthropocene starts when fossil fuels are burned for the first time, accelerating man’s emergence into “modernity,” in others, the nuclear era with its long-lived isotopes that will never leave our earth and atmosphere. But the Anthropocene is putting a name to the comprehensive evidence from all areas that modernity has exacted a steeper price than we are willing to pay, but that we will have to pay for our sins anyway.
SM: It feels like the shadow of the apocalypse is stretching everywhere. This feeling that Earth will give in any day now under misanthropic stress. What is speculative fiction doing to inspire hope?
JA: I think there are writers like NK Jemisin who are exploring hard-fought ways to better futures through, in her case, fantasy that is deeply engaged with questions of race and otherness, gender and sexuality. In some accounts, Wakanda is utopian. Although, on the other hand, a panel at the National English Literary Museum in South Africa pointed out that under apartheid much black literature was concerned with the apocalyptic, inasmuch as living conditions often approached it. So it’s an ambivalent force.
SM: Can you think of distinctly African traits that literature can benefit more from in the Anthropocene?
JA: All oral traditions and folk mythologies carry with them knowledges pertinent to lives lived where they arise; and so I think any literature that engages with traditional knowledges about the land and its produce is beneficial to a people. And, more to the point, I think African science fictions can bring science into folk knowledge, and the synthesis can be really powerful.
Stanely Mushava is an award-winning Zimbabwean writer and a teaching assistant at the National University of Science and Technology. He can be reached at

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Science Fiction Reading and Writing Project in Bulawayo

Come join the Bulawayo Science Fiction Reading/Writing Workshop!

Photo from Chris Giles, CNN

Do you love science fiction, or love writing science fiction? Do you love to read and write in general? Come join this free group! Over the course of ten weeks, we will be distributing free copies of classic American and African science fiction short stories, discussing their ideas, their quality, their style – and then trying our own hands at writing science fiction, fantasy, or speculative fiction short stories. Work with an American literature professor and local publishers and writers to hone your craft and try new things.

We will read, write, and workshop each other’s work – and we will discuss publication opportunities in Zimbabwe and abroad. In May, we will receive a visit from an eminent American science fiction writer, who will give free workshops and readings in Bulawayo and elsewhere in Zimbabwe.

We’re looking for 16 good writers: please submit a short sample of your writing (in any genre or style!) to by March 27, 2018.

WHEN: April 6, 2018 – June 8, 2018; 4:30pm; Friday afternoons

WHERE: the American Space, 55 Jason Moyo (downtown Bulawayo near the vegetable market)

This project is funded generously by the US Embassy in Zimbabwe, and the US State Department, and is sponsored by ’amaBooks Publishers, and the NUST Departments of Journalism and Media Studies, and Publishing Studies.