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"Africans fall in love, Africans go to the club" - Interview with writer Mirirai Moyo
Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa, Kubatana.net
February 01, 2011

Read Inside/Out with Mirirai Moyo

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Mirirai Moyo Mirirai Moyo, a promising emerging writer from Zimbabwe, is one of the winners of the 2010 Golden Baobab Award, which features African stories for children anywhere. Her short stories have featured in The Sunday Mail, Fascinating Tales and Parade as well as Drum Magazine's fiction segment. Her radio play, Belonging, was awarded Honourable Mention in the BBC African Performance 2008 and published in Rory Kilalea's collection In the Continuum and Other Plays (Weaver Press).
Source: vasigauke.blogspot.com

You were awarded a special commendation for you radio script Belonging, what inspired the story?
The story just sort of came to me. I was trying to write about something else, a relationship between a young woman and her sugar daddy. That's as far removed from a chicken and a hyena as possible, but I'm in the middle of the story and it was feeling clichéd, it's been over done. I have a habit of calling young women who date older men ‘spring chickens' and from there came the idea of why can't it be a chicken and a hyena and they don't necessarily need to be in that kind of relationship. Friendship is good enough, it has it's own complications. I just wanted to write about that, that people from different backgrounds can find common ground. All the adversity they had to face, the complications within their communities and that despite all that they can still maintain their friendship. Listen

Why did you use animal characters?
You can do so much more with animals than with people, they're so flexible. It's one of the things that I noticed once I started doing it because all along I'd been writing stories about human beings. All my Drum stories are actually about people. But once you start writing about animals . . . animals are not stereotyped. When you write about a lawyer he has to be this way, but if you take a fly, and you can give it all the characteristics that you want, it doesn't have to have a certain pattern of behaving, you create for that animal. I just love that idea. And then if you look at African folk tales, from the very beginning our ancestors always told stories using animals. The beauty of those stories if you listen to them, the narration . . . you just cant beat that. Listen

You are also the winner of the 2010 Golden Baobab Award. What does that mean to you?
It means a lot. You need to understand that we're in a community that doesn't appreciate what it means to be a writer. Most people don't take writing seriously. They will read a story and say ‘wow I love this story', but they don't really understand what goes into the writing of it. Most people assume that you just wake up and you have a flash, then you scribble it down and send it in and it's published. They don't understand the trail, labour that you go through to bring this idea out so it can be perfect. It's kind of like you're explaining yourself to your reader as perfectly as possible. People don't understand what goes into that. To be given an award for a piece of work that you've done, it doesn't matter what award is, it's recognition and it feels great. You just hope that it motivates other people who've got the same ideas to put their ideas out there as well. Listen

How has winning the award affected or enhanced your career?
To be quite honest I've had a lot more interviews. I have a friend who asked me the other day: "I Googled you and a lot more stuff came up with your name on it. Does that mean you're famous?" And I said " No it does not mean I'm famous, but it means I exist." As a writer people will read you and forget about you tomorrow. Some people read you and they don't know who you are, they don't check the by line. But once you've been put out there with an award like that it's like you exist, more people recognize the name. It helps you as a writer, because then it means you are more sought after and when you make submissions it really helps when you are making blind submission because you're writing that ‘I won this prize' and automatically the reader of that email want to see what you're about. It feels good to exist. I have been writing for a long time, and yes now and then I get the occasional person who gives me a pat on the back for my work. But now with all the interviews I've been getting to do, I exist to more people, and I can stand there and say I am a writer with pride. Listen

What do you think is the importance of having Africans telling African stories?
Every time you say you're a writer people have a tendency to pigeon hole you. They think you're going to be writing about villages, AIDS and war. But you know what? Africans fall in love, Africans go to the club, we live apartment blocks . . . I hate it when I write a story and someone says this doesn't feel African, it's too White. I've actually had experience where someone will say these characters are not behaving African. There's more to Africa than HIV/AIDS, and plagues. I'm not saying lets not write those stories. They are also relevant, but the African cannot be pigeon holed anymore, you can't categorise us as village people, the hunters, or abused women in polygamous marriages. Listen

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