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Getting to know Tendai Mwanaka, Zimbabwean writer and all
round creative talent
June 10, 2013
with Tendai Mwanaka
new book, Zimbabwe: The Blame Game, has variously been described,
among other things, as a "cycle of creative non-fiction pieces,
pulling the readers through the politics of modern day Zimbabwe."
How did this book come about?
Blame Game, in the beginning, came out as an off-shoot to my earlier
manuscript, Mad Bob Republic (most of the stories in Mad Bob Republic
were later included in the novel Keys In The River (SAVANT BOOKS,
USA) When I was writing Mad Bob Republic, I also wrote some non-fiction
pieces, that I thought didn't fit into this manuscript. Mad Bob
Republic was a manuscript of short stories, so I had to take out
the non-fiction pieces from this collection and added a whole lot
new material to create Zimbabwe: The Blame Game. Sometime, in 2009,
my brother, Bernard, encouraged me to write a non-fiction book,
and helped me with a lot of South African newspapers that had articles
that dealt with the Zimbabwean situation, and these helped me a
lot, so I should think Bernard seeded the writing of Zimbabwe: The
us why you think your new book should excite audiences
It's a no holds barred attempt. It also deals with
many issues that Zimbabweans experienced since independence. I lighted
on issues like the history of Zimbabwe, the politics, the brutalities,
economic meltdown, election issues, migrations into other cultures,
xenophobia and life in exile. I also touched, particularly, on South
Africa's problems, and then post GNU Zimbabwe issues. I dealt with
these issues in a creative, sometimes funny, sometimes laid-back
way. I had to write, I think, most parts in this book, in simple
English that would draw in a lot of readership. In the prologue
to the book I wrote, "I feel I wanted to interest the general
readers more than, say, the academic establishment. With this is
mind, I thought to follow the rigours of academic or journalistic
type of writing might put off the general readers that I was targeting,
and that's why I thought of writing the story of Zimbabwe in this
simple, creatively focussed, easy to read, sometimes laid back way.
General readers might not want to deal with technical, fact embossed,
and stuffy matter you would find in academic or even journalistic
writing. Such that, most of the writings in this book, explore the
story telling genre to describe or explain what I am trying to achieve
in these writings; and I am using these stories to create depth
that I should have created with technical or factual analysis of
book cover design . . . tell us more about what inspired the use
of this artwork
to have a photo of bearer cheques on the front cover of Zimbabwe:
The Blame Game, came from my publisher . . . and the photo, as well.
She felt we had to touch on one important aspect the book dealt
with, which is the hyperinflation and accumulating zeroes of our
currency, which I would like to think, was our biggest economic
headache, back then. But the book deals with a broader range of
issues other than the bearer cheques, or even the economy.
genre do you feel most at home: poetry / fiction / non-fiction?
I am comfortable
in any of these genres, and many others like life writing, travel
writing, photographic essays, and playwriting . . . anything creatively
focused. At one time, in 2010, I wrote a song that made the semi-finals
of the John Lennon international songwriting competition with Robin
tone of 'Voices From Exile' is one of protest; do you agree with
Yes, it was
protest poetry. Things were just too much for me, for everyone,
and the only way I could deal with them was through protest. And
I made a good go at it in 'Voices From Exile', I should think.
your full time occupation?
did you get out of the Caine African writing workshop?
Oh, that was
a wonderful workshop, and time we spent there! On top of writing
the story, Notes from Mai Mujuru's Breast, I wrote a travel piece,
Heaven on Earth: Volmoed, Western Cape, also an essay on how to
write a story in a workshop situation, plus a number of photographic
essays. We had two fabulous writers to guide us through the workshop,
Jamal Mahjoub and Henrietta Rose Innes. Under the workshop situation,
I feel you need to have someone who would guide you, not someone
who would impose on your writing, on what you should be writing
about, and how. I feel these two did a great job in guiding us.
It is enriching to spend some time with other writers from different
places than yours…you learn a lot from each other and help
is your creative space currently? Zimbabwe or the universe?
I think, universe
. . . I want to write for the global market, but the stories, a
lot of them come from the local situations. I do journal a lot of
stuff all over the world, as well. I have over 250 pieces in over
150 journals and anthologies, in over 20 countries. Just this year
alone, I have work coming out in over 20 journals, and over 5 anthologies,
so I feel I am a global writer. I have a poetry collection, Playing
to love's gallery, coming out in a couple or so weeks from, DIPPRESS,
USA, first as an ebook, then later on, a print book, and I have
also placed a full-length novel, A Dark Energy, with Aignos publishing
co, USA, and lately I have completed a short stories novel, Finding
a way home, that's being considered by a number of American publishers.
Notebook . .
. a Toshiba . . . iPad, I might sit on it! I have a tendency of
leaving small gadgets like phones; etc lying around on sitting places,
so I would sit on them without realizing it . . . even my Toshiba
has been dealt a blow . . .
are you working on now?
A play, dairies,
poetry . . . and a novel with a Nigerian writer.
Zimbabwean writers should we be excited by?
I think young
writers like me; Pettinah Gappah, NoViolet Bulawayo, Christopher
Mlalazi . . . there are many more. Currently Zimbabwe leads the
continent in terms of young writers and writing.
or chicken or . . . ?
Sadza and vegetables
(covo), beans, milk, chicken…I like Madora, yes; and many
other creatures; crawling, flying, burrowing . . . .
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