27 July 2016

Zimbabwe: Looking Forward to ZIBF Literary Evening

The Zimbabwe International Book Fair, which began on Monday, is running until Saturday under the theme "Igniting Interest in Reading for Sustainable Development". So far, the two-day Indaba Conference has looked into significant reading culture issues and today, is Traders' Day while the next three days are free public days.The two-day Indaba had eight sessions under which about 21 presentations were made by experts from Zimbabwe and the region.

All the papers presented were equally relevant and thought-provoking but two of them came straight home to writers and touched on their actual creations.

The power of characterisation and the interface between text and image are very significant elements in any writing/literature, African or other.

Dr Cheela Chilala, in his presentation "Enabled or Disabled? Portraits of Disability in African literature", was equipped with examples from African folklore in which disabled characters were created to influence different perceptions of disability.

Writers dealing with images, for instance in children's stories, should know that readers normally approach text and images with certain background information or frame of mind which could be cultural or religious and this has an effect on their interpretation of the text or image/illustration, observed Prof Charles Pfukwa when he presented his paper titled "Reading Visually: Exploring the Interface Between Text and Illustration".

His wealth of examples and knowledge also proved worthwhile for the writers.

Now that the Indaba is gone and everyone concerned is waiting for the resultant recommendations, next is the question: what will the remaining two major writer-based events offer this year?

Friday and Saturday are writers' last Big Days which come with the ZIBF literary evening and the writer's workshop respectively.

The writers' workshop is by invitation but it has its own glorious moments.

Have you ever seen how fired up writers are at the workshop yet they are calm and friendly at the literary evening, reflecting on their lives with other writers?

This year's writers' workshop will be held at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe under its own theme "The Missing Link in the Writing and Reading Business in Zimbabwe".

Everyone hopes that the workshop will come up with practical ways to save the writing and reading business in an unstable economy.

With no intention to pre-empt the workshop, it is clear the theme is calling for writers to restore their relationship with readers and not only readers per se but general book-buying readers as the country possibly used to enjoy.

The literary evening is like the African traditional meeting place where storytelling is done in various ways. In fact, a literary evening, whether it is held by ZIBF or another organisation, carries very profound memories possibly because of the time of day it is held which psychologically enhances the "romantic" creative imagination of the writers, poets, and critics.

Here you travel down memory lane or flash forward into the future of Zimbabwean literature. After all, stories sink deep into the human mind when told in the evening!

It is good news for writers that there are two writerly evenings organised by different organisations taking place this year during the Book Fair week.

Before the ZIBF-organised literary evening on Friday, July 29, at the Harare Gardens, confirmed is an evening with celebrated writer Shimmer Chinodya on Thursday, July 28, almost at the same venue.

Pearson Africa Publishers in association with Rooftop Promotions and Consultus Publishing Services will be launching Chinodya's new book "Harvest of Thorns Classic: A Play" at the Theatre in the Park and the evening, according to the organisers, will include a live performance from the play, conversation with the author and cast, open discussion and book sales. The play is based on the author's internationally acclaimed novel "Harvest of Thorns".

What Thursday evening is bringing for writers is indeed a great moment but for those who love to move from one book event to another in the hunt for writerly revelations, the nagging question is: What will this year's ZIBF literary evening bring?

Being a regular event, no doubt writers have their expectations. Established in 2013, the ZIBF literary evenings have been hosting memorable guests and activities.

Actually, writers cite the literary evenings as moments they would love to cherish for forever.

Writer and critic Memory Chirere once said in 2013 that one of his key moments in Zimbabwean literature that year was the literary evening held at the then Book Café.

"For me the highest point in Zimbabwean Literature 2013 was the new section of the Zimbabwe International Book Fair called the 'Literary Evening' which was held at the Book Café, Harare alongside the Book Fair in September. We were used to reading about Dangarembga, Chinodya, Chiundura Moyo and Ticha Muzavazi but suddenly these four had been selected for this outing and were indeed were here with us.

"We were not reading their books but they were reading passages from their books to us! We sat there and slowly sipped our drinks and listened.

"We could even ask them questions. We could ask for their contact details. This was a rare moment for reader and writer to directly interact," wrote Chirere on his blog KwaChirere.

In 2014 there were two literary evenings separately organised by the ZIBF and Zimbabwe Writers Association. The ZIBF literary evening, held in the usual month of August, had the young generation writers/poets like Tinashe Muchuri, Lexta Mafumhe Mutasa, and Debra Vakira making some readings while competing for the podium with the older generation of authors such as Mbuya Colette Choto Mutangadura and Ketina Muringaniza. The evening blazed on with readings and performances, exchange of memories and stories hidden behind the published works.

The ZWA literary evening in October the same year uncovered Vitalis Nyawaranda who is hardly seen in public literary spheres and he had disclosures to make against piracy. It also brought along Tinashe Muchuri and Virginia Phiri who talked about their works and issues they write about.

With all this effect which literary evenings have upon writers, surely the question looms up: who exactly will the ZIBF literary evening on Friday and the writers' workshop on Saturday bring forward to speak or perform what? If it was possible to prophecy, this writer would prophecy that this year a book pirate will come to present either at the workshop or literary evening (with heavy security around him/her of course) on the topic "We Are the Missing Link You Are Looking For" but alas, the ZIBF has its own surprises!

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