Zimbabwean writer, editor and poet Emmanuel Sigauke speaks on importance of the Muonde initiative to encourage indigenous creativity and about his writing inspired by the Mazvihwa landscape of his childhood

In Emmanuel Sigauke’s words:

Enabling Innovation through Art

“I am glad that Muonde values the role of art in innovation, and I feel honored to be part of this initiative. Art in all its forms, and especially through writing, helps people understand their lives, and hence their role in the world; it affirms a sense of identity and a better appreciation of one’s role in life. I started writing while attending Mototi Primary school in Mazvihwa. I was in Grade 7. At first I was just writing because I loved the idea of being a writer, the idea of creating stories set in my area, mentioning familiar landscapes, creating characters out of the characteristics of real people in the area. It was thrilling and I enjoyed it very much. It added a sense of importance to each of my days, and I felt like a voice for the village. I showed the first “novel” to Mr. Nduna, my Grade 7 teacher, and he read the manuscript to the whole class. Seeing the reactions of my peers validated the process for me, and, now that I had an enthusiastic audience, I wrote some more, anchoring the stories in Mazvihwa, recording our experiences. Then the Mazvihwa characters started travelling to places like Harare and Masvingo, but still, they would come back.

Writing gave me a new perspective on the life in Mazvihwa, and how it connected to a world elsewhere. Through words, I was able to affirm my identity, discovering the good, dispelling the bad, but I became curious to read stories about other places, to learn about their experiences, in fact, to experience other lives outside of my immediate environment. At the end, I had a better appreciation of myself, my home, and my Mazvihwa existence, since my writing and reading persona was anchored in the physical reality of setting.

I want others, especially the youths of Mazvihwa, to experience the uplifting of spirit and self that comes through writing, to serve Mazvihwa and to contribute to the wider world by telling their stories. The writing project I will coordinate through Muonde falls under the concept of Chisiya Writing School. Why Chisiya? Chisiya hill had a profound effect on me as I was growing up in Mototi. It was part of my reality, right in my backyard, but it was also the biggest of the hills flanking our home, offering me a sense of protection, but also a thrill, a sense of mystery as I wondered about its caves, its trees and all the creatures, dangerous or not, that populated it. Above all, its natural architecture was to me a symbol of beauty; it exuded aesthetic power, and once I started writing, I used to sit on its summit, experiencing it, but also seeing in the distance endless possibilities of my dream. At one point I called it my library.

The Chisiya Writing Workshop is about enabling and ennobling dreams; it offers a sense of pride, because it’s local and focal: its physicality affirms a real sense of participation, a service first to the villages of Mazvihwa, and then a contribution to the wider world of art. Aspiring Mazvihwa writers will use as inspiration their immediate experiences and share them to each other, in their community, but eventually, those stories will reach audiences elsewhere. This is why we plan to publish anthologies that the world can read. Like all the other projects Muonde will facilitate, the writing component also takes something local and makes it central, so that it secures its place in the global mix of things. I have a strong belief that Mazvihwa, interesting, diverse, inspiring, has many writers whose talent still needs to be exposed. What better way to do it than to carry out writing workshops in the area, where the experiences happen, where the stories are!

Even though I have lived in other places [Gweru, Harare, Chimanimani, California), the influence of Chisiya has not waned. If anything, the farther I have gone away, the livelier Chisiya has become in my imagination. Mazvihwa remains my greatest inspiration, not because I am failing to move beyond it, but because that’s what writing does; it brings memory to life.”

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