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Writing, Language, and Inspiration
by Emmanuel Sigauke
2007-08-28 09:49:20
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This is a topic I have been quiet about for a long time, but lately I have been thinking. When I was an active member of the Budding Writers Association of Zimbabwe (BWAZ), I often ran into people who criticized the idea of writers’ organizations, especially ones catering to special groups like inspiring writers, women writers, gay & lesbian writers (this one would have been illegal in Zimbabwe at the time), local language writers, and others.

They argued that such groups were at best (at worst) political, and writing that was politically-driven was not good writing; in fact, they argued, it was not writing at all. I listened; then I responded. One day I said, "I'm in the budding writers group and each meeting I attend sends me home raging with inspiration." I am certain that that's how I said it because at that time I was perfecting, that is, raising to higher plateaus, my intercourse with words, and the whole question of language, which was also raging in some college circles.

Oh, I was a college student then, studying Linguistics, Shona, and English. I remember meaning to ask my Shona professors why they were teaching Shona in English, but then my papers in the English Literature courses would address the issue of linguistic imperialism, in well-written, standard (British) English. The issue of language always came up in our meetings at the writers’ organizations, and most of us identified with those organizations that enabled us to feel accomplished writing languages of our choice.

I was saying: the BWAZ meetings and workshops, some of which I moderated, were always beneficial to me - there was an element of the collaborative and rehabilitative spirit in the way we talked about the unfairness of the publishing industry, how it seemed to always prefer the established names which brought them profit and how no publisher seemed to want to risk publishing a budding writer. So we talked and talked about the publishers as monsters; then we talked about how we would form our own publishing house one day in order to publish all the budding writers. We concluded our meetings or workshops with performances of poetry, which were followed by voluntary exchanges of manuscripts, addresses and phone numbers.

We were a practical, not political, group; our meetings were our authors' twelve-step approach to positive thinking about our prospects in the publishing industry. I felt published then, and the fact that I was majoring in all those languages I mentioned earlier, made me some type of consultant in the organization, together with other expert members, helping younger writers "tighten" their writings. Were we a political group just talking about writing and not writing? No, we had members who actually wrote something (I know the years I was a national secretary for the organization were when I did the least writing, but that was fine because I was using my expertise--in talking about writing-- to assist others).

Today I look at the Zimbabwean writing scene and I am impressed by the number of writers (from the budding writers and women writers' organizations) who have matured into prize-winning authors. I look back at those Chimanimani and Zvishavane workshop days, the Bindura/Darwin/Mavhuradonha and Mutoko/Murehwa/Dande gatherings, and I say: the organizations were necessary. Look at the talent displayed by young artists like the poet Mbizo Chirasha, Sandi Zvisinei (we used to discuss poetry at the university), and Beaven Tapurata. The organizations were necessary.

But why revisit and mention BWAZ again? The Budding Writers Association of Zimbabwe, because of the impact it had on the growth of my desire to write, remains one of my inspirations, one institution, beyond family, that reminds me of the sense of responsibility in the process of writing. Of course, there are other factors that inspire me to write. For instance, books often keep me company, and you know when you are working with the ghosts of people like Yeats, Faulkner, Nehanda (she was one of the authors of Chimurenga), Vera, Marechera ( especially Marechera), Frost, and others, you feel the obligation to be diligent in your writing.

As I write, I am remembering a BWAZ workshop in Mutare at which we debated the issue of Language and the Young Writer; later a newspaper article I wrote quoted me as saying, "This is the time when the writer, especially the budding one, has to realize that all languages are created equal." The idea was to encourage continuous writing that knows no language barrier.

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Emanuel Paparella2007-08-28 11:21:03
All languages are indeed created equal at their origins where form and conent are inseparable, but as you hint with that apt expression "cultural imperialism," unfortunately as man "progresses" toward inevitable progress, some languages are declared more equal than others...Hitler considered it demeaning to learn a foreign language. He would have preferred that the whole world speak German and might have imposed such wish on the world had he won the war.

Alexandra Pereira2007-08-28 12:57:01
Dear Emmanuel Sigauke:

I would say such organizations become more and more necessary. They are essential for young writers to exchange experiences, ideas and readings, come up with new artistic movements and fresh materials and, above all, for them to learn how to protect themselves and their works, receive advice on that, and feel more empowered before editors & their market logic.
God knows how many times I craved for an association or group like that.

Zvisinei Sandi2007-09-12 22:47:53
Hey there Emmanuel, how is the going. Get in touch. Ignatius will give you my new e-mail. Long time no hear!!

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