In Conversation With the 2019 Writivism Prizes Shortlisted Writers

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This topic contains 33 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Frances Ogamba 1 month ago.

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  • #20736 Reply

    Byagaba Roland
    Keymaster

    The 2019 Writivism Festival is happening this week and we are super excited for it. The main highlight of the festival, as has been in the past, is the announcement of the winners of the 2019 Writivism Short Story Prize and The Koffi Addo Prize for Creative Nonfiction. The 5 budding literary talents will be in attendance at the festival when judges from each of the prizes will announce the winner. We have the pleasure of hosting them here in the Obukiko forums so we can get to know them better, and find out how they have found the entire prize process and how they intend to leverage the prize has given them so far. Below are the Shortlisted Writers we’ll be chatting with (and the stories that earned them a place on the shortlist)…

    2019 Writivism Short Story Prize

    1. Frances Ogamba- Nigeria (Ghana Boy)

    Frances Ogamba’s stories appear in Afridiaspora and Writivism digital mini anthology, Dwartonline and Ynaija websites, and on Enkare Review. She is a workshop alumnus of Writivism 2016, Ake fiction 2016, and Winter Tangerine 2016. She lives in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

    2. Resoketswe Manenzhe (Maserumo)

    Resoketswe Manenzhe is a PhD candidate with the chemical engineering department at the University of Cape Town. Starting in 2015, her poems and short stories have appeared in several online magazines and journals, and in 2017, two of her poems were shortlisted for the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Anthology, and subsequently published in the anthology of selected poems. She currently lives in Cape Town, South Africa,

    The shortlisted stories for the 2019 Koffi Addo Prize for Creative Nonfiction are;

    1. Eugene Yakubu – Nigeria (How to Wear Your Body)

    Eugene Yakubu is a storyteller and cultural critic who lives and writes from Nigeria. He writes essays and non-fiction on non-normative identities, fluid gender roles and human rights. He is running a graduate research on Queer Studies and LGBTI narratives in African literature at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. His nonfiction This Hell of a Body has been shortlisted for the Gerald Kraak Award 2019.

    2. Frances Ogamba – Nigeria (The Valley of Memories)

    3. Kanyinsola Olorunnisola – Nigeria (The Comedian)

    The conversation will kick off on Monday 12th August 2019, 12 NOON GMT +3. Procedure for participation is simple:

    • Create an account/login using the relevant menu buttons at the top left of the screen (optional).
    • Scroll to the bottom of this page and use the form there to ask your question or hit reply to one of the existing responses and use the form to reply to that.
    • Ask your question and wait for a reply. If your question is directed at one particular participant, be sure to mention their name.

    The SHortlisted Writers will enter the conversation at 12 noon EAT and exit when we run out of questions/when they have to run, whichever comes first. But you can leave your question before the session starts and he will answer when the session starts.

  • #20737 Reply

    Byagaba Roland
    Keymaster

    Hello hello. There’s a couple of minutes till the official conversation kick-off time. Our guests for today, kindly check in by replying to this post.

  • #20738 Reply

    Byagaba Roland
    Keymaster

    To begin off the conversation, who are each of you fearing the most via winning the prize? Which shortlisted story other than yours have you read and you’re like, Eh, I am finished?

    • #20762 Reply

      Frances Ogamba

      Sorry I got here late. Was dealing with some stuff. Well, to answer the question, the shortlisted story, Tale, shocked me. I was wondering who this poet was because there was music to all her sentences. Just as I was recovering, Maserumo hit me again. Then I read Kanyisola’s The Comedian and just knew that I was in real competition. These writers are not joking with anybody. Lol.

      • #20769 Reply

        Byagaba Roland
        Keymaster

        Frances, welcome to the conversation. Hope the stuff was dealt with successfully. You are shortlisted in both fiction and nonfiction. How do you do it? Is there one you prefer over the other?

      • #20771 Reply

        Frances Ogamba

        They are different stories, inspired by different things and also mean different things to me. I do not really prefer any to the other. I am new to non fiction writing and I am surprised at the product I ended up with.

  • #20739 Reply

    Byagaba Roland
    Keymaster

    All of you are expected in Uganda this week for the Writivism Festival. Will this be your first time in Uganda and what are you looking forward to the most during your time here, apart from winning?

  • #20740 Reply

    Byagaba Roland
    Keymaster

    Eugene Yakubu, Toni Morrison (RIP) features in your bio so I guess it’s safe to assume she has been a big influence in your writing. What texts/messages from her left their mark on you? The rest can answer this as well…

  • #20741 Reply

    Byagaba Roland
    Keymaster

    Getting to the shortlist of the Writivism Prizes is no mean feat. After getting longlisted, there is a mentoring process with an established African Writers (Qn 1. Who was your mentor and what were your biggest takeaways from this process?) before you can appear on the shortlist. One also has to go through the editing process before their piece can appear in the annual anthology. Qn 2. How have you found the process and how has it changed the way you think of your writing career?

    • #20764 Reply

      Frances Ogamba

      I worked with Beatrice Lamwaka for the non fiction story and it was amazing. She made me work so hard, and gave me assignments that were so tasking at first, but at the end revealed a beautiful layer. It is an arduous process. I learned that good stories do not fall from the sky. Sometimes it takes vigils, tired eyes and aching backs to produce beautifully written stories. It raised my belief in editing and rewriting, they are the best gifts a writer could gift her/his story.

  • #20742 Reply

    Resoketswe Manenzhe

    Lol. Is anyone going to answer the first question?

    • #20744 Reply

      Byagaba Roland
      Keymaster

      Hehe. You could just throw compliments to the competing stories you have really enjoyed. Also, since this is an interactive interview, feel free to drop some questions to your fellow shortlisted writers…

      • #20746 Reply

        Resoketswe Manenzhe

        In that case… lol, I never win anything. I always come in second place. Also, I’ve read a few of Frances’s stories now and I’m amazed that she exists and writes the way she does.

  • #20743 Reply

    Byagaba Roland
    Keymaster

    What literature are you currently reading and what about it got you to read it in the first place?

    • #20751 Reply

      Resoketswe Manenzhe

      I’ve just finished Haruki Murakami’s “Kafka on the Shore” and Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me go,” and I’m currently reading Murasaki Shikibu’s “The Tale of Genji.” I just like Murakami; he’s one of the literary “greats” that I discovered completely on my own and I want to read all his work. With Ishiguro, I just liked the blurb at the back of the book, and the book itself was really good. I’ve always wanted to read The Tale of Genji because it’s widely cited as the first ever novel; I was curious, and I suppose you could say I was reading it as a sort of self-assignment. Needless to say, The Tale of Genji is how I ended up in the “Japanese section” at the library and walked out with these books.

  • #20745 Reply

    Resoketswe Manenzhe

    It will be my first time in Uganda. Usually when I travel I don’t “research” the place because, being South African, I know how people can grossly misjudge a place. I know very basic things about Uganda; I suppose, stuff that everyone else knows. I want the experience to be entirely my own. So I’m looking forward to everything. Everything, and meeting Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, of course. Kintu changed my life.

    • #20750 Reply

      Byagaba Roland
      Keymaster

      Don’t forget to hit reply on the particular question you are responding to so the thread can make sense. Two follow up questions here,
      How is SA grossly misjudged?
      What other places have you traveled to?

      PS: Be sure to try out rolex. Hopefully, it will replace blueberry pie in your bio 🙂

      • #20753 Reply

        Resoketswe Manenzhe

        Sorry about the reply button.

        There’s this idea that South African youth are lazy and want everything handed to them; that we’re ignorant. Often, I hear this from foreign nationals getting their postgraduate degrees in South Africa; and often times they say it because not a lot of South Africans actively choose to get postgrad degrees, and because we strike a lot. It’s frustrating because the reason people don’t “pursue knowledge” is because, by the time you get your degree, you need to start paying black tax (wherein you try to get your not-so-well-off family to a somewhat dignified standard of living). People need jobs. And we strike not because we just like disrupting things, it’s because we’ve entered into a sort of social contract with government and our employers, and they aren’t living up to their end. In a nutshell, the answer is so long and so politically charged, that maybe I shouldn’t get into it. But I’ll say this; the one thing I wish wasn’t true about South Africa, is the xenophobia. I think there, we aren’t misjudged and we really need to treat African foreign nationals better.

        I haven’t traveled a lot, hey. It’s just that when I’ve done it, it’s been significant, profound, life-changing in a way. I’ve been to Finland, Russia, Netherlands and Lesotho. Finland has been my favourite of these; I didn’t expect to have such an idyllic experience.

      • #20754 Reply

        Resoketswe Manenzhe

        About blueberry pie… it’s the best thing in the world, especially when it has quork, a kind of yoghurt. It’s the best thing. I’m ready to fight you on this.

      • #20755 Reply

        Byagaba Roland
        Keymaster

        Lol. Carry some. I want to taste this life-changing food as I sample you rolex. Then we can see about the fighting

  • #20748 Reply

    Byagaba Roland
    Keymaster

    All these brilliant stories that made it to the shortlists, what were your individual motivations for telling your respective stories?

    • #20759 Reply

      Resoketswe Manenzhe

      Lol. I was struggling to write specifically for Writivism. Had a few bad story seeds, then last minute, I modified an old story and Maserumo was the result. I almost submitted something titled “Thunder in the Village.”

      • #20768 Reply

        Byagaba Roland
        Keymaster

        Has submitting for prizes been your formula for getting the creative juices flowing or?

    • #20766 Reply

      Frances Ogamba

      The Valley of Memories was first written as a travelogue, my account of a visit to the hill and valley where something of mine got lost forever. When it got into the longlist, it became something else, a story I wasn’t sure I was set to tell. Ghana Boy is a metaphor for a teenage boy in the town of my childhood who died at the hands of SARS. This story has haunted me forever and I have tried to tell it many times and failed. There was a voice I kept looking for, and when I found this voice, I told the story.

      • #20770 Reply

        Byagaba Roland
        Keymaster

        I loved the characterization in Ghana Boy. Those are some interesting (nick)names you used. Were they randomly selected or do they have some deeper meaning behind them?

    • #20767 Reply

      Frances Ogamba

      The Valley of Memories was first written as a travelogue, my account of a visit to the hill and valley where something of mine got lost forever. When it got into the longlist, it became something else, a story I wasn’t sure I was set to tell. Ghana Boy is a metaphor for a teenage boy in the town of my childhood who died at the hands of SARS. This story has haunted me forever and I have tried to tell it many times and failed. There was a voice I kept looking for, and when I found this voice, I told the story.

  • #20752 Reply

    Byagaba Roland
    Keymaster

    Resoketswe, since you are the one here with me for now, your prose in Maserumo has a certain Africanness about it. The way you narrate the story makes one think of our oral storytelling history. First, do you think there’s actually such a thing as African prose? And do you consciously choose to write with this voice or it’s just what it is?

    • #20757 Reply

      Resoketswe Manenzhe

      I believe there is such a thing as African prose. My one friend calls it “a village voice.” In the last two years or so, I’ve been trying extra hard to get this voice just right. I want to write sentences that, say, an American or British author can’t write. I’m mostly concerned with the experiences of ordinary Limpopo (my home province) people; and it would honestly be inauthentic for them to say things like, “Michael is such a great kid.” Instead, they would express the sentiment/say the sentence like this, “You know Michael, Mosa’s son, the dark Michael who herds Ramolao’s cows, that one, he will never pass you without greeting. He was raised right, that one. And you know those cows have become fat since he started herding them.”

      I do this because even though I write in English, my characters are still living out their lives in their respective native tongues, and I suppose, in a way, I’m trying to capture their speech patterns. In his review, Carl Terver said Maserumo read as though it was first written in my native tongue and subsequently directly translated to English. This is true in a sense because although I write in English, I think and dream in my native tongue. There aren’t really any vernacular words in my stories; this is a personal choice for me for several reasons, one of them being that I want my stories to transcend the several different (South) African cultures; so I keep everything in English so any reader can insert him/herself. But I’ve realised that though our languages are different, the patterns of syntax are the same. For example, in at least five dominant South African languages, when someone has been robbed, the phrase, when directly translated to English, is something like this: “They have taken his goat.” I think this is so beautiful.

      Also, I prefer African authors because they each have a certain Africanness in their stories; by contrast, western stories read the same. Anyone can write the sentence “Michael is such a great kid.” But African authors, in my opinion, have a unique form gifted to us by our native tongues. I remember in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart,” Okonkwo almost shot his 3rd wife, and when asked about it, she said something like this, “I have not yet found the mouth with which to tell the story.” You can only read that from an African writer. I didn’t appreciate this enough when I was younger, now, I try to emulate it. Another thing is that I grew up with the audience being active in any story that was told (orally). The storyteller starts with, “Nkane nkane,” which is a way of him/her saying, “Let me tell you a story.” The listeners will then say, “Nkane,” which is basically them consenting to the storytelling. I’ve tried to create this so many times in my stories. I’m glad it finally came through.

      Gosh, I have so many thoughts on this. And I’m sure I’ll think of more things to add.

      • #20760 Reply

        Byagaba Roland
        Keymaster

        Just write an entire essay. But I do hear you on that distinct African narrative voice. Someone gave me another fancy-sounding name for it which I have forgotten. I also like how our storytelling traditions are similar. Here, our versions of Nkane nkane is Koi Koi and Tebere.

      • #20763 Reply

        Resoketswe Manenzhe

        I was reading Petina Gappah and saw something similar. It’s really beautiful.

  • #20756 Reply

    Mable Amuron
    Keymaster

    Hi Resoketswe.
    I’ve seen in your replies that Kintu changed your life, would you mind explaining how?

    • #20758 Reply

      Resoketswe Manenzhe

      Hello, Mable. Thanks for your question.

      I first sampled Kintu last year and the opening chapters blew me away for a few reasons. Number one, it was the first time I read a story and I thought to myself, “When she wrote this book, this writer did not care at all what the western world would think. She isn’t even trying to explain or justify this Africanness she has so boldly thrown us into. No, she’s not trying to explain or justify anything. Everything is so African… there she goes again, not caring what the West will think about all this. Oh my gosh, she has made Africanness the default, that’s why she’s not even bothering with explanations and justifications. How is she breaking all these rules? How can I be more like her?”

      Later, when I explained the plot of Kintu to a friend, he asked, “So is it African fantasy?” And that’s when I realised the second thing about Kintu that was really great: in it, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi presents African spirituality not as something to mock, but as something legitimate and, as I’ve said, as something that doesn’t need to be justified. It just is. And it wasn’t presented as something evil, as a tool for the ignorant, as so inherently bad that Christianity had to be summoned to combat the evil…Makumbi didn’t fall into any of these problematic tropes. African spirituality just is in that book, and the characters can wield it however they wish, but they mostly use it for self-completion. That was so refreshing. African spirituality has really had the worst PR. So I said to my friend, “If this was fantasy, then Christian literature, etc., will also have to be classed under the same genre.”

      In short, Kintu opened my eyes in so many ways. Now I know what’s possible.

      • #20761 Reply

        Byagaba Roland
        Keymaster

        Would you say Kintu and the way you have so eloquently described its impact on you might have influenced your shortlisted story? You too delve into spirituality without applying a western brush to it. Also, what are your feelings towards African spirituality?

      • #20765 Reply

        Resoketswe Manenzhe

        Kintu definitely had an impact. Like I said, Maserumo was a modified story. The earlier version I wrote, it worked so hard to justify its own context. As a result, the story was consumed by all these justifications, and it was so hollow, and I realised I was writing in entirely the wrong voice. It didn’t feel natural and I had to work even harder because I was essentially an impostor. I’m getting more comfortable now with not explaining “African things.” We need to normalise ourselves, the same way that today, you can see the word samurai/ninja/etc. and not need context.

        Regarding African spirituality, as I’m getting older, I’m starting to have a better understanding and appreciation for it; and I’m trying to get more in touch with my ancestral roots. It’s been so freeing and enlightening. It’s so sad that for such a long time, European and Christian imperialism had convinced us that for our humanity to be legitimate in the wider scope of the world, we had to be ashamed of our ties to our Ancestors and nature and that spiritual realm.

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