A look at NAMA literary awards

Beaven Tapureta Bookshelf
This year’s National Arts Merit Awards had some surprises for writers and yet, the awards’ all-are-winners spirit was much felt throughout. It is indeed congratulations to all the winners, special mentions and nominees in the NAMA literary arts category. Having read some of the books it was clear the adjudicators were going to have a hard time choosing winners as all nominated books had outstanding literary value.

Poet and writer Cynthia Marangwanda walked home with the Outstanding First Creative Published Work award for her novella “Shards” (2014, Ko.Maseko Publishers). Marangwanda’s great grandfather and author, the late John W. Marangwanda of yesteryear Shona bestsellers such as “Kumazivandadzoka”, must be a happy ancestor!

Although it is time for celebration for Cynthia, she thinks the celebration would not be complete until actual reading of the book is done. In an interview after the NAMA awards, a happy Cynthia encouraged people to read in their quests for truth and insight.

“I encourage people to keep reading because in the written word much truth and insight can be acquired. We need to build a serious reading culture in our society and I hope that can be achieved,” she said.

Two other interesting books which received nominations under Outstanding First Creative Published Work are “Revai” by Ropafadzo Mupunga and “A Struggle Alike” by Debra Vakira.

Both books were published by Zimbabwe Women Writers which continue to churn out literature that shines at such important awards as NAMA. ZWW writers have over the years been visible at the NAMAs, emerging either as nominees or winners and this alone explains the recognition of women’s writing and publishing efforts in our country.

In the same category, a new book titled “English-Shona Science and Technology Dictionary” earned Special Mention. This huge contribution to the reclamation of our language in science and technology was written by Christopher Chetsanga and published by College Press.

“Around the Fire – Folktales from Zimbabwe” (Multimedia Box), edited by Christopher Mlalazi and Raisedon Baya, won the Outstanding Children’s Book award while “Mombe YaMai” (Bhabhu Books) by Chenjerai Mazambani and “Little Hare Stories-Big Trouble at the River” (Xlibris) by Enock Chihombori had been nominated for the same award.

I am in possession of “Mombe YaMai” and instead of a review I felt compelled to ask how the author felt about the nomination. Mazambani is a talented poet like award-winning Cynthia Marangwanda. The trend of performance poets transforming their genius into the written word and getting recognised exposes the multi-talent that Zimbabwe is about to witness at a higher degree.

Mazambani said the nomination strengthened belief in his talent because for a book to receive such recognition as a NAMA nomination, it surely would have passed through many hands that weighed its value.

“I was happy with the nomination. I was satisfied with my work and my publisher also proved me right by publishing it,” said Mazambani.

Outstanding Children’s Book category had a Special Mention and it went out to King George VI School Centre for Physically Disabled Children for the book “Small Friends and Other Short Stories”. The book was published by Bulawayo-based publisher AmaBooks.

When talking about Memory Chirere and Emmanuel Sigauke in the literary circles one always hears mention of cunning creativity that these two writers are “crazy”.

If you “listened” carefully to the in-scape of this category, you would hear “Bhuku Risina Basa Nokuti Rakanyorwa Masikati” (Bhabhu Books), a poetry collection written by Memory Chirere by some means conversing with “Mukoma’s Marriage and Other Stories” (BookLove Publishers) written by Sigauke.

Tinashe Muchuri, a writer and poet, who was at the NAMAs having been nominated for a Print Media Award, said there is something “mystic” about the poetry in “Bhuku Risina Basa” and sees it as becoming an icon with readers.

Scooping the Outstanding Fiction Book award, Chirere thanked among others those who supported him masikati (in the afternoon) with funds to publish his book. The title of his book had everyone bursting with laughter and it is clear that before you even read this book, you just cannot stop wondering how and why this title.

In analysing the types of writing in this NAMA Outstanding Fiction Category, I thought it would help say that there is a school of thought that wrongly thinks poetry is not fiction. Poetry, in many quarters, falls under fiction.

In this category, “Writing Lives” (Weaver Press), a collection of short stories edited by Irene Staunton, together with Sigauke’s collection of stories, gave way to “Bhuku Risina Basa”.

The Outstanding Poet award went to Likhwa Dube. Sithandazile Dube, who also performed a powerful poem to fellow nominees at a cocktail held at Cresta Oasis a day before the final NAMA day, and Tatenda “Dhege” Chinoda were nominated for the same award.

This year names of the NAMA awards adjudicators were revealed, casting away the secrecy that had wrapped around the adjudication process for long.

Launched in 2002, the National Arts Merit Awards is the premier award given by the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe in recognition of outstanding achievements in the arts and culture.

NAMA covers different fields of Zimbabwean art and culture such as music, visual arts, theatre, dance, spoken word, literature, film and television, and media.

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