Virginia Phiri writes about topics that are considered taboo precisely because of that. Speaking at a recent Zimbabwe Writers’ Association book reading event held at the Book Café in Harare, the renowned author said her books on social taboos like hermaphrodites and prostitutes came about because she likes to push the envelope. She was responding to a member of the audience who had asked why she liked dealing with risqué issues.
“This is what is happening in our society and people tend to shy away from talking about it. So as a writer I have found a niche.”
Her books like “Destiny”, “Desperate” and “Highway Queen” have received much literary acclaim for their sensibility to the different battles that some members of society go through.
Phiri said she was pushed to explore the psychological and emotional circumstances that drive women into prostitution because of her own links with ladies in the oldest profession.
“I was once housed, fed and protected by prostitutes when my life was in danger because of my activism during the liberation struggle. Up to that time I had not paid much attention to prostitutes as human beings,” she recounted.
She read from her upcoming novel which deals with relationships between people who would consider themselves as “normal” unlike those presumably on the fringes of society like prostitutes. Other writers to read excerpts of their work on the night were poet- cum-journalist Tinashe Muchuri and Professor Vitalis Nyawaranda.
Professor Nyarawanda said writing is a draining passion that demands much time and dedication and every writer needs a partner who understands that and is prepared to put up with the long periods of abandonment.
Professor Nyarawanda said piracy has killed the writing spirit and is one of the main reasons why he has not produced any works in the past years.
“As writers we do it for the love of the art, but to then get nothing out of it while every street corner is littered with your books, it is heartbreaking and demoralising.”
Muchuri captivated the audience with his ever popular poem “Chigaro” in which he wonders at the ability of the humble chair to calmly accept the bottoms of everyone from royalty to beggars, each person with their own unique physical and social stature.
Present at the reading were many luminaries of the Zimbabwean writing world including household names like Chirikure Chirikure, Shimmer Chinodya, David Mungoshi and Karukai Ratsauka. Academics from the University of Zimbabwe also graced the occasion.
The Zimbabwe Writers’ Association was represented by chairperson Musaemura Zimunya, secretary-general Memory Chirere, treasurer Beatrice Sithole and committee member Nqobile Malinga. Vice chairperson Monica Cheru-Mpambawashe moderated the discussion.