Recently, Mosi oa Tunya Literary Review caught up with Farai Mpofu, Nomsa Mwamuka, and Wadzanai Valerie Garwe, the compilers of Township Girls: The Cross-Over Generation. Dedicated "To the women of Africa who dare to tell their story," this spectacular anthology heralds the voices of African women in all their beauty and diversity.
Tell us about yourselves - Where you live? Where you studied? Where you’ve worked?
Farai is a Corporate Communication, Marketing, and Investor Relations expert with over 30 years of experience in the financial services sector. Organisations she has worked for include Old Mutual Zimbabwe, FBC Holdings Limited, Kingdom Financial Holdings Limited and Kingdom Meikles Limited. She subsequently offered her expertise to banks and other companies as a consultant. She has benefited from exposure in various fora including the British Council Leadership and Harvard Kennedy School Executive Development programmes. Farai is one of two female founders of the successful microfinance institution VIRL Financial services. She also is a founder and trustee of the Non-governmental organization Nduna girls which provides education and opportunities for the disadvantaged girl child. Farai is the Management Board Chairperson for the Dominican Convent School, Harare and is amongst the founding trustees of the Women’s University in Africa. Farai is married and has three children. She joined the Securities and Exchange Commission of Zimbabwe on 1st September 2020. She attended St Martin’s Primary School and the Dominican Convent schools (1972 to 1984) in Harare and University of Zimbabwe (1985 to 1988) where she read for a BA (Hons) in English.
Nomsa is a media and communications professional, with over 20 years of experience working a researcher, writer, content creator, producer, editor, social media and publication manager on private, public, corporate, and non-governmental projects in radio, television, film, digital, print and publishing industry sectors. The co-owner of Muka Media and Communications (Pty) Ltd, Nomsa has curated events, workshops and festivals in the arts, cultural, music and film sectors. She is a Pan-Africanist, and an education, literary and literacy advocate, As a writer Nomsa has contributed to various publications and book projects; amongst them\, working as co-author, Act of Activism: 100 Inspiration African women (in development); chapter contributor; The Pan-African Pantheon (Jacana Media/University of Johannesburg) 2020; co-compiler: Township Girls: The Cross Over Generation (Weaver Press) 2018 and as co-author: Makeba - the Miriam Makeba Story (STE Publishers) 2005. Nomsa did a coursework programme in Communications for Development through Malmo University in Sweden by distance learning between 2002-2004 and studied for BA in English and Portuguese at the University of Zimbabwe between 1989-1993.
Wadzanai Valerie Garwe
Wadzanai is a mother of two young adults, an author, an activist, an executive coach, a mentor, and a firm believer in the power of economic empowerment. The name Wadzanai means reconcile, or live in harmony in Shona. Wadzanai was born in Zimbabwe where she did all her primary and high school education, and she did her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in the United States. Professionally, Wadzanai is an economist who studied finance and community economic development. She has worked in development within Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and is currently working in the United Nations system. She has owned her own free-lance development consulting business, run a family agricultural concern of 180 hectares, and is a coach and mentor, centering her coaching on workplace toxicity. She has lived and worked in many places including the USA, Mozambique, Singapore, South Africa and currently Italy. Her passion is to ensure that she lives her best life and contributes towards making the amazing world we live in a wondrous adventure of growth and self-discovery. Wadzanai holds a Bsc in Finance from the University of Maryland, College Park and an Msc. In Community Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University in the USA.
What is Township Girls: The Cross-Over Generation?
This anthology documents the experiences of women who lived through a time of transition from colonialism to independence. The setting is Zimbabwe through the seventies, the years of war; and from the eighties, the years of independence, to date. The stories are expressions of emotional, psychological, spiritual and personal change set against the backdrop of the social, cultural and political milieu of the times.
Written in first-person narrative, the authors tell their own stories. There are reflections, memories, odes to forebears, parents and mentors and acknowledgements of current achievements. Most importantly, though, these stories document elements of Zimbabwean, southern African and African history and will serve as an inspiration to future generations.
The book contains various themes and recurrent motifs which include the search for identity, the value of education and hard work, cultural displacement, transition from rural life to city living, questions of race and racism, the ambition and aspiration of parents passed down to their children, and the yearning for a sense of legacy. The narratives are as much individual biographies, as they are stories of a country. The question is how do we harness these experiences, to inspire a desire for change, to make a better future for our country and the continent as a whole?
What inspired you to compile this anthology? Did you know each other prior to this project? How did you go about soliciting writers?
The vision for the book was born when former school friends Patience Mbofana Mavhima and Farai Mpisaunga Mpofu were at their Alma Mater, early one winter morning. They were seeing off their own teenage daughters, also friends, to a hockey tournament in Bulawayo, and they began reminiscing about their personal histories and experiences at that same school, several decades before. Bittersweet memories came to the fore. Women of action that they are, they decided that such memories could form the basis for an important book and put out a call for contributions. This is a collection of the responses they received and the words of the women who dared believe they had a story worthy of sharing and reflecting on their own individual reasons and concerns.
The book is a labour of love, which took five years to come to fruition. The timeline was as follows:
6 March 2012, the first email went out, far and wide, to our various contacts encompassing just under 150 recipients, part of which read: Philosophy/Ethos: THIS IS NOT A COMPETITION ABOUT WHO HAS SUCCEEDED (DEPENDING ON HOW ONE DEFINES SUCCESS) OR NOT. WE DO NOT ALL HAVE THE SAME CV. It is about us, the transitional generation how we feel, our perceptions whether township, rural, high or low density. Write as you wish. Writing styles will differ. We want to tell a story converting oral history into written history for our children.
1st contributions - End of April 2012.
By May 2012 we had 10 contributions (Cathy Chitiyo, the late Emelda Musariri, Debbie Gonye Patterson, Glenda Muzenda, Matilda Madekurozwa, Isabella Matambanadzo, Joy Chimombe, Rutendo Hadebe, Wadzanai, and Farai).
The journey had many ups and downs, success failures and frustrations, and there are times when it seemed that the project had lost steam. Hibernation perhaps.
By August 2014 we had 20 contributions and were set on publishing especially as Farayi Mangwende explained in her email to the group “we owe it to Emelda to do so” as we had lost Emelda to a sudden illness.
By April 2015 we were still cajoling and nudging …23 contributions.
15 July 2015 Wadzi sent another email for contributions and for us to review our submissions.
11 February 2016 the edit was in motion and Nomsa, having compiled the contributions, was now exploring publishing options.
This email from Debbie is one example of how the project benefited from the efforts of many to draw out contributions:
Debbie Patterson May 1, 2012
I am not sure how far we are as far as our Township Project is concerned but I just wanted to share my experience with you and perhaps give you a shot in the arm. Deadline was, alas, yesterday 30 April 2012!
I have now written 3600 words (sample attached). One of you admitted yesterday that they have made very little progress and needed to see a sample. Please note that this is my interpretation of the brief we got from Wadzi and I have not yet corrected or edited it. I agreed lightly to this project because I thought and still think it's important to tell our story, but I didn’t realise that it would be such an emotional journey into my family history. I got my mum and siblings involved and we shared memories and thoughts. It's been and continues to be a wonderful experience.
Talk to us about the diversity of the women who contributed to Township Girls. Why was diversity such an important aspect of this collection of short stories?
Only a handful of the contributors in this anthology have been published before (over 150 emails were sent out and from those 31 contributors emerged). Few dared to think they had a story to tell, but they did. Mothers, daughters, housewives, nurses, bankers, doctors, lawyers, farmers, travelers and business women, all had experiences to share. To get a sense of the contributors see what some of them had to say:
Farai Mpofu has this to say: "The contributors to this literary work share something not previously discussed or honed into an anecdotal account of what it meant to grow up in Rhodesia, and to experience the transition to black rule in Zimbabwe. With the benefit of hindsight, this anthology offers a personal glimpse into events, and decisions made by parents and guardians, which molded this unique cross-over generation. It also offers a tribute to the older generation, without whose wisdom, resilience, and foresight, we would not be what we are today."
Rutendo Hadebe wrote about transition and said: "For me, the word ‘transition’ represents fundamental personal change and circumstances. Thus, I have returned to my childhood and tried to share the many ambivalences, conflicts, and understandings that I associate with Zimbabwe’s political transition. While for many the signifier was the ecstatic crowd of a hundred thousand people that welcomed Robert Mugabe on his return to Harare from exile in Mozambique, on 26 December 1979, mine is a little different. My notions of the transition do not begin in 1980 when ZANU-PF and Robert Mugabe came to power, but rather when a Methodist Bishop became the Prime Minister of the country with a ‘surname,’ Zimbabwe-Rhodesia in March 1978. It was during this critical period that my life took a drastic turn and I experienced transition of my persona, society and nation."
Wynne Musabayana wrote: "When I got the invitation to contribute a piece for this anthology, I thought, ‘What a great opportunity to reminisce over my youth’ while paying tribute to the two people, my parents, who gave everything to provide me with a firm foundation in life." Wynne paints a vibrant picture of growing up on the copper mines: "Our friends were a cosmopolitan bunch; Manyika, Karanga, Zezuru, Korekore, Ndebele, Shangani, Ndau, Chewa, Nyanja, Zulu, Sotho, Bemba, coming as they did from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, and South Africa." A world which prepared her to be an ‘international citizen’ though she didn’t know it at the time.
Isabella Matambanadzo’s contribution sets her on a path of enquiry and said: “My contribution is prepared for a series of stories of Zimbabwean women who were born and raised in the country’s ghettos. For its preparation, I have reviewed various family historical records and photographs in my custody. In the tradition of oral story telling that is part of my inheritance, I have listened to assorted accounts of our family stories as told by my uncles Edmund and Francis Matambanadzo, my aunt, Ronia Kahari, and my mother. I have also re-visited various places in Zimbabwe to establish as accurate a record as possible. I am indebted to my brothers for their collective remembering of certain key events. I have also relied heavily on records housed at the National Archives of Zimbabwe. In addition, I have utilised school reports and records, and raw interview notes that were generously availed to me by Volker Wild from his research in the 1990s on African entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe. To the best of my ability I have relied on the reservoir of my memories to create an authentic record."
Xoliswa Sithole wrote with a sense of ambivalence: ‘When I was first asked to contribute to this book I was conflicted because I did not think that I could write a decent piece. As an artist who values honesty and openness, how was I going to write about my wayward, wonderful and glorious life, and at the same time pay homage to a country that raised me and grew me? How also, and most importantly, was I to pay tribute to a mother who knew that there had to be something better than apartheid, even though it was still Rhodesia when we arrived in Zimbabwe in 1969?"
For Tambu Muzenda her reflections provide a personal exposition of a life straddled between the rural areas and townships of Mabvuku and Tafara. She reminisces about her youthful sense of what sex and sexuality meant and considers the prevailing attitudes around HIV/AIDs. She remembers life with the nuns – ‘Missionaries and modernisation yani?’ – in a context of traditional customs and practises around life and ultimately death. It is an intimate story written largely in Shona, with interspersions in English.
Township Girls was published by Weaver Press Zimbabwe. Did you face any challenges trying to find a publisher in Zimbabwe? What was your experience working with Weaver Press? What advice would you give to other writers trying to get published in Zimbabwe?
The project was a long-time coming and was really a labour of love, even through periods of ‘silence,’ we were determined to pull the project off. In 2017, with encouragement from author Sarah Ladipo Manyika, we decided to really get the project off the ground.
Finding a publisher in Zimbabwe was only a challenge because the economy had taken such a knock and many publishing houses had stopped operating. Our first choice was the highly-reputed Weaver Press, where the formidable Irene Staunton welcomed the concept and the project we had so painstakingly put together. Irene saw the dream and helped us realize it. In November 2017 we submitted this carefully incubated and very important project to Irene Staunton whose experience, patience, and humanity made it possible for us to arrive here today.
Weaver Press took a risk with the majority of our authors being first time writers and the vast differences in the voices and the stories. That is what comes through so poignantly in this anthology – the voice of each author – authentic, brave and very clear. Irene believed in the project and its importance in the narrative of Zimbabwe. Through Irene Staunton/Weaver Press, the book is also being distributed in partnership with another powerful woman-owned publishing house, Jacana Media in South Africa.
The publishing industry is not an easy one on this continent. Very few African books sell as well as we would like them to sell locally. What we do know though, is that there is a growing and very hungry market of readers, on the continent and in the diaspora, who want to read about themselves, and even see themselves on screen.
To other writers, all we can say is read, read, read! And write, write, write! Our stories are important. From Zimbabwe we have many female role models, such as Yvonne Vera, Tsitsi Dangarembga, No Violet Bulawayo, Petina Gappah, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, who have been read and heard internationally. We owe it to ourselves to continue to tell our stories, African stories, and to continue to grow our numbers as readers and writers.
What successes has Township Girls had since its publication in 2018? Who has been the main audience of the anthology?
In a Capitalk Interview in 2018 with Penny Pangeti (host) and Theo and Tsitsi Dangarembizi, the authors share a huge sense of fulfilment in having been able to contribute, in some way, to the history of this country through real life experiences, which not many people were aware of.
The next step entails curating a digital collection of stories from Zimbabweans. This collection will capture the stories of the cross-section of Zimbabwean society for posterity, for literary and historical study, and for a general record of what life was like during that time.
Do you plan to compile other anthologies in the future?
Future ambitions, some of which are already in motion, include:
Township Boys Township Parents/Guardians
Township Girls vol. 2
Documentary and Film
Township Girls: The Cross-Over Generation is available from WEAVER PRESS, EXCLUSIVE BOOKS, JACANA MEDIA, and AMAZON.
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