By Tricia Twasiima
I was asked to describe what it felt like to be at Writivism. I struggled with the answer for a bit to be honest, how do you put so many feelings into a few words?
Attending Writivism for me, each year feels like; home.
Writivism for me is home for many reasons, some of which I’ll share, many of which I’ll hold on for a while longer. Its annual festivals are always refreshing, reigniting my artistic passions, dusting my literary zeal and building new connections, while restoring old ones. There is something calming about walking into the National Museum and knowing that for the next few hours everyone there will be relatable to you in at least one way; the love for African literature. I am always intrigued at the creative energy in the rooms, the effortless confidence and the ease with which all the guests are able to mingle with each other.
This year’s in particular has left me a lot to relish. One of the recurring discussions is the need to decolonize African literature, the responsibility we have to tell authentic stories and the importance of having a literary space where we can learn and teach each other. Writivism for me is this space. Every year in this space, I learn something new about what it means to be a writer, the challenges that come with being a writer and as a bonus, I am introduced to new African writers I would ordinarily not have known.
Particularly this year, among the many, I met Panashe Chigumadzi, author of Sweet Medicine. I need to start off by saying, if you have not read this book, you really should. Sweet Medicine reads like a tale quite a few young womyn have found themselves in. It is a story we know too well, a new phenomenon that we have discussed and termed as the “blesser syndrome” with a new twist about the grey areas in our life that we often prefer not to talk about. I don’t want to give too much away; it is however one of my favorite reads this year. The authoress; Panashe is an absolute pleasure. I had the great pleasure of listening to her share her insights, and I was clapping in approval the whole time.
This brings me to one of my favorite conversations at #Writivism2016; Tackling sexual harassment in literary spaces. These are conversations that leave many people uncomfortable. These are realities some would prefer were discussed in hushed tones in private tête-à-têtes. The literary space does not exist in a vacuum, it is in many ways a representation of our society and therefore it is imperative we continue to have these conversations loudly and honestly. One of the key issues that stood out for me in this panel was the question of consent, an issue that we can’t afford to stop talking about until we all fully understand it. Undoubtedly, this is not a topic we can fully discuss in an hour or even two but the ability to have a space, particularly among the literary community where we can continue to tackle such issues is a step in the right direction.
I pitched my book idea. This was hands down the scariest thing I did last week. Writvism called it Speed Dating with publishers. I won’t go too much into the details but all I’ll say is, I am still writing.
Of course there are the many books that were on sale. It is always interesting to be introduced to many new authors and new books that perhaps you would not have found otherwise. I am particularly looking forward to reading The Triangle by Nakisanze Segawa.
I want to end by reechoing some of what the formidable Zukiswa Wanner said in her key-note. In order for our literary space to grow and flourish, we must do better. We must continue to support African literature, African authors and African literary festivals. We must be able to tell our stories while staying true to who we are, whether the white gaze legitimizes it or not.