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Friday, 20 May 2011

Treasure Readings

Well, I have been with Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo in the literary arts committee since the inception, and proudly so. I feel honored to make a post on this new lovely blog.
I have seen the festival grow bit by bit, stuttering here and there, flaring there, just as one would watch a new concept growing wings.
I have seen it carrying the hopes of all the artists of Bulawayo, that now yes finally there is a local festival in the city that will symbolize the importance of their work, and also give them the confidence to persevere in their calling, as well as open a window of opportunity to the global stage.
I also proudly launched my novel Many Rivers at Intwasa 2009.  I have also read at various Intwasa book reading - the point I am trying to make here is that my participation at Intwasa is also part of my ever growing curriculum vitae in the literary arts.
Intwasa has been part of my CV for the two writing fellowships I have been involved in for the past two years, the one in Los Angeles in 2010 where I was guest writer for 10 months at Villa Aurora, and the current one where I am the Nordic Africa Institute 2011 Guest writer in the charming city of Uppsala in Sweden.

As of this date, in this current residence, I have so far featured in five literary events.  I have read twice at the Uppsala Library, I have held a talk at Stockholm University, another one at the City Theater in Uppsala, and then another talk and reading in Berlin, Germany.
At the end of May I am attending book events in Norway and Finland, all part of my fellowship in the Nordic Countries, where I hope to promote my work and also myself as a writer.  I will write about those events when I am from there.
I have written much about Uppsala City in my Sunday News column, the city where I have my base in Sweden, but for this post I will write about my reading in Berlin.
I read there on the 10th of May, at the Literature House, where I read from my novel in progress, which is still untitled. The reading room was packed, and some of the audience had to stand.  I read for a record 15 minutes to an enthralled audience from one text, and then also read two poems, and another excerpt from my other unpublished novel which I completed last year in the USA and titled AUTUMN LEAVES, from which I read just one page. And then after the readings came question time, which all went well.
I must also add that in the past two years I have been reading on international platforms, I have learnt one crucial thing.  It is important to rehearse your text before you go for the reading so that you get used to the words in it and also the emotions.  You can also be able to plan how you can pace yourself.  There is nothing as embarrassing as stammering during a reading.  And the audiences also expect some professionalism, audiences regard a public reading as an act – the writer assumes the role of an actor, and they expect to enjoy the listening, just as we enjoy listening to a good storyteller.
It is always disappointing to see the tiny audiences that come to readings in Zimbabwe.  And so now how can we cultivate our own people to appreciate book readings? That is the big challenge that festivals like Intwasa are there to address.

And lastly bantu bakithi, please do not embarrass me – if I can draw a full house at a reading in Germany, thousands of miles away from home, then I must draw more in Bulawayo. Don’t make me read to empty venues. 
Christopher Mlalazi
Mlalazi will be reading from his collection of stories and presenting his Visualizing Bulawayo project at Intwasa 2011. Make a date with him

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