ZIBFA Indaba remains the most outstanding literary event inside of Zimbabwe in 2009, I think, and the report below by author, David Mungoshi could be useful to some. I was there and I kept thinking about issues in Zimbabwean literature. (The ZIBFA Indaba is an annual Conference which is the major forum for debating critical issues to the book industry in Africa. It is also a unique national platform for networking and collaboration among stakeholders.)
An ABRIDGED report on the ZIBF Indaba 2009: 27 JULY – 29 JULY 2009 compiled by David S Mungoshi
The ZIBF Indaba for the year 2009 was held at the Crowne Plaza Monomotapa Hotel, Harare from Monday 27 July to Wednesday 29 July. The 2009 Theme was: “Reading and Writing Zimbabwe” The first two days were devoted to the main Indaba while Day 3 was set aside for a young people’s Indaba. Despite the non-appearance of one or two people originally assigned to perform certain tasks and who had to be replaced, the Indaba proceeded quite smoothly indeed.
Official Opening of the 2009 Zimbabwe International Book Fair
•In the absence of the Honourable Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, Senator David Coltart, his speech was read on his behalf by the permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr Stephen Mahere.
Professor Hope Sadza, Vice Chancellor at the Women’s University in Africa delivered the keynote address and highlighted the following issues:
oThat in the context of a vast expansion of information technology, consideration must be given to how the Zimbabwean story is being packaged;
oThat the implicit dichotomy between black and white needs looking at with a view to properly defining and placing Zimbabwean Literature;
oThat the question of gender and literature must be resolved in a way that recognizes the true meaning of the word ‘gender.’
oThat the authorship of children’s literature should perhaps rope in child authors as well;
oThat media practitioners should start thinking in terms of asserting their independence and not just bemoan the controls they work under, real or imagined;
The 2009 Indaba Topics
Speakers formulated topics and designed papers based upon the following broad areas:
Colonial literature in Zimbabwe;
New writings from Zimbabwe;
Publishing and Marketing;
Intellectual property and copyright;
Media Reading and Writing;
Reading and Writing Gender in Zimbabwean Literature;
Reading and Writing children’s Literature in Zimbabwe.
Presenter-Responses to the Broad Areas
The Language Question:
Andrei Gromyko, one-time Foreign Minister in what then was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, is generally accepted as being the longest-serving Foreign Minister in modern times. Of interest is the fact that despite having being educated at Harvard University in the United States of America, and despite the fact that he spoke flawless English, at all public functions Gromyko always communicated through an interpreter. When quizzed about this anomaly Gromyko observed that this always gave him the advantage of hearing everything twice. There is perhaps some merit in everyone speaking more than one language. And there is definitely a strong case for Zimbabweans of all manner and shade speaking at least the three national languages (Ndebele, Shona and English). Such a situation would bring about democracy in the area of language and communication.
Jerry Zondo’s paper cries out for admission and justice in Matabeleland in the aftermath of 5 Brigade. One postulates that it is Zondo’s view that national catharsis can only happen if and when the 5 Brigade issue is returned to with greater openness. Perhaps by the same token all such issues would have to be revisited and dealt with openly. We would all have to accept that these things happened: Entumbane about which there is usually a notable silence happened. Forced translocation from areas around the country to Lobhengula’s realm happened. Economic sanctions, declared and undeclared, happened and are still happening. Everyone is culpable. Such things are the totality of whom and what we are as a nation and are especially relevant in the current dispensation that espouses national healing as a policy. Recognition of all the imperatives can give renewed impetus to Ndebele reading and writing.
Historical Perspectives into the Development of Literature in Zimbabwe since Colonization
Two papers with a historical bent were presented by Dr Rosemary Moyana and Musaemura B Zimunya. Dr Moyana’s paper was entitled,’ Reading our Past: Introduction to the White-Authored Novel in Zimbabwe’ while Zimunya’s paper went under the title, ‘Rhodesians and Zimbabweans: Black and White Poets since 1960.’
The White-Authored Novel
Dr Moyana’s argument at the outset was that while popular belief amongst majority Zimbabweans suggested that Zimbabwean Literature was necessarily that which was authored by black Zimbabweans only, this assertion was, in fact, fallacious and limiting.
Moyana expressed the view that in order to have a full picture of literature in Zimbabwe and in order to be able to ‘read our past’ it was necessary to examine unfamiliar literature which by definition had to be ‘that written by white people who occupied the country in 1890.’ In Moyana’s view, white-authored literature is comprised of a ‘... of literature that was written in pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial periods.’
The white-authored Rhodesian novel is set apart by the prevalence in it of prejudice, racism and a general downgrading of Africans as characters. The reading reveals the author’s voice, vision and point of view.
Further, Moyana argues that study of this white-authored literature is important for the insights it gives into the present socio-political state of Zimbabwe. Moyana referred to the views of Natalie Zemon Davis among which is the view that literary figures are ‘expert, sensitive observers of their times and in their expression of opinion, pithy and penetrating,’ to the extent that they open an important window in the work of a historian or history student. Given this tool of analysis It becomes easier to understand some of the titles of prose works by black Zimbabweans and these include the following: On Trial for my Country (Stanlake Samkange), Waiting for the rain (Charles Mungoshi), The House of Hunger (Dambudzo Marechera), A Son of the Soil (Wilson Katiyo) and Nervous Conditions (Tsitsi Dangarembga) etc. These titles would appear to be responses to an earlier period, that is, to the period when white-authored literature was dominant.
Moyana then made the observation that according to T O McLoughlin, African novels set in pre-independent Zimbabwe are mostly about the experience of subjection (Moyana 2009, 4). Conversely, therefore a study of white-authored literature constitutes a study of the subjector. In Moyana’s view this progression is logical since ‘the subject matter of the white Rhodesian novel is
Moyana precedes her discussion of selected white Rhodesian novels, by pointing out that the history of Zimbabwe shows that ‘land was at the centre of people’s lives as everywhere in the world), before the arrival of white people; and at the centre of the controversy from the time that the white people colonised the country in 1890.’ Moyana further asserts that the question of land in Zimbabwe today still generates controversy because its tenure and husbandry has been a cause for concern. She also makes the observation that ‘the subject of land features prominently in the white authored novel in a way that allows the reader to join in that land re-distribution debate rather vigorously.’ Moyana then suggests that this principle can be used to explore white-authored novels.
Moyana’s selection of novels can be grouped into eight distinct categories, that is, novels inspired by the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, the historical novel, the role of women in colonial Rhodesia, novels critical of the colonial dispensation, novels dealing with African nationalism, novels on the theme of miscegenation, novels of reminiscence and novels that describe the 2000 fast track land re-distribution exercise in Zimbabwe.
Novels inspired by the Great Zimbabwe Ruins
Moyana starts by referring to the observation by Chennells that, ‘any discussion of the Rhodesian settler novel has to begin with the ruins of Great Zimbabwe and the hold they had on the settler mind.’ The earliest white authored novels in the country were preoccupied with explaining away the historical monument at Great Zimbabwe as something that could only have been built by outsiders who, of course, would have been ‘more intelligent and civilized than the indigenous black people.’ This is what novels like ‘King Solomon’s Mines’ by Rider Haggard, according to Chennells, tried to do in order to ‘deny that Africans were capable of taking initiative, of ordering their lives, or of being creative without the authority and example of some higher race. Moyana points out that despite the racist stance in Haggard’s novel, he nevertheless, jettisons the settler notion that Africans were ignorant, unthinking and easily mesmerised when he shows how Gagool shows that she recognizes that there is an eclipse of the sun and is therefore not fooled by the attempt of the whites to depict the dimming of the sun as a demonstration of their power.
The Historical Novel
Novels in this category usually trace the journeys of white people from Great Britain to the South African gold and diamond mines. Invariably many of the journeys end up in Rhodesia to the north, a country named after its chief coloniser Cecil John Rhodes. Rhodesia was regarded as an extension of South Africa so it was natural for whites to want to enter its territory in order to try and find more gold and more diamonds as well as to settle on rich farmland there. Moyana lists ‘Men of Men’ (Wilbur Smith), ‘Wagons Rolling North’ (Wilfrid Robertson), ‘My leaves are Green’ (Eve M Slatter) etc. Land is seen to be crucial in these works and accordingly he plunder of African land and wild life are dramatically portrayed.
Novels on the Role of Women in Colonial Rhodesia
Most of the novels in this category are female-authored and attempt to show the role of women in colonization. Gertrude Page’s novels, ‘The Pathway’ and ‘The Veldt Trail’ portray women as active participants in the act of colonization. Madeline Heald’s ‘Down Memory Lane with Some Early Rhodesian Women, 1897-1923, belongs to this kind of novel.
Moyana argues that Heald sets the tone for the Rhodesian novel with a quote from a book by Mrs E Tawse Jollie who observes that ‘The true story of Rhodesia is contained in the records of her settlers, their struggles, their hopes, their failures and successes and to get the atmosphere of the country one must know what her people are thinking about, talking about, what are their domestic, social and economic problems.’ In attempt to portray these issues the women writers of Rhodesia generally portrayed the African male servant in a disparaging manner. This is most explicit in Gertrude page’s novel, ‘Jill’s Rhodesian Philosophy.’ In this novel humour is created around the figures of Jill’s cook and houseboys who have no sense of time and go to the river to wash their garments at 12.30 when they should be getting ready to serve lunch. When lunch is finally served the situation is further exacerbated when the cook spreads mustard on the trifle for dessert instead of custard. The politician’s wife begins to choke on the trifle! The book has a catalogues of these situational mishaps meant to show that the native is an infantile being. Sally’s cook boy, Whiskey, ‘pitches up wearing the mistress’s best embroidered garment, claiming ... that those were the instructions given...’ Ironically, the African male servants seem to behave foolishly because this is what is expected of them and are, consequently able to escape retribution. The portrayal of the ‘black cook and house boy’ can be interpreted ‘as a critique of the white man’s treatment of grown men, whether intended or coincidental.’
Novels critical of the colonial dispensation
Moyana made the observation that ‘from as early as the 1890s, there were novels written by white Rhodesians that criticised colonial ideology, policies and practices.’ These novels tended to predict the demise of colonialism, something which by the end of the 1970s had come to pass. This category had among others the following novels: Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland by Oliver Schreiner, Stronger than Armies by Peter Gibbs, Rhodesia: Little White Island by John Parker and Bay-Tree Country and Brooding Earth by Arthur Shearly Cripps.
In Brooding Earth Cripps links the land grab in England to the land grab in Rhodesia. One of the characters in Cripps novel, a woman belonging to the family in England buys land in order to return it to the people displaced in the enclosure system. A brother of the woman commits suicide in Rhodesia after trying to cheat a black neighbour out of a piece of land. The man believes he is haunted by ‘the Earth Woman.’
Novels on African Nationalism
Novels in this category deal with the rise of African nationalism and the war of liberation. The novels range from the pessimistic ones to those that depict the actual bush war and include the following: Toward the Tamarind Tree by Antony Trew, The Rain Goddess by Peter Stiff and Explosion by Merna Wilson etc
To Breathe and Wait by Nancy Partridge looks at the liberation war through a woman’s eyes and suggests that all women are united against the common enemy, that is, racism. Books like Kandaya: Another Time, another place by Angus Shaw, White man, Black War by Bruce Moore-King and Karima by T O McLoughlin portray the disillusionment of young white conscripts who have to fight a war whose ideology and values they do not subscribe to. Of interest is the fact that Peter Rimmer in his novel ‘Cry of the Fish eagle’ weaves his story around the emotive issue of land. Those who are dispossessed of their land in England dispossess others in Rhodesia.
Novels on the Theme of Miscegenation
Miscegenation is inevitable where two racial groups meet and Rhodesian novelists made an attempt to explore this reality and did so through novels like The Burning Man by Sarah Gertrude Millin, Hippodile by Ronald Leavis and Raina: A story of Africa by Charles Bullock.
Novels of Reminiscence
This category contains introspective works in which the main character reminisces on his life in Rhodesia before his departuture for the UK and the USA. Peter Godwin’s book Mukiwa and Alexander Fuller’s Don’t let’s Go the Dogs Tonight are typical of this grouping. While much use is made of humour the novels do not ‘acknowledge a progressive position for the African in Zimbabwe.’
Novels on the Fast Trek Land Resettlement Programme in Zimbabwe
Moyana stated that there was as yet only one title under this category and that title is Jambanja by Eric Harrison. According to Moyana this novel continues along the typical path preferred by most white novelists in the country in that it still depicts Africans as being inconsequential to the scheme of things. The dichotomy between white affluence and the lack of it in the black community creates an antithesis that is difficult to ignore, yet this anomaly is seldom acknowledged as a reason for the most recent ‘land grab.’ Moyana’s view is that this novel is a good one for the present generation because of its potential for starting debate in the classrooms on land resettlement in Zimbabwe. In conclusion Moyana expressed the hope that white-authored Rhodesian novels can find their way into literature classrooms and lecture rooms as this can enhance understanding of the socio-political relationships between whites and blacks in the country.
Black and White poets since 1960
Musaemura Zimunya prefaced his talk by recreating the scene emanating from effective colonization and asserted that blacks and whites were at one time de jure Rhodesians bound by the same laws and using the same passports. Things changed when the white began to parcel out to themselves the most fertile pieces of land in the country. Zimunya asserted that as the whites progressively entrenched themselves and arrogated all sorts of privileges to their race it became obvious that they were unwilling to honestly engage their circumstances. White writers in general tended to reflect in their writing the values of Rhodesian society. The poets in particular ‘developed a tradition which owed its values to the metropolitan imperial culture.’ Zimunya argued that in retrospect it was possible to see that the culture subscribed to by white Rhodesian poets was ‘static, and in a lot of cases, old-fashioned to the point of even being Victorian.’ Not surprisingly, the best of the white poets, according to Zimunya, thrived on imitation of English ‘greats.’ Consequently, their poetry was couched in forms that were out-of-date and ill-suited for portraying the African experience.
Conversely, the blacks increasing began to write with more self-awareness and self-consciousness. The self-consciousness manifested itself in early black poetry as sheer excitement about the English language. The content was also borrowed: the imitation of white perspectives and attitudes to blacks: drunks, prostitutes, crooks and layabouts. This was in addition to imitating traditional European forms which by definition were foreign.
Zimunya observed that some of the earlier black poets sought to gain acceptance among the whites and began to publish their poetry in publications like Two-Tone, Rhodesian Poetry and Chirimo. This early black poetry, Zimunya argues, should be seen as ‘part of the process of awakening to a world which was not only fascinating, but was brutally powerful and had to be conquered, in time.’ The new world could only be conquered through the reassertion of lost traditions and by an exhortation to return to a past where the lost traces of human dignity could be found. This past could help regain the present and redeem the future.
Zimunya’s assessment is that while there was this apparent fixation with the past it was not clear what the past could offer by way of strategy. This dilemma was the cause of a crisis within nationalist ranks until a call to arms pointed the way to a possible revolution. Zimunya also argues that given the fact of oppression under the Smith regime and given that Smith’s forces could not have tolerated an open call to arms a more privileged generation of critics and authors has to surmise the fact that a return to the past was more than just a bit of nostalgia for the past and that it, in fact, was a strategic call to arms rather than simplistic escapism. Zimunya’s view therefore, seems to be that a return to the past would necessarily come face to face with ‘ chimurenga’ and thus point the way to future action.
In order to come up with a balanced study, Zimunya based his analysis on the following texts:
Poetry in Rhodesia (College Press 1968);
The Sunbathers and other poems (Poetry Society of Rhodesia);
A Patch of Blue Sky and Zimbabwean Ruins (Poetry Society of Zimbabwe)
The Milkman does Not Only deliver Milk and Musical Saws (Poetry Society of Rhodesia);
And Now the Poet’s Speak (Mambo Press);
Mambo Book of Zimbabwean Verse (Mambo Press).
The Editor’s foreword to the anthology entitled ‘Poetry in Rhodesia’ reads:
As in local art, too, the decade has seen more
and more Africans contributing to Rhodesian Poetry
and the freshness of their vision is at once apparent.
Rhodesians owe a debt of gratitude to Phillipa Berlyn
Whose encouragement to Shona poets may make
the emergence of our own Senghor possible.
Zimunya points out that the word ‘Rhodesians’ is used here to refer to whites while the word ‘Africans’ is used to refer to blacks. Therefore, the conclusion to be reached is that the black poets are being accommodated, that is, brought into the fold, not integrated. Accordingly, Africans can only produce a Senghor and no one else.
Zimunya referred to ‘Envoi’ to show that it is one of the few white-authored poems that evokes the tensions within the land at the time of its writing. Cripps poem reflects upon the irony of the white oppressor preaching Christ to the black man who in his own way is a veritable martyr – deprived of all- land, wealth and culture. The rest of the white-authored poetry speaks of wild life – the frogs, the beetles, the snakes and the elephants and the seasons and so on. By contrast, black poets were concerned to describe the world around them as opposed to dwelling issues and themes from colonial literature.
Zimunya’s view is that black poets could be regarded as a people groping for comprehension of their own destiny. Thus Henry Pote’s ‘Look, Watch Those Trees’ and ‘To A White Child’ were already depicting the cultural conflict inherent in a black-white colonial situation. But Zimunya went on to show that Pote’s cultural background and missionary education gave him an ambivalence that made him appeal to both Christ and his ancestors in the same poem.
Not unexpectedly certain poems by blacks in Poetry in Rhodesia were what Kizito Muchemwa was later to call ‘puerile excitement.’ The example used by Zimunya was that of a poem entitled ‘Beer Pot.’ The poem praises the beer pot ‘in a manner that invites the white reader to laughter at the expense of the African. This uneasy partnership between black poets and white ones went on for a while with the result that black and white poets were often paired (Borrell and Zimunya and Mungoshi and Style). However, Zimunya is of the view that these pairings were convenient arrangements for editors more than anything else. Zimunya showed successive white editors (Phillipa Berlyn, LB Rix and others) failing to accede to the new realities of a world in transition to a new dispensation that would require new sensibilities.
In Zimunya’s view the break came with Kizito Muchemwa’s Zimbabwean Poetry in English, an anthology which for the first time described black poets as Zimbabweans rather than Rhodesian Africans. And when the volume ‘And Now The Poets Speak’ was published the break was complete since this anthology was the most radical to date because of its location in the war for national liberation.
There was a captivating episode here with the concept of gender being interrogated in a variety of ways. Dr Vimbai Chivaura’s presentation generated some heat that spilled over to Day 2 of the Indaba. He illustrated how gender stereotypes have been propagated and sustained by continued misreading of the story of creation as given in Book of Genesis (Chapters 5:1-2 and 1:26).Whereas the Bible records that God created both male and female and gave both of them dominion over the earth and all that abides upon it, sexist readings have consistently assigned inferior roles to women.
In defining gender Josephine Muganiwa made reference to the UNESCO definition which states that gender ‘... refers to the roles and responsibilities of men and women that are created in our families and our cultures.’ This definition makes it clear that gender has to do with roles that are socially determined and has nothing to do with sex which is a biological phenomenon. Accordingly, therefore, gender speaks to both men and women.
In furthering the gender debate, Tsitsi Dangarembga brought in the need to read and write gender in Zimbabwean literature, now. She defined gender as a system of differentiation propagated for the purpose of subordination and suggested that a stance that recognizes that ‘the personal is political’ could be used to fight against gender insensitivity.
Nehemiah Chivandikwa presented a paper entitled ‘Gender Viewership/ Readership in Zimbabwe: Towards Engendering Subversive Spectatorship/Readership in Zimbabwe.’ The paper discusses the problems of codification, image construction and feminization according to which, for example, most available plays in Zimbabwe have minimal attribution of agency to female characters. To illustrate objectification, Chivandikwa referred to the Book of Revelations Chapter 17:3-4 which he said if interpreted superficially could mean allsorts of things.
In all cases the presenters on gender suggested that there was a need for gender-sensitive discourse when creating new works.
Publishing and Marketing:
Irene Staunton’s paper was entitled, ‘Marketing: Is there a Link with Reading and Writing? The main thrust of her presentation was to do with marketing and its cost. She observed that all appetizing programmes for promotion purposes made marketing largely expensive: pictures, pamphlets and T-shirts. There usually were no corresponding returns and, in particular, reductionist attitudes that make people say that books are or should be read for examination purposes only, do not help. In this regard, Staunton felt that there was a need to come up with strategies for improving the situation and that these strategies could include applying pressure on the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture to fund libraries for schools and communities and encouraging booksellers to read the books that they sell.
Publishers could also identify and link up with partners in the media and bookshops to see how they can share a common interest and consequently promote a writer together. Another strategy was to discourage the practice of photocopying whole books and encouraging the purchase of such books instead.
Media reading and Writing:
William Chikoto, the editor of The Herald discussed the roles that a newspaper has to play and stressed that the important one was that of reflecting what happens in society. Editors often had to make critical political choices in terms of what to publish and what not to publish and asserted that there was an important link between an open media and free and effective economies. Chikoto also made observations about the nature and purpose of journalism and the fundamental need to serve public interest. The idea of public interest made it necessary to discuss the meaning of national interest and how it is different from public interest.
Other submissions from Chikoto were to do with the need for a paradigm shift in journalistic demeanour and operations, the need to challenge stereotyped mind sets and the need to question sensational journalism that is headline-driven. In subsequent discussion in response to comments from the floor, Chikoto acknowledged the existence of powerful interests such as advertising and the state on the print media.
Supa Mandiwanzira concurred with most of the views expressed by Chikoto whom he described as a cool-headed editor but added that when all was said and done writers had to think of writing as business. In addition, and with reference to the film industry in South Korea, Mandiwanzira asserted that writers should lobby government in order to bring about the promulgation of regulations that would enhance growth and development and that it was time to organize indigenous funding for books and film in preference to outside funding.
Reading and Writing Children’s Literature in Zimbabwe:
Insightful presentations were made by Stephen Chifunyise, Nhamo Mhiripiri, Anna Chitando and Charles Pfukwa. This panel was observably passionate about their subject with Chifunyise taking us through his childhood experiences as a developing reader and Nhamo Mhiripiri asking pertinent questions about the definition of childhood and where adulthood starts. Anna Chitando argued that there was a need for serious scholarly attention to be accorded to Zimbabwean Children’s Literature while Charles Pfukwa examines the meaning and import of the names that writers give to the characters in their work.
The Young People’s Indaba
Wednesday 29 July was given to the Young people’s Indaba and attracted a mixed audience of high school students as well as school-leavers.
Feedback on Manuscripts submitted to the Zimbabwe Women Writers (ZWW)
Ms Eresina Hwede took to the podium straight after the keynote address by Prof George Kahari and proceeded to give the young writers feedback on the manuscripts that she had assessed. Hwede made the following observations:
oMany of the manuscripts submitted to her for scrutiny were unrealistic in that the writers gave them settings they had no knowledge or experience of, e.g. one story was set in the UK in the year 1926, another was set in present day California although it was clear that the writer has never been there;
oMany of the characters were unconvincing and difficult to identify with;
oA writer must have a specific audience/readership in mind before setting pen to paper;
oA writer must choose a form/ style that is suitable for the story being written;
oTheme was also an essential consideration in writing. The writer must be clear what she is writing about;
oPassion for writing is a must-have, especially where poetry is concerned.
Hwede concluded her presentation with a few reminiscences about her experiences during the formative years of her writing. She argued that one’s own reading can be pivotal to the development of writing skills later on. She was then followed by the break-away groups.
The main programme for the day was organized around skills development sessions run by established writers as follows:
•Tsitsi Dangarembga – Script and Film;
•Stephen Chifunyise – Theatre;
•Memory Chirere and Jerry Zondo – Short Stories;
•Musaemura Zimunya – Writing Poetry;
•Tinashe Muchuri – Performance Poetry;
•Aaron C Moyo – Indigenous Literature;
•David Mungoshi – The Novel.
The Indaba of 2009 has, by all accounts, been lively and pertinent. What we read from this is the fact that much thought went into the planning of this year’s programme as indeed into most other such programme’s preceding this one. Some among us may find it interesting that after all these years certain topics and/or concerns refuse to go away. Might this be an indication of stagnation on our part or could it also be that other imperatives and imponderables have surfaced? The seeking of answers to these and other questions could perhaps be the subject of research by us as well as by interested significant others.
Thus we find the following issues having come up, both explicitly and implicitly, at this year’s Indaba:
•The role and place of history, including the history and development of literary pursuits, since the advent of colonialism in 1890 in the land between the Zambezi and the Limpopo;
•The role and place of ideology in the quest for writing excellence and relevance;
•The role and place of philosophical and aesthetic models and the tension that will always exist between those advocating different and even antithetical models;
•The question of a national language policy for Zimbabwe;
•The question of what language to use in both creative/imaginative writing as well as in academic writing;
•What to write about, how to write it and for whom: if necessity is the mother of invention can MDGs be a mother of writing?
•How to manoeuvre and negotiate a universe in which the forces of cultural assimilation and syncretism are still forcefully evident;
•The dichotomy between self-assertion as a people and accommodation with the usual attendant evils;
•The challenges emanating from the information age that we live in and in particular the challenges related to the internet and the integrity of intellectual property deposited there;
•How to deal with the paradox of a highly literate nation that still has to discover the pleasure of reading for non-utilitarian purposes;
•Publishing, marketing and sales in times of economic stress and reduced spending power;
•The fate of writers in the book chain – can they and should they reap material, financial and other benefits from their endeavours?