This edition’s Featured Artist is Ivainashe Earnest Nyamutsamba, a third-year law student at the University of Pretoria. He is a poet, blogger, SpeakOut UP counsellor, bailiff for the Moot Court Society, newsreader for TuksFM, and an author. His new book, I Was Never Ready and Many Other Stories, is set for hardcopy release on 1 October.
Tell us about your background, upbringing, development, and any challenges you faced along the way.
I am originally from Zimbabwe. I came to South Africa to pursue my university studies. My parents are in Zimbabwe, I come from a small town 72 kilometres east of Harare, called Marondera.
I grew up with both my parents, though like any other couple they had fights, but they always found common ground. I would say I went through every level of education. My primary and high school life was spent at boarding school.
I did not face any challenges while growing up. The only challenge came from the government in 2008, when I and a million other Zimbabwean children who attended semi-government and government schools had to miss our academic year because teachers were on an industrial strike, and at the time, Zimbabwe was experiencing a political and economic crisis that had never been seen before in her history.
How did you get your start in storytelling/writing?
Storytelling is a cultural thing. It is something ingrained in our DNA, a gift from the ancestors, a gift that is innate, that lies dormant within, waiting, lurking for the moment when it will be evoked. Being African, that touch that you know and feel is within me. Africans have been storytellers since the beginning of time. I would note that narrating or storytelling has been in me. While growing I would narrate a whole movie to my friends. As for writing, back in primary right through to high school, I would write interesting compositions. In 2017, I started my university journey. That year the Centre for Human Rights held a competition. I entered the competition under the literary work category. Unfortunately, I did not win. The main story of my book I Was Never Ready competed. After I observed the story did not make it, I did not lose heart. That is when the idea of birthing a literary work was born. I then took the route of making the work a collection of short stories. Thus, I Was Never Ready and Many Other Stories was born. I am also a poet, which was a contributing factor that inspired me to pursue writing as a career while I am pursuing my law degree.
“Storytelling is a cultural thing.“
Do you have any influences in literature?
I have many. My mom, MaHelen, influenced my creativity. African literature icons, the likes of Dambudzo Marechera, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Charles Mungoshi, Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Dr Sindiwe Magona, Okot P’Bitek, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie, Mariama Ba, Fela Kuti, Oliver Mtukudzi, Salif Keita, Hugh Masekela and contemporary writers such as Dr Nedine Moonsamy have also had a big influence.
What was your source of inspiration during the course of writing the book?
The beautiful continent of Africa and her children. Africa was my source of inspiration. Also, the field of women and children’s rights.
The titular story is about a woman dealing with domestic abuse, forcing her to have inner conflicts, wherein she reminisces on her past while contemplating an escape to a good future with her unborn child. Talk us through the processes you went through to complete this piece.
When engaging with the text, read with the understanding that it is a microcosm of a macrocosm. This means that it is a smaller frame of the bigger picture for any situation that one gets to experience in their own lives. The process was like a pilgrimage, a baptism, a journey into the unknown, with the sole mission of unearthing what can be understood and can thus be broadcasted for all to consume critically when it comes to matters of the current situation that has engulfed our communities, which is gender based violence in the African continent. The process was a deliberate dive into the whole situation of human rights. They should be enforced, respected, and appreciated by all those who are part and parcel of humanity, irrespective of their backgrounds. Women have been at the receiving end of uncurbed male aggression. As an author, the experience was life changing. I base this statement on how I uniquely managed to engage with women’s struggle and how so far, from responses my readers have been communicating with me, their appreciation of being able to articulate the struggles of being African, in particular, being an African woman.
“When engaging with the text, read with the understanding that it is a microcosm of a macrocosm.“
Your writing style incorporates modern language into the classical storytelling structure and has a very direct delivery. Was this stylistic choice natural or intentional on your part?
It is a natural choice because I wanted to involve the reader within the story. I have been noticing that most of my peers in the literary sector tend to hold the reader outside the story. So, for me I took the writing approach of involving my reader in the journey, and thus developed my writing style to involve the reader in the journey. At the same time, it was an intentional approach because I wanted to be unique and introduce a unique dimension or flavour to the art of creative writing, all for the benefit of the readers and my peers in the industry. The sky is the limit and we must be daring in experimenting with our infinite talents.
Are there any causes you would like to give a platform to?
Access to education, improving literacy in Africa, and freedom to free thinkers.
Do you have any final words?
Over and above my heart is filled with gratitude and I am excited and humbled by the love and support and the opportunity that I have been afforded by PDBY. From my family to the media company, we say thank you so much. Being recognised by such a prestigious media institution is humbling.
The digital version of the book is currently available for purchase on Amazon.