A literary festival to honour Tanzanian authors

Tuesday February 25 2020

Lilian Mbaga receives a prize for her

Lilian Mbaga receives a prize for her contribution in the literary field. PHOTOI SALOME GREGORY 

By Salome Gregory

A festival dedicated to getting to know our authors and their books saw the coming together of authors, celebrities and other literature stakeholders. The festival dubbed ‘Mjue Mtunzi’ took place at the University of Dar es Salaam College of Information and Communication Technologies, Kijitonyama and is the first edition of the on-going ‘meet the authors’, a festival that aims at providing platform to celebrate nationally-recognized and local authors through their contributions to literacy, ideas, and imagination.

Meet the author festival is organised by the Association of Visionary Authors (AVA).

Speaking to Success Magazine, the President of AVA, Mr Hussein Tuwa says that the festival will be a quarterly event that is geared toward increasing the visibility of and respect for fiction writers in Tanzania.

“The festival will influence the Tanzanian public to adopt a reading culture, and make fiction authorship employment within a nation and with a generation of adept readers. It is also a platform for Tanzanian authors to meet their readers and give both parties the opportunity to engage, interact and form a mutual bond for the betterment of the country’s literary culture,” says Mr Tuwa.

Adding to that he says, AVA’s objective is to sensitise, promote and develop the Swahili written literature that is within the Tanzanian culture, norms and principles in the country and across borders; and to improve the authors’ welfare by ensuring that they benefit and get recognised for the work that they do.

Mr Tuwa is of the belief that the festival will create a public debate whereby Tanzanian authors in future will also be popular like any other personality from other industries.

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Mr Tuwa has been writing for the past 17 years now and he has written 12 books until today. One of his books called Mkimbizi is being used in the Tanzanian curriculum since 2005, by the Advanced levels students.

At the festival, there were panel discussions that talked about challenges, successes, and an opportunity for authors and readers to air their concerns. Readers also got an opportunity to ask different questions and give suggestions to the authors as far as their books are concerned.

The festival also held a book exhibition where people were able to buy different books at Sh10,000. Two literature books were also launched on that day and three other authors were presented with the author’s plaque to symbolize their contribution to the advancement of the country’s literature.

Lilian Mbaga, an upcoming author with five books under her belt, was among the three authors whose contribution was recognised. She says, she has written three books for children namely ‘Paka na Julie’, ‘Kisa Cha Samaki Kuishi Majini’ and ‘Sara na Paulo katoka Msitu wa Ajabu’. Two others are for adults; ‘Hatinafsi’ and ‘Tabasamu La Uchungu’.

She tells Success Magazine that in order to become a successful author, one needs to be very patient as it is a job that does not generate instant money. On the other hand, she discourages the habit of writing for money.

Lello Mmasi, author of the book ‘Mimi na Rais’ is also one of the recognised authors at the event.

His book ‘Mimi na Rais’ that talks of administration and management challenges, has entered in the Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature, a competition that will be held in Nairobi next week. Mr Mmasi says, “This is such an honour to be among the shortlisted authors in the African continent.”

Dr Seleman Sewange, the Executive Secretary of the National Kiswahili Council officiated the festival. He says, “The timing of this festival is on-point. Written literature has an opportunity to sell Kiswahili at any international event if only the books are edited and written well in Kiswahili.”

During the launch of the two books ‘Rafu’ by Fadhi Mfanga and ‘Chotara’ by Joseph Shaluwa, Mr Sewange encouraged the authors to network with the film industry so as to turn their books into a film or television series.

One of the readers among the hundreds who flocked in, Twaha Juma, expressed his delight.

“Currently I have about 100 books on my shelf. I am happy that they organised this festival dedicated to just books and it shows that efforts are being made to build a reading culture here in Tanzania,” says Mr Juma.

The last segment of the event was to meet and greet where authors and readers socialised and interacted through drinks, book signings and photo shoots.

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