Meet the Judges

We are proud to have three illustrious judges on our panel for the Gamaphile Writers’ Competition 2019. These judges will read the full manuscripts of the novels or short story collections which got into the top 10 during the public voting on the Gamaphile platform. The three judges are Ms Gcina Mhlope, Ms Tsitsi Dangarembga and Ms Novuyo Rosa Tshuma. They are all esteemed and successful writers and have contributed with their great works of art to the literary scene worldwide and have enriched our lives with their compelling stories. They give us wonderful examples how storytelling can enrich our experiences and open our worldviews. We encourage every novice or aspiring writer to study the works of our three judges because it is such a great opportunity to learn the craft of storytelling by analyzing and engaging with these masters of storytelling. To wet your appetite we want to introduce you to the superb work of these three writers. Obviously you will find a lot of information about them on the Internet and for your convenience we provide a few links to start with. In addition we would like to share with you a few aspects we found particularly interesting. We hope that these findings inspire you to discover the authors, as artists and human beings, for yourself or celebrate them some more if already know them well.  

Gcina Mhlophe

South African storyteller, orator, poet and motivational speaker Nokugcina Elise Mhlophe is also known as Gcinamasiko (“the keeper-of-heritage”), a name given to her by her people. She is the Executive Director of the Gcinamasiko Arts and Heritage Trust and she is an author, poet, storyteller and actress. The name Gcinamasiko resonates with her strong interest in the African Oral Tradition and her commitment to preserve the oral history of South Africa. She also wants to educate all South Africans to understand the value and role of the Oral Tradition in a modern South African society. If you are interested in combining storytelling and history or if you are interested in how to preserve oral storytelling by writing them down, you should find inspiration in Gcina’s work. Gcina celebrates oral storytelling in her performances but you can also study her “voice”, ductus and rhythm in her written-down stories. For example, you will find a collection of short stories and poems in her book Love Child,. The stories give you illustrative examples of how it feels and reads if you transform oral stories into written stories and you can thereby discover a different mode of writing your story. Gcina has also written and collaborated on a huge body of work focused on children’s stories and readers for the early grades in school. We at Gamaphile full-heartedly subscribe to her saying “Every living being has a story to tell.” That is one reason we created the platform; to invite (novice/unpublished) writers of all walks of life to come and share their stories. Gcina tells stories in order to wake up stories in other people and this is a function of storytelling which is not often talked about. Gcina is building an Oral History Museum, the first public “home of storytelling” in South Africa (see link “Gcinamasiko” below). The idea is that anybody can tell, record, and share their story there. Indeed a true locus of celebrating storytelling. Gcina Mhlophe on Wikipedia Gcina Mhlophe’s website Gcinamasiko Arts and Heritage Trust Interview on the connection, 2003 about her experience with storytelling  

Tsitsi Dangarembga

Tsitsi Dangarembga is a Zimbabwean author and filmmaker. She is well known for her first novel Nervous Conditions, which she wrote at a fairly young age and which by now has become a modern African classic. In 2018 it made it as number 66 to the BBC’s top 100 books that shaped the world and it won the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 1989. It is the first book of a trilogy followed by The Book of Not and This Mournable Body. Tsitsi’s latest novel is This Mournable Body. If you are a writer who ponders about how one writes a whole novel in the second-person point of view - and you will not easily find too many examples for that - you might want to have a look at his novel to study what effect it has on the reader and what this perspective offers you as a writer. Writing using the perspective has to be a conscious choice, because there are a few limitations to this point of view. So here, again from The Rumps book club chat you have Tsitsi’s reasons: “Eva Woods: Why did you choose to tell the story in second person? It’s rare to see a whole novel told that way. Tsitsi Dangarembga: I wrote it in the second person because that was the only way I could access the subject matter in a way that I felt made sense. I just didn’t have the heart to use the first person. I needed distance and I imagined the reader would too. On the other hand, I didn’t want to jump into the third person when the other two books were in the first. I also thought that might be too much distance. So I tried it out in the second and I liked the effect.” Tsitsi wrote the story for the film Neria, which became the highest-grossing film in Zimbabwean history. She is a filmmaker in her own right in the role of writer/script contributor, director, and producer. We at Gamaphile think filmmaking has a lot of affinities with storytelling, in fact filmmaking is a form of storytelling birth by the written form. Movies are rarely made without a movie script and many movie scripts are based on novels or true stories. Any novice writer who is interested in visual storytelling and filmmaking will find ample material in her literary work and her contributions to film productions to observe and learn how storytelling and filmmaking are intertwined. After all good stories are the essence of novels and films. And a good novels can be turned into a novel or a film. Tsitsi understands and is active in both worlds and that makes her work so attractive to becoming writers who want to learn the art and craft of visual storytelling. However, Tsitsi also points out that there are differences especially in the work process of producing a film or fiction as uttered during this The Rumps book club chat: “Marisa: Tsitsi, is your work process similar for film and fiction? Tsitsi Dangarembga: Marisa, no, the work process for film and literature are miles apart. When I went to film school I had to learn the processes—the grammar, if you like—of visual storytelling. It is very difficult and gave me no end of trouble until I grasped it. Marisa: I imagine that once you have a handle on the visual storytelling, it might become very useful in writing fiction. I have a very difficult time making sure to be visual and not too exponential when writing fiction.” Tsitsi encourages us to tell our stories in an individual way, which also means freed from expectations and norms a writer might feel obliged to adhere to, and she gives us good examples for that with her writings and films: “Women are still very afraid to raise their voices for fear of victimisation, or when they speak, they do not speak from their personal woman's truth but say what they think possessors of needed resources would want them to say.” “I am passionate about bringing African stories to the screen.” And you can see that her passion drives action: Tsitsi “started the African Women Filmmakers' Hub to bring African women filmmakers together to make the films millions of people in the world are waiting to see.” Tsitsi Dangarembga on Wikipedia How making a film about Nnenna began on Indiegogo Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Filmography on IMDb  

Novuyo Tshuma

Novuyo Rosa Tshuma is a Zimbabwean writer. She believes some of us become afraid to think. So it is important to point out that “fiction, telling alternative stories is a way to bring recognition to other stories, to other narratives that have been locked out of a space, ignored, erased.” In this sense Novuyo is a role model and stands for us as an example of how we can free ourselves and start thinking for ourselves by the means of writing and storytelling. Novuyo can speak from experience: Writers develop over time and one of the many helpful pieces of advice Novuyo gives is that “everyone should write whatever it is that tickles them” since there is “no space for pretension, for writing things about which one cares little.” So any novice writer who is interested in witnessing how a young writer improves and develops herself as a writer should engage with Tshuma’s writings and her approach to writing. Novuyo’s short story collection Shadows was awarded the 2014 Herman Charles Bosman Prize. Novuyo’s latest piece is the novel House of Stone. Do you want to figure out how to write history into fiction? Any novice writer who is interested in the genre historical novels or the act of history-making should engage with this novel. Creating History in the sense of telling the stories of individuals (albeit fictionalized) is a unique way of contributing to the construction of History. We learn from the insights and experiences of individuals whose lives have often been affected in a dramatic way - but we never get to know their personal histories. This subjective view of the personal stories of those affected by historical events complements and enriches and sometimes even corrects or contradicts official history writing which pretends to be objective. In fact, investigative research - often done in preparation for a historical novel - often reveals that official history omits, twists, and misrepresents facts and events. These faults of an official history are an invitation to create different versions or perspectives of a historical setting. And since the lines between fact and fiction are often blurred, it is vital to engage with the different modes of history-making, one of which is the historical novel. How one can orchestrate fact and fiction in a historical novel can be learned by studying good examples like House of Stone. Novuyo Tshuma on Wikipedia Novuyo Tshuma’s websit Novuyo Rosa Tshuma and Panashe Chigumadzi in conversation about Zimbabwe’s histories

Works Cited

Dangarembga, Tsitsi. Nervous Conditions. Women's Press, 1998.
Dangarembga, Tsitsi. This Mournable Body. Graywolf Pr, 2018.
Dangarembga, Tsitsi. The Book of Not: a Novel. Ayebia Clarke, 2006.
Mawuru, Godwin. Neria. Film Resource Unit, 1992.
Mhlophe, Gcina. Love Child. University of Natal Press, 2002.
Tshuma, Novuyo Rosa. House of Stone. Atlantic Books, 2018.
Tshuma, Novuyo Rosa. Shadows. Kushinda, 2012.