“I think all three things are concerned with telling a story, there’s never a point where I have to think of photography, filmmaking and writing in different ways.
For me, it’s all about the narrative,” said Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, a filmmaker, writer and photographer from South Africa responding to a question about how he juggles his three professions.
We were gathered early this month under the makuti thatched terrace inside the Culture Development East Africa offices in Dar es Salaam.
Writers brought together by the Caine Prize for African Writing, many had just completed a two-week workshop hosted by the prize in Bagamoyo.
The participants of the workshop are applicants for the 2017 Caine Prize, and they included Cheryl Ntumy (Botswana/Ghana), Daniel Rafiki (Rwanda), Darla Rudakubana (Rwanda), Agazit Abate (Ethiopia), and Esther Karin Mngodo, Lydia Kasese and Zaka Riwa from Tanzania.
“We were advised to put all our thoughts on paper, then edit them as we went along. Towards the end of every day, we would read each other’s stories and critique each other,” Darla said.
The workshop was faciliated by Elise Dillsworth, a literary agent and co-founder of the Diversity in Publishing Network, and Mohammed Naseehu Ali, Ghanaian author of short stories and Professor of Creative Writing at New York University.
Its aim is to ensure that participants pen a short story each, which is then featured in an annual anthology.
On this particular night, we gathered to hear excerpts from last year’s anthology, The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things, read by authors who had been shortlisted for the prize last year.
They were winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing 2016, Lidudumalingani, accompanied by authors Abdul Adan from Somali/Kenya and Lesley Nnekka Arimah from Nigeria.
The organisers had some of the excerpts translated into Kiswahili by Richard Mabala and Elias Mutani.
“It was a challenge because I’m an old man and there is a whole new generation of writers that I need to learn a lot from. When it comes to this kind of writing, for example, the first words you see are life bloomer... what do you translate as life bloomer?” Mabala said.