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Zakes Mda Reflects on the Resilience of Storytelling, Independent of Books

Sometimes there is a VoidIn an interview with Africa Book Club’s Daniel Musiitwa, Zakes Mda argues that his autobiography, Sometimes there is a Void, is more than part of a coming-to-terms process. The book was also the product of an urge to write and record important events before they were lost to his memory.

Despite his worries about forgetting, Mda does not fear “the demise of the book”. When asked about the future of African writing in the digital age, Mda says: “Storytelling did not begin with books and will not end with books.”

Tell us about your current work, teaching at Ohio University, and supporting the Africa Writers Trust. Are you optimistic about the future of African writing in the age of ebooks, Twitter and all?

Writing is writing whatever the medium or the channel. Storytelling did not begin with books and will not end with books. If or when paper books come to an end, there will be other channels for the storyteller. The storyteller is for ever. So, the demise of the book as we know it, if it happens at all, does not worry me at all. I embrace new technologies. I teach creative writing at Ohio University, which is also my alma mater where I did an MFA (Theater) and MA (Telecommunications) thirty years ago, before going for a PhD in my own country at the University of Cape Town. I just like supporting and assisting emerging writers in Africa in any way I can. I spend a lot of time each year in South Africa working with, among others, writers (besides beekeeping in the rural Eastern Cape and working with HIV positive people in Johannesburg). The African Writers Trust, of course, is the brainchild of Ugandan writer Goretti Kyomuhendo, and I am grateful she invited me to serve.

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Photo courtesy Africa Review


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