Home » General » Lest We Forget Writer Alumenda

Once upon a time there was a brief but acute upsurge of children’s literature in Zimbabwe. It was during the late 1990’s. This mini revolution had the late writer Stephen Alumenda (1966-2004) at its centre. Other writers who come to mind include Ignitius Musonza who was a close friend of Alumenda. Both hailed from the Midlands province.

Writers in this short period exuded such writing energy and love for children’s reading material.

Yet soon after Alumenda’s death, children’s literature almost took an un-inspirational route. With more than ten children’s books published during his lifetime, Alumenda’s death robbed children of their beloved storyteller. His friend, Ignitius Musonza, published a number of children’s books but in recent years, he has been very silent. Is Musonza still writing and publishing? We can only hope that he will one day emerge again to inspire another boom in children’s stories.

Today, not many writers are as consistent with children and teenage literature as their forte as did Alumenda who published about fifteen books some of which became popular in schools and beyond our borders. For instance, Alumenda’s book “Kuda’s Rainbow Ball” was approved for Uganda’s school curricula in 2001 and the same book went on to be vital material in the campaign against use of landmines during war times by the United Nations’ UNICEF. “Stephanie’s Pumpkin” (2001, Macmillan Caribbean, UK) was also approved for Caribbean schools curricula from the year it was published.

Alumenda’s body of work includes: “How Thopo Became a Great N’anga” (1996, Baobab Books, Zimbabwe), “Tambudzai Anoona Nyoka Huru” (1999, Mambo Press, Zimbabwe), “Street Life” (1999, Macmillan Education, UK), “The Boy Who Made Cars” (2000, Macmillan Education, UK), “Toko and The Dog with One Ear” (1996, East African Educational Publishers, Kenya), “Toko and The Injured Dove” (1998, East African Educational Publishers, Kenya), “Toko and The Lost Kittens” (2002, East African Educational Publishers, Kenya), “Why Tortoise Stopped Gossiping and Other Stories” (2002, East African Publishers, Kenya) and “Anani The Albino Boy” (2002, College Press, Zimbabwe).

There are also other books by Alumenda published posthumously.

Born in Kwekwe, Alumenda was a twin. He did his primary education in the same area at Munyati Primary School. For his secondary education, he went to Kambuzuma High School in Harare.

These two schools had a g influence on his writing. At Munyati primary school, it was his namesake and class teacher Mr. Stephen Matope who discovered the boy’s creative abilities. Pauline de Beanffort, a teacher at Kambuzuma High School, then influenced Alumenda to read African literature to enhance his originality.

In 1989, Alumenda earned two diplomas with Transworld Education College, one in Journalism and Professional Writing and the other in Short Story Writing.

After working for some time in the Ministry of Public Construction and National Housing, he quit in 1994 to pursue his dream in writing. He became a stringer for various newspapers such as the Sunday Mail, African News Bulletin (Belgium), and Writers News (UK). As a business executive, he established a public relations company and published two newspapers namely The Gweru Shopping Bulletin and The Weekly Customer Care.

Alumenda later gave up the business to his friend in order to concentrate on writing children’s books and teenage novels.

This is when the writing bug seriously caught up with him. In 1990, together with the likes of well-known poet Albert Nyathi, writer and academic Robert Muponde and radio personality Alson Mfiri, he became one of the founding members of the Budding Writers Association of Zimbabwe (BWAZ) which was hatched from a workshop conducted by Tsotso Magazine and Baobab Books.

As a budding writer, Alumenda regularly took part in the BWAZ writing skills workshops, the annual Zimbabwe International Book Fair, and he had a writers’ circle with writing colleagues such as Beatrice Erlwanger.

Four years after the establishment of BWAZ, Alumenda published his first children’s book titled “Thandiwe’s Spirit and the River” (1994, Baobab Books).

This debut publication launched him on a writing spree that earned him awards such as Special MentionWhite Ravens at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy in 1997 and twice won First Prize in the ZBPA literary awards (1998 and 1999) for his books “Marita Goes to School” (1997, Baobab Books, Harare) and “Marita’s Great Idea” (1998, Baobab Books, Harare).

What NAMA Awards nowadays categorize as Outstanding Children’s Book in the literary section used to be called the Best JuniorYoung Adult Literature and Alumenda won the award in 2001 for his book “The Girl Who Couldn’t Dance”. At the same NAMA Awards in 2002, his other book “Why Frog Jump About” (2002, Macmillan Education, UK) earned a nomination.

Alumenda’s untimely death in 2004 robbed the nation of a committed storyteller who touched many children’s hearts in and outside Zimbabwe. May his soul rest in peace.

A Brief Look at the 14th NAMA Literary Awards Category

How good it feels that the six books nominated in two of the three sub-categories of this year’s National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA) literary section have at least passed under Bookshelf’s microscopic eye, one way or the other! Yet I am wondering how the children’s books nominated for Outstanding Children’s Book could not have found a place in the ‘Bookshelf’ earlier!

The books nominated for the Outstanding Children’s Book award are “Little Hare Stories – Big Trouble at the River” by Enock Chihombori, “Mombe Yamai” by Chenjerai Mazambani, and “Around the Fire – Folktales from Zimbabwe” edited by Raisedon Baya and Christopher Mlalazi.

Outstanding First Creative Published Work nominees are “Shards” by Cynthia Marangwanda, “Revai” by Ropofadzo Mupunga, and “A Struggle Alike” by Debra Vakira.

“Mukoma’s Marriage and Other Stories” by Emmanuel Sigauke, “Bhuku Risina Basa Nokuti Rakanyorwa Masikati” by Memory Chirere and “Writing Lives” edited by Irene Staunton are this year’s nominees for the Outstanding Fiction Book award.

The nominated books for NAMA literary awards only confirm that time is now ripe for writers to go for their own stand-alone literary awards in the country.

Last week, the whole list of the 14th NAMA nominees in different fields of our arts and culture was released and the countdown to the “valentinely” finale on February 14 has already begun. Sadly the focus has been on Music and Music alone.

We are yet to see a deep speculation around the other categories. Our media as usual creates an impression that in Zimbabwe, music is all there is to art. In some countries, this could have been an opportunity for the media to go category by category, shedding light on the value or lack of each nominated piece of art.

This year’s NAMA Awards will be held in Harare under the theme ‘Pride of Zimbabwe’. Indeed, the greatest of times for artists is when they are recognized for their hard work. Congratulations to all the 14th NAMA nominees.

Source : The Herald