Writers rarely get any recognition in Zambia. The poor reading culture of the people makes writing a very scary career path. So imagine my pleasant surprise when BongoHive announced that it would be hosting a “Meet the Industry” for writers. This was something I had always needed, to listen to people that are doing what they love to do despite the various limitations. They were called upon to discuss their inspirations, challenges and what they thought about the writing culture in Zambia.
The first speaker was Imanga Kayama. She is the Managing Editor for TechTrends Zambia which is a Zambian web-based Technology Publication. Its focus is happenings in Zambian Technology. She talked about writers and bloggers. She pointed out that blogging is informal and allows for interaction with readers. Blogging is classified under social media these days. She described her inspiration as rooting from humanity, her womanhood, her identity as an African and the globalisation brought about by the internet. She identified the poor Internet connection faced by most Zambians as a challenge to writing and research. Other challenges included writer’s block, time and money restraints. When asked what constituted a great story she said discovery, research and follow-up coupled with excitement are the key. She explained that she is driven by her love for writing and technology. She believes our personal lives influence our professional lives and the two are inseparable.
Next up was Nkole Nkole. She is a Zambian journalist presently working at the Zambia Daily Mail. She shared the story of how she is where she is now. She mentioned that due to her love for writing, becoming a journalist was a choice she made on her own. In her first year at college, she struggled with the structure which her lecturers told her to use when writing. She also struggled with the concept of Diaries and deadlines. She however found a way to stand out in her profession. Everyone should try and be different. Add your unique signature even to the most mundane tasks. She described working in a publishing house as both fun and frustrating. Fun in that this is what she loves to do but frustrating because the many checks and balances in a state media company pose a lot of limitations to one’s individuality. When asked what she thought about the writing culture in Zambia, she stated that there are several people who can write well and the internet has opened up an avenue for them to showcase their ability. However, she cautioned bloggers and other writers on the internet to take extra care and pay more attention to grammar, spelling and content.
Katarina Zeravica was born and raised in Zambia. She loved writing from a tender age and often found solace in reading. She studied computer programming and worked in the family business of transport and logistics for some years before she decided she wanted to write for a living. She now offers editorial consulting services for creative projects ranging from content development to proofreading, copyediting, and writing for businesses, Government, NGOs and the general public. According to her, writing needs discipline, time, practice and study. She enjoys her business because she is her own boss and she calls the shots on what she wants to do. In the first few months of her business, the research she carried out led her to a couple of points. She found out that her business was the first fully registered editorial company in Zambia. She also found out that she couldn’t charge international rates in Zambia, it would be too expensive. She advised writers to volunteer their skills and services if they want to set out in a new career. Share out your networks and ideas with other like-minded people. When it comes to writing, nothing is wasted. Every experience is important to what you will write about later.
The next speaker was Dario Chongolo. He is an author and motivational teacher. He thought Zambia has a poor documentation culture. We don’t document our history hence our shaky identity as a nation. The challenge he faced as an author was the high cost of printing. Books don’t sell in our book stores if you don’t have a reputation. He advised writers to be consistent if they want people to believe in what they do. Dario’s vision is to become an international author. He believes he is not just investing in events but in a future.
An interesting speaker was called upon next. Kapumpe-Valentine Musakanya is the son of the late Valentine Musakanya. He has published the papers written by his late father. He mentioned that most Zambians are culturally and historically bankrupt because of the drastic lack of content and knowledge of Zambia. He is motivated to make as much Zambian historical documentation available on the internet as possible. For photos of the event, you can visit the BongoHive facebook album here
Zambian writers have to step out and do their part. We have to tell the story of Zambia for ourselves and not let foreigners do it for us.