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5 questions with Tinashe Jakwa

Published 9th October, 2018 in Writing
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Can you tell us a little about what you’ve been up to since your short story was published in the collection Ways of Being Here?

I have commenced my PhD Candidature in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Western Australia, where I am examining the causes of peacebuilding policy failures in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I have also been etching away at a poetry collection that pays homage to each of the places and, in particular, the houses and flats that I have lived in over the years. I am working on a couple of short stories, including one that will be published in a Margaret River Press anthology next year.

What session(s) will you be involved in at the Australian Short Story Festival? Can you tell us a little about what to expect?

I will be involved in the Saturday 20th October session ‘Learning to fly: The value of mentoring’, which will take place from 9 to 10 am at the Centre for Stories in Perth. I am expecting a delightful discussion about the role that mentoring has played in fellow emerging writers’ writing journeys, the pathways it has opened, and the ways in which it has enriched fellow writers’ self-understandings.

How valuable do you think the process of mentoring is in the development of an emerging writer?

Mentoring is valuable if it is not prescriptive and if it allows emerging writers to refine and recognise the unique features of their voice. The best mentoring occurs when mentors give emerging writers the scope to experiment with form, style and content in new and innovative ways. That is to say, not all mentoring is necessarily beneficial, because some styles of mentoring can stifle writers’ growth and writers’ ability to be themselves throughout the writing process and their journey as writers. Luckily, I have only experienced the style of mentoring that encourages growth through experimentation.

You’ve mentioned before that a lot of meaning, intention and truth can get lost in translation. How does this statement impact on your own writing?

A lot of my writing is trying to translate my own personal experiences and those of the people in my life into the written word, usually in a partially fictionalised manner. So that brings to the fore questions and tensions around how best to represent various experiences, and the extent to which I can alter these while remaining true to people’s, including my own, recollections. It also involves an element of manipulating what are often fragile, distant memories, which results in an end-product that is compromised even before it is written down. I quite like this aspect of writing; it reveals both the fragility and dynamism of memory. It also encourages ongoing experimentation with form and style.

There has been a big push of late to publish more diverse voices in an effort to combat the structural racism that pervades the literary industry and indeed other industries. Some people have described these efforts as ‘tokenistic’. What are your thoughts on this?

There is a great need to highlight the diversity of Australian society by expanding the range of voices that constitute and shape the literary and other industries. The literary industry, in particular, is best placed to narrate the story of Australian society, past, present, and future. This requires that we have people other than white men and women telling that story from numerous perspectives. Efforts to expand the range of literary voices out there can be tokenistic if they require– explicitly or implicitly – that non-white writers write about particular subjects: the struggles they are faced with in life or how grateful they are to be a part of Australian society. That is, if they require that non-white writers set themselves apart from their white counterparts as exotic Others that do not fully belong to ‘Australian society’. Having a sprinkling of non-white writers getting published when those writers feel restricted in what it is they can write about is tokenistic. Efforts to combat structural racism in the literary industry must continue so that we may start to see people from a diverse range of backgrounds working within the industry, getting published and telling stories on a multitude of subjects.

Tisane Jakwa will be appearing on the ‘Learning to fly: The value of mentoring’ panel on Saturday 20 October from 9 to 10 am at the Australian Short Story Festival

Tinashe Jakwa is a PhD Candidate in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Western Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of International Relations (with Distinction) from the same institution. Her research interests include peacebuilding in Africa, with a focus on Western actors’ ‘democracy promotion’ and aid provision initiatives on the African continent. Tinashe’s research explores the causes of state instability and peacebuilding policy failures in African states, including the ways in which liberal institutions contribute to conflict escalation. She is a political and security risk analyst who has written extensively on geopolitical developments on the African continent. She has also appeared on various news platforms providing commentary on political developments on the African continent. As a member of the African-Australian diaspora, Tinashe also writes short stories and poetry on the frustrations and joys of diasporic life. Her short story, ‘No Child of One’s Own’, was published in the Margaret River Press and Centre for Stories 2017 short story anthology, Ways of Being Here.

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