“Most Zimbabwean writers don’t enjoy reading what other writers are writing about but people in other parts will expect you to know about Zimbabwean literature.
“At the residence, I was challenged to talk about Zimbabwean literature,” said Mabasa, reflecting on his stay in Canada as a writer-in-residence.
Mabasa was chosen over a field of international applicants to be the 2010 Writer/Storyteller-in-Residence for the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture.
From September to December 2010, the artist was in Canada where he took part in numerous literature programmes.
He said he had worked on personal literary endeavours and participated in various activities that included workshops, storytelling and lectures for the Canadian university.
Mabasa, who also writes books for children, said he was challenged to talk about famed Zimbabwean writers such as Yvonne Vera, Dambudzo Marechera, Charles Mungoshi, Shimmer Chinodya among others.
“I thought I was just going to the university to read and write but I had to get out of my comfort zone as a writer.
“I was challenged to reflect on the creative writing process itself, to think about the nuts and bolts of the trade,” Mabasa said.
He added that he learned from the residence that writers in developed countries were more focused on writing books for the market whereas locally, writers focus more on the creative aspect.
“We write because we have a story to tell but people in developed countries write for commercial reasons.
“We don’t invest a lot of time in reading and research. We believe writing is simply telling a story.
“I know I may be accused of making negative remarks but I think it is important for Zimbabwean writers to research and write about what the market wants to read,” he said.
He urged local writers to invest in social media in order to expose their work to a greater audience.
“As writers, we need to create personal spaces which we fully control such as websites and blogs where we can get our work out to the greater public.
“You never know who reads your product and what level of benefit that might be.”
Mabasa’s first novel, Mapenzi, won the Zimbabwe Book Publishers Association Best Shona Novel of the Year award in 1999 and went on to be voted as one of the top 75 Zimbabwean books of the century.
His second novel, Ndafa Here? has been described as a “daring” account of how one woman defies the odds and emerges victorious.
The book won the National Arts Merit Award for the Outstanding Fiction Book in 2009, and in 2010 Mabasa was awarded the Outstanding Children’s Book Award, for his book titled, The Man, Shaggy Leopard and the Jackal.