By Samantha Munyurwa
Zimbabwean-born writer Gift Nyoni has continued to lift the Zimbabwean flag in the United Kingdom and recently won the New Black and Minority ethnic writers award.
Nyoni won the New Black and Minority ethnic writers award for the story entitled “The Ritual Seat of the King,” a “wise, subtle and intimate” look at how the life of a young boy changes as the war of liberation came to an end.
Nyoni’s winning entry is the story of David, a boy whose father has been absent for years, and whose mother has been receiving “visitors” in his absence. After the war ends, his father returns home but his homecoming is not what David anticipated.
Nyoni beat five other shortlisted authors, including Sulaxana Hippisly and Laura Black to win the award, which is run jointly by the Guardian and publisher Fourth Estate. The competition aims to find the best new writers from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds based in the UK. The bold and striking writer said that he was inspired into writing by Dambudzo Marechera’s House of Hunger.
“It will come as no surprise to Zimbabweans that I started writing after reading Marechera’s House of Hunger. At first writing was a way of dealing with the shock of being in a new country and all that it entails. Later, writing served as a means of exploring my identity within the world as a Zimbabwean, and as a black man; the old Cambridge school curriculum we had in Zimbabwe had taught me everything about the world but little about who I was within it. Now I work in civil and human rights law and I write as a way to better understand, because there are so many places fiction can shine a light on where law can’t go.”
Nyoni said he was interested in producing literary fiction, as opposed to genre fiction.
“My reading list is composed almost entirely of literary fiction, which has a huge influence on what I write. I’m not married, but in a world in which everyone has a mobile office in their pocket, it can be a challenge to carve out time in which I can be creative. The result is that I usually end up doing a lot of my ‘writing’ in the mornings, in the shower, with my phone nearby so I can jot down the ideas before I forget them.
“In terms of short fiction, just the one winning entry of this competition. As a writer I’m more interested in long-form fiction, and I am working on a novel, which I hope to publish in due course. In another life I also wrote, published, and performed poetry, but mostly as a means of keeping my prose clean,” he said.
He added that competing for the Guardian Fourth Estate award was his first attempt into short fiction.
“ I’m delighted to have won. In other news, my draft novel was longlisted for the 2021 Bath Novel Award, and BPA First Novel Award, both international prizes for emerging writers of adult fiction,” he said.
He said a number of people have helped him to be a polished writer.
“I probably wouldn’t be writing without the early encouragement of Irene Staunton, a stalwart supporter of Zimbabwean writing, who first read my work around 2005 and provided guidance for years thereafter. My long-suffering sisters, the Common word black writers’ group in Manchester. Individual writers who have critiqued my work such as Zodwa Nyoni, Rehema Njambi, and Bernadine Evaristo, and of course, the encouragement and support of numerous friends.” The Sunday News