By HOLAA ed
A book full of the stories of Malawaian lesbian and gender non-conforming individuals. What could be better than that?
The anthology has been described as:
‘a ground-breaking collection brings together the life stories of eleven lesbian, bisexual and gender-nonconforming Malawians. Told in the contributors’ own words, these powerful narratives shed light on a daily struggle to live freely and with dignity. Each story is an intimate portrait of its author, who shares with the reader their hopes and dreams, their struggles and achievements, their loves and losses.’
We attended the alunch of this book, hosted by the Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA).
The launch itself was a beautiful and engaging space with a great turn out despite the rain that always threatens a good event. Dr Zethu Matebeni, a trustee of gala opened, the proceedings and raised issues of literature as activism, what it means for South Africa to run projects in other countries within the region and the privilege to have such a launch in light of the context of the rights based in sexuality in the country.
A letter to the Malawian president was also read out that was written by all participants in the writing project which asked for change and to be seen as a part of Malawian society and calling for protection and inclusion legally and socially. It was a powerful and beautiful letter that spoke to a need for an end to discrimination, a need for access to health care, education, the economy and even freedom of movement and association.
The anthology is the second edition, the first was called Queer Malawi, and came about as the first one had few lesbian stories as people claimed that ‘these stories could not be found.’
Well this anthology found them and they were many. One of our favourites is the poem ‘ Ode to my Clitorus’.
The anthology came about after a three day writing workshop in which participants were encouraged to tell their stories through various activities and exercises. One of the contributors is the first lesbian to come out Mercy Kumwenda, which she did in 2013. None of the authors names are their real names except Mercy. Only one person was initially willing to but by the end of the conversation around the use of pseudonyms she too had changed her mind.
Despite the anonymity the participants stated that one of the most most powerful and exciting things about the anthology was the fact that their stories were told. That they could say ‘we are here we exist’ even if their names were hidden, they still existed.
‘I never knew I could have such power in expressing myself about myself.’ –participant ‘A’ in writing workshop.
‘I have learned I am not in this. Being with people who are like me has made me a stronger person. ‘ another participant in the writing workshop.
The beautiful thing is GALA even want to produce a manual based on the process of producing of this anthology to give others the means to do the same. The anthology was edited and the process of collecting stories was conducted by Mahkosazana Xaba who was at the helm of Queer Africa anthology.
The book can be bought in South Africa from bookstores such as Exclusive Books and The Book Lounge. Copies can be ordered from GALA as well (postage costs covered by buyer). Click here for GALA contacts details.
Interested in literature check out this interview with the amazing author Nnenna Marcia writer of sex and love.