The Sunday News
Ngqwele Dube, Sunday Life Correspondent
WHILE her writing talent was apparent from an early age during her school days, Olivia Mahwaya Sibanda (40) only published her first novel three years ago and testimony to her talent, her third novel has seen her scoop a Ndebele writing contest.
The competition, run by renowned author, Barbara Makhalima Nkala through her trust, the Barbara Clara Makhalisa Nkala (BCMN) Literary Trust saw Sibanda being rewarded for her literal prowess.
She emerged first among eight writers that had submitted works for the inaugural competition.
Sibanda said a feeling of confidence overcame her after reading her completed manuscript for the winning novel, Futhi Ya.
She revealed she wrote the novel at night as she had to grapple with her duties as a hotel reservationist in Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa.
“One of my friends in England sent me a link for the competition in August last year after coming across it on social media and I began writing the book in October, at night as I had to work during the day.
“When I wrote the book, I really felt I would win the competition but was not 100 percent confident, it was only after I completed writing it that I strongly felt it was good work both in terms of the language and the storyline,” said Sibanda.
For her efforts, the Filabusi-born writer was rewarded with US$250 plus a publishing deal with Radiant Publishing.
Instead of tackling the conventional societal challenges in Futhi Ya, Sibanda went against the grain and wrote about gender-based violence with a twist as she depicts a man at the wrong end of abuse.
She said at the time of writing the novel, there were a lot of complaints about gender-based violence with women being at the receiving end but she felt men were “sometimes pushed to the edge”.
“The story is about a man who loses his wife and is consequently subjected to abuse from his in-laws who want to usurp his inheritance and also take his children away from him. After overcoming that fight, he is again subjected to abuse by his new wife, who unfortunately ill-treats his children from his previous marriage.
“While trying to protect his children, his relatives are also up against him as they are unhappy with the choice he made for a wife,” added Sibanda.
She believes writing is an inborn talent as she started writing stories doing Form One at Tshazi Secondary School with her teachers likening her to (Barbara) Makhalisa every time she wrote compositions.
After completing her studies, Sibanda pursued another career away from writing and it was only in 2012 that she seriously considered putting pen to paper and she came up with the book Ukuzala which she only got published in 2017.
A year later she went on to write Ubuzwe Abuthengwa, after getting encouragement from readers who had enjoyed her first work.
“For me writing in Ndebele is important because it enhances our language and keeps it alive in a time when fewer and fewer people are reading it and writing in it. It is critical as Africans that we keep our languages alive,” she said.
Nkala said she launched the Ndebele novel writing competition in July 2019 last year against concerns of a lack of an emerging crop of good Ndebele young writers who can create and sustain Ndebele literature.