In Conversation with: Tinashe Tafirenyika

Tinashe Tafirenyika -Zimbabwean writer and multi award-winning poet.

Tinashe Tafirenyika is young Zimbabwean writer and multi award-winning poet. 

Where did your passion for writing come from and what drew you to poetry?

I enjoyed reading as a child so writing and trying to create works like what I read was the natural response. I used to rap as a teen, when I went to college, I stopped writing raps and started writing poems. 

What was it like to be the first woman and the youngest person to win a NAMA and winning it twice?

It was awesome. The first one was quite unintentional, so it inspired the second because I had to walk worthy of the honour and prove (mainly to myself) that I really was top tier. It was all very validating, and it has earned me respect in certain circles where I would have been ignored otherwise. I think more women should win awards, we already make excellent work, when we submit it to these platforms and it is acknowledged, it really propels our careers forward. 

What are your thoughts on the recognition for women in arts in Zimbabwe?

It is very low, even worldwide. The erasure of women’s contributions in various fields is quite systematic and unless we make the opposite very intentional, we will lose a lot of great art just because the creators have boobs. Or we will have the art but not know its origins, which is equally sad. 

How was it winning the Bulawayo Arts Award and having your work recognised in your hometown?

I quite enjoyed it. Bulawayo is my home and very important to me. It also helped a lot of people in Bulawayo who otherwise wouldn’t have been into poetry be aware of my work. It’s hard to hide your art when your face is now on posters in the city centre. 

Tinashe Tafirenyika - Zimbabwean multi award-winning poet.

How was it performing and winning House of Hunger and Shakespeare Lives Poetry Slams and what would your advice be for first time performers?

House of Hunger was where I cut my teeth as a slam poet. It helped me learn how to command a stage and hone my writing because it was never the easiest of stages, so you really had to command people’s attention and make it worth their while. I am fortunate to have met a lot of poets who are now my close friends at the Book Cafe where House of Hunger used to be held and I am eternally thankful for them. As for Shakespeare Lives, all I can say is I really needed the prize money, so I was quite motivated. Although I will say, I believe any funding available in poetry slams should be split among the participants because they all contribute to the quality of slam experience. The winner can still get a token, but prize money should never be the major motivation for slamming. If you’re performing for the first time, practice a lot and don’t beat yourself up if it tanks. It takes a few times to get it right. 

What inspired the creation of Sarah Baartman

Many, many things, chief among them the real-life story Sarah. Black women have been going through the most for centuries and a lot of times we have problems processing things and navigating through a hostile world because we don’t understand how and why things happen the way they do. Sarah Baartman was me putting into words my epiphany that by the world’s standards black women are ugly and freakish hence we will never measure up unless we change the units of measurement. 

Which writers/poets inspire you the most?

Philani Nyoni, Tari Ndoro, Tendai Huchu and Batsirai Chigama. Their stories are authentic and creative. Also, I can always ask them what on earth they were thinking killing off my favourite character. 

Where can people find your work? 

My Facebook page Tinashe Tafirenyika Poetry and some columns on shamsrumi.com.ng, a Nigerian poetry blog. 

What have you learned about yourself through your writing?

A lot. I have questioned my beliefs and behaviours, I have grown in both my tolerance and my understanding of the world around me, which in turn has made me understand myself more. I’ve learned that I am impatient, and passionate and a hopeless romantic, which all writers should be honestly. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers

Read more than you write and don’t rush to write about a demographic that you are not part of because you probably don’t understand it as much as you think you do. 

What song is the soundtrack to your life?

An endless EDM beat where the bass never drops. 

What is your favourite thing about being Zimbabwean?

The memes. 

How would you like to be remembered?

As a great writer and human. I would like for my work to outlive me and be a multifaceted beacon shining brightly on the most beautiful parts of the black, female (African) experience.

Social media

Twitter: @Tinashete

Facebook: Tinashe Tafirenyika Poetry

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