Ivor W. Hartmann is a Zimbabwean writer, editor, publisher, and visual artist. Awarded The Golden Baobab Prize (2009), finalist for the Yvonne Vera Award (2011), selected for The 20 in Twenty: The Best Short Stories of South Africa’s Democracy (2014), awarded third in the Jalada Prize for Literature (2015), and Nommo Awards nomination (2017). His works have appeared in many publications. He runs the StoryTime micro-press, publisher of the African Roar and AfroSF series of anthologies. He is a founding member of the African Speculative Fiction Society, and on the advisory board of Writers International Network Zimbabwe.

28 March 2010

Free Owen Maseko!

On Thursday 25th of March 2010 a new exhibition opened up at Bulawayo National Art Gallery in Zimbabwe featuring the works of Owen Maseko.

"an artist’s impression of the harsh reality of Gukurahundi as well as the decades of oppression and violence that have characterised Zimbabwe. Gukurahundi was the name given to the violence in Matabeleland and the Midlands in the mid 1980s that led to the deaths of an estimated 20,000 Ndebele people, after ZANU PF unleashed the notorious North Korean trained Fifth Brigade in the area. In a combination of graffiti, 3D installations and his painting Maseko unflinchingly dared to tell the truth, adding his usual and whimsical element of humour." -Owen Maseko's website

The next day Maseko together with the gallery director Voti Thebewas was forcibly arrested and the exhibition shut down. While Thebewas was later released the same day, Maseko remains in jail until he appears in court on Monday, he has been so far charged with, 'Undermining the authority of the president', 'Causing offence to people of a particular race/tribe/etc.' and 'Promoting public violence'.

There can be no doubt about the continuing oppression within Zimbabwe, in the wake of this event and many others.

"This latest development comes a day after a photo exhibition at Harare’s Delta Gallery, organized by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association, was abandoned after police tried to confiscate the photographs on show, in defiance of a court order. They had previously seized all the photos and briefly arrested the organization’s director." -Violet Gonda (SW Radio Africa news - The Independent Voice of Zimbabwe )

What you can do you, lend your voice of protest:

Blog, twitter (#owenmaseko #zimbabwe #art), facebook about it.

Join these groups at Facebook:
Release Owen Maseko

And share images of this exhibition as widely as possible, which can be found at the Sokwanle and Release Owen Maseko groups.


Monday 29th March
Owen Maseko has been remanded in Custody till tomorrow, when we expect the magistrate to make a bail application ruling. He will spent his 4th night in prison at Bulawayo Remand.

Tuesday 30th March
Owen Maseko has been granted a US$100 bail. He will be back in court on the 12th of April 2010.

24 March 2010

SpeakZA: Writers for a free press

The function of the free press is an keystone in any country and when this goes it is an inevitable slide into totalitarianism as has been evident time and time again. I give my full support to the SpeakZA initiative put forward and promulgated by Sipho Hlongwane.

Last week, shocking revelations concerning the activities of ANC Youth League Spokesperson Nyiko Floyd Shivambu came to the fore. According to a letter published in various news outlets, a complaint was laid by 19 political journalists with the secretary-general of the ANC, against Shivambu. This complaint letter detailed attempts by Shivambu to leak a dossier to certain journalists, purporting to expose the money-laundering practices of Dumisane Lubisi, a journalist at City Press. The letter also detailed the intimidation that followed when these journalists refused to publish these revelations.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the reprisals against journalists by Shivambu. His actions constitute a blatant attack on media freedom and a grave infringement on constitutional rights. It is a disturbing step towards dictatorial rule in South Africa.

We call on the ANC and the ANC Youth League to distance themselves from the actions of Shivambu. The media have, time and again, been a vital democratic safeguard by exposing the actions of individuals who have abused their positions of power for personal and political gain.

The press have played a vital role in the liberation struggle, operating under difficult and often dangerous conditions to document some of the most crucial moments in the struggle against apartheid. It is therefore distressing to note that certain people within the ruling party are willing to maliciously target journalists by invading their privacy and threatening their colleagues in a bid to silence them in their legitimate work.

We also note the breathtaking hubris displayed by Shivambu and ANC Youth League President Julius Malema in their response to the letter of complaint. Shivambu and Malema clearly have no respect for the media and the rights afforded to the media by the Constitution of South Africa. Such a response serves only to reinforce the position that the motive for leaking the so-called dossier was not a legitimate concern, but an insolent effort to intimidate and bully a journalist who had exposed embarrassing information about the youth league president.

We urge the ANC as a whole to reaffirm its commitment to media freedom and other constitutional rights we enjoy as a country.

17 March 2010

Review: Black Diamond - Zakes Mda

Black Diamond - Zakes Mda

Reviewed by Ivor W. Hartmann, first published in wordsetc#7.

From start to finish, Black Diamond is a profound and often hilarious satirical rollercoaster ride around the heart of Johannesburg and the South African psyche. With this his eighth novel, Mda displays a warm mature confidence and he stands without a doubt as one of the master contemporary storytellers of our time.

Writing a novel can be a lonely pursuit but there is a definite sense that when Mda sits down to write he is never alone nor lonely. Each main character is deep and well rounded holding true to Mda’s philosophy of compassion being the key to understanding each character and writing about them. Like life, nothing is simply black and white in Black Diamond.

First we meet the seemingly sexually repressed and uptight magistrate Kristin Uys, on a crusade to rid Roodeport of the “scum of the earth”; that being anyone having anything to do with the sex trade. In Kristin’s court room are the Visagie brothers, Stevo a small time pimp and Shortie his accomplice. When Kristin has to dismiss their case through lack of evidence, she takes revenge on Stevo and puts him back in prison for contempt of court. This single action forms the backbone plot which drives Black Diamond, as Stevo then swears revenge on the magistrate.

Outside the courtroom we meet Ma Visagie and the brother’s ex-nursemaid Aunt Magda. They, along with a motley bunch one way or another indebted to the Visagie family, are protesting the Visagie’s imprisonment. It is this scene that sets the inverted stereotype as the continuing tone for the book, with white folk using classic anti-apartheid demonstration techniques. Though to paraphrase Adichie, a stereotype is just an incomplete story, and Mda strives to tell a whole story. For every character in Black Diamond has a very real place in today’s South Africa.

Enter Don Mateza, a cat-loving high level security guard and ex-freedom fighter AKA AK Bazooka, who fought for the liberation of SA from his early teens. But because he was successfully never imprisoned failed to enter what could be called The Robben Island Club, and thereby gain enough “Political Capital” to be converted to “Capital Capital” and become the book’s namesake, a Black Diamond. Not that this is what he really wants above all else but rather it is expected of him, especially from his girlfriend Tumi who is constantly pushing him towards this end.

Tumi’s oft played example, and indeed the shadow that hangs over all wannabe Black Diamonds, is the minor character of Molotov Mbungane. A man who likes to say “accumulation cannot be democratised comrades” and is the king pin of the Black Diamonds, the wealthiest beneficiary of BEE. With a few more liberally scattered references Mda make it easy to guess whom he might be.

From Soweto, Weltevreden Park, North Riding to Roodeport and Strijdom Park, Johannesburg itself is also very much a main character. Each location, like each character, is lovingly rendered as if they were Mda’s children and he has carefully watched them blossom. Though always tempered with a gentle humour there is a definite strong undercurrent of exposure inherent in Black Diamond, a willingness by Mda to expose all facets of Johannesburg and its denizens. He consummately describes a rapidly evolving city as indicative of the country, which has come out of the celebration of freedom and headlong into its practicalities, fuelled with an undeniable optimism and willingness to move forward and overcome any obstacle.

Wordsetc is one of my favourite print literary magazines (available worldwide through subscription) and here's a bit about issue#7 from the publisher and editor Phakama Mbonambi:

The seventh edition of Wordsetc, South Africa’s foremost literary journal, has just reached the shelves! The publication continues to showcase the best of South African literature. This time around it focuses on crime fiction as a theme. Guest edited by author and editor Joanne Hichens the edition explores the ins and outs of the genre, the motivation of crime writers to write crime fiction, and takes a look too at real-life crime in our society.

Read all about Margie Orford’s success – how she makes crime pay - with her Clare Hart series, in the main profile by Sam Beckbessinger.

There are also illuminating essays by Joanne Hichens, Jassie Mackenzie, Sarah Lotz, Richard Kunzmann, Roger Smith, Helen Moffett, Andrew Brown, Justice Malala, Emma Chen, Thembelani Ngenelwa and Megan Voysey-Braig. It’s a feast of reading for those who can’t get enough of South African literature and South African writers providing, apart from great writing, food for thought.

08 March 2010

Review: Amelia's Inheritance - Sarudzai Mubvakure

Amelia's Inheritance - Sarudzai Mubvakure

Reviewed by Ivor W. Hartmann.

Sarudzai Mubvakure’s Amelia's Inheritance is a powerful heartfelt tale of family intrigue and its devastating long term effects. Set in a troubled colonial Rhodesia in the late sixties and early seventies as seen through the eyes of one Amelia Gruber. Though born into a wealthy family with all the privileges that money and her race bestow, when we first meet Amelia she is a somewhat awkward adolescent. This soon changes as she is flung into an uncertain future when her father is bankrupted and dies shortly after. It is through these dramatic changes that Amelia, who far from being defeated instead blossoms into a strong woman who takes control of her life; and along the way, discovers and is strong enough to deal with the secrets of her family’s past.

From the bright and dashing lawyer Peter Mudondo boldly championing the victims of illegal re-settlement, to the calm and supportive though private Sisi and downright slimy piece of work Bruce Forbes. Each of the characters Amelia encounters in her life changes her in the way people whom we are passionate about, in love and hate, do. In this Mubvakure rings a golden note of a gentle and compassionate observation, understanding, and portrayal of the complexity of human relations. How people in our lives and the way we interact with them mould us into who we are.

This is Mubvakure’s second novel and she has a firm yet very empathetic voice as she plough’s wholeheartedly into a setting and perspective that few writers today can deal with; without becoming too embroiled in the politics and injustices of this period. Mubvakure’s colonial Rhodesia on the brink of massive change is a character unto itself in the way it influences and in many ways governs their actions and thereby their lives. But never does it overtly intrude, though these elements are certainly there and accurately portrayed, her principle focus nobly remains within the rich lives of her characters.

In Amelia’s Inheritance, Mubvakure also tackles many of the issue’s of that era and some which still persist, from woman’s rights and domestic violence to poverty and racial injustice, but always without malice or a sense of finger pointing. Instead she skilfully employ’s these issues to both highlight them and to drive plot and character arcs. Indeed one can say for sure Amelia’s Inheritance is a primarily a character driven novel.

With many Zimbabwean writers eagerly diving into stories set in and of contemporary Zimbabwe with its instability and upheavals, Amelia’s Inheritance is surely a breath of fresh air. She has a wonderful easy going style that invites the reader onward and envelopes you in her world as you laugh and mourn together with her characters. There is no literary pretension on her behalf; only a good story well told that leaves you happy to have taken the time to experience it.

This is a website for Zimbabwean Author Ivor W. Hartmann. All posts on this site are Copyright © Ivor W. Hartmann 2007-2011. All rights reserved.