AiW are delighted to introduce Wesley Macheso as an Editor on the Reviews team with some of his Words on the Times – a Q&A series that offers a space to share our experiences of work, life, and our communities while the pandemic alters our ways of being.
Wesley also serves as an Associate Editor at African Writer, a New Jersey-based monthly online magazine celebrating African literature and writers that welcomes contributions exclusively from/about African writers (and writing) at home and abroad.
“Dare to add your voice to the gathering thunder…. www.africanwriter.com”
He is spending his lockdown in Stellenbosch, South Africa with no option of travelling home to Malawi due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. On a normal day, he teaches literature at the University of Malawi, where teaching has been suspended indefinitely due to the threat of the pandemic. Wesley is currently reading for his PhD at Stellenbosch University. His research examines representations of queer vulnerabilities and agency in literary and cultural texts from Sub-Saharan Africa.
He is working with life writing, fiction, and cinematic productions by African and some non-African producers invested in stories from the continent. Some of the texts include Nkunzi Zandile Nkabinde’s Black Bull, Ancestors, and Me: My Life as a Lesbian Sangoma (2008), You Have to be Gay to Know God (2018) by Siya Khumalo, Becoming Him: A Trans Memoir of Triumph (2018) by Landa Mabenge, Always Anastacia: A Transgender Life in South Africa (2016) by Anastacia Tomson. Fairytales for Lost Children (2015) by Diriye Osman, and Queer Africa 2: New Stories (2017) edited by Makhosazana Xaba and Karen Martin. He is also working with two fictional films; Inxeba – The Wound (2017) and Rafiki (2018); and documentaries which include The Pearl of Africa (2016), God Loves Uganda (2013), Call me Kuchu (2012), and Veil of Silence (2012).
Wesley is also a creative writer and his story ‘This Land is Mine’ was longlisted for the 2015 Short Story Day Africa Prize and can be found in the SSDA Prize anthology Water: New Short Fiction From Africa (edited by Nick Mulgrew and Karina Szczurek). He won the 2015 Peer Gynt Literary Award in Malawi for his children’s book Akuzike and the Gods (2017), an adventure story bordering on fantasy that explores the idea of faith in a traditional African village surviving a drought. Some of his poems are published in Wreaths for a Wayfarer (2020), an anthology honouring Nigerian-born Canadian professor, writer, literary critic and columnist, Pius Adesanmi, who died in the doomed Ethiopian Airline flight 302 on March 10, 2019. Wesley’s work can also be read online on African Writer, Brittle Paper, Storymoja, The Kalahari Review, and Agbowo.
Africa in Words: Can you tell us a bit about your work and the ways that the Covid-19 pandemic has altered your plans?
WM: Basically, my work revolves around literature. When I am not writing (both fiction and nonfiction), then I’m reading, or editing, or teaching literature if not marking scripts of the same. The Covid-19 pandemic has proven to be a challenge in many ways. My academic work has suffered mostly due to the suspension of international conferences where we meet to share ideas and create vital networks. My writing has been the worst hit since I mostly get inspiration from long walks at dusk, which are no longer allowed. I think the mind is the worst prisoner in these times. The realisation that you are no longer free and at risk of the unseen is enough to shut down one’s enthusiasm and imagination.
AiW: In what ways are you working now that you weren’t before?
WM: I have been forced to rely on technology more than ever before. It is a good thing, I guess, for some of us have embraced our condition as dinosaurs way too long. I have come to appreciate the effectiveness of virtual spaces and what tech initiatives can contribute even to the humanities.
AiW: What have you found most supportive and/or heart lifting in this time?
WM: Again, virtual spaces. For starters, it is the only way I get to communicate with those I love. Knowing that we can no longer get into libraries or coffee shops, the internet has come to the rescue. Online blogs and magazines have continued to provide, not only information on the pandemic, but also distractions from its grim reality. Social media has offered companionship and there is some new creative energy out there. I’m sure we will have interesting artistic representations that will affectively render our predicament to posterity.
AiW: How can our communities support you?
WM: Mostly by not looking down with the rest of the world. Artistic communities must help in breathing life into the world; something I think Africa in Words is already doing by continuing with the flow of insights into African literature. For people out there and the literary communities we turn to for support, two songs come to my mind: “Don’t look down” by One Republic, and “Times like these” by the Foo Fighters.
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