Q&A: Words on the Times – Mazi Nwonwu of Omenana magazine

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AiW note: Omenana is a tri-monthly magazine by Mazi Nwonwu (Co-founder and Managing Editor), Chinelo Onwualu (Co-founder), Iquo DianaAbasi (Contributing Editor), and Godson ChukwuEmeka Okeiyi (Graphic Designer); it is open to submissions from speculative fiction writers from across Africa and the Africanomenana logo - Copy Diaspora. 

“But Africans don’t do speculative fiction!”

“This is something a lot of us interested in speculative fiction have heard many times. And in a world where stereotypes have a way of taking flight and travelling, it is now almost accepted as fact.”

As their “About” page tells us, ‘Omenana’ is the Igbo word for divinity – it also loosely translates as “culture” – and embodies the team’s attempt to recover our wildest stories.The Omenana team is always on the lookout for “well-written speculative fiction that bridges the gap between past, present and future through imagination and shakes us out of the corner we have pushed ourselves into.”

We are delighted to be able to share here Managing Ed of the magazine, Mazi Nwonwu’s Words on the Times, an AiW Q&A series inspired by the spirit of community and resilience, initiated to connect the blog’s communities of work and life through their experiences of the COVID-19 pandemicHere, we learn about the joys and challenges of publishing an online SF magazine during the pandemic,  creating a space for writers to be edited by people in their context, the day job, humanity and resilience…

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Mazi Nwonwu

Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu, who writes under the pen name of Mazi Nwonwu, is a Lagos-based journalist and writer. While journalism and its demands take up much of his time, when he can, Nwonwu writes speculative fiction, which he believes is a vehicle through which he can transport Africa’s diverse cultures to the future. 

His work has appeared in Lagos 2060 (Nigeria’s first science fiction anthology), AfroSF (the first Pan-African science fiction anthology), Sentinel Nigeria, Brittle Paper, African Writer, Saraba Magazine, and It Wasn’t Exactly Love, an anthology on sex and sexuality published by Farafina in 2015.

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Words on the Times with Mazi Nwonwu of Omenana.

AiW: Could you tell us a bit about your work and the ways that the pandemic has affected your plans for it? 

Mazi Nwonwu: I like to think of myself first as a creative writer and managing editor of Omenana speculative fiction magazine.

However, I am a journalist, and this day job is demanding. As such, I find that the time I am able to steal away to work onOmenana magazine issue 18 cover Omenana is becoming less and less as the years go by. 

The pandemic didn’t really affect me, at least not in the same way it affected many others.

I continued working and we managed to publish two editions of Omenana and an anthology (our very first) which we unfortunately couldn’t put on Amazon or any other publishing platform because of logistics and location constraints. 

My work that I’d like the world to know about is that of trying to create a space for writers of speculative fiction in Africa to submit their work and get edited by people who understand the context in which they are writing.

I believe Omenana is particularly distinctive for this and it is something we want to keep doing for as long as possible, even with the constraints we face. 

Omenana magazine issue 17 coverIn what ways are you working now that you weren’t before?

Things are basically the same. We had a few weeks of lock down in 2020. Nigeria, to even our own surprise, wasn’t as hard hit by covid-19 as some other countries.

Being resilient, we’ve shrugged it off and life, aside the requirements to mask up before entering some places, has gone back to normal. We still do some social distancing at work. 

One major change is we no longer receive guests in my organization’s office in Lagos. So this means we make many zoom recordings with people and have all become adept at anchoring interviews with people through zoom or other social media. 

I think, too, that the discovery that people can actually be as productive at home as they are in the office is one that will stay with us. Omenana magazine issue 16 cover

What have you found most supportive and/or heart lifting in this time?

I found that people, when you really need them, will be there. I saw people sharing food and reaching out a helping hand to those who had little or nothing to carry them through the lock down period. 

Humanity shone and I am happy I witnessed it. 

How can our blog communities best support you?

We’ve been running Omenana Magazine out of pocket since 2014.

People can support us by subscribing to the magazine and becoming patrons of the magazine. We want to keep this dream alive, but we really want to go back to paying our writers. We stopped doing this in 2019. The community can support us by donating to the magazine. 

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Omenana’s Patreon page is here: https://www.patreon.com/OmenanaMagazine

Follow Omenana Magazine on Facebook and Twitter

And check out their latest (July 2021) edition at their website – free! 

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The magazine is open for submissions for its 19th issue until August 20, 2021. Read about their subscription criteria here

“We want art, fiction, and non-fiction from artists and writers from Africa and the African Diaspora. If you are unsure whether that includes you, please read this definition by the African Speculative Fiction Society about who is African for clarity.

“Fiction and art must be speculative (FantasyScience FictionHorror or Magical Realism) and must involve characters, settings or themes directly related to the African continent. All stories and art must be in English (translations welcome), must be original works (no fan fiction, sorry), and previously unpublished.

“We are very much interested in works that explore alternative futures for Africa and people of African descent. We would also like to see explorations of the past as well as new interpretations of myths, folklore and magic.”

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Categories: Conversations with - interview, dialogue, Q&A, Words on the Times

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