Transcultural Academy Online Novel Writing Workshop ~ call

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At the Transcultural Academy, we believe that ‘A Nation without books is like a clinic
without medicine’ (Tsitsi Dangarembga 2013). The Academy is premised on ideas to
support Transcultural Literature. The Academy will form the main foci and carry on
activities based on Transculturalism. It is about re-inventing of common culture, based
on the meeting and intermingling of different peoples and cultures. Transculturalism
is also based on the breaking down of barriers and rooted in the pursuit of defined
shared interests. The Academy is running an online course for committed African
novel writers who desire to transform their manuscripts into publishable works.

Call for submissions:

1. Interested writers must be African, living either on or off the continent.
2. Submit a 1,000 word maximum of the novel and a plot summary, including
their bios and any publications as a Word attachment to Transculturalacademy(at)
3. The deadline for submissions is September 30th 2014.
4. Selection of successful participants will be announced on October 15.
5. Successful participants will be paired with acclaimed writers, who will develop
their manuscripts into publishable works.
6. Transcultural Academy will also offer advice on literary agencies and
recommend works to publishers.
7. The fee for the entire course is One Thousand Five Hundred US Dollars.
(1,500 USD).
8. Submissions will be accepted from August 1st to September 30th 2014.

Tsitsi Dangarembga is a Zimbabwean author and filmmaker.

Dangarembga was born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and spent part of
her childhood in England. She took up psychology at the University of
Zimbabwe while holding down a two-year job as a copywriter at a marketing agency.
This early writing experience gave her an avenue for expression: she wrote numerous
plays, including The Lost of the Soil, and then joined the theatre group
Zambuko. She participated in the production of two plays, Katshaa and Mavambo.

In 1985, Dangarembga published a short story in Sweden called “The Letter”. In
1987, she published the play She Does Not Weep in Harare. At the age of
twenty-five, she had her first taste of success with her novel Nervous Conditions,
which won the African section of the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 1989 and is considered
one of the twelve best African novels ever written.

Dangarembga continued her education later in Berlin at the Deutsche Film und Fernseh Akademie,
where she studied film direction and produced several film productions, including a documentary
for German television. She also made the film, Everyone’s Child, shown worldwide including
at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

Dangarembga wrote the story for the film Neria (1993), which became the highest-grossing
film in Zimbabwean history. The protagonist is a widowed woman, whose brother-in-law
abuses traditional customs to control her assets for his own benefit. Neria loses her
material possessions and her child, but gets then help from her female friend (played
by Kubi Indi) against her late husband’s family. The title song is by Oliver Mtukudzi,
who also appears in the film.

In 1996, she directed the film Everyone’s Child. It was the first feature film directed
by a black Zimbabwean woman. The story followed the tragic fates of four siblings,
after their parents die of AIDS. The soundtrack featured songs by Zimbabwe’s most
popular musicians, including Thomas Mapfumo, Leonard Zhakata and Andy Brown.

In 2011, she orated a TEDX talk at Harare called “the question posed by my cat.”
She founded the International Images Film Festival in 2002 in response to the
proliferation of beauty contests at that time, in order to provide diverse
narratives by and about women.

She No Longer Weeps, 1987.
Nervous Conditions, 1988; Ayebia Clarke, 2004.
The Book of Not: A Sequel to Nervous Conditions, Ayebia Clarke, 2006.

BEATRICE LAMWAKA (born and raised in Alokolum, Gulu) is a Ugandan writer. She was
shortlisted for the 2011 Caine Prize for her story “Butterfly Dreams.” She is the
founder and director of Arts Therapy Foundation, a non-profit organisation that
provides psychological and emotional support through creative arts therapies. She is
the General Secretary of PEN Uganda Chapter and Executive member of Uganda
Reproduction Rights Organisation (URRO). She has served on the Executive Board of
Uganda Women Writers Association (FEMRITE), where she has been a member
since 1998.

She used to write for Global Press Institute articles issues that affect women example:
HIV/AIDS, impact of war on women,social justice, among others. Her creative
writing (short stories and her novel) also focus on these issues. In 2009, she was a
writer in residence at Château de Lavingny, Switzerland. In November 2013, She was
a resident working on her novel, Sunflowers, at Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio
Center. She is a recipient of 2011 Young Achievers Award in the category of Art,
Culture and Fashion. She received a grant from HF Guggenheim to research on land
disputes in post conflict northern Uganda. She was shortlisted for the 2011 Caine
Prize for African Writing and finalist for the PEN/Studzinski Literary Award 2009.

IMALI ABALA was born in 1962 in Kerongo Village, Vihiga, Kenya. She studied at
The Ohio State University and is currently a Professor in the Department of English at
Ohio Dominican University. She is the author of Drum Bits of Terror (2014), A
Fallen Citadel
, a collection of poetry (2012), The Dilemma of Jahenda, the Teenage
(2010), The Disinherited (2007) and Move on, Trufosa (2006).
Some of her other works have appeared in An Anthology of Contemporary Short Stories
and Poems from East Africa
(2014), A Thousand Voices Rising (2014),
Out of the Depths (2014) and Reflections: An Anthology by African Women Poets
(2013), a one-of-akind collection of poetry by contemporary African women poets.

Richard Rathwell: The Moon… & Transculture

Transcultural Mooning …( Joke)

But these [moon stories] are really lovely and evocative. Make me feel connected.

Mine is over Blackheath. There are pine trees filled with the midnight chatter of manic escaped budgies from Central London, the flat frosted ground ( where poor Richard decided not to kill the King in the peasants’ rebellion) has shadowed scampering urban foxes engaged in bad tempered mutually assertive chases with cats. None of the birds which rest there on their way from Russia through Egypt to Uganda ( along the Nile) are left. The moon is orange, streaked with plane traces.

(It used to be the illumination for spears and needles of driven snow flying over the frozen drifts of bottomless lake directly into my slitted eyes as I tended the sugar bush. It used to be dropping into the ground between jinns of swirling sand, wobbling in blinking sweated eyes as I walked to school to teach the night class.)

Rave 3 ( Why not)

Transcultural writing confronts cultural problematics, that is, the dissonances culture creates such as racism, sexism and class oppression. It develops narratives that play against ingrained associations as stereotypes and group myth. It projects images which challenge moral strictures. It is particularly concerned with exploring new ways of relating. It reacts against acculturated memory and social identity.

It is not a politics such as ‘multi-culturalism’ which proposes rules of interrelationship and reconciliation between people grouped culturally and based on adapting cultures to a common law. Nor is it the politics of ‘interculturalism’ which proposes exchanges of cultural enterprises towards a common market. The latter is characterised by the critical filtering of culturally acceptable objects and activities to a mainstream and dominant culture.

Where an ‘orientalist’ culture may be slightly superior to a genocidal one, whereas ‘post-colonialism’ may make more sense than ‘colonialism’ they are still not mindsets that connect humanely and with empathy. They still do not empower the imagination. Whereas the ‘International’ writer, the ‘exile writer’, or similar, who has written a ‘world literature’ book does gain access to an imperial mainstream and whereas the ‘commonwealth novelist of the year’ has been granted market access, these have nothing essentially to do with transcultural purpose or with transcultural competence .

There is nothing wrong with competence in adapting to the prevailing and dominant cultural institutions and market. Memoirs do it, genre fiction does it but they usually do it with a non-literary manufacture of authenticity. Nothing wrong with that either. It is entertainment like ‘traditional’ dancing.

Transcultural writing is not entertainment as such. It is an imaginative projection with purpose seeking an imaginative reader response to a confrontation with cultural problematics. It is competent and critical about the cultures, the stereotypes, the myths. It is competent and critical about the craft, the patterns and forms. It is then take it or leave it.

Richard Ali: The Poetry of Noah’s Children

Richard Ali: Thought to try a love poem, thought to share. Still an early draft.

*The Poetry of Noah’s Children*


I know in the soft cold of this December morning
Love, how it spreads and whitens skin, making us
Beacons beaming golden light, our day at St Georges
When we were luminous for the world to see

Old blood calls to old blood in this embrace of Nuh
In the warming kiss of lips, the touching tongues of
Ham and Shem, we pageant sacred stories and our moans
Are dreams of Babel before the first flutter of Seraphim

I’ll be majnoon to your Layla in this poetry of chill
That calls to chill and the friction aflame of fate that burns
Bright against the will of angels, the will of what sunders—
A lighthouse standing in time, as an obelisk in forever.




Joanne A: …  really enjoyed this Ra, and again spent some time in research, this time to refresh memory of what the biblical refs suggest, and to re-acquaint self with the cascades of Majnoon & Layla. Checking up on Fiqranya leads to many conversations of facebook, so, a personal name, i conclude

two moments of startlement,  the idea that love “whitens” skin, and the suggestive of Ham & Shem, brothers touching tongues

poet is boss, so, if you say so!

for the rest, elegant and gentle, affirmation of sweetness of life, and the vast scale of the lands we pass our days in– yes, to the elevations of love

i do enjoy love poetry, i will read even spam that begins, “Dear Beloved,” so, i am a wide-ranging reader of the form. When a few years back i found myself producing love poetry, i found some strongly negative reactions– but in the end, it was the person who had walled away love who changed, and the poetry carried on, expressive of the one true thing, making small magics in the world


RA: Thanks a lot for the feedback, sis. Was playing around with some ideas. Permit me to share these since I’ve already inflicted the poem on you. I’m up and sleepless in Lagos, Nigeria.

Fiqranya is the female form for “lover” or “beloved” in Amharic; my girlfriend who inspired the poem is a Tigrean and speaks Amharic as a first language. Tigrean, and Amharic, like Arabic and Hebrew are all Semitic languages, hence she is descended from Noah’s son, Shem. (The word for love in Amharic is “fiker”, which reminds me of “flicker” and gave rise to a luminous/fire imagery. . .) I’m of course a sub-Saharan central Sudanese man from Nigeria, thus I am descended from Noah’s other son, Ham. (Digression: I speak Hausa as a first language, which, strangely, is a Chadic language from the Nilo-Saharan family tree, same as the Ethiopic languages. Languages are very funny, rascally things I tell you. )

The core of the poem is the idea of God (“the angels”, “the Seraphim”) coming down to disperse languages and men for building the tower of Babel to rival the power of heaven–all the three Semitic religions agree on this “fact” and genealogy is always sought to be tied to where one fits in the ethno-linguistic tree of Noah’s three sons. And even in modern times, Foucault, Edward Said, Chomsky and all the greats have always held the study of linguistics to be absolutely important in philosophy, how we create meaning.

The pair of lovers in the poem have found a new language, the language of love, that defies this dispersion thus joining the two families of Noah’s descendants they belong to. And when they kiss, the brothers kiss as well. Thus, a new, super-imposing meaning is discovered.

The luminous/fire imagery of the cold whitening skin which transforms into a “flame” later on and then a “lighthouse” in the last quatrain is meant to hold the poem in place.

Ah, we are lost without love! Love gives structure to the chaos of life. It’s absolutely terrible and tragic the number of cynical, bitter people out there. How do they come to be this way? *sigh* I say, smile, let go, love and even when love exacts a price, pay it, but love anyway, love nonetheless, love always.

Will take a closer look at the whole thing with a view to making it more elegant.


JA: The possibility of the brothers meeting through descendants did occur to me– also, a slip of memory of touching tongues with a sister, from long ago childhood, returned– don’t be so fusty memory says, hands on hips

Progression of the image of the Light was very clear

Later i wondered if there is a term for the cluster of characters and stories that are shared across the Abrahamic tree–

Much appreciated, your teachings on the languages and families, and the one word which would not come forth to my web requesting. I have a fondness for etymologies and roots generally, not to mention stories & poems


RA: I don’t know if there’s a term for the cluster of Noah characters and stories, something like say the way we use Anansesem for Ananse (spider-trickster folk tales) in Ghana. There probably is one even though “Noah” is such an unwieldy name, two vowels and then it ends in an /h/ which is practically a vowel too. Not even the Arab version of the name, Nuh, helps really


Richard R: I wonder as a practitioner not a critic or close reader, what you consider when thinking about the reader. Joanne has shown and you have elaborated what your projection was and what the response was from one. I liked reading the poem. I saw that it was grasping and illustrating something ‘divine’ if not magical. I got it was about language and love. It had a rhythm (not sound) which enhanced (i. e. ‘intensed’). I got some of the reference…nearly. As an obsessive practitioner I worried about line length and the use of conjunctions in respect of breath if reading it. I wondered if so much syntax was necessary.

If you were discoursing on poetry with other practitioners, what would you say about the reader?


Beverly NN: Thanks mostly for the explanation which led me to read it with more awareness of language, human movements and the beautiful Tigrean people. There are a number of similar phrases in Luganda and French too.

I believe that at times love makes us cynical. I like to look at eros (the persona and contact with Ethiopia)), agape (Noah’s God), filial (Noah’s sons) and how they blend, conflict and make us rise to the general occasion.

You bring many thoughts and cultures into your poem.




Richard Ali, a lawyer, was born in Kano, Nigeria and grew up in the resort town of Jos. He holds an LL.B from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2010. Author of the warmly received 2012 novel, City of Memories, Richard is also Editor-in-Chief of the Sentinel Nigeria Magazine. Out of a desire to further add to the promising profile of African writing, he formed Nigeria’s newest publishing company, together with Mrs. Azafi Omoluabl-Ogosi in January 2012. Parrésia Publishers Ltd .He lives in Jos where he practices law and runs an IT-company together with the northern office Parrésia Publishers Ltd where he serves as Chief Operating Officer. He is unmarried and enjoys chess, reading and travelling.

Juliane Okot Bitek: Day 72, Day 78

Day 72

The difference between the top screw

and the bottom screw is this: direction


We are squeezed in by the past and the present

Everything is relative, they say

God and religion and offer escape from the screw

in the name of forgiveness, reconciliation & clean heartedness


Be like Jesus, forgive

Be like Jesus, remember to pray and to pay taxes

Be like Jesus, wear robes,

Have your first cousin shout in the streets about the second coming of yourself

Be like Jesus, hang out with prostitutes – love the sinner and all that

Above all be like Jesus and demand an answer in the moment of your cross

Why, God, have you forsaken us?



Day 78

Insouciance must be blue

How else could we explain a sky that witnesses

And still insists on magical hues of its self?


Insouciance has to be blue

From royalty to madness

From the marked maleness of babies

To those that stayed death

From indigo at midnight

To the peasant hue of the mother of God

Another young woman to whom a hole in the pale sky announced

That she would bear a child

That she would bear

A boy dressed in madness


How else can we explain the resonances, echoes and exceptions?
The mother of God in us mothers of sons who had to be killed

& God in the mothers whose sons had to be killed



Juliane Okot Bitek

From a collection in process.  This is part of a series of poems inspired by Wangechi Mutu‘s daily photographs commemorating Kwibuka 20.  These are Day 72 and Day 78. As I write I also think about the experience of war in other places, from my own experience and from that hollow place of the anxiety that we held when we knew that there was a killing in Rwanda and there was nothing we could do about it. I was a young mother then. I was in my mid-twenties and my first child had’t turned 1 yet. I will never forget that hollowness. This is my first attempt to respond to the Rwanda Genocide, even obliquely as I do, via Mutu. Her instagram photos are posted here:

Juliane’s 100 Days: A Poetic Response … is published here:


Juliane Okot Bitek was born to Ugandan exiles in Kenya and now lives in Vancouver, Canada and so she has no experience in being a natural born citizen of any country. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art (Creative Writing) and a Master’s Degree in English from the University of British Columbia. She is a doctoral student and a Liu Scholar at the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia. Juliane lives with her family in Vancouver.



Davina Kawuma: I often ignore the moon, unfortunately.

I often ignore the moon, unfortunately.


When I do pay attention, it’s usually because:

A) It is in the wrong place (by which I mean that its bottom is consorting with the top of the wrong building)

B) For whatever reason, someone has said, ‘Look, the moon! (And, to be honest, when someone says ‘Look, the moon!’ one has no choice but to panic and say ‘What’s wrong with it?’ and then look at the moon)

C) It’s in its full phase.


Once, a while back, the moon was so full it appeared brighter than all the fluorescent lights (on the rust-brown building that over-looked the garden in which I stood) put together.

For some reason, that night smelt different—not of cleanliness and moonflowers, as normal nights do, but of left-over afternoon. It smelt, faintly, of something singed, and of after-lunch breath.

I was watching our then national chess champion. (I wasn’t watching him the way one watches TV, mind. The watching of TV requires a special set of skills, which we won’t get into today.)

He was standing tall, almost too tall, in the centre of a makeshift rectangle, surrounded by a flood of light, chess boards and excitement. He was elaborating the rules that would govern the simultaneous match he was about to play with close-to-forty kids.

‘If you touch a piece, you must move it. If your intention is to simply re-position a piece on its square, you must say ‘j’aboube’ before doing so.

‘Make your move only after I appear at your board, and not before.

‘Remember to press the clock after making a move.

‘If you need more time to think about your move, just say so and I’ll move to the next board.’

I remember thinking how sad it was that, while there were many children that had displayed an aptitude for the game, there was so little support for them. I later mentioned this to one of the players and inquired into what he thought he and the chess community could do.

He sighed and said, ‘There’s nothing we can do. We just have to make do with what we have.’


I am from a community (and a country) in which, to borrow the title of a book, it is always someone else’s turn to eat. Where, until your turn comes, you must make do with whatever is available. Thus, while many things are started, very few of them reach completion. Also, and unfortunately, on close inspection, such completion often reveals itself to be half-completion.

Thus, the road that was supposed to have four lanes now only has two (because someone ate the other two lanes). The building that was supposed to be fire-proof has since succumbed to a suspect fire (because someone ate all the fire extinguishers). A health centre that was supposed to provide relief to the terminally ill has now turned into a death trap (because someone ate all the morphine). And so on.


I am from a community (and a country) whose psyche seems to have been filled (rather quickly, and seemingly beyond capacity) with a near-permanent sense of powerlessness and inadequacy.

Thus, what we do, right after we read headlines like –

Eleven year old boy circumcises himself (he grew tired of queuing outside the clinic)

Twelve year old girl aborts two days to exams (pregnant girls are not allowed to sit for Primary Leaving Exams).

900 billion shillings lost every year (in procurement related processes)

Foreign investor in jail (because, all along, what he’s been doing, instead of creating 5000 jobs for the youth, is molesting children)

Pregnant women resort to fake husbands (apparently, the women in such-and-such a village can’t access antenatal care unless they are [seen to be] married).

– is cradle our heads in our hands and say, ‘But, surely, what can we do? That’s life. Such things are beyond us.’


Perhaps I have, slowly but surely, become infected with the afore-mentioned sense of powerlessness.

For, I find, these days, that I have shed every romantic (and, I daresay, noble) idea I ever held about the role of writing and literature in effecting continuous change and/or effective action.

Certainly, I have been ‘changed’ by books before—I have sensed a transformation in my thinking about a few, select issues, and I have abandoned certain prejudices. Yet, I cannot say, for sure, that this change has been uniform (or even that I have been able to consciously or otherwise transfer any of the capital gained, through this change, to other people).

No longer do I find myself thinking that what I write could possibly transform my community (and country). Instead, I like to tell myself that my writing is mostly informed by more sensible and practical considerations—I write because a) I can, and b) writing has proved effective in neutralizing every force of boredom I have ever encountered.


Perhaps I have, through no fault of mine, (hey, osmosis is inevitable), since capitulated to a sense of inadequacy.

For, whenever I start to write about things that are so-called ‘common knowledge’, things with which we are all supposedly familiar but about which we don’t think we can do much, I start to think that I could never make it uncommon enough for people to give more than the two hoots they currently give.

Because, really, if someone ate the 300 billion that was meant to build a hospital and no one did anything about it in Real Life, why should I assume someone will want to do something after reading a novella on the same?


When I consider all the half-finished stories that are stagnating on my Desktop and in My Documents, I feel myself growing angry. I get angry because it is obvious, is it not, that a haggard and woebegone someone (whose turn it was to eat) has eaten the other halves of all my poems and short stories!


Or, maybe, just maybe, I was a powerless and inadequate writer long before I became a powerless and inadequate writer, and my attempts to export blame to my community (and country) are a gimmick, a much-needed exercise in the absolution of guilt.


Davina Kawuma


‘Davina [officially] started writing in 2007, after reading a ‘Teach
yourself writing’ she bought on sale. Well, that’s what she tells
everyone. She is one part armchair psychologist, two parts recovering
introvert and three parts insomniac.

She enjoys chuckling at irrelevant posts left (in blog comments
sections) by trolls, haunting cheap pizza places, watching romantic
comedies and finding new excuses for why she hasn’t finished her

She wishes she’d written Getting Mother’s Body, Godhorse, Midnight’s
Children, The God of Small Things, A poem of Villeneuve St Georges,
The Laugher, The Blue Bouquet, Black Mamba Boy, Desertion, Perfume,
and House of Leaves.

In her idea of a perfect world, she writes novels during her lunch
break and publishes them shortly before she goes to bed. She used to
be afraid of poetry but isn’t anymore, which is why she lives in