Protected: Journeying Through Literary Landscapes: An In-Depth Interview with Samantha Vazhure

Exploring the Depths of African Womanhood, Migration, and Empowerment through Poetry, Prose, and Publishing

Samantha Vazhure is a bilingual award-winning poet, novelist, librettist, screenplay and short story writer, translator and visual artist who grew up in Masvingo. She resides in Wales, usually writing about matters of the heart, the human condition, the migrant experience, womanhood and equality. Some of her poems appear in Ipikai Poetry Journal, and her visual art in Writing Woman Anthology – An anthology of African Asian Writers and Artists Vol.3 published by Mwanaka Media and Publishing.

In 2020 Samantha established an independent press, Carnelian Heart Publishing, to amplify the voices of Zimbabwean writers and to democratise African literature. As editor and publisher, she has produced over 35 works comprising literary prose and poetry, including her own. Samantha was voted African publisher of the year in 2023 by Brittle Paper as part of their Literary Person of the year Awards, now in its 9th year – an accolade that recognises individuals who have done outstanding work in advancing African literary culture and industry in the give year. 

What do you read when you’re working on a book? And what kind of reading do you avoid while writing?

If I’m writing poetry, I’ll read poems that stir me to dig deep into the crevices of my soul for truth, and I avoid impersonal or invulnerable literature. When I’m writing prose, I try to read works from the same genre I’m working on, for inspiration, and to avoid repeating what others have already written about.

What genres do you especially enjoy reading? 

I enjoy reading poetry, because a poem tells a composite story in just a few lines, thereby giving me more freedom to interpret the story my own way, than prose would.

What books and authors have impacted your writing career?

So many, but I’ll name one that inspired me massively when I was writing Starfish Blossoms – Diane Seuss’s Frank Sonnets.

What’s the last great book you read?

Echoing Silence by Alexander Kanengoni.

What do you plan to read next?

Mr Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo is my next book club read.

 What moves you most in a work of literature?

Relatability and authenticity. I also like to be shocked and moved to tears.

What did you intend to achieve with Starfish Blossoms?

As a black woman who grew up in a society that shames victims of oppressive systems, I wanted to lay bare the truth from my perspective – what women really feel, what they really go through, without the shame and without the influences of society. Exposing and celebrating my vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the absence of the false sense of self (ego), is an act of resistance that I hope will empower people of all ages and backgrounds, but especially women. I wanted to show that it’s ok to not be a strong black woman. That it’s ok to just be, because you are enough as you are.

What inspired you to write Starfish Blossoms?

I wanted to celebrate and honour the women who raised and shaped me into the woman I am today, whilst using their stories and mine to raise awareness of the mercurial nature of the patriarchal society I was raised in.

You are a prolific writer across several forms. Talk us through your published works.

Zvadzugwa Musango (2020) is my first book, a collection of poems exploring African womanhood in the context of migration & displacement, penned in chiKaranga.

Uprooted (2020) is the English translation of Zvadzugwa Musango.

Painting a Mirage (2020) is my first novel, and the first part of a trilogy called The Mire. The UK-born protagonist, Ruva, is raised in a privileged dysfunctional Zimbabwean family, then returns to live in the UK at the age of 18. She yearns to escape her toxic childhood, but relocation to the UK invokes a bitter confrontation with her illusionary upbringing; and she realises that she does not need to continue conforming to the dictates of her past. As Ruva navigates life in the UK as a first-generation immigrant, she begins to understand what it means to be a black minority living in a meritocracy. During her journey of learning to live independently, Ruva stumbles into marriage. Will the grass that seemed greener live up to her expectations?

Turquoise Dreams (2020) is an anthology of 29 short stories written by 10 Zimbabwean women, that I compiled and edited to amplify voices of women writers who had never been published.

Brilliance of Hope (2021) is an anthology of 41 short stories about the Zimbabwean dispersion, written by 15 Zimbabweans across the globe, that I compiled and edited to advocate the wellbeing of migrants.

Starfish Blossoms (2022) is my latest collection of poems where I invite the reader to discover the rich world of African womanhood. With meticulous structure and vivid detail, Starfish Blossoms explores the vagaries of patriarchy and women’s hard-won victories, amid the abstractions of love, growth and death. This book won the National Arts Merit Award for Outstanding Poetry Book in 2023.

Tesserae: A mosaic of poems by Zimbabwean women (2023) is an anthology of over 170 poems by 37 women, that I co-compiled and edited with Marian Christie. The work is a unique celebration of Zimbabwean womanhood in all its diversity, its richness of voice and theme and narrative. The contributors include traditional page poets and underground poets, students and grandmothers, visual poets and spoken word artists, established writers and emerging talents, from within Zimbabwe and from the diaspora. Tesserae was voted one of 100 Notable African Books of 2023 by Brittle Paper.

What are you working on currently?

I’m working on a speculative fiction story sequence. The book release is scheduled for summer 2024.

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