Award winning journalist and 2017 National Arts Merit Award (NAMA) nominee, author, Lazarus Sauti has encouraged people to use the power of the pen to fight social ills in the country.
The literature passionate scribe who loves writing books in his vernacular, Shona language, in documenting the Zimbabwean culture, said that the pen is mightier than the sword since it gives power to the powerless and voice to voiceless.
Sauti, whose work, according to book publisher and award-winning writer Phillip Chidavaenzi, is a series of questions around issues that vex humanity and which demand answers, said literature should be recognised, celebrated and be promoted since it provides checks and balances in a representative democracy.
zwnews24’s Brian Kazungu had an interview with Lazarus, author of the book ‘Nei?’, which is a collection of poems and short stories in order to understand more about his personality and writing career.
Zwnews24: Briefly describe yourself (background, personality, passions, dreams and aspirations etc.) so that the readers (audience) can have a clear picture of who you are and what you stand for in life?
Lazarus Sauti: My name is Lazarus Sauti. I am an award-winning journalist, journalism lecturer, communications and advocacy practitioner, as well as a published poet and short story writer. I love writing in ChiShona. The whole idea is to promote my culture, my mother language. Remember, language is a carrier of culture.
Zwnews24: What is the motivation behind your writing career? What do you seek to achieve and why? If you have already published anything both in print or online, do you think you have achieved your goal or do you see yourself achieving those goals through your literary work?
Lazarus Sauti: My motivation is to paint images using words – to tell beautiful stories to Zimbabweans. I think I have achieved my goal through my first published book ‘Nei?’ which is a collection of poems and short stories in ChiShona.
Zwnews24: When and how did you start writing and what has been the impact of that move on you and on the people around you, including family and friends?
Lazarus Sauti: I used to write beautiful Shona compositions at school. Even though I started writing at High School, I perfected my craft during my University days. Zwnews24: What are the titles of the books that you have written so far? Would you describe what each of these books is all about and the intended benefit of each of these books to your audience?
Lazarus Sauti: My first book is titled ‘Nei?’ it is a collection of Shona poems and short stories. The book, according to a respected editor and award-winning writer Phillip Chidavaenzi, is a series of questions around issues that vex humanity and which demand answers.
Zwnews24: If people want to buy your books or invest in your work, where can they find the books and how do they get in touch with you either for feedback on your work or any other related correspondence?
Lazarus Sauti: The book is available at Art Gallery Bookshop in Harare. People can link with me on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or WhatsApp: +263717052365 and even on my blog: www.lazarussauti.wordpress.com.
Zwnews24: What are your guiding values which determine what and how you write? Are there things that you do not write about at all or is there a certain approach to writing which you do not use because of these values? Share your insights.
Lazarus Sauti: Eish! I write about culture, life, love, hate, corruption, friendship, relationships, human rights, and deaths.
Zwnews24: How did you feel when you got published for the first time and what has been the effect of that moment on your writing career now?
Lazarus Sauti: All I can say is ‘AWESOME’.
Zwnews24: What has been some of the most cherished and memorable feedback that you have received from your readers so far and how has it impacted you in your pursuit of literature, either as a profession or as a hobby? Please share some of the priceless feedback that you received from your readers.
Lazarus Sauti: Sauti’s debut anthology is like a ‘seasoning salt’ (Beaven Tapureta – journalist, editor, and book reviewer); Sauti’s poetry speaks to Africa (Shingirai Mutonho, book reviewer – The Patriot); Lazarus Sauti is onto something huge (Phillip Chidavaenzi – editor, literary critic, and writer); and Lazarus Sauti: new kid on the block (Tanaka Chidora – literary critic, editor, and writer). Chidora also said, “With ‘Nei?’, Sauti has shown us that the potential is there and I am placing my bet on him to contribute immensely to what we have come to regard as Zimbabwean literature.” Because of this feedback, I am motivated to pursue literature as a profession.
Zwnews24: What are some of the challenges that you face in your writing and what is it that makes you to continue writing regardless of these challenges?
Lazarus Sauti: Book publishing is expensive in Zimbabwe. Zvakafanana nekuroora (it’s like paying lobola). Kkkkkkk. Nevertheless, writing is in me; it is my passion; I write to document the Zimbabwean culture.
Zwnews24: What are your words of advice and motivation to other writers, both the established and aspiring ones in their pursuit of literature, either as their hobby or profession?
Lazarus Sauti: Ngatinyorei ndapota (Lets write please). Let’s use the power of the pen to fight social ills in our communities. Remember, the pen is mightier that the sword.
Zwnews24: What do you think is the relevance and impact of literature in your community, in your country or across the whole world? Do you think literature should be recognized, celebrated and be promoted? Share your reasons.
Lazarus Sauti: Literature gives power to the powerless; it gives voice to the voiceless. Literature nurtures democracy, meaning that it provides checks and balances in a representative democracy. Accordingly, it should be recognised, celebrated, and promoted.
Zwnews24: How deep is your passion for literature? What have you already done, what are you planning to do and how far would you go to promote literature in your community, in your country or across the whole world?
Lazarus Sauti: That which runs under my skin is not blood but literature. My passion for literature is skin deep. I am always encouraging friends and fellow writers to write, write, and write. By so doing, I am promoting literature in this country.
Zwnews24: Besides writers, who are the other active players that you can think of in the field of literature? In that regard, is there a person, group of people or organization that you know which is helping to develop and promote literature in your community, in your country or across the whole world? Who are they and what is it specifically that they are doing in this context and how is it inspiring you and positively impacting individuals and communities?
Lazarus Sauti: The media are active in promoting literature in Zimbabwe. A big shout out to book reviewers; please keep the fire burning. Stan Mushava is doing a splendid job of promoting literature in Zimbabwe. He is so passionate about literature. Phillip Chidavaenzi, through his Writers Clinic is also helping to develop and promote literature in the country. I am a proud product of the Writers Clinic. Hallelujah.
Zwnews24: Have you ever won an award or have you ever been nominated for an award on your literary work? If yes, please share your story about this award and the impact it had on you.
Lazarus Sauti: ‘Nei?’ was nominated for a National Arts Merit Award (NAMA) in 2017. The Library of Congress bought 13 copies of the book thanks to this nomination.
Zwnews24: What has been some of the best works of literature that you have enjoyed so far (Books, blogs, poems etc.)? Share the reasons why you rate them so high and value them so much. Based on what you have benefited personally, what do you think must be done in order to broadly develop, promote and celebrate literature in your community, country or across the world?
Lazarus Sauti: I really enjoyed ‘Chibarabada’ (Tinashe Muchuri), ‘A Fine Madness’ (Mashingaidze Gomo), ‘Letters From Beyond’ (Prudence Natsai Muganiwah-Zvavanjanja), ‘Mbona mbona’ and ‘Not In Zimbabwe’ (Milton Chitsime), ‘Death of the Commissar’ (Tichaona Zindoga), ‘Bleeding Hearts’ (Tendai Makaripe), ‘Rhyme and Resistance’ (Stan Mushava), ‘Conscience of My Race’ (Elias Mambo), ‘Hakurarwi’ (Chirikure Chirikure, ‘Bhuku Risina Basa Nekuti Rakanyorwa Masikati’ (Memory Chirere), and all books by Phillip Kundeni Chidavaenzi. I rate these books so highly because of the styles used. The stories flow. Oh, by the way, I am dangerously waiting for ‘Because Sadness is Beautiful’ (Tanaka Chidora).
Zwnews24: Do you know of anybody who is making a good living from their works of literature? If so, what do you think is making them to stand out in this regard? Do you know of platforms, individuals or organizations that help writers to earn a living from their work? Write them down and share the information with others. Do you know of any books and poems that have been turned into movies and songs at a fee? Which ones are they and how much has been paid for such work?
Lazarus Sauti: I think Petina Gappah is making a good living from her works of literature. She is a model professional writer.
Zwnews24: What are some of the local, national, regional and international literature awards that you know of and what do they seek to reward or promote? What is your take on their criteria? If you were to give awards in literature, what would be your prizes and the related criteria for selecting recipients and awarding such rewards?
Lazarus Sauti: Locally, NAMA Literary Awards. They seek to promote or reward outstanding literary works.
Zwnews24: Are there people or organisations that you would like to acknowledge and credit, be it for their emotional and material input or contribution (support) towards your works of literature?
Lazarus Sauti: My family is always there for me. My wife, Precious Santana is my first editor. Best Mukundi Masinire and Tendai Makaripe always encourage me to up my game. Oscar Gwiriri, Tinashe Muchuri, Simbarashe Namusi, Esau Souza, Devilliers Mushiringi, Gideon Madzikatidze, Russel Kwezekani, Stan Mushava, Propser Njeke, Itai Muroyi, Peter Tinashe Kaviya, and Andrew Kunambura also encourage me towards my works of literature. Thank you team.
The questions in this interview are adapted from the book, General Emeritus – Wisdom, Mysteries and Dark Sayings, a poetry anthology written by Brian Kazungu: https://amzn.to/2T8sEQX