Malawian author in African anthology

Malawian writer Dango Mkandawire has a story to tell, and the world is listening.

The Blantyre-based writer is ready to take on the world after his short story The Jonathan Gray Affair was included in the continental anthology Gambit: Newer African Writing and published by The Mantle, an online forum that publishes emerging, critical voices from around the world.

The Jonathan Gray Affair is about a boy who is having a little bit of trouble with bullying at school and how it affects him personally.

“We also catch a glimpse of his immediate relationships, with his mother and uncle and his friends at school. The story depicts the struggle we all have with fear and the choices we need to make for ourselves to define who we are and what we are and are not going to accept for ourselves in life,” he said.

Dango Mkandawire

According to Mkandawire, the anthology comes out in mid-December and the whole team, including the publisher and all the contributing artists, are heavily expectant.

“It will definitely be the beginning of other projects and we all just hope that as artists everyone who gets a copy will be edified,” he said.

Mkandawire said his writing is driven by the desire to raise his voice to issues around him.

“I noticed the blatant silence when it came to our own voices; African voices to issues, and felt it was necessary to contribute. I just felt that there weren’t enough people vocalising the things that we as Malawians feel within our hearts, thoughts circulating our minds; that was a major motivator for me,” he said.

Gambit is edited by Mantle contributor and Nigerian novelist Emmanuel Iduma and The Mantle’s editor-in-chief Shaun Randol who is based in New York City.

In an interview, noted that it is an honour and a privilege to be a part of the anthology, considering that the contributing artists come from different countries from across the continent making the work naturally eclectic and exciting.

“There are different styles and focuses in the pieces and just to be a part of something that broad and involving is very exciting for me personally. Also I would hope that because I have somehow filtered through, there is some Malawian somewhere, gifted and imaginative, our own slumbering Balzac so to speak, who will dare to dream and start writing; to begin documenting history through fiction, to show us the face of the Zeitgeist.

Mkandawire noted that Malawi has talent, hidden but palpable, and it he hopes people will emerge from behind the thistles and take their places as the generators of literature.

“The world is open now, technology has meant that one can live in Kasungu and be known in Singapore. Ask William Kamkwamba, the boy who harnessed the wind. No one ever imagined that a boy reading from a dilapidated textbook in a run-down library could find himself on TED, a forum that has hosted the likes of Bill Gates and other highly influential individuals.

“Every life has possibility and the beauty of literature conceives these possibilities and lays them bare and shows them to us. A nation must at least begin to think itself great in its fiction before it can realise its potential. As long as there are people who strongly suspect that there is something boundless and wonderful within them, dreams shall be lived.

“If people cannot imagine, people cannot soar. As for me there will be other pieces that I hope to get published, as I have the blueprints for three novels, and as the years roll by, if God wills, I wish to leave a trail of work that would prove enduring and ultimately be remembered as someone who contributed. That is my simple wish,” he remarked.

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