Campus Spotlight: Ignatius Mabasa

A writer and storyteller from Zimbabwe, Ignatius Mabasa has just arrived to the U of M’s Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture (CCWOC) as its writer/storyteller-in-residence for fall 2010. He graciously agreed to answer a few of our questions.

The Manitoban: When did you begin writing and storytelling?

Ignatius Mabasa: I got started with storytelling before I became a writer. Actually, before I went to school I had already become a storyteller. You see, my grandmother used to tell us stories and the magic of these stories seemed to linger on, such that I naturally found myself having to retell my cousins the very story that granny would have told. Although I did not have her skills, I think I told the stories well, such that my cousins would beg me to tell them other stories that I knew. Writing was to come much later in life when I was in high school. But it is storytelling that laid the ground for the writing.

M: What did writing and storytelling mean to you, as a young person?

I.M.: Storytelling meant so many things to me. It was a world where I could escape to and forget about the day-to-day activities. It was my entertainment. But most importantly, it was my school without walls and chalk. I learnt so much about my people, culture and values through the stories. The beauty of the language — the mystery of the enchanted forests, the suspense and drama — all these were very special to me. We did not have TV and radios, so it was the power of the spoken word that painted beautiful story-murals in my life.

M: Why are stories important?

I.M.: I will quote Chinua Achebe in order to answer you.
“Only the story . . . can continue beyond the war and the warrior. It is the story that outlives the sound of war drums and the exploits of brave fighters. It is the story that saves our progeny from blundering like blind beggars into the spikes of the cactus fence. The story is our escort; without it we are blind. Does the blind man own his escort? No, neither do we own the story; rather it is the story that owns us and directs us.”

M: What do you hope students get from being involved with writing, storytelling and the CCWOC?

I.M.: Students will be exposed to new stories and new writing techniques. We will be running a storytelling circle, and this presents wonderful opportunities to exchange stories, bring new perspectives and learn from our past and diversity how we can communicate, train, educate and bring innovation to our lives.

Ignatius Mabasa will perform on Sept. 16, 2:30 p.m. in University College’s Great Hall.