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From left Maria Makasi, Buliba Magambo & Lecturer Laila Ally Nanji

“I have read a lot of Shaaban Robert, also Hussein Tuwa as well this one who’s using popular language Eric Shigongo, I used to follow his novels…for instance in our school where I completed my form 4 at Chang’ombe Secondary, we had a library. It had various books, I used to take novels borrow them to go and read. For novels the likes of Eric Shigongo’s, from my pocket money I would put aside, a certain amount & as soon as it reached Tshs 10,000 I would go ahead & buy my own copy…” Buliba Magambo

His handshake was formal his expression serious, meeting Buliba for the first time wearing a plain cream tailored shirt and charcoal pants. It didn’t seem that he was one to launch into smiles and laughter so easily yet further into our interview his face softened, a big smile peeked through his eyes. As soon as he went on to tell his journey as a writer of fiction, which began since he was in form 1, penning stories at the back of his exercise books for his friends to read.

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from left George Lauwo Manager at SOMA book cafe with GOH Laila Nanji at the launch of the chapbook

“You know, a writer feels deeply. Something always irked me to say something, I thought it not ok to keep it to myself. Thinking on what better way to voice my thoughts, I fell for the written word…” Buliba

Buliba Magambo is among 10 young Tanzania writers, who were shortlisted in last year’s short story competition ‘Andika na Soma Round 3’. He was in form VI at Benjamin William Mkapa Sec School, when he received the news of being selected in the top ten. Currently he is studying Mass Communications at Dar es Salaam University. ‘Andika na Soma’ calls for short story entries in Kiswahili from secondary school students all over Tanzania. Now running in its fourth year (2017), it is organised by E&D Readership and Development Agency and funded by Danida.

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Writers & students present at the launch

For the first time in its three annual rounds ‘Andika na Soma’ has published a chapbook, comprising of 10 short stories from its 7 shortlisted writers of last year’s round, as well 3 others short stories from selected contestants of the same year.

The official launch of the book took place at Soma Book Cafe located in Regent Estate, Mikocheni, Dar es Salaam on June 24, 2017. With special guest Laila Ally Nanji being present, who was one of the Andika na Soma competition Round 4 judges; an Asst Lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam in Kiswahili & Kiswahili Literature.

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Mama Demere Kitunga Soma’s Director giving her speech at the launch of Andika’s first chapbook

“You can now call yourselves writers as you are published…it would be a shame though, if you ended on these pages. A real writer keeps writing, its like a k
nife if you don’t use it, it becomes blunt…” Mama Demere Kitunga, the Executive Director of Soma. Giving a word of encouragement to the young writers at the launch of their chapbook, detailing the processes of the birthing a book, how the launch of the same is an auspicious event.
“Hapaaana Emma, hapana mwanangu! Usifanye hivyo…!” Haya yalikuwa maneo ya mama huku akikimbia kutoka meza kuu kuja mahali nilipo. Nilitumia muda huo kumuomba mama msamaha na pia nilimsihi aniruhusu niendelee kukisoma kijitabu hicho. Hata hivyo nilijikuta niko chini tayari kumuinuua mama, ambaye wakati anajaribu kunikimbilia alianguka kutokana na viatu virefu alivyovaa siku hiyo. Nililia sana kwa uchungu si tu kwasababu ya kutaka kukisoma kile kijitabu ,bali juu ya mama ambaye alianguka mbele ya wageni wake katika siku hiyo muhimu sana kwake…” ‘Zawadi ya Mama’-Andika na Soma 2016

Above is an excerpt from the chapbook, from the short story titled ‘A gift for Mother’ by Maria Makasi. She completed high school last year, where through her involvement in a book club ‘Mzalendo’, she got wind of Andika’s call for submissions. Currently she’s a member of TYVA-Tanzania Youth Vision Association, where she’s a board member in their TCB-‘training & capacity building’ program. She is also working on the pilot of a TV program to be aired at StarTV, that will assist secondary students to learn Science using music.
Listening to her journey in penning this short story, which involved her learning to use the computer for the first time. Where she lost her work twice a result of power cuts and her rookie experience with PC’s. It was to glimpse a courageous young woman, who despite being a science student going through form six finals preparations, with little experience in writing literature. Went on to scoop the second prize in last years ‘Andika na Soma’ competition, which had her taking 300,000Tshs cash and books to the same value.

As this chapbook was allotted limited funding due to the finite sponsorship of this competition. It will be given to each of the writer’s secondary schools for their libraries, a copy for each to the contributing writers. The remaining few copies will be retained for public reading at Soma Book Cafe. Maria & Buliba attested how ‘the written word lives on’. As we recently marked day of the African child, its commendable how these young writers have gone on to tell vivid stories of their landscape that are living on.

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The young writers of the short stories inside ‘Andika na Soma’s first chapbook

The tales in this chapbook explore pertinent issues of our time like Buliba’s story ‘Timbwili la Inspekta Kajigu’, which looks at drugs & leadership. Also the case for family bonds their myriad facades in our society, themes of democracy, youth employment, rural urban migration & corruption dominate the book. Scoring the fact that youths do have an interest in our geo-political and cultural edicts and thus deserve a platform to air their views more often.

For this year the entries for ‘Andika na Soma’ whose theme was ‘utandawazi’-globalisation are closed, 485 short stories were submitted from 32 Secondary schools all over the country. Winners were selected and invited for training and given prizes in a ceremony that was officiated by Danish ambassador, his excellency Einar Hebogård Jensen .

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This article was written earlier this year (2017) and first published with the East African Newspaper