A group of Zimbabwean poets have launched a new online poetry journal as part of a bigger initiative they are calling Zimbabwe Poets Society. The journal is called Ipikai, which is Shona for ‘be open to receiving.’ Zimbabwe Poets Society is the brainchild of two poets, Batsirai Chigama and Fungai Tichawangana, who have both contributed to the Zimbabwean arts and culture scene in different ways.
Chigama’s first collection of poetry, Gather the Children won a National Arts Merit Award (NAMA) in 2018 for Outstanding First Creative Published Book. Her second Collection, For Women Trying to Breathe & Failing has just won the 2022 NAMA Outstanding Poetry Book Award.
Tichawangana started the arts and culture website, Zimbo Jam in 2008 and has since gone on to start other initiatives like Valley of Writers, a platform which shares resources and opportunities with writers and Artist Dynamix, which builds digital media platforms for creatives and cultural organizations.
“Nothing excites me more than to see poets come together and create something for themselves, learning from those who came before and creating a repository that will inform and inspire future generations of poets.”Batsirai Chigama
The first editor of the journal will be poet Tariro Ndoro who holds an MA in Creative Writing from Rhodes University in South Africa. Her debut poetry collection, Agringada: Like a Gringa, Like a Foreigner was the recipient of a NAMA Award for Outstanding Poetry Book. Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have appeared in a wide range of national and international literary magazines and anthologies including Afreada, Almost Island, Cyphers, Moving On and Other Zimbabwean Stories, Oxford Poetry and SAND Literary Journal.
“I am both honoured and overwhelmed. Having done previous work for Praxis Magazine, I understand the workload of taking on editorship, yet despite feeling daunted and excited, I understand why this is a necessary step in Zimbabwe’s art scene. Year after year, I have seen that Nigerian and South African writers are able to leverage good publication deals and win international literary awards. Part of the ecosystem that enables their art is having literary journals. Young writers can keep their thumb on the pulse of literary trends and publishers can simply identify fresh voices from the litmag scene. Zimbabwe hasn’t had that for a long time.”Tariro Ndoro
Ndoro went on to acknowledge other efforts to elevate Zimbabwean poetry. “I am encouraged by the recent handing over of Zimbabwe’s Poetry International website to Togara Muzanenhamo and the hard work the folks at the Mosi oa Tunya Journal are doing. For Zimbabwe to regularly produce internationally competitive artists, we need such cultural incubators and Ipikai is a welcome addition to that choir. I am hoping that in my two year tenure, I am a worthy steward of the magazine and give space to the most innovative and relevant voices. I’ve been in communication with the likes of Tinashe Mushakavanhu over the last five years and we have spoken of the need for such a journal so I am glad to be a part of this initiative.”
Mushakavanhu, who is the founder of Reading Zimbabwe, the most comprehensive independent online archive of Zimbabwean literature, is also on the Ipikai editorial board. Other board members are still being confirmed at the time of going to press.
Zimbabwe Poets Society is currently in an outreach phase where it is reaching out to poets and potential partner organizations to bring them on board so they help shape the organization as it starts carrying out its programs.
The first issue of the Ipikai Poetry Journal, themed, ‘The Duality of Life,’ will be published at the beginning of April 2022. The first call for applications has just been announced with the deadline set for March 21, 2022. More information about submissions can be found at www.ipikai.org.
Zimbabwe Poets Society and the Ipikai Poetry Journal are currently funded and resourced by the poets themselves.