ZA Awards just ‘a popularity contest’: Huchu

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UNITED Kingdom-based Zimbabwean author Tendai Huchu has torn into the 2015 Zimbabwe Achievers Awards (ZAA), describing them as a mere “popularity contest” despite scooping the author of the year gong.

BY PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI

Huchu — who rose to fame after penning his debut novel The Hairdresser of Harare in 2010 — told NewsDay from his UK base yesterday that when he was approached by the organisers, he turned down their offer because he felt the awards were superfluous.

He said he was disappointed that the organisers of the fifth edition of ZAA did not respect his feelings after he made it clear to them that he was not interested in taking part in the awards.

“A few months ago, I was approached by someone from the ZAA asking for biographical information. I told them that from my understanding the prize was just a popularity contest, not a serious or meaningful engagement with literature,” he said.

“I said that I didn’t want to take part and they said they respected my concerns. I thought that was the end of the matter and I had my name withdrawn, only to wake up yesterday (Sunday morning) to find out that I had ‘won’.”

Huchu, whose second novel — The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician — was published last year, said he found it strange that ZAA would give people awards without communicating with them.

“Of course, I’ve had no word or notification or anything from the ZAA. It seems odd to be awarding prizes to people and not communicating the fact to them at all. I really, honestly know nothing about it except hearsay,” he said.

Huchu said he felt there were more deserving Zimbabwean authors who could have received the award.

“I mean, if you seriously want to give awards for Zimbabwean literature, I can probably name 10 or 20 writers who should be at the front of the queue before anyone considers me,” he said.

The awards ceremony was held at the five-star Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, London, and the other winners were Local Care Force (company of the year), Lisa Chuma (female entrepreneur), Godfrey Mushandu (male entrepreneur), Brian Soko (international music artist), Takesure Zamar Ncube (international gospel music artist), Young Chidzy (radio presenter/ club DJ), All White Boat Party – Portsmouth (event of the year), Moses Murandu (innovation) the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management (tourism), The 4Cs — Climate Change Community Champions (community organisation), Dr Brighton Chireka (community champion), Stanley Madiri (sports personality), Ivy Mango Chatora (people’s choice), Heather Shekede (personality), Zimbo Live TV (media organisation), Charles Chavi (young achievers) and Pam Samasuwi Nyawiri (fashion designer).

ZAA was founded by Conrad Mwanza in 2010 to celebrate the successes and achievements of Zimbabweans in the UK and elsewhere across a range of categories including business, the creative arts and sports.

Huchu’s debut novel, The Hairdresser of Harare was released to critical acclaim.

It has since been translated into German, French, Italian and Spanish.

His short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The Manchester Review, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Gutter, Interzone, AfroSF, Wasafiri, Warscapes and The Africa Report. In 2013 he received a Hawthornden Fellowship and a Sacatar Fellowship and was shortlisted for the 2014 Caine Prize.

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