International Chair of Creative Writing
Home to the UK’s first Creative Writing MA, UEA has been at the forefront of pioneering excellence in creative writing for the past half a century. To coincide with the 50th anniversary of the MA in 2020, we announced that in 2021-22 internationally acclaimed Zimbabwean novelist, playwright and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga would become our inaugural International Chair of Creative Writing.
Tsitsi Dangarembga’s most recent novel, This Mournable Body, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2020, and in 2021 she received the PEN Award for Freedom of Expression and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade.
The position also encompasses a new scholarship programme, ‘Global Voices’, that will nurture the next generation of international talent. The inaugural year has been fully-funded by one generous philanthropist who has a passion for championing global voices and supporting emerging new writers.
Supported by UEA colleagues, Tsitsi is delivering an ambitious programme of literary events, classes and workshops across the African continent and in the UK during 2021-22. In 2021 she was present at UEA to meet with current creative writing students and discuss her work. Tsitsi met with the MA Prose students to discuss her pathbreaking trilogy of novels, she gave a masterclass to the students on the MA Scriptwriting, and spoke with staff and students at all levels of study at an open meeting as part of the Decolonising the Curriculum project in Literature, Drama and Creative Writing. An interdisciplinary event with Prof Christie Watson took place at The Enterprise Centre, UEA, where both explored how art, stories and drama yield new ways of understanding ourselves, individually and collectively. Prof Watson is an award-winning, bestselling writer. She was a nurse for twenty years and is currently Professor of Medical and Health Humanities at UEA.
Tsitsi also met with the first intake of ‘Global Voices’ scholars who have begun their studies at UEA, as well as with students from East Norfolk Sixth Form College who participated in a nature writing programme at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen, and took part in an event with editor, critic and broadcaster Ellah Allfrey at the National Centre for Writing in Norwich.
Up to ten ‘Global Voices’ scholarship students from the continent of Africa will study for a Creative Writing MA at UEA as part of UEA’s International Chair of Creative Writing programme over the next several years. The scholarships are awarded to applicants wishing to study for an MA in Creative Writing Prose Fiction, Biography and Creative Non-Fiction, Scriptwriting or Poetry in the School of Literature, Drama, and Creative Writing. The Scholarships reflect UEA’s belief that contemporary writing is without borders, boundaries and prejudices, and our vision is to help emerging writers from around the globe tell important stories – stories that may change the world.
UEA will be working with Tsitsi on events, classes and workshops across the African continent in 2022. The programming will complement her work at the Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa, which she founded to foster creativity and change in society.
The events will take place in five African countries from April next year and will include a literature festival in Namibia, theatre making workshops and bi-lingual writing programmes. These are being co-curated with Prof Jean Mcneil, author and Director of Creative Writing.
This position enables me to continue to pursue my long-time passion of raising awareness concerning the importance of creative writing in society in southern Africa. It is a welcome opportunity for me and emerging African writers to connect with the highly distinguished UEA programme in Creative Writing.
This new position of International Chair has been created through the power of philanthropy, and with further philanthropic support we hope to invite four more Chairs and 40 more scholarship students from other regions to help shape literature around the world for the next 50 years. Like Tsitsi, each Chair will have a year-long remit to help find, nurture and promote emerging new writers in their region. The ambition is to run the programme over five years, in four more regions - Asia, Australasia, the Americas and the Middle East.
Tsitsi Dangarembga is the author of three novels, including Nervous Conditions, winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and This Mournable Body, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2020. She is also a filmmaker, playwright, and the director of the Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa Trust. She lives in Harare, Zimbabwe.