Storytelling is an art often underrated in the country—and it offers big rewards. But for Ekari Mbvundula, writing and telling her stories is more than just a pastime and passion.
She fondly terms it a calling.
Despite countless drawbacks, the 29-year-old short story writer is determined to swim against the tide to tell her story to the world.
Aged just 14, while learning at Kamuzu Academy, Mbvundula made her first go at art when she attempted to write a novel.
“In hindsight, this attempt proved too ambitious for me. But all the same, it gave me practice in putting together characters, plots and settings and it remains an experience which has defined me as an artist till this day,” she said.
The courage she mastered during her formative years in arts led into her involvement in writing, co-directing and performing in plays for in-house drama competitions during her collegiate at University of Cape Town in South Africa.
Since then, she has remained focused on her passion in arts and out of its numerous folds.
She has found a home in story writing.
So far, she is one of a few female writers surging forward in the business.
“I enjoy writing very much; I love the connection that writing gives us. People are generally not mind readers. Sometimes, a piece of writing can give a unique insight into someone else’s mind that you cannot get any other way round,” she says.
Her first short story was Elephant in the Room which she posted on her blog.
The positive feedback propelled her to write even more stories and some of fiction entries have appeared in various publications, including airline magazines, wealth magazines.
She also writes nonfiction works.
She disclosed trying to kill her passion for writing in favour of other seemingly better careers, but the burning urge to put pen to paper remains overpowering.
She explained: “There was a time while in university when I thought writing was foolish, that I should stop and focus on another career, but that was the time that something very interesting happened as story ideas kept coming.
“One day I woke up at 2am with an uncontrollable desire to write. That was the day I realised that writing was not a choice for me, but what I am. When the ideas come, they demand to be returned and if I do not, they drive me mad.”
The epitome of her art came last year when her short story, The Ball, was named a runner up in a Nigerian-based short story competition won by Nigerian Suyi Davies Okungbowa.
“I made it to the final round. Throughout the competition, Malawians from all over the world and even people of nationalities gave me support and shared my stories to get me through the competition,” said the 29-year-old.
She, however, remains unimpressed with the level of appreciation of art in the country, ruing the limited platforms where such talent can be showcased.
“Because of the present scenario many people do not write or publish their work. But we need to be more creative and think of new ways that we can use on the ground to cultivate the talent like the use of technology,” Ekari says.
With her big heart and strong passion in the field she has made efforts to try and make her contribution as she attempted to set up writing workshops.
“I found out that many cannot afford a workshop, so I will need to rethink my approach. Perhaps, I will have to look at funding options. It is not an idea that I have discarded altogether.
“We also need to critique each other’s work regularly and without holding back on the red ink. I think Malawians have a culture of fear to say anything that is not pleasing. But we need to tell our fellow writers where they must improve order to reach global standards,” she says.
With all the apparent negatives in the trade, she however believes quitting is not the answer, suggesting that writing pamphlets, textbooks, business manuals and research articles can help sustain somebody in the field. n