Aug 2017 1st Edition

Charmaine Mrwebi, dreaming and writing in Setswana

Written by Sulaiman Philip

Everyone should read, says Charmaine Mrwebi. The published author, librarian and founder of the Charmza Literary Club says: “Our people should often visit our libraries and become friends of books. Remember, any person who reads books on a daily basis, develops better listening skills. Reading helps learners and students to perform better at school.”

Charmza Literary Club visits schools around Thaba ’Nchu, her hometown, where she shares her love of reading and its importance.Charmaine Mrwebi and her crew use storytelling to instil a love of reading and writing.

She wants to empower communities to tell their stories in their own language. “We also teach adults the necessary writing steps on how to write their books, edit and publish them in their language.”

Mrwebi uses her school visits to identify young writers to mentor. “We conduct poetry readings once a month in different schools where we encourage pupils to read and write poems.”

Once they have been identified, Mrwebi will “donate books to these writers after they have formed their book clubs, poetry groups and reading clubs”.

Ongoing work

Since 2015 this Bloemfontein-based writer and publisher has partnered with the Mangaung Cultural Festival to present the Mokete Storytelling Picnic. Using storytelling and puppet shows, Mrwebi and her crew entertain children in Setswana.

In addition, every Tuesday Mrwebi and the Charmza team host workshops at the Performing Arts Centre of the Free State for school children. “For one hour after school we work with children. We teach children that performing arts are a tool to understand their world and their lives.”

Growing up in Thaba ’Nchu, Mrwebi was a voracious reader. She has often spoken about how reading allowed her to travel the world without leaving her home. But she yearned to find books written in Setswana, her mother tongue, about her own experiences.

She believes it’s important to read, and write, your own literature. Writers, she says, think and dream in their mother tongue and something is lost when it is translated. Desperate to share her culture with the world, she has self-published four books in her mother tongue.

She is hopeful that, like her, there is a young Setswana writer somewhere who will be inspired to tell his or her own story. And who inspires Mrweb? Her grandmother Ellen Kuzwayo, the award-winning author of Call Me Woman. 

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