MEET THE AUTHOR: Changing society perceptions through literary work


Erasto Noni is a passionate writer who wants to

Erasto Noni is a passionate writer who wants to bring positive change. PHOTO I ELIZABETH TUNGARAZA  

By Elizabeth Tungaraza

With a Bachelor of Arts degree (Education) from the University of Dar es Salaam, Erasto Noni decided to embark on a writing career. His dream started while he was still at the university. “At the university I was introduced to a crucial course on editing and proofreading, where I came to be familiar with the practices, principles and guidelines of editing and proofreading. After learning the basics, I decided to become a freelancer in editing and proofreadingi,” he says.

Noni is also a writer, teacher and literary critic. His major genres are poetry and novels. He has two books; an anthology of poems called The Tropical Songs and Jasho La Mvua a Swahili novel that was published on February 2019.

The Tropical Songs, a poetry anthology which he co-authored, is a literary representation of the African countries that fall under the tropical climatic condition. The title refers to the common things shared by the African countries. The book has poems like; Platos Cave, Bitter Chutney, Africa My Africa, Desire, She and Why Backbiting.

The second book Jasho La Mvua (Sweat of The Rain) is his recently published novel. It’s a novel about a rural man who is an admiration of many people in the village due to his demeanour.

In his books, Noni tries to pass on some basic cultural values. The cultural values in reading, writing and storytelling are wisdom and prudence. Readers and artists of literary works share some cultural values like wisdom, most of them become wise as a result of either reading or writing works of literature. This is triggered by the fact that, these people are problem solvers, they spot problems and look for solutions in their writings which they communicate to the public.

Success had a chat with the young writer.

How does your literary work relate to your spiritual practice or other life aspects?

Here, I will talk about Jasho La Mvua. I was born into a Christian family where most of the family members, especially women, were church goers. So in the novel, I captured different beliefs of the people, including traditional beliefs. This is because I grew up hearing and seeing people practising different beliefs. I also used to hear about people getting lost in forests while herding their cattle. So my novel incorporates them all in order to reveal what is prevailing in the society in as far as beliefs are concerned.

What do you aim to achieve through your books?

Like other artists in the world, reaching the audience is the primary goal because a literary work is not complete in itself unless it reaches the audience. So the goals in my work are to show the society the right path to take in order to overcome different life obstacles. My novel breaks the chains of ignorance and opens a door for arguments as there are philosophical questions raised in the novel.

What are some of the references that you used while researching Jasho La Mvua?

This is a novel which I started writing when I was a first year student at the University of Dar es Salaam in 2015. Literature comes from the society and so does the novel. In most cases I research through observation. This book is the result of my life experience; memories from stories my grandmother used to narrate to us, riddles and proverbs in local language (Sukuma). Questions I asked different people, reading other writings and my observations during childhood.

What do you think most characterises your writings?

To become a prominent and reputable writer you have to be unique, add something different in your writing. Be original and stick to your philosophy. Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Euphrase Kezilahabi and Charles Mloka are well known and respected due to the positive changes they brought to the societies through unique ways. My work is characterised by the use of literature within literature, where I use other literary genres in my works.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

Editing and proofreading. I started editing in 2017, it took me months to finish and this made me believe that it is difficult to edit your own work. In the year 2018 I gave it to other editors to re-read and edit. It was a hectic process, sometimes I slept late at night passing through the suggestions of my editors, accepting and rejecting others which were against my intention in the novel.

Are there misconceptions that people have about your book? If so, explain.

At times a writer and the audience in written works do not meet and so it is difficult for the audience to ask questions to the artists for clarification whenever they please. When the readers read a book, they may misjudge it, for example, my novel is viewed as a love story by some of the readers who only read its blurb and bother not to pass through the book carefully. The same to my poetry anthology; The Tropical Songs, there are some poems like Hibiscus, some view it as a political poem though the main theme revolves around cultural interference.

What inspires you to write?

I am inspired by many things; the happenings in the society, both good and bad. These inspire me to speak my mind, to build what has been destroyed, to excavate the forgotten and bring them to the world, especially cultural practices, the life of the marginalised and their struggles to be recognized and valued. Another thing that inspires me is the accessibility of publishers and many writers who did their good job in writing literary genres.

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?

Chinua Achebe, Euphrase Kezilahabi, Shaaban Robert, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Jwani Mwaikusa, Richard S. Mabala, Adabet Chenche, Amina Sanga, just to mention a few. Through their writings I learnt to be original, to stick to my philosophy when writing a novel or poem.

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