Last night's launch of the Mama Dar collection of stories and poems was great. Four of the 27 contributors read their work, and I wasn't the only one who was choked up by the emotional power of the pieces. I learned a number of things there:
- If all goes well, thanks to the sponsorship of Standard Chartered and CI and everyone who buys a copy of the book, this project may be able to raise 16 million Shillings for the House of Peace. That is some very impressive philanthropy, and a job well done.
- The House of Peace, established in 2002, is the only half-way house operating in Tanzania at the moment and that getting it off the ground was- surprise, surprise- not at all easy. This is the first time they have been on the receiving end of a charitable activity. Which burns my ass when I think of all the money that could really be mobilized if more companies had reasonable CSR policies (exempting Standard Chartered and CI from this rant).
- I was surprised, pleasantly, to see that the founder and Director is a gentleman (who quite firmly warned us that we could visit the crisis center near the American Embassy but the location of the half-way house is not available to the public for obvious reasons). Serves me right for being a closet sexist.
- 'Feminist' is an active, not a passive label that does not discriminate. Can't believe I nearly forgot that one, need a refresher course. Of course this also means keeping a firm grip on the crucial difference between men who adore women, and male feminists. Very important distinction, that.
- Just one gentleman submitted his work for the project, an insightful meditation for fathers. The irony is that one of George McBean's piece is a comment on the general, and generally accepted, absence of men in the daily nitty gritty of childcare. The event was flooded with women, a light smattering of supportive spouses and, of course, kids running everywhere and making the event lighthearted.
- There really should have been more Tanzanians at this event. Really.
- The physical and therefore social experience of being gendered female is inescapably intense and complex, at every age, across all borders. This intensity and complexity infuses much of our literature, where the body and all her exudations, her shapes and vulnerabilities and compromises, her pains and pleasures and surprises is overwhelmingly present. I think it makes for a pretty physical kind of writing, quite a different experience from the non-tactile discussion of intangibles such as Ideas.
The editors of the book, Amy Brautigam and Debbie Ventimiglia are both relocating soon, and this was a parting gift to a city they have come to love. Imagine if, in our travels, we all managed to leave something so good behind...
So in the spirit of sharing, I'm happy to announce TMR's first real give-away contest. It relates to the issue of gender equity. Best 150 or 200-word anecdote in the comments section on someone you admire who has done good work in this area in Tanzania wins a signed copy of Mama Dar: Tales of Family Life in Tanzania from yours truly. Dar residents only (sorry about that Hinterlanders, Diasporans and foreign readers of the blog!)