One of the things that makes West African writing outstanding is the usage of their cultural values and symbols. In fact, beyond Africa, the inclusion of cultural values, traditional symbols and religion have made great movies. A lot of powerful themes have been developed around what people believe in; from popular books like, ‘Things Fall Apart’, ‘River Between’ to myths and legends in ‘Lord of the Rings’ or the Harry Porter series. Therefore, what we didn’t know, becomes known. When people learn something, they will strive to make use of it and enshrine it in their day to day lives and this can be carried on for generations to come. There must be a record of where people come from and how they lived their lives. I recently visited the northern part of Ethiopia, Lalibela to be specific and it was amazing to see that Rock Hewn churches that were constructed in 1100 AD are still standing and have been woven into the local literature. Both oral and written forms of literature retell the marvelous work of King Lalibela. Every evening at the cultural center, there is sharing of history and religion through folklore, poetry, dance and music. Similarly, the Japanese people have upheld their cultural values for many years and they have kept a record of it in their literature.
What is the point to all this? Creative writing has a very important role in preserving histories, cultures and civilizations. In Zambia, the main sources for history are academic books and these are preserved for those that pursue studies in that line. Most of the systems that were used to pass on history and other important cultural values have died with modernization and rapid urbanization. The television has replaced story telling time. The internet has forcefully taken the place for entertainment and knowledge. With modernization, most of the cultural values have been watered down and if left unattended could be lost forever. If we are to head ‘Toward a Zambian genre’, creative writing must take center stage of incorporating critical cultural values and symbols in all the literary forms. This means casting key elements of Zambia’s cultures in the various forms of writing. For instance, in Achebe’s writing, there is profound usage of proverbs and symbols that are peculiar to the Igbo people. Surely with about 73 tribes, Zambia has plenty to share with the world. TOWARD A ZAMBIAN GENRE!