THE large turnout at the launch of NoViolet Bulawayo’s book We Need New Names in the city on Tuesday was a good reminder that Bulawayo is the cradle of the arts in Zimbabwe.
The Bulawayo launch was the second in Zimbabwe for NoViolet — born Elizabeth Zandile Tshele in Tsholotsho — and it turned out to be bigger than the Harare event staged earlier in the month.
NoViolet made history when she became the first Zimbabwean to be shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize for the thrilling novel.
She is also the first black African woman to be on that list and her nomination has put, not only Bulawayo on the world map, but Zimbabwe as well.
In her address, NoViolet showed that despite living most of her life in the United States, she has not lost touch with her roots.
She told a moving story about the role her father played in cultivating the storyteller in her.
NoViolet is now on the verge of being the first Zimbabwean to win the 44-year-old Man Booker Prize and has been nominated for the Guardian first book award.
She is just but one of many outstanding cultural and literary icons to emerge from the city.
Her appearance in the city came on the eve of the celebrated Intwasa Arts Festival KoBulawayo that springs to life next Tuesday.
Intwasa started in 2005 as a community initiative and has grown to become an important event on the Zimbabwean arts calendar that celebrates human diversity and creativity.
The festival has hosted regional and international artistes from Botswana, Swaziland, South Africa, United States, UK, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Belgium, Wales and Zambia, and in the process, has put Bulawayo on the international cultural map.
This year it promises to be even bigger as it will host female poets from the region, the award-winning play Itsoseng from South Africa and the exciting play Pub Stories based on the writings and life of Zimbabwe’s legendary writer Dambudzo Marechera.
Bulawayo is a city in distress and the arts are one way to uplift the spirits of defeated citizens and open avenues for youths trying to find ways of eking out an honest living using their talents.