Weaver Press closes chapter after 25 years of publishing excellence

Petina Gappah (front) and Musaemura Zimunya read books while Murray McCartney looks on. Pic: David Brazier.

A celebration honouring independent publisher, Weaver Press, was held at the Zimbabwe German Society (ZGS) Pavilion on Thursday last week to commemorate the publishing house’s 25th anniversary.

But just days after receiving accolades and well wishes from around the world, Weaver Press announced that they would be closing shop.

Weaver Press co-founder Irene Staunton told IndependentXtra that the press would be closing at the end of the year.

“We would like to thank the Zimbabwe German Society for offering to host our 25th anniversary gathering. It was a lovely opportunity to celebrate a few of the many writers we have met over the years and to meet and thank many of our friends and colleagues who have supported us, particularly as Weaver Press is planning to close at the end of the year,” Staunton said adding that they will continue to do free-lance work.

Over the years it has published a diverse range of books, spanning novels, short stories, poetry, politics, history, anthropology, memoirs, gender and environmental studies as well as a range of nonfiction titles.

Staunton and her husband Murray McCartney set up their Weaver in 1998. The couple moved to Zimbabwe in the early 1980s after independence from colonial rule.

Staunton worked with the publisher John Calder in London in the late 1970s. She and McCartney met at the Africa Centre in Covent Garden in 1978 when there was a literary buzz about the place, which was frequented by the likes of the Nigerian-born British poet Ben Okri and the late Zimbabwean novelist Dambudzo Marechera.

Staunton had previously co-founded Baobab Books with Hugh Lewin and has worked in literature and the arts since the 1970s, both in the UK and Zimbabwe.

One of the first books Weaver published was The Stone Virgins, a novel by Yvonne Vera about the horrors of civil war that went on to win the Macmillan prize for African adult fiction in 2002.

Among the most successful writers Weaver has worked with is NoViolet Bulawayo, author of We Need New Names, shortlisted for the Booker prize in 2013, and Glory, shortlisted for the Booker in 2022. Weaver published two of her short stories before she won the Caine prize for African writing in 2011.

Reflecting on the impending closure, writer Tsitsi Nomsa Ngwenya remarked: “Many stories could have been forgotten by authors, or worse some stories could have gone with the dearly departed writers that she published. It is a sad thing for the writing community to see such a professionally run establishment closing down.”

Weaver has published approximately eighty fiction writers over the last 25 years, including notable names like Emmanuel Sigauke, Ethel Kabwato, Yvonne Vera, Julius Chingono, Chenjerai Hove, Danai Gurira, Gugu Ndlovu, John Eppel, Lawrence Hoba, Margaret Tredgold, and Zambian author Mukuka Chipanta, among many others.

Meanwhile, the jubilee at the ZGS resembled a get-together of golden-age writers, emerging authors and literary enthusiasts. Former deputy prime minister Arthur Mutambara, educationist Fay Chung, Dr Sekai Nzenza, and Naishe Nyamubaya — the late guerilla fighter-poet Freedom Nyamubaya’s son — were among the guests. Other notable attendees included Petinah Gappah, Chiedza Musengezi, Zaza Muchemwa, Shimmer Chinodya, Chirikure Chirikure, Musaemura Zimunya, among others.

The event featured readings focused on works of fiction written by authors published by Weaver Press and opened with a reading by performance poet and storyteller Chirikure Chirikure who read extracts from the late Julius Chingono’s collection of short stories and poems entitled Not Another Day (2006). 

In a duet, Petina Gappah and Musaemura Zimunya read excerpts from Gappah’s short story titled The Mupandawana Dancing Champion, taken from her debut story collection, An Elegy for Easterly (2010).

Naishe Nyamubaya read That Special Place, a short story written by his mother, Freedom Nyamubaya, which was taken from the anthology, Writing Still: New Stories from Zimbabwe (2003), while Zaza Muchemwa read an excerpt from Valerie Tagwira’s Trapped (2020). Shimmer Chinodya read Chapter 5 of his book Harvest of Thorns (1989). The book previously won the 1990 Commonwealth Writers Regional Prize.

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