Unveiling the Secret Life of a Congolese Writer: The Impact of Literature on Emotions and Identity

Unveiling the Secret Life of a Congolese Writer: The Impact of Literature on Emotions and Identity

In this episode of The PPS Club Podcast, host Priscille B. Fatuma interviewed Daniella Zabiti, an editor and poetry book illustrator. The conversation revolved around Zabiti's passion for poetry and her journey as a creative professional in the publishing industry in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This article highlights the key takeaways from the conversation.

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1. Illustrating Poetry Books, Writing Love Letters

Zabiti explains her deep connection to poetry, stating that she is someone who feels intensely and passionately. When she experiences strong emotions, she often finds herself at a loss for words. To fill this void, she turns to poetry books, where she can find solace and relate to the emotions and experiences expressed by others. This realization led her to start illustrating poetry books as a way to visually capture and convey the feelings and emotions that words alone cannot express.

The concept of illustrating poetry books goes beyond personal expression for Zabiti. She sees it as a way to be part of a larger community, helping others find themselves and identify with the words and emotions depicted in the poems. By illustrating other people's words, she aims to amplify their feelings and bring them to life visually.

Apart from her work as an illustrator, Zabiti also shares her love for writing. She confesses that she has not yet published her own works, as she is fearful of putting her writing out into the world. However, she reveals that she writes extensively, primarily focusing on love letters. Writing has become a way for her to connect with her own human experience, expressing her emotions and thoughts through heartfelt letters addressed to people, places, and even things.

When discussing the challenges of working as a creative professional, Zabiti mentions that her biggest struggle lies in completing projects. She admits to dealing with anxiety, which often hinders her ability to finish what she starts. This challenge becomes particularly difficult when working with clients or collaborators who rely on her to deliver the final product. In the fast-paced publishing industry of the DRC, where deadlines are tight and understanding for personal struggles may be lacking, Zabiti finds it challenging to balance her own mental well-being with professional expectations.

This podcast episode offers a glimpse into the world of illustrating poetry books and writing love letters. Zabiti's passion for poetry and her desire to visually capture and amplify emotions through her illustrations are inspiring. Her personal writing journey, rooted in love and connection, adds depth to her creative pursuits. However, the challenges she faces as a creative professional remind us of the importance of understanding and accommodating personal struggles in the pursuit of artistic endeavours.

2. Normalize talking about mental health

One of the key themes discussed in this podcast episode is the need to normalize talking about mental health. The guest shares her experience with anxiety and the difficulties she faced in communicating her struggles to others. She attributes this challenge to the cultural stigma surrounding mental health issues, particularly in her Congolese culture.

Zabiti emphasizes that the lack of understanding and awareness about anxiety makes it hard for individuals to open up and seek support. In a society where mental health is not openly discussed, people may fear being judged or not taken seriously. This fear of judgment and misunderstanding can further exacerbate anxiety and make it even harder to communicate about it.

The conversation highlights the importance of creating a culture that is supportive and understanding of mental health issues. By normalizing conversations about anxiety and other mental health concerns, individuals can feel more comfortable seeking help and sharing their experiences. This is particularly crucial in creative industries, such as writing and publishing, where deadlines and pressure can intensify anxiety.

To further support the guest’s point, Priscille shares her personal strategies for managing anxiety, such as setting specific goals and not allowing anxiety to paralyze her. She shares how giving herself a "time out" and committing to completing tasks has helped her regain a sense of control. These strategies demonstrate the power of self-awareness and self-discipline in managing anxiety. Listen to the episode to get the full context in which these strategies have worked for her..

In conclusion, we need to understand the importance of normalizing conversations about mental health. Zabiti's personal experiences with anxiety highlight the challenges faced by individuals in communicating their struggles. By breaking the stigma surrounding mental health, individuals can feel more supported and empowered to seek help. Overall, this episode serves as a reminder of the importance of understanding and accommodating personal struggles in all aspects of life, including artistic pursuits.

3. Literature promotes cultural exchange

Literature promotes cultural exchange by providing a platform for individuals to share their experiences, stories, and perspectives. In the podcast transcript, the guest emphasizes the importance of collaboration and learning from authors from different countries. By working with creatives from diverse backgrounds, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of different cultures and share their own cultural insights.

The guest suggests that Congolese authors should consider writing books with authors from places such as Nigeria, Benin, or other countries in order to learn from each other and share their unique cultural perspectives. This collaboration allows for a mutual exchange of knowledge and understanding. Through sharing, both parties can learn from each other's cultures and experiences, enriching their own writing and creative endeavours.

The concept of sharing is highlighted throughout the podcast. The guest emphasizes that when we share something together; we learn from each other and can move forward with the knowledge and experiences gained. This sharing of ideas, stories, and cultural insights is essential for promoting cultural exchange through literature.

The importance of having role models and influencers in literature is also discussed. The guest shares her personal experience of being inspired by her father, who is a doctor. Despite not having a specific role model in literature, the guest was influenced by her father's passion for writing and reading.

When asked about her favourite authors, Zabiti mentions Zamenga Batukezanga, a Congolese author, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian author. Zabiti expresses an emotional attachment to Zamenga's short stories, which provided comfort during a lonely period in her life. This demonstrates how literature can have a profound impact on individuals, connecting them to their own emotions and experiences.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is praised for her ability to speak to the soul through her writing. Zabiti admires Adichie's impactful storytelling and her ability to convey complex ideas in a simple yet powerful way. Adichie's work resonates with Zabiti on a deep level, showcasing the power of literature to transcend cultural boundaries and touch the hearts of readers from different backgrounds.

In conclusion, literature plays a crucial role in promoting cultural exchange. Through collaboration, sharing, and curiosity, individuals can learn from each other's cultures and experiences. Literature allows for a deeper understanding and appreciation of different perspectives, fostering empathy and connection. By reading works from authors of different countries and backgrounds, individuals can broaden their horizons and gain new insights. The podcast episode emphasizes the importance of embracing cultural diversity in literature and encourages readers and writers to engage in meaningful exchanges that promote understanding and unity.

4. Congolese literature is growing

In the podcast episode, the guest, Daniella Zabiti, discusses the growth of Congolese literature and the impact it has on the country and its people. According to Zabiti, there is a growing number of individuals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who are eager to share their stories and experiences through writing. This newfound enthusiasm for literature is seen as a positive sign for the future of Congolese literature.

Zabiti mentions that she has encountered many people her age who are actively writing and publishing their work. She cites an example of a friend who wrote a research book about his culture and is eager to share more. This growing interest in documenting and preserving Congolese culture is seen as encouraging and hopeful, as it allows for a greater understanding and appreciation of the country's rich heritage.

The guest also highlights the creation of cultural centres and publishing houses as evidence of the expanding Congolese writing industry. She mentions a specific publishing house, Mlimani Editions, which has already published two books within a year. This demonstrates the increasing opportunities and platforms available for Congolese writers to showcase their work.

Overall, the podcast episode highlights the growth and potential of Congolese literature. The increasing number of individuals who are eager to write and share their stories is a positive sign for the future of Congolese literature. The creation of cultural centres and local publishing houses further supports this growth. By embracing cultural diversity and engaging in meaningful exchanges, Congolese literature has the power to foster unity, understanding, and appreciation among readers and writers alike.

Tune in now to listen to the full conversation between Priscille B. Fatuma and Daniella Zabiti.