Storyteller and acclaimed writer uses stories from the past to reflect on modern day

Ignatius Mabasa to speak at Thin Air

Hailing from Zimbabwe, Ignatius T. Mabasa will read at the Thin Air Festival’s Mainstage poetry bash Sept. 24. Courtesy University of Manitoba

From Zimbabwe to Manitoba, and multiple stops in between, comes Ignatius Mabasa, the newest storyteller-in-residence at the University of Manitoba.

Starting from his humble beginnings listening to his grandmother’s stories, Mabasa shares his work rooted from his natural and cultural community in Zimbabwe.

“My people would share values, and anything that was to be communicated through dance, poetry, art and stories. For me, storytelling was a better friend,” he said.

Storytelling, he says, may have started as a way for societies “to correct something that was happening or shouldn’t be happening.”

“(It was) a way of policing the community, but in a very friendly manner,” he said.

“Everything then became very dramatized.

The characters, you would notice, represented real people and events. It was always told in a ‘land far, far away.’ So, suddenly the context is removed and because there was magic, reality is suspended and you find then that people would accept and reflect on the message.”

This is what Mabasa strives for in his writing. His most recent book, The Man, Shaggy Leopard and Jackal and Other Stories, reflects a culture and time that communicated through stories.

“These are stories that are coming from way, way back, but what we notice is that although we are moving, the human experience doesn’t necessarily change,” he said.

“We are too busy, too overloaded with things to do. We’ve become too modern, we’re bombarded with too many philosophical things. We need time to humanize our world again.” 

See Ignatius T. Mabasa at the Mainstage Poetry Bash at the CanWest Global Performing Arts Centre at The Forks on Friday, Sept. 24. Tickets are $10 for students at the door. Visit and

Published in Volume 65, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 16, 2010)

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