Reading and Writing on WhatsApp

By Nyasha Bhobo

Was it William Gibson who said, “The future is here, it’s just unevenly distributed”? Now we’re saying it too. A dystopian future has arrived early in Zimbabwe, where writers and readers go about their business in a collapsing post-colonial economy suffering chronic hyper-inflation and the absence of a reliable state currency or any stable banking system. Internet access is priced out of reach for most people, and such quaint establishments as the local bookshop and literary publishers have mostly closed up shop. Zimbabwe has a cellphone network that reaches everyone, and it has become home-base to an economy that circulates new writing to readers. Nyasha Bhobo, a young writer who grew up in the rural Mutare district, tells us how it works, and explains how her career as a “WhatsApp writer” harkens back to the great strengths of her childhood village, where everyone shared all the reading and writing that came their way.

Here Comes the Future: Learning from Zimbabwe

1 March, 2022