Mawenzi House is dedicated to bringing to the reading public fresh new writing from Canada and across the world that reflects the diversity of our rapidly globalizing world, particularly in Canada and the United States. Our focus is on works that can loosely be termed “multicultural” and particularly those that pertain to Asia and Africa. We publish 10-12 titles of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction (literary criticism, history) per year.
Among our achievements: we have played a role in the formulation of the Indo-Caribbean identity through the publication of several ground-breaking titles; we have kept in print books by major Caribbean writers Sam Selvon, Ismith Khan, and John Stewart; we have published provocative and perceptive social and literary critical works by Arnold Itwaru, Arun Prabha Mukherjee, Chelva Kanaganayakam, and others; the introduction of the important Zimbabwean writer Yvonne Vera; the first historical and critical study of Chinese Canadian writing in English; the first anthologies of South Asian Canadian literature, South Asian Canadian women’s poetry, Chinese Canadian stories, and South Asian Canadian and American women’s fiction.
Our mission is to promote literature that reflects the growing cultural diversity of Canada. We aim, specifically, to encourage the production and exposition of the literary arts–fiction, poetry, essays, literary criticism, and memoirs–that reflect non-Western experiences, cultural values, traditions, and histories. By non-Western we mean South and East Asian, Near and Middle Eastern, African, and Caribbean. Historically, Canada has seen itself as Western, its literature tracing its roots to “the Great Tradition” of Europe. Today most Canadians accept that cultures from other regions of our interconnected globe, as they exist and evolve in Canada, are a constituent part of the nation. In our vision, this recognition should go beyond the acceptance of foods, “ethnic” neighbourhoods, and the noise of many languages in the downtown streets. It should be seen not as the exotic “Other,” confined to the literal or metaphorical suburbs, and used as a political point, but as part of the new Canadian mainstream representing this nation. Recently we have been emboldened to broaden our vision to embrace Aboriginal literature, recognizing that Aboriginal history has been colonial and Aboriginal culture has been marginal in ways that Canadians from former European colonies can readily identify with. We have also always aimed to give exposure to the primary languages of creation, for example French from Quebec, Tamil, Urdu, Punjabi, and Innu-Aimun, and publish translations and bilingual editions when possible.
Our contribution to the evolution of the modern Canadian identity is literary, based on the awareness that diverse creative expressions are possible, and that we as Canadians must be especially sensitive to those who have roots in the marginal regions of the world. Not only do these stories and poems have to be heard, they must also be discussed critically and taught to new generations. Thus it is also our purpose to actively promote the development of a more representative and authentic literary critical tradition in Canada.
In 1981, a group of young people, who had been in North America for just over a decade, decided to take the plunge and start the magazine they had always dreamed about as students, at a time in which Naipaul had to be ordered from bookstores, let alone Narayan or Ngugi or Soyinka. The result was The Toronto South Asian Review, which later became the much broader-based The Toronto Review of Contemporary Writing Abroad and helped entrench a generation of new writers. As an offshoot of this literary magazine, in 1985 TSAR Publications published its first title, a book of essays on South Asian Canadian literature, followed by a book of poetry by Sri Lankan Canadian Rienzi Crusz. Mawenzi House finally emerged, a uniquely diverse and knowledgeable publishing house based in Canada. (“Mawenzi” is the name of the second peak of Kilimanjaro.)
“. . .changing our understanding of the Canadian literary landscape through its innovative publications.”
— Canadian Literature
We respectfully acknowledge the land on which we live and work is the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis. We also acknowledge that Toronto is covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit.