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Time of the Writer (14-19 March 2016) Partnerships

The 19th edition of the Time of the Writer festival is presented by the Centre for Creative Arts (UKZN) in partnership with various organisations this year.

The eThekwini Municipality Libraries department has partnered with the Centre for Creative Arts, in supporting the community engagement programme of the festival in which a series of events entitled Conversations that Matter will take place in public libraries around the City. The City will also be purchasing two copies of each book by each writer featured at the festival which will be distributed to 92 eThekwini Municipal Libraries. The festival together with eThekwini Municipality has organised a park and ride shuttle service to the various venues. The shuttle will pick up passengers from Durban Centrum Park where you will be able to securely park your car, from Tuesday through to Saturday at both 10:00 and 17:30 each day.

The Story of Anna P, as Told by HerselfWhat Will People SayLondon – Cape Town – Joburg


The Festival has also partnered with the Etisalat Prize for Literature, the first ever pan-African prize celebrating first time writers of published fiction books. Etisalat, will bring three shortlisted writers for a reading at the Time of the Festival as well as donation of 1,000 books to one of the City’s local libraries.

Independent news agency The Daily Vox will be live streaming the festival and providing a platform for online engagement from audiences.

Songs and Stories of AfricaThis year’s Festival Book Drive received support from Independent Newspapers and Gcina Mhlophe’s Nozincwadi: Mother of Books Project, which promotes a culture of reading throughout the country. Through this partnership a rural school will be awarded books collected at events hosted by the Centre for Creative Arts.

Time of the Writer has partnered with the KZN Music Imbizo to present Notes on Music. Each evening a different musician will take to the stage before the nightly panel, to perform a new piece of music based on the artist’s interpretation of the festival participants’ written work. There will also be a short discussion facilitated by Salim Washington (UKZN) and Sphephelo Mbhele (KZN Music Imbizo), with the artist providing some insight into what went into composing that piece of music.

All events are FREE to library or student cardholders. For members of the public without either card, a nominal fee of R20 will be requested at the box office one hour before the event. The eThekwini Municipal Libraries along with The Centre for Creative Arts will be on hand at each venue in order to aid those without library cards to sign up for one on the spot, all that it requires is a valid ID document and proof of residence.

For more details on this years’ Time of the Writer, visit or call (031) 260 2506

Organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University KwaZulu-Natal), the 19th Time of the Writer is supported by the City of Durban, the National Department of Arts and Culture, The Goethe-Institut and Alliance Française de Durban. The Centre for Creative Arts is housed in the College of Humanities at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and is a special project of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Cheryl Potgieter.

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19th Poetry Africa Festival to Host Insightful Workshops at Rivertown Beerhall

19th Poetry Africa - Participants Announced

The 19th Poetry Africa Festival will be offering three insightful workshops which will be taking place on the 17th October at the Beerhall gallery from 10: 00 to 13:00. The workshops form part of a teeming line up of festivities to finalise the week-long festival which begins on Monday, October 12.

The workshops include:

  • Advancing Poetry through Events – Organisers of Poetry events in Durban and South Africa (Thabiso Mohare, Vus’umuzi Phakathi and Mxolisi Mtshali) will be speaking about the impact of a growing literary society
  • Making Durban a liveable City – Through Arts Development – Representatives from the eThekwini Parks and Recreation (Themba Mchunu) and National Arts Council (Andrew Nkadimeng) will host a session promoting available programs for the development and preservation of literature in KwaZulu-Natal
  • Finding your Voice – Poetry Africa participants (Mthunzikazi Mbungwana, Nii Parkes and Aryan Kaganof) facilitate a session on finding your creative voice.

All workshops are free and open to the public.

Tickets for the festival finale at Rivertown cost R70 (pre-sale or R80 at the door) and can be purchased from Computicket.

For more information go to or like the PoetryAfrica Facebook page or follow @PoetryAfrica on Twitter.

Presented by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal) and made possible by support from the eThekwini Municipality, KZN Department of Arts and Culture, National Arts Council and the Goethe Institute. The Centre for Creative Arts is housed in the College of Humanities at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and is a special project of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Cheryl Potgieter.
Poetry Africa Details

Workshop Details

  • Date: Saturday, 17 October 2015
  • Time: 10 AM – 1 PM
  • Venue: Rivertown Beer Hall
    102 Florence Nzama St (formerly Prince Alfred St)
    Durban | Map
  • Speakers: (Mthunzikazi Mbungwana, Nii Parkes, Aryan Kaganof, Thabiso Mohare, Vus’umuzi Phakathi and Mxolisi Mtshali, Themba Mchunu, Andrew Nkadimeng
  • Cost: Free


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Have a look at some of the books by participants of the 19th Poetry Africa festival:

Piggy Boy's BluesTail of the Blue BirdIn a Ribbon of RhythmA Half Century ThingAdults OnlyWenaRunning


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19th Poetry Africa Festival – Participants Announced

19th Poetry Africa - Participants Announced
Piggy Boy's BluesTail of the Blue BirdIn a Ribbon of RhythmA Half Century ThingAdults OnlyWenaRunning

A select group of poets from South Africa and around the world will gather together in Durban from 12 – 17 October, showcasing the face of spoken word and storytelling at the 19th Poetry Africa Festival.

Hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts, Poetry Africa provides a space for intercultural exchange and dialogue by hosting an extensive community outreach programme with poetry readings, performances and workshops in community centres, campuses and also participate in a programme of visits to schools across Durban to share ideas about poetry.

Evening poetry readings and discussions will take place at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre (Howard College) UKZN. The festival finale will take place on October 17 at the Rivertown Beer Hall in Durban’s CBD, with a closing performance by soulful singer Nakhane Touré, whose debut novel Piggy Boy’s Blues has just been released.

This year’s festival features 24 poets:

UK-based Kat Francois, is a comedienne, playwright, actress, performer, host, schools and youth facilitator and a well‐known performance poet both in her country and globally. Lebohang “Nova” Masango, is a Swedish-born writer, poet, activist, feminist and speaker, and UK-based Ghanaian performance poet, writer and sociocultural commentator Nii Parkes.

From South Africa comes the celebrated and prolific poet and actress Lebo Mashile, who, was named one of the Top 100 Africans by New African magazine; Lesego Rampolokeng, the renowned hard-hitting South African writer, playwright and performance poet who has a new collection out now; Aryan Kaganof, a filmmaker, novelist, poet and fine artist, who refers to himself as a project of African Noise Foundation and who had a short story recently featured in Adults Only; Ntsiki Mazwai, the outspoken and incendiary poet, writer and musician; and Thabiso ‘Afurakan’ Mohare, one of the pioneers of the modern South African spoken word scene.

KZN-based poets include Africa Dlamini, a slam/spoken word poet who lives in Howick; Durban’s Celiswa Majali, whose novel Imbali yentombazanana is used by schools at grade 10 level in the Western Cape and Gauteng Provinces. Also from Durban are Khanyi Shusha, a diviner, performance art poet, stylist, designer, facilitator, brown consciousness activist, feminist and writer; Kwazi Ndlangisa, a South African award-winning performance poet, vocalist, creative writer and art activist; Matt Vend, who is well-known across South Africa for his poetically-driven songwriting, unique rhythmic guitar playing and engaging live performances; Nokulunga Dladla, a passionate recording poetry artist and a storyteller as well as an educator in the Pinetown District; Nosipho Magcaba, a former “prelude poet” at the festival, who returns this year to the main programme; Tshebeletso Mohale also a former “prelude poet” at Poetry Africa 2014 who lives and works in Durban; Thando Fuze, who has twice been nominated for Best Female Performing Poet at the Original Material Awards; and Vus’umuzi Phakathi, an award winning South African poet, writer, performer, facilitator and producer.

Other featured poets include Icebound Makhele, a spoken word performer, writer, cultural activist and events coordinator from Bloemfontein; Makhosazana Xaba, the author of two poetry collections and a feminist activist with experience in women’s health, philanthropy and the anti-apartheid struggle; Mbali Vilakazi, the award-winning South African poet, performer, curator and speaker, who has a dynamic style and collaborative experimental approach; Mthunzikazi Mbungwana, a poet, writer and storyteller from a small village of Upper Indwana in Cala in the former Transkei; Mutle Mothibe, who has spent the last 15 years honing his skills a writer and performer and is also an accomplished workshop facilitator who regularly engages both learners and educators; and Limpopo-born Vonani Bila, a poet and musician who has written eight storybooks for newly literate adult readers in Sepedi, Xitsonga and English, and who recently launched a new collection, Bilakhulu!

Tickets for the evening sessions, which take place at 7 PM at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, are R40 (students/pensioners: R25 at the door) and can be purchased at Computicket or one hour before the performance begins at the box office. Tickets for the festival finale at Rivertown cost R70 (pre-sale or R80 at the door) and can be purchased from Computicket.

For more information go to, like the Facebook page PoetryAfrica or follow on Twitter @PoetryAfrica.

Presented by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal) and made possible by support from the eThekwini Municipality, KZN Department of Arts and Culture, National Arts Council and the Goethe Institut. The Centre for Creative Arts is housed in the College of Humanities at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and is a special project of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Cheryl Potgieter.

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Sterling Line-up Announced for the 2015 Time of the Writer Festival

The lineup for the 18th Time of the Writer Festival has been announced, including the who’s who of South African literature.

Presented by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal) and made possible by support from the Department of Arts and Culture, the City of Durban, the French Institute (IFAS) and the Goethe Institute, the 18th edition of the festival will take place in Durban between 16 and 21 March.

The lineup for the 2015 Time of the Writer:

NoViolet Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Carol Campbell, South Africa

Imraan Coovadia, South Africa

ZP Dala, South Africa

Ousmane Diarra, Mali

Dilman Dila, Uganda

Jacob Dlamini, South Africa

Ekow Duker, South Africa

Craig Higginson, South Africa

Mandla Langa, South Africa

Thando Mgqolozana, South Africa

Kirsten Miller, South Africa

MJ Mngadi, South Africa

Nthikeng Mohlele, South Africa

Given Mukwevho, South Africa

Futhi Ntshingila, South Africa

Sue Nyathi, Zimbabwe

Charlotte Otter, South Africa

Margaret Von Klemperer, South Africa

Mzilikazi wa Afrika, South Africa

The theme for this year’s festival, Writing For Our Lives, calls attention to the urgent continuing struggle of all writers in speaking truth and bearing witness to the times through their words. Globally writers are combatting censorship when the truth is too hard to swallow, challenging the reader’s perspective and sparking a passion for literature in our youth.

During this activity-rich week, audiences can expect to engage with a multitude of award-winning writers, from a wide range of political and social contexts, on the creative and technical processes and perspectives which shape their writing.

Evening readings and discussions will take place at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre (Howard College Campus) while wide reaching free day programmes are spread across Durban and the surrounding areas as part of the festival’s ongoing efforts to promote and nurture a culture of creative expression through reading and writing. This includes school visits, a publishing forum and a range of seminars and workshops.

Ticket information

Ticket cost R25 for the evening sessions and R10 for students on presentation of a student card. Workshops, seminars and book launches are free of charge. Book through Computicket Tel: 0861 915 8000 or 011 340 8000 or online at or at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from 6 PM.

For more information contact the Centre for Creative Arts, University of KwaZulu-Natal by phone on +27 31 260 2506/1816 or email

We Need New NamesEsther's House’n Huis vir EsterTales of the Metric SystemnullA Killing in the Sun
AskariWhite WahalaThe Texture of ShadowsUnimportanceSister MoonKusemhlabeni Lapha
Rusty BellThe Violent Gestures of LifeDo Not Go GentleThe PolygamistBalthasar's GiftJust a Dead ManNothing Left to Steal

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Time of the Writer 2013: Steinberg and Desai on “Writing the Other”, Hassim and Molope on “Writing Gender”

Jonny Steinberg Ashwin Desai

Little LiberiaReading RevolutionNon-fiction authors Jonny Steinberg and Ashwin Desai, were quizzed on “Writing the Other” by facilitator Federico Settler at Saturday’s session at the 16th annual Time of the Writer International Writers Festival.

Steinberg, most recently the author of Little Liberia: An African Odyssey in New York, is attached to the Centre for African Studies in Oxford, and winner of the Windham-Campbell Prize for Literature, was asked how his work differs from that of fiction writers. Steinberg answered that he “can’t get into somebody else’s head”, but that he has to write from what he knows. He added that he “wouldn’t presume to give voice to the other,” but instead gets to know his interviewee very well, and “writes about that relationship”.

Ashwin Desai, political commentator, explained that writing about interviews conducted in the place he calls home, Durban, was difficult in that “one can’t escape one’s own biography”. He said in his book, Reading Revolution: Shakespeare on Robben Island, he wanted to talk about what happens when the “Calibans come to power” (referring to Shakespeare’s The Tempest), noting that they often end up acting as “Prosperos”.

Steinberg explained that when he tries to understand the people he writes about, he asks himself “how they feel about their own death”. He explained that his forthcoming book, to be published early in 2014, focuses on a Somali man who led a “deracinated life in Somali, until he saved enough money to hitch-hike to SA, where he now runs a spaza shop in Blikkiesdorp”. He noted that this man insisted on all the interviews he gave Steinberg being held in Steinberg’s car, so that he could see “tsotsis” coming, if there were any, “in a way, trying to escape his own murder”. This gave a sense of the xenophobic conditions under which he had to live, as opposed to Steinberg’s relative safety as a white man.

At question time, a member of the audience asked Steinberg about Little Liberia, querying why there was a “muting of gender” in the text. Steinberg replied that he tends to sink more into the lives of the men he interviews, “perhaps because of projection and the ability to imagine myself in their shoes”. He said however, that “one day I hope to write intimately about a woman”. He said it was important for a writer not to speak over a reader’s head, but to “trust your reader to be able to work out what you show him/her, which must be the guts of it, the story”. He noted how one of his Liberian protagonists found it very traumatic to have sex with his wife for the first time, because she had undergone female circumcision. He then became virulently opposed to it. His wife however, supported the practice, and insisted on her daughters being circumcised too. “Swooping down on cultural practices from the outside doesn’t work,” said Steinberg, “it has to happen from the inside and outside at the same time”.

Desai slated the rhetoric of post-colonial academics who analyse subaltern writing against the dominant discourse, saying it “doesn’t get you closer to the magic”. He said that interviewing people
for his book on Robben Island “humbled” him, although it didn’t stop him from being critical. He noted that “research is a messy business”.

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Onion TearsSoPhiaThis Book Betrays my BrotherA curiously vulnerable second session focused on “Writing Gender Violence”. The tone was hesitant and yet determined.

Shubnum Khan, author of Onion Tears, said she believed domestic violence’s power comes from “its secrecy and shame”, and welcomed the opportunity to move the discussion from beyond the private confines of the home, to a more public sphere. Shafinaaz Hassim read from her recently published book Sophia, a novel about domestic violence, followed by Kagiso Molope who read from her novel about rape, called This Book Betrays my Brother. Hassim said she chooses to write about violence because she’s a sociologist researching the issue, but wants to unpack these stories “not scientifically, but for a broader audience”. Molope said she grew up in a violent township where she witnessed many attacks on women, and always “wanted to write about the role of the witness. Do you speak out? Make excuses for the men?”

Khan asked the authors to comment on why victims who endure trauma often are further victimised. Hassim said she believes this comes from a “pseudo self-righteous culture of denialism”, where “it has become acceptable to blame the victim for her abuse,” so that she can then be “punished / disciplined / fixed”. Molope said in her book the brother accused of rape rejects his sister when she tries to talk to him about what has happened: and then he excludes her from his community, revealing that her challenge has become a threat for an entire group, not just an individual.

Khan mentioned several high-profile rape/assault cases that have appeared in the media lately, for instance, the rape and murder of Anene Booysen in the Cape, and the shooting of Oscar Pistorius’s girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Hassim said that it is reassuring that there is a renewed consciousness around gender violence, because it is important that civil society fights back. Molope said, from what she has gathered from talking to township people, women in SA are “under siege”, they feel that there is a civil war against them and children.

An audience member asked Hassim whether she believes fiction can be a form of self-help. She said she lent Sophia to someone in an abusive marriage, who chose not to leave. Hassim said perhaps it was too early to see her action as a failed attempt. A man from the audience asked the authors whether they thought a man could write about gender-based violence. Molope said she believed one needs to include “many perspectives”. Another question focused on whether violence can have emancipatory possibilities. Molope said we can’t dictate how victims respond to violence, while Hassim mentioned a movie she saw about an Indian woman who burned her abusive husband to death in a house fire. Molope said it is always a victim’s choice to react in a certain way, but “you owe it yourself to just be you”.

Centre for Creative Arts co-ordinator, Tinso Mungwe, then wrapped up the festival with a vote of thanks for the organisers, funders, and authors.

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Time of the Writer 2013: Susan Abulhawa Describes Telling Palestine’s Story in Mornings in Jenin

Susan Abulhawa

Mornings in JeninRenowned US/Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa was the focus of the first session on the Sneddon stage, Wednesday night, at Time of the Writer 2013. Political scientist Lubna Nadvi, the interviewer, asked about Abulhawa’s inspiration for writing her award-winning book, Mornings in Jenin. Initially trained as a biologist, Abulhawa said she began writing political commentary after the Second Intifada in Israel. When she heard of the Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Jenin, she went to the Gaza strip and witnessed first-hand the suffering of the people there. She said this life-changing experience was the catalyst for writing her novel: “people who had lost everything, still found love for each other”.

She explained that the novel (which has been translated into 30 languages) is a piece of historical fiction, and that its aim is not altogether political. Rather, she sees it as trying to challenge the stereotype of Arabs as “crazy animals”. She said she also views it as a love story: between parents, friends, and a man and a woman.

Nadvi asked Abulhawa what she thinks the role of writers is when it comes to social justice issues. Abulhawa said said, “we are shaped by our societies, and what we write shapes our societies right back”. She said she wants to put the Palestinian story on the map, as in the past its literary tradition lay in Arabic poetry, which has been largely inaccessible to the West. She said terrorism has got Palestinian issues noticed in the West, but still “they do not control their own story”. However, Abulhawa emphasised that there is a crop of new writers and artists whose work counters the “Israeli narrative of ethnic cleansing”. She said for her, being a Palestinian writer, presenting her country’s story was “a form of resistance, enabling her to challenge dangerous and damaging myths”.

She spoke of the world’s mostly positive response to her book, saying that she even received letters from American Jews who said they had had no idea of how badly the Israelis were treating the Palestinians. Nadvi mentioned a South African band, The Mavrix, that has been inspired by Abulhawa’s book to make a music video called “Palestine is the New Black”. Watch the video here:

YouTube Preview Image

Nadvi asked Abulhawa about the “Nakba”, that is the Palestinian dispossession (the 65th anniversary of being exiled from their homeland by Israel). Abulhawa said it is “the oldest script in the book: an imperialist project”. Of current Palestinian leadership, she conceded it is “all over the place: a geographic, political and psychological fragmentation”. But she said it is a national liberation struggle, and that Palestinians “have a right to live without foreign masters”. She asked South African civil society to find ways to pressurise governments/universities etc to “stop doing business with the racist state”, noting that SA currently contributes $1bn/year to the Israeli economy, a lot of which comes from the “blood diamond industry”.

Noting that 98.6% of Palestinian children suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Abulhawa said that, even should the conflict end tomorrow, “the wounds will take years to heal”. She said she found it “exasperating” that: “Palestinians are blamed for their own fate, and have to negotiate their liberties with their own oppressors”. However, she said she had noticed a “palpable shift” in the way heroic Palestinian acts have made it hard for Israel to hide atrocities against her people. “I get demoralised and depressed,” said Abulhawa, but “at times I also feel empowered and hopeful, because I do see a change in discourse. History shows us that regimes affording exclusivity to one small group of people at the expense of another group generally don’t survive”.

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Tanuki IchibanWho Fears DeathThe theme of the second session was quite different! Zinaid Meeran and Nnedi Okorafor discussed “Exploring Genre in African Literature”. The chair, journalist Melinda Ferguson, mentioned that Okorafor has won the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature for her youth fantasy book Zahrah the Windseeker, while her novel Who Fears Death, was the winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2011. Okorafor said that she was the first Afro-American woman to win this award, noting that the bust of HP Lovecraft she was given as a prize offended her, as he had written a poem called, “The Creation of Nigger” many years ago. She said she doesn’t worry so much about pigeon-holing her writing according to genre, even though she “knows there are lots of genre watchdogs out there”. She said to aspirant authors, “rather write what you want to write, and edit it a hundred times, and then let others tell you what genre it is”. She said she thinks of herself as her audience, “writing the mystical stories she wishes to write, hoping to please her readership, but not writing to please them”.

Zinaid Meeran said he sees genre as a “process where art is shaped to make it marketable”, and that, “diabolically, this contains an element of social control”. He said it does have a “useful element, in that it enables the artist to organise his/her ideas, but it is an imposition, nevertheless”. Zinaid said when people described him as writing for an “Indian community,” that he was “flabbergasted”, and wanted to “resist a totalitarian racial category”. He explained that in his most recent novel, Tanuki Ichiban, he has designed a new genre, that of the “riot waif”, abandoned characters who fight back. Melinda Ferguson asked Meeran whether publishers “have to be brave to publish work like yours?” Meeran said humourously that he bought the most copies of Tanuki himself. He said that recognition of his unique genre was important to him: “the feeling of tension dissipates when you meet your underground readership”.

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16th Time of the Writer Festival Opening Evening: Writers Explore “Writing a New World”

Time of the Writer International Writers Festival 2013 - Opening Night

“Writers Writing a New World,” the theme for the 16th annual Time of the Writer International Writers Festival, was mulled over by University of KwaZulu Natal Dean, Cheryl Potgieter, at the festival’s Opening Evening at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre on Monday night. After a mellow musical interlude by Thungi, a Zimbabwean group, Potgieter took to the tage, noting that writers can form an activist constituency, playing a moral role in shaping our society. She mentioned that writers need to tackle gender-based violence, quoting the old adage “to know and not to do is not to know”. She also touched on the importance of writers being able to choose to write in their own language.

After Potgieter had left the stage, six well-known Durban activists brought candles up to the podium and read excerpts from Footprints beyond Grey Street, paying tribute to the late Phyllis Naidoo, a “giant of a writer and social activist” who died in Durban earlier this year.

Then it was the turn of the writers to introduce themselves and their thoughts around the theme of “Writing a New World”. First up was Susan Abulhawa, a Palestinian author living in the US, who has just finished attending Israeli Apartheid Week in Johannesburg. She read from her majorly successful novel Mornings in Jenin, describing herself as one of a handful of novelists who present the Palestinian story in an authentic voice (in the past Palestine has been misrepresented by authors from other cultures).

Mornings in JeninSurvival Training for Lonely HeartsReading RevolutionThe Blue MarbleBlackbirdSoPhia

Next was a feisty Jackee Batanda, from Uganda, who also emphasised the importance of Ugandans speaking for themselves. She will be participating in a panel entitled “The Writer as Reporter”, later on in the week.

Elana Bregin, a Durban novelist, spoke of her most recent novel, Survival Training for Lonely Hearts, which she said uses romance as a lens to examine a troubled South Africa. She believes the role of the writer is to craft well-told stories, and engage in a “sensual dance with the greater existence”. She commended the explosion of the “online world” as creating a sense of “fun and play”, but warned that “few online things have lasting value,” stressing that the writer’s role is “not to go viral, but vertical, to leave a lasting record of the complex, astonishing and difficult world that we once were part of”.

Another Durbanite, Ashwin Desai followed on from Bregin, saying that a “brave new world” cannot be written by “propagandists or cowards”. He called for writers to deliver honest “post-apartheid commentary”.

Then, Nigerian Jude Dibia took the microphone, focussing on his particular interest, which is “Queer Africa”. He explained his most popular novel is Walking the Shadows, a book about homosexuality, which sold 300% more copies than any of his other books, even in Nigeria, where according to the government, “there are no gay people”.

In a Strange RoomMmudubuduYihlati leliTanuki IchibanBiko Lives!

Damon Galgut tried to describe the “mysterious process of becoming a writer,” by narrating the story of how, at 12, his teacher read him and his classmates a Roald Dahl story called “Pig”. After complaints from parents that the subject matter was too disturbing, the teacher was banned from sharing any more Dahl stories. He said this piqued his interest in writing, that text could make a familiar world unfamiliar.

Shafinaaz Hassim, who writes about gender-based violence, called on writers to “constantly review the effect of violence”. She said that as a writer she “tries to give violence a voice”. She explained that her most recent book, Sophia, a book about domestic violence, is written to encourage children to speak about hidden abuse. She ended on an optimistic note, saying that with the telling of our stories, “the poison will seep out and we will find our human light again”.

Duncan Kgatea, an ex-mineworker from Rustenburg, who writes youth novels, described writers as prophets, who must be a nation’s conscience. He referred to the title of one of his books, Look into the mirror, encouraging young people to carry a metaphoric mirror with them that enhances their sense of self-acceptance.

Bhekisigcino Khawula, a Zulu author from umZinto, used a translator to address the audience. There was a lovely rapport between the two, sparking a lot of laughter in the auditorium. He said he wished more people would learn to speak isiZulu.

This Book Betrays my BrotherWho Fears DeathHow to be a Real GayThe Imagined ChildA Free Man

Zinaid Meeran delivered a very wacky address, saying that he “conceived of human nature as sparks flow, bringing freedom”, and that his writing reflected this.

Andile Mngxitama slated SA’s democracy, saying it “meant electing the next set of fascists”. He decried the fact that ongoing violence has become normalised, asking writers to “show rulers for what they are”. He asked “how do we love, and write poetry, under such circumstances,” inviting the audience to the launch of his novella at Ike’s Books on Saturday.

Kagiso Molope explained that mothering a boy had triggered the writing of her novel This book betrays my brother, as she had to think carefully about her role in addressing violence against women and children in SA.

Nnedi Okorafor, a Nigerian author living in the US, said she felt comfortable with the theme of “Writing a New World”. She explained that Nigeria is her muse.

Graham Reid, a South African academic, who wrote a book called How to be a real gay, spoke of a positive global shift in attitude towards homosexuals, emphasising that many cultural traditions are “hybrid, fluid and changing”.

Jo-Anne Richards, who will be launching her next novel The Imagined Child at this festival said she believes politically troubled SA is a “gift for writers”. She said of her own role as writer that she “doesn’t write parables, explores rather than exposes, writing not didactically or to create invisible signposts … but to rummage through the parts of our strange new society”. She said she believes “love and redemption come from facing our own flaws”.

Aman Sethi, an Indian author, whose book A Free Man documents the lives of daily wage-labourers sleeping on Delhi’s streets, said he believes the role of the writer is “to listen to those who are building the new world with their own hands”.

Lastly, Jonny Steinberg read an extract from his soon-to-be-published book about a Somali refugee who walked from his homeland to reach SA.

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Poetry Africa 2012, Second Evening: Rustum Kozain, Mbali Vilakazi, Ordsprak Poets, Saul Williams and More!

Poetry Africa

Poetry Africa The second evening of the 16th Poetry Africa Festival in Durban kicked off with Cape Town poet Rustum Kozain launching his second collection, Groundwork, at the Wellington Tavern.

Following on from here, Nkolo Madidi, the host for the evening, took to the stage and welcomed University of KwaZulu Natal Vice-Chancellor William Makgoba, who was in the audience.

The line-up of the main event started with Mbali Vilakazi, a performance poet from the Eastern Cape, who at times used voice-overs and reverberation to give her poetry more clout. Clearly, the personal is political for Vilakazi, a feminist, as she vowed “however I crash and burn / there’s always enough faith to begin again”.

Her poem about the girl assaulted for daring to wear a miniskirt to Noord Station in Pretoria was particularly striking, as she described “sixty grown men encircling children,” and the fact that the girl may never wear the skirt again as “it has become a scar across her heart”. In another poem she explored how the power of the patriarchal system has succeeded in making women unfamiliar to themselves, but reminded us that “we must always remember that we have survived”. Vilakazi’s last poem focused on the wonderful image of the phoenix who never dies, reminding those who suffer from crises of identity that comfort can be found in the routine: “Ordinary people, there is solace in this…it is an everyday of who we are”.

GroundworkConquest and ConvivialityChorusThe Dead Emcee Scrolls

Next up were the Ordsprak Poets, a collective from Sweden. All four poets shared a common humour, although their subject matter diverged. Sam Kessel recited a rambling narrative poem for his grandfather (who came from Lithuania to Pretoria) – although he never met him, he said he felt closer to him by travelling to South Africa. Laura Wilborg’s poem about social alienation was enhanced by her fragmented, nervous delivery. She read a poem she wrote when she was seven, explaining that she is trying to reach out to the child in her, as she is working on a children’s play. Oskar Hanska rapped a spontaneous and hilarious poem about falling in love and being dumped, which resonated with the audience.

Following on from the Swedes, Tolu Ogunlesi, a Nigerian poet, set a far more considered, even tone, as he read poems set in various countries of the world. After the interval, Werewere Liking, from the Cote d’Ivoire, charmed the audience with her spirited delivery of songs and poems in her native French (with the help of a translator at times). A spry grandmother, clothed in a pants suit made from African fabric, and adorned with beads, she danced as she declaimed: “I want African women’s dreams for a better life / even when they sound sentimental, as long as they speak and carry from afar”. Her poetry was refreshing. As she invited us to Walk for Peace, she reminded us of what UNESCO says: one should rather walk for, rather than against – as if you struggle against something, it saps your energy.

The last poet up, Saul Williams, from the US, was clearly the most charismatic of the performers on stage that night. His dynamic poetry mirrored the anger of Mbali Vilakazi, in that both poets challenge social norms that perpetuate racism. Williams had a certain fiery evangelism as he proclaimed: “I am you, but I am also me / pastor of sheep that graze in the street”. He warned us “this nigger bites”. Although fierce, Williams also evinced tenderness as he spoke poetry about his children. He challenged the audience, asking us: “What is your mind’s immigration policy? Are you certain you are not a victim of identity fraud?” concluding in the same poem: “Fuck your thought police / fuck you reality show / fuck your faction”. We were mesmerised, but not surprised as he said he would like to write a “burning book”.

Williams said that he always forgot how “cool it feels to be at a poetry festival – it does something wonderful, to add this city, this country, these people – to a festival”.

Book details

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16th POETRY AFRICA International Poetry Festival

Saul Williams

Poetry Africa in Durban 15-20 October
Poetry Africa on Tour 6-13 October

The popularity of the spoken word is evident in the powerful performance arc that threads through the 16th edition of Poetry Africa. Music is also a prominent presence in this landmark festival organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal) and made possible through principal funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund. Poetry Africa runs in Durban from 15 to 19 October at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, with the festival finale at BAT Centre on 20 October. Satellite events take place in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Cape Town before culminating at the main event in Durban.

Saul Williams
Sure to stir up a storm is Saul Williams, whose innovative work as an actor, poet and musician continues to break new ground on arts stages around the world. The proficiency and originality across different artforms which have established Williams at the cutting-edge of creativity provide a riveting fusion of voice and music artistry on matters of heart, mind and social conscience. Well-known for his breakout role in Slam, Williams has appeared in over ten films and starred in the Senegalese-shot film Tey, which showed at the recent Durban International Film Festival.

Performance Power
Local audiences will be introduced to the avant garde approach of dynamic Jamaican dub poet, prolific playwright, monodramatist and educator D’bi Young, fresh from a TED talk programme in India. Star of the South African hip-hop scene, well-known for imaginative collaborations with artists from a range of disciplines and genres, Tumi will showcase his distinctive individuality, this time without the Volume. There is Cameroon-born Werewere Liking, a legendary poet, musician, painter and cultural activist who established the Ki-Yi artist village in Ivory Coast and top Swedish hip-hop artist Henry Bowers who is also recognized as one of Europe’s leading slam-poets. Bowers is part of a contingent of performance poets coming from Ordsprak Festival in Uppsala, Sweden that includes Oskar Hanska, Sam Kessel, Solja Krapu and Laura Wihlbörg.

Another popular participant is Ewok, not only one of South Africa’s sharpest wordsmiths but also also one of the busiest, active as MC, playwright, actor, teacher, organizer with the LifeCheck movement, and part of hip-hop outfit Illuminating Shadows. The lineup also includes Poppy Seed, a singer and spoken word artist from the UK with a number of cds and poetry publications to her credit; Mbali Vilakazi, who won a gold medal at the recent Poetry Olympics; Gouslaye, a colourful performance poet from Reunion Island; Croc e Moses who combines a guitar and voice approach to his poetry; talented Durban poet Tumelo Khoza who is also organizer of the Cup O’ Thought poetry sessions; and the brilliant Niels Hav from Denmark, whose perceptive poetry is lined with delicious irony.

With a background in journalism Tolu Ogunlesi’s poetry offers a broad personal reflection on life in contemporary Nigeria and beyond, while Nii Ayikwei Parkes of Ghana, is a sought-after socio-cultural commentator whose poetry embraces themes of power, cultural conflicts, love, and the friction between capitalism and humanism.

Poet and novelist Philo Ikonya was President of the Kenyan chapter of PEN when she suffered brutal arrest for speaking out against corruption and the clampdowns on freedom of expression in Kenya, and is now based in Norway. A previous member of the Soweto Gospel Choir, the powerful voice of Jessica Mbangeni has significantly contributed to raising public interest in imbongi praise poetry, and from Cape Town comes Rustum Kozain, whose finely- crafted poetry has earned him accolades such as the Ingrid Jonker Poetry Prize and the Olive Schreiner Award.

Poetry Africa is enriched with an intertwining of music and poetry that sees the participation of people whose reputations are well established in music circles. Apart from the afore-mentioned artists, many of whom straddle a variety of disciplines and genres, the programme also includes Madosini, the foremost exponent of the various bow instruments that form part of Xhosa culture – she is a crucial custodian of these traditions. Originally from Spain, Pedro Espi-Sanchis has become a local (and international) legend for his African story-telling and expertise on indigenous music instruments, especially the Lekgodilo pipe-flute. Very special guest is the legendary Zimbabwean Oliver Mtukudzi – “Tuku” turns 60 this year, which is matched by his incredible output of no less than 60 albums.

The festival finale will feature the mesmeric groove of Vavangèr(s), a music project led by Sergio Grondin with Maya Pounia and Alex Soress, honouring the legendary Reunion Island musician Alain Peters. There are also special cameo performances by Madala Kunene with Zos Kunene, Guy Buttery and Nibs van der Spuy, and Zimbabwean mbira duo of Isaac Machafa and Praise Zinhuku.

South Africa versus Sweden SlamJam
High-paced action is assured in this year’s SlamJam. Now in its 11th year this popular event will see a crossing of word-swords as teams from South Africa and Sweden square off at Bat Centre on 20th October. The Swedish team is represented by Henry Bowers, Oskar Hanska and Laura Wihlbörg ; South Africa by Ewok and Dashen Naicker (both previous SlamJam winners), and PAGE, who won the Cup O’Thought slam-off to earn a place on the team.

The Swedish contingent is coordinated by the Ordsprak Festival in Uppsala, with whom Poetry Africa has had a relationship since 2006. In this year’s exchange Lebo Mashile, Lefifi Tladi,Tumelo Khoza, Dashen Naicker and Ngwatilo Mawiyoo (Kenya) will represent Poetry Africa at Ordsprak in late September.

Letters to Dennis
Since the passing of enigmatic Dennis Brutus in 2009, Poetry Africa has each year invited a poet who reflects similar passion for human rights and activism as Dennis. Referencing his famous poem “Letters to Martha”, written while Dennis was in prison, the participation of the invited poet will include a poetry presentation under the title of “Letters to Dennis”. This year’s Brutus poet is the highly deserving local activist Ewok who is also a Brutus Scholar at the the Centre for Civil Society, UKZN.

Poetry Africa Regional Tour
Following Poetry Africa’s participation in Sweden a series of performance showcases take place in Blantyre (6th October), Harare (8th and 9th), Gaborone (11th) and Cape Town (13th) with workshops, panel discussions and schools programmes in some of the centres. The core tour group includes Pedro Espi-Sanchis, Ewok, Philo Ikonya, Madosini, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, with D’bi Young also participating in Malawi and Zimbabwe, Lebo Mashile in Botswana and Cape Town, and Saul Williams in Cape Town.

Book Launches
Festival book launches include Rustum Kozain’s new release Groundwork (Kwela Books/ SnailPress), two books by Allan Kolski Horwitz Two Birds at My Window and Meditations of a Non-White (both Dye Hard Press), the long due Zulu version of Oswald Mtshali’s Sounds of a Cowhide Drum ,Imisindo Yesighubu Sesikhumba Senkomo (Jacana), and the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Volume 2 (Jacana). Book launches take place at the Wellington Tavern Deck, Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, from 18h45-19h15, prior to the evening showcases. The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award will be presented on Thursday 18 October – the finalists are Vonani Bila and Siddiq Khan.

Day activities
Poetry Africa provides a space for intercultural exchange and dialogue in wide-reaching day activities that include seminars, workshops and poetry performances at tertiary institutions and community centres, engagement with local poetry groups, open mic opportunities and visits by the poets to thirty schools in Durban and surrounding areas to exchange poetry and ideas about poetry with young learners.

Visit for the full programme of activities, biographies, and photos of participants or contact the Centre for Creative Arts for more information on 031 260 2506/1816 or e-mail Follow the festival on Twitter @PoetryAfrica.

Organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), the 16th Poetry Africa International Poetry Festival is supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (principal funder), Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (HIVOS), Swedish Arts Council, France South Africa Seasons 2012 & 2013, and the City of Durban.

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CCA Newsletter – Featuring the 33rd Durban International Film Festival


The Durban International Film Festival has announced the selection of Elelwani as the film that will open the curtains on the 33rd edition of South Africa’s largest and longest running film festival. This groundbreaking world premiere takes place on 19th July, made possible by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (who was both the first funder of the film, and principal funder of the festival), and the National Film and Video Foundation, a crucial partner both of this pioneering production and DIFF.


The animation spectacular Adventures in Zambezia has been announced as closing film for the 33rd edition of the Durban International Film Festival. The festival, which runs from 19 to 29 July, with principal funding by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, will present Adventures in Zambezia on 28th July, immediately following the festival Award evening.


The selected projects of this year’s edition of the Durban FilmMart, have been announced. Now in its third year, the Durban FilmMart is a meeting place for African filmmakers, financiers, broadcasters and top film experts which will take place during the 33rd Durban International Film Festival.


The Durban International Film Festival has finalized selection of participants for the 5th edition of the Talent Campus Durban programme. For five days (20-24th July 2012), 50 African filmmakers will come together in the city of Durban to be inspired and enlightened in the medium and industry of cinema.


Incorporating both the artistic and technical skills of modern filmmaking, documentary films provide deepened understanding of the realities of the world we live in, and increasingly we are seeing greater numbers of creative documentaries in theatres, not just on television. Platforms for the development, financing, showcasing and distribution of documentaries are also proliferating.


As part of the Centre for Creative Arts cultural exchange with the city of Le Port in Reunion Island, a Poetry Africa programme for schools took place at the end of March. Entitled Poesie Zan Fan, the programme focused essentially on four groups of primary school learners, around 100 in total. Working with Reunionasise poet Patrice Treutardt (a participant in Poetry Africa in Durban in 2011), and Theatre des Arbres director Michel Brès, the project resulted in the creation of a poetry-based drama on themes of the origins of life in Reunion, dock-life in Le Port, and sketches of Africa.


The Time of the Writer international writers’ festival, with principal funding by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, concluded on Saturday March 24 with an entertaining Carribean-flavoured panel discussion featuring leading Jamaican writers Colin Channer and Kwame Dawes. Skillfully facilitated by Nigerian author and poet Chris Abani, and spiked with great humour, this session delved into the way in which personal context powerfully influences one’s writing.

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