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Archive for the ‘Nigeria’ Category

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:

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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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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”.

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Slideshow and Tweets from the Opening Night of Poetry Africa 2012 in Durban

The 16th annual Poetry Africa festival, organised by the Centre for Creative Arts, was opened on Monday evening with a ceremony featuring musical and poetry performances at the University of KwaZulu Natal’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre. Peter Rorvik, Director of the Centre for Creative Arts (who also celebrated his birthday at the event!), gave the opening speech, saying that “Culture feeds the soul of society and artists articulate the world around us”.

In a Ribbon of RhythmConquest and ConvivialityThe Makings of YouTail of the Blue BirdGroundwork

The host for the evening, Lebo Mashile, introduced performances by a host of international and local poets, including Swedish slam-poet Henry Bowers, American poet and musician Saul Stacey Williams, Jamaican dub poet D’bi Young, Canadian-born poet Croc e Moses, Niels Hav from Denmark, Philo Ikonya from Kenya, Tolu Ogunlesi from Nigeria, Nii Ayikwei Parkes from Ghana, as well as our own Rustum Kozain, Tumelo Khoza (the youngest poet in the line-up), praise poet Jessica Mbangeni and spoken word artist Ewok.

Music was provided by Zimbabwean musician Oliver Mtukudzi, Mbali Vilakazi and Madala and Zos Kunene.

ChorusThe Dead Emcee ScrollsRivers...and Other Blackness...Between UsLeading the Night

Wanda Henning took photos at the event. View the slideshow:

Poetry Africa tweeted from the event:

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Image courtesy Examiner

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In the Muti Mix, and Rooting for Diversity at the Time of the Writer

Schools short story winners & Njabulo Ndebele

Special to the CCA blog by Sarah Frost

To begin the Friday evening at the Time of the Writer, Professor Njabulo Ndebele congratulated the four TOW schools short story winners, by welcoming them into the fold of those who write, saying he hoped that it would become a way of life for them.

#tow2011 Winners are now being announced in the schools short story competition. It’s rather overwhelming being on stage w/ prof Ndebele!less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPad

#tow2011 Ndebele to the winners – you are among your peers and mentors, don’t ever forget the magic of words that brings us togetherless than a minute ago via Twitter for iPad

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Diale Thlolwe, Karabo Kgoleng & Sifiso Mzobe @ Time of the Writer

Ancient RitesYoung BloodFrom here, chair Karabo Kgoleng introduced SA authors Diale Thlolwe and Sifiso Mzobe, inviting them to talk about their books in relation to “Muti Noir”, or black magic. Both Thlolwe and Mzobe revealed a desire to uncover hidden taboos in their culture, while also remaining respectful of the need to keep certain practices secret and sacred. Mzobe read from his novel Young Blood, about a young man who becomes involved with a hijacking syndicate, while Kgoleng read from the lucidly written crime novel Ancient Rites on Thlolwe’s behalf.

#tow2011 @KaraboKgoleng calls out the word ‘noir’ in the panel’s name. Is it right to call the arts of muti ‘black arts’.less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPad

#tow2011 No, Mzobe & Thlolwe agree – the arts are sacred – perhaps meant to be unseen or unknown, but are practiced for goodless than a minute ago via Twitter for iPad

Jokingly, Kgoleng compared sangomas and others who heal with muti to “professional hackers”, being quite quite protective of their knowledge, even from one another. She asked the writers to elaborate on how they negotiate their way between respecting taboos and revealing sacred thing. Thlolwe said that urbanised African people particularly were torn between their scepticism of ancient forms of knowledge, and their desire to believe in it.

#tow2011 @KaraboKgoleng ‘Noir’ also means ‘night’. There’s so much mystery in the night: violence, ritual, sex all happen in the nightless than a minute ago via Twitter for iPad

A self-proclaimed “umlungu” from the floor asked the three why none of them had mentioned Credo Mutwa, a writer who has brought African traditional healing to light in many ways. No direct answer was forthcoming. Mzobe said that he wrote to enlighten those who do not know about his culture. Thlolwe said he was trying to open up new channels, and that his writing was driven by the stories he wanted to make known.

#tow2011 …and that’s a wrap for this panel. @KaraboKgoleng mentions that Thlolwe’s mother passed this week – but he still made the TOW.less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPad

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Caryl Phillips, Biyi Bandele, Michael Chapman @ TOW

The StreetBurma BoyIn the Falling SnowFinal PassageAfter interval, Biyi Bandele, an ex-pat Nigerian now living in the UK, and Caryl Phillips, from the West Indies, who shuttles between the US and the UK, talked about their views of writing with chair Professor Michael Chapman. Phillips said he “wrote himself into visibility”, almost as an overt political act – but he believes the real challenge for writers is to deal with “form and language” over content. “That’s the territory where writers are born.” Bandele said he set out to write his book Burma Boy as a tale about his father, so that his daughter could learn about her grandfather, but that the book twisted into a new shape once he happened upon the character, Ali Banana, who finally supplies the book with its story.

#tow2011 Phillips quotes Morrison: I knew I was a writer when I went to the library to get a book and it wasn’t on the shelf.less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPad

#tow2011 Bandele speaks about the novel he wrote about his father’s life, the 1st draft of which was ‘grim, unreadable’less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPad

Phillips spoke about the difficulties of living in a country whose Prime Minister, David Cameron, has denied the reality of multiculturalism. He said: “We need counter-narrative. We don’t want to sign off on this”. Although he has written about the US too, where he has lived, he said he does not care as much about the US as he does about the UK, and besides, quoting V S Naipaul, “the US is a society you don’t look at casually”.

#tow2011 Phillips calls the UK ‘stubbornly post-colonial’ but also ‘pre-European’. Great call!less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPad

On the subject of writing about Africa, Bandele said he cannot “revel in the pornography of African misery” as so many writers do. He mentioned that he will be directing his first feature film later this year, based on a screenplay he wrote of Chimamanda Angozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, in which he will explore “the broad spectrum of African experience, rooted in the everyday”.

Asked about what political changes are happening in the UK, Bandele said that because of the austerity measures being put into place, it will be increasingly difficult for working class people to be able to afford to go to university – which has led to clashes like the country saw last year.

Chapman ended the formal discussion on a humourous note, bringing out the old saw about the relationship between critic and artist: similar to that between a dog and a lamp post. Phillips said the last time he had read a critic “was in 1987″. He said “it’s hard enough writing a book without worrying about what people are going to call you after you have written it.”

The Q&A was dominated, curiously enough, by Bob Marley:

#tow2011 Question time. From the audience, a question on the importance of Bob Marley to African/diaspora writingless than a minute ago via Twitter for iPad

#tow2011 Phillips mentions that Derek Walcott once said that he’d take Marley’s Redemption Song to a desert island with himless than a minute ago via Twitter for iPad

#tow2011 Phillips himself found Buffalo Soldier a useful interpretation device (& terrific song) when transiting from the UK to the USAless than a minute ago via Twitter for iPad

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Notes from the Time of the Writer: New Frank Talk; Aher Arop Bol and Leonara Miano; Uwem Akpan and Imraan Coovadia

Notes and galleries from recent Time of the Writer events

Andile Mngxitama

The launch of Andile Mngxitama’s latest New Frank Talk pamphlet

The fifth issue of the New Frank Talk series, titled White Revolutionaries as Missionaries?, was launched by series editor and founder Andile Mngxitama at the Wellington Tavern Deck at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre this week.

Black Consciousness revivalist Mngxitama has had a hand in four publications recently: From Mbeki to Zuma, Why Biko Wouldn’t Vote and Black Colonialsists: the Trouble with Africa, which he wrote for the New Frank Talk series, plus Biko Lives! Contesting the Legacies of Steve Biko<, which he co-edited for Pan Macmillan.

The fifth NFT book is edited by Heinrich Böhmke, who spoke about his involvement with social movements at the launch.

“I’ve been involved since 1999, when the Concerned Community Forum and the people of Wentworth put marches together against Mbeki’s policies.

“About two years ago, I felt uncomfortable with middle class academics, mostly whites, so-called activists who were promoting themselves in their careers, and wore their suffering on their sleeves,” he said.

His essay is essentially about the motivations of and roles played by white people in black struggles, taking as its departure point a missionary named Stephen Kay who published Travels and Researches in Caffraria in 1843, describing the character, customs and moral condition of the peoples inhabiting portions of Southern Africa.

Mngxitama, who holds an MA in Sociology from the University of Witwatersrand, said he was delighted to be in Durban for the launch.
“Black Consciousness was founded here, Strini Moodley and Steve Biko did a lot of work to unite black people at that particular era, so it was like coming back home,” he said.

Mngxitama also related some personal thoughts on Black Consciousness in the 21st Century, quoting the Winnie Mandela of the recent and controversial Nadira Naipaul “interview”, in which she says that Nelson Mandela sold South Africans out, that black people were excluded economically, and that those blacks who were included were merely tokens.

“Those of us in BC did not have to hear this, because we already knew it. Our freedom has been compromised for a long time. It’s interesting to see the responses – white people’s first reaction to her statement is to protect Mandela and project Winnie as a mad, black woman,” he remarked.

Mngxitama also asked the question, “What makes us understand that democracy has not liberated the majority of black people? How did we move from wanting freedom to fighting for RDP houses?” People who were prepared to die for freedom before, now accept so little.

“In this book, Böhmke exposes how the process of conversion works, and he goes 185 years back to reveal it. He writes very well, showing how the missionary used the bible to convert black people. The same thing happens now, with the ‘new missionaries’ using the constitution to convert black people to perform the same job” of co-option.

Mngxitama concluded by saying that with white revolutionaries, all are not bad, but the way their interests are organised makes it impossible for them to come together with BC organisations.

Heinrich BohmkeAndile MngxitamaNew Frank TalkNew Frank TalkHeinrich Bohmke, Andile Mngxitama, Imrann MoosaPatrick Mkhize, Heinrich Bohmke, Andile Mngxitama




Betty GovindenAher Arop Bol and Leonara Miano

Writing Home

Literary enthusiasts and writers have been converging on UKZN’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre for the evening sessions of the 13th Time of the Writer Festival. Earlier this week, the first order of the night was to present the prestigious Currie Award, given to Dr Betty Govinden for her contribution as a South African Indian woman to SA society and letters. Dr Govinden received the award for her book, Sister Outsiders.

After that it was time for writers Aher Arop Bol of Sudan/SA and Leonara Miano of Cameroon/France to address the audience with the help of faciltator Lindy Stiebel.

Aher Arop Bol’s The Lost Boy tells the tale of the journey of a small Sudanese boy in 1987, who is carried into the Panyido Refugee Camp, Ethiopia, on the shoulders of his uncle. He does not know why he is there or if he ever will see his parents again. The boy, of course, is Bol, who is launched upon an epic quest for survival, education,and a refusal to remain “lost”. Bol now lives in South Africa, studying for an LLB at UNISA, and running a spaza shop in Pretoria, the income from which he uses to support his brothers in Uganda.

Leonara Miana, widely-recognised in Francophone literary circles, writes with an uncompromising view, and doesn’t shrink from what she sees. Her latest offering, Les aubes ecarlates, follows child soldier Epa on a journey that intimately examines the memory of slavery on the Afrcian continent and the scars it has left. Her book will be launched in English in America in April.

“My book is about my homeland,” said Bol. “I had to learn about the problems it faced from the outside world.”

“Home,” he continued, “is where people recognise you.”

Miano countered, “I don’t have a home and I’m not looking for one.” She loves living with mixed cultures, which is part and parcel of the life of a true artist, in her opinion – but she also believes in active change, and strives to take part in transforming “Old France” into a place that will be better for children.

Betty GovindenLeonara MianoAher Arop BolAher Arop BolThe Lost Boy by Aher Arop Bol




Uwem Akpan, Karabo Kgoleng and Imraan Coovadia

Why I Write What I Write

Another of the Time of the Writer’s evening talks had award-winning Nigerian author Uwem Akpan discussing his book of short stories, Say You’re One of Them, which was featured on Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club in September 2009, the first book of short stories ever chosen by Winfrey.

Akpan was paired with the sharp, witty Imraan Coovadia of South Africa, whose latest novel is High Low In-between. This riveting read is born of the current, post-apartheid dispensation, and turn on several themes, including human suffering and death. “Suffering is real in the world, people die and people get hurt,” said Coovadia.

Akpan’s book highlights the perspective of children’s suffering, whereas Coovadia’s sends a woman into widowhood and the painful aftermath. Both writers, hosted on stage by Karabo Kgoleng, believe that working in fiction allows them the greatest freedom of exploration in writing.

When questioned on the youth of today and what democracy means to them, Coovadia said, to laughter, that strongly believes the youth are a lost cause – and they have their parents to blame. “There’s a disconnection between parents and teenagers, but hopefully the future generations will be better. Keep them away from this one!”

Imraan CoovadiaUwem Akpan and Karabo KgolengImraan CoovadiaUwem Akpan, Karabo Kgoleng, Imraan CoovadiaUwem Akpan and Karabo Kgolengg

However, Father Uwem believes not putting too much pessure on the youth to become who they are can make our lives richer.

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13th Time of the Writer International Writers Festival, 9 – 13 March 2010

TOW 2010

The written word will envelop Durban as writers from around South Africa and Africa arrive in Durban for a stimulating week of books, ideas and talk at the 13th Time of the Writer International Writers Festival (9-13 March). The festival, which is hosted by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), will feature a diverse gathering of novelists, short story writers, humour writers and political commentators. Within a precarious funding climate the Department of Arts and Culture has provided valued core support to make the production of this year’s Time of the Writer possible and thereby help sustain this important platform which brings literature into the public domain. Time of the Writer will also host a tribute evening to the life, creativity and activism of the late Dennis Brutus as the culmination of a full-day colloquium organised by the Centre for Civil Society (UKZN).

The writers at the festival include Nigerian Uwem Akpan, whose brilliantly-crafted and nuanced debut collection of stories, Say You’re One of Them, won last year’s Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book – Africa Region. Akpan’s collection was also selected late last year by Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club, a prized honour in the publishing world. Joining him in the panel discussion, “Why I Write What I Write”, will be the Durban-born Imraan Coovadia. Coovadia has established himself over three provoking and intelligent novels, as one of the leading contemporary South African writers. Zakes Mda, a true giant of the South African literary landscape, makes a welcome return to the festival, having just published Black Diamond, which The Weekender called: “a defiantly revealing novel about contemporary South Africa…sane and insane, evocative and hilarious…” The prolific Mda is the author of South African classics such as The Whale Caller, The Madonna of Excelsior, The Heart of Redness and Ways of Dying, amongst others.

The award-winning playwright, journalist and acts activist Mike van Graan, author of plays such Bafana Republic amongst numerous others, will deliver the festival’s Opening Night Keynote Address, entitled “The State of the Arts”. Durban is represented by Sally-Ann Murray, a well-established and prize-winning poet, whose debut novel Small Moving Parts was published last year. Constructed with an astonishing sense of place and detail it is a powerful book that adds a new texture to Durban’s ever-expanding literary narrative. Fellow Durbanite Elana Bregin is a versatile author whose work spans youth fiction to genre-bending biography. Her latest novel Shiva’s Dance has been excellently received.

Thando Mgqolozana hails from the Eastern Cape and his sensitive debut novel A Man Who is Not a Man tells of the trauma a young Xhosa man experiences after his initiation circumcision goes wrong.

William Gumede is one of South Africa’s most prominent public intellectuals and was the author of the best-selling Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC and more recently The Poverty of Ideas (with Leslie Dikeni). Gumede will be in conversation with Andile Mngxitama, a Black Consciousness thinker, organizer and columnist. Mngxitama co-edited Biko Lives! Contesting the Legacies of Steve Biko and is the publisher of New Frank Talk, a journal of critical essays on the black condition. The latest issue of the journal will be launched at the festival. Other launches include Anton Krueger’s debut novel Sunnyside Sal (Deep South) on Friday 12 March and Andy Mason and John CurtisDon’t Joke! The Year in Cartoons on Saturday 13 March. Mason and Curtis, along with several other Durban cartoonists will also conduct the workshop “Don’t Joke! The Changing Face of South African Political Cartooning” at the BAT Centre’s Mission Control on Saturday 13 March at 13h30. The workshop forms part of a trio organised by the fest at the BAT on the day, the other two encompassing creative writing and children’s writing.

“What’s So Funny About Africa?” is the title of the enticing panel that will see Sihle Khumalo and Ndumiso Ngcobo, two of South Africa’s top humourists in discussion. Khumalo’s humourous travelogues Dark Continent, My Black Arse and Heart of Africa have marked him as a witty and astute observer. Ngcobo is a writer and satirist of razor-sharp wit, whose books Some of My Best Friends Are White and Is It Coz I’m Black? contain some of the most irreverent writing currently in South African bookstores.

On Thursday March 11, the festival, in partnership with the Centre for Civil Society (UKZN), will present A Dennis Brutus Tribute Evening (17:30 – 21.00pm), while the CCS itself will present A Dennis Brutus Poetry and Protest Colloquium (09h30-17h00) at Howard College Theatre (UKZN). The colloquium will explore aspects of Brutus’ political and literary legacy in the robust, self-critical style he would have welcomed, with an emphasis on how his life might offer pointers to our own futures. The Dennis Brutus Tribute Evening at the Sneddon is divided into two sections the first (17h30 – 19h00) “Dennis Brutus: Life, Literature, Politics And Mandates To Us All” features panelists such as Ashwin Desai, Fatima Meer, Trevor Ngwane, Eunice Sahle and internationally renowned sports writer David Zirin. The second section (19h30 – 21h00) is a Harold Wolpe/Dennis Brutus Memorial Lecture entitled “Fighting Global Apartheid” by Yash Tandon, the Ugandan political activist, professor, author and public intellectual.

Apart from Uwem Akpan, Africa is further represented by Léonora Miano, a Cameroonian-French author who has written three acclaimed and prize-winning novels and Aher Arop Bol, whose debut, The Lost Boy, about the author’s escape from the Sudan is an epic quest for survival, education, family, and meaning.

Readings, discussions and book launches will take place nightly at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. A broad range of day activities in the form of seminars, workshops, school visits, and a prison writing programme, are formulated to promote a culture of reading, writing and creative expression. The Hon. Ms. Lulu Xingwana, the Minister of Arts and Culture will attend the festival and handover the prizes for the Schools Writing Competition. The competition, which accepts entries in English, Zulu, and Afrikaans, has, over the years, proved to be one of the central development components of the festival.

Time of the Writer’s extensive programme of activities and culturally diverse line-up of writers promise to deliver a dynamic literary platform for dialogue and exchange on wide-ranging themes and offers a rare opportunity to gain insight into the many facets that inform the art of writing.

Except for Thursday, 11 March, which is free, tickets are R25 for the evening sessions, R10 for students, and can be purchased through Computicket or at the door one hour before the event. Workshops and seminars are free.

Visit for the full programme of activities, biographies, and photos of participants or contact the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts for more information on 031 260 2506/1816 or e-mail

Organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), the 13th Time of the Writer festival is funded principally by the Department of Arts and Culture, with valued support from Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (HIVOS), French Institute of South Africa, Centre for Civil Society (UKZN), and the City of Durban

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Poetry Africa 2009: Special Report from Sarah Frost, with Photos from Liesl Jobson

A special report from two regular BOOK SA contributors. Text by Sarah Frost, images by Liesl Jobson.

The 13th Poetry Africa International Poetry Festival, hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts, was, as usual, an intense conflagration of poetry, ideas, and people, from SA, Africa and beyond. As one of the poets selected for the Durban Showcase, I participated in the pre-festival performance of 12 poets and slammers representing Durban, at The Workshop Shopping Centre’s Amphitheatre. I was struck by the vitality of the young Zulu poets who performed, and saddened that the bulk of their subject matter was promiscuity, HIV, and social/sexual violence. Good that the poets are grappling with real issues though – and that they were given a platform for this.

David Rubadiri, eminent Malawian academic and diplomat, set an appropriate tone for the rest of the fest with his keynote address at the opening night, in which he explained how excited he was to be part of a Creative Writing Programme at UKZN, honouring African writing with his dignified words. The lineup from Africa also included Poetry Africa returnee Susan Kiguli (Uganda), who last performed in Durban in 2000. Kiguli, an academic and widely recognised as one of the most important poets in East Africa, grabbed the audience’s attention with her sincere delivery, her strong narrative style, and her accurate and loving descriptions of life in Africa.

Odia Ofeimun, from Nigeria, and dubbed the “gentleman poet” by Ewok (two-time Poetry Africa SlamJam champion, participating poet and compere), delighted the audience, particularly with his lyrical love poems. Nina Kibuanda (Democratic Republic of the Congo), poet and actor, made the connections between theatre, musicality and poetry explicit in his performance. Tania Tomé (Mozambique), poet and singer, also mirrored a sense of theatre plus an interest in traditional culture in her poetry. Malawian singer and poet Chigo Gondwe cast herself as an “ethno-urban-hiphop-soul-poetess”, revelling in the positive aspects of the Africa continent.

The strong SA lineup this year included poet and novelist Mogane Wally Serote, although – for this listener, the great man seems to have lost some of his earlier (idealistic, yet hard-hitting) impetus. This was certainly not the case for Lesego Rampolokeng, an influential contemporary SA poet, whose political and emotional edginess I found energizing and challenging. Jennifer Ferguson, a multi-award winning performer, composer, poet, and classically trained pianist, wowed us with her powerful voice and evocative lyrics, focusing (overstepping her time limit occasionally) on landscapes of the spiritual. Diminutive in stature but not in energy or voice, Sindiwe Magona, already known as an author and playwright, launched her first anthology of poems at the festival, Please, Take Photographs (Modjaji Books). Liesl Jobson, an established SA poet, charmed the audience with her quaint, yet ascerbic, poetry using humour to convey basic home truths. Loftus Marais, whose debut collection of poems, Staan in die algemeen nader aan vensters, has been received with critical acclaim, won me over with his poem about politics and a poetry “engagee” – clearly a poet with vision and potential, and a keen eye for describing his mother city, Cape Town. Bongani Mavuso, poet, radio presenter, and senior producer at Ukhozi FM launched his latest anthology, Zibuyela Ezimpandeni (Shuter and Shooter) at the festival. His commitment to developing Zulu community identity is commendable.

From further afield, Indian poet Anindita Sengupta, an emerging voice in Indian poetry, read interestingly subtle (rather than didactic) feminist poems. İlyas Tunç, from Turkey, but with a strong SA connection, having just finished work on a mammoth anthology of contemporary SA poetry in Turkish translation, read quite curiously resonant poems, exploring language and imagination.

All the poets mentioned above were heard at evening performances taking place at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre during the week. Apart from these, a packed daily programme included performances, seminars, workshops, poetry competitions, and school visits. The CCA must be complimented on its efforts to integrate Poetry Africa with the broader, and less advantaged, eThekwini community. The last day of the festival, Saturday, saw a full day of activities at the BAT Centre, which included poetry workshops, open mic opportunities, the Durban SlamJam all culminating with the Festival Finale on Saturday night. Leading Zimbabwean protest-poet Outspoken, together with his band the Essence, rhymed truth to power, and played the Festival out. Here’s to the 14th Poetry Africa Festival in 2010, long may this vibrant cultural event make Durban a poetic landmark!

Liesl Jobson’s 2009 Poetry Africa photos

Anindita SenguptaAnindita Sengupta & Estelle David RubadiriBongani Mavuso leads the crowd singing Mshini Wam Jennifer Ferguson Lesego Rampolokeng Mongane Wally Serote Tiny Mungwe, Nina Kibuanda & Lesego Rampolokeng Mathabo Kunene & Sindiwe Magona Rose Mokhosi Loftus Marais & Jennifer Ferguson Zuki Vutela & Odia Ofeimun Angela Spencer, Corinne Sandwith & Susan Kiguli Contributors to Zibuyela Ezimpandeni Jericho Myekwa, Lwazi Dlamini & Emanuel Luthuli Andries Gouws, Ingrid Winterbach & Corinne Sandwith Ewok Yewande & Kole Omotoso At the launch of Zibuyela Ezimpandeni Peter RorvikChatsworth Youth Centre teens read their poems Ilyas Tunc & Pravasan Pillay Njabulo Nyembe, Professor Zulu, Mistral de Robillard, Mongane Serote, Sibusisiwe Buthelezi, Thashini Moodley, Nosipho Mngadi Mongane Serote Oriel Buntting, Karen Pearce & Cedric Sissing Anindita Sengupta & Susan Kiguli Lesego Rampoloken & Jenifer Ferguson Loftus Marais, poet Ilyas Tunc Original manuscript of Mazisi Kunene Mathabo Kunene Lesego Rampolokeng Tania Tome Outspoken The tide is out - the view from the Royal Hotel Odia Ofeimun Bongani Mavuso Loftus Marais Chigo Gondwe Zuki Vutela Sindiwe Magona & Germaine Kitchen Mrs Rubadiri & Susan Kiguli Jennifer Ferguson, Loftus Marais & Anindita Sengupta

Monica Rorvik’s photos of this article’s contributors

Sarah FrostLiesl JobsonLiesl Jobson

Poetry Africa 2009 was oganised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), the 13th Poetry Africa festival is supported by the Department of Arts and Culture, Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (HIVOS), National Arts Council, French Institute of South Africa, Pro-Helvetia Arts Council of Switzerland, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, African Synergy Book Café and the City of Durban.

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13th Poetry Africa – International Poetry Festival – Durban – 5-10 October 2009

5 to 10 October promises to be a stirring week of words, rhymes, performance and ideas, as the 13th Poetry Africa international poetry festival ignites Durban with poetry from around South Africa, Africa, and the world. Hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts, Poetry Africa’s intensive week-long programme kicks off with a pre-festival showcase of Durban-based poets at The Workshop Shopping Centre’s Amphitheatre on 4 October at 11h00.

The poets performing at the showcase were chosen from a week-long open audition held at the Centre for Creative Arts. Some of the selected poets will also perform curtain-raising poems on three separate evening at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre as well as battle it out for the Durban SlamJam crown on 10 October at the BAT Centre. The festival week encompasses introductory performances by the full lineup of participating poets at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre on Opening Night, 5 October. Opening Night will also include a Keynote Address by legendary Malawian writer and poet David Rubadiri. The week will thereafter feature 4 poets every evening, through to 4 October, before the perennially rousing Festival Finale at the BAT Centre on 10 October.

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African and South African Films at Durban International Film Festival 09

The 30thDurban International Film Festival, marks a special point in history of this, South Africa’s longest running festival which continues to celebrate cinema and the art of filmmaking. In the last three decades, African films have remained central to the programming of the DIFF and despite significant downsizing of the overall number of films in the programme, the focus on African content has not shifted. The Festival is proud to present 77 African films, comprising 9 feature films, 28 documentaries and 49 short films. Despite challenges in respect of financing and audience interest for African cinema, a stream of well crafted films continue to get made on the continent, and DIFF is a valued showcase for a selection of such films.

DIFF opens with the South African premiere of internationally acclaimed Durban-made feature My Secret Sky directed by Madoda Ncayiyana, a moving tale of two orphaned rural children and their adventures on the streets of Durban. Other South African films premiering at the festival include the South African Bollywood romantic comedy For Better For Worse by Naresh Veeran, South Africa’s first Xhosa feature length film Intonga by JJ Van Rensburg and Long Street, a second offering from Revel Fox, director of The Flyer. Savo Tufegdzic’s controversial first feature named Crime – Its a way of Life is an unflinching portrait of the psychology of crime in South Africa. Steve Jacobs’ Disgrace is an Australia production of the adaptation of JM Coetzee’s Booker Prize winning novel, and stars John Malkovich with Durban actress Jessica Haines. Anthony Fabian’s Skin is a South African-UK co-production based on a true story about Sandra Laing who was born to a white family during apartheid, but happened to be black. The world premiere of White Lion is an exquisitely shot story about an albino lion cub rejected by his pride yet revered by the Shangaan tribe, great family viewing. Another film suitable for children is The Seven of Daran – The Battle of Pareo Rock, a Dutch production directed by Lourens Blok, shot in South Africa, about two children’s adventures with a mythical giraffe.

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