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Lineup for the 2014 Time of the Writer Festival

Programme for the 17th Time of The Writer Festival Announced

The programme for the 17th Time of The Writer: International Festival of Writers has been announced.

The week-long showcase, which takes place from 17-22 March at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, is set to provoke, inform and inspire, abd brings some of the world’s finest novelists, authors and storytellers to Durban, from as far afield as India, Kenya, Nigeria, Botswana, Togo, and Guinea.

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20 writers will be gathering for a week of literary dialogue, exchange of ideas and stimulating discussion under the theme Freeing Our Imagination, in solidarity with Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina’s clarion call for Africans to use their creativity to imagine and create a continent free of the existential burdens of colonialism.

The opening night, March 17, will feature all participating writers making brief presentations at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, and will be dedicated to the late, great South African thinker, academic and prolific writer Professor Mbulelo Mzamane, a past participant of Time of the Writer, who Nelson Mandela described as a “visionary leader, [and] one of South Africa’s greatest intellectuals.”

Prof Mzamane passed away on 15 February, having made his mark through writing and scholarship including The Children of Soweto, Children of Paradise, The Children of the Diaspora and Other Stories of Exile and Where There is No Vision the People Will Perish: Reflections on the African Renaissance.

The rest of the week’s evening presentations will be panel discussions with writers talking about their writing and the issues dealt with in their work.

New Voices from India

The first panel discussion of the festival on Tuesday, 18 March will focus on writing from the sub-continent, featuring Indian authors Satyagit Sarna and Prajwal Parajuly.

Sarna is an author and lawyer based in New Delhi. His debut novel Angels Share, described as a love story, a political commentary, and coming-of-age novel, was published in 2012 by Harper Collins. He will be joined by Parajuly, whose books The Gurkha’s Daughter: Stories and Land Where I Flee have been lauded in international press. This panel discussion will be facilitated by author, Shubnum Khan.

Mzansi Women Voices

The second panel of the evening features South African writers Angela Makhlowa and Praba Moodley.

Returning to Time of the Writer after her debut in 2007, Makhlowa is an author and public relations consultant. She became the first black female crime author with her debut novel Red Ink. She has since published a drama novel, The 30th Candle, and will be releasing her third later this year.

Moodley published her first novel, The Heart Knows No Colour, in 2003, which was followed by two more novels, A Scent So Sweet (2006) and Follow Your Heart, the sequel to her debut. Her writing has been featured in publications such as Elle and Oprah Magazine.

The panel discussion will be facilitated by author Shafinaaz Hassim.

Writing the Policy Debate

Wednesday’, 19 March, kicks off with a panel discussion featuring Professors Adam Habib and Paulus Zulu.

As one of the country’s most recognisable political analysts and vice chancellor and principal of the University of the Witwatersrand, Habib has long been considered one of South Africa’s most astute experts in the areas of transformation, democracy and development. He holds qualifications in Political Science from the University of Natal and Wits. He earned his masters and doctoral qualifications from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His latest work is South Africa’s Suspended Revolution.

Zulu is author and director of Human Sciences Research Council. A noted writer, academic and community leader, Zulu holds a PhD from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and has published extensively in the fields of politics and sociology both nationally and internationally. His latest book is entitled A Nation In Crisis: An Appeal for Morality.

The discussion will be facilitated by Ben Fogel.

Writing in Francophone Africa: Trends and Issues.

The second panel discussion of the night will look trends in Francophone literature with a discussion by authors Sami Tchak (Togo) and Tierno Monénembo (Guinea).

Tchak studied philosophy before obtaining his PhD at the Sorbonne University in 1993. He won the Grand Prix of Black African Literature for his entire body of work in 2004. He has published Femme infidèle (1988), Place des Fêtes, (2001), Hermina (2003), La fête des masques, (2004), Le paradis des chiots, (2006) and Filles de Mexico (2008).

Monénembo was born in Guinea but lived in exile in Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal before settling in France and Cuba. He has published nine novels and a stage play since 1983. He won the 2008 Prix Renaudot, a French award given to the author of an outstanding original novel, for The King of Kahel.

The panel discussion will be facilitated by Dr Bernard de Meyer of the UKZN French department and is presented in partnership with the French Institute of South Africa.

Writing the Historical Moment

Thursday night’s activities open with the panel discussion looking at key historical moments shaping the current South African political landscape. The panel will take the form of an in-depth interview featuring activist, researcher and political economist Professor Patrick Bond.

Bond is an academic whose research draws from work with NGOs in urban communities as well as global justice movements in several countries. He is currently the director of the Centre for Civil Society at UKZN and is involved in research on economic justice, geopolitics, climate, energy and water.

The discussion will be facilitated by Xolani Benedict Dube.

Chronicling The Contemporary African Story

Time of The Writer has a strong history of spotlighting young talented writers dealing with contemporary topics. The festival aims to create an even greater focus on stories from the younger generation and this is highlighted in the second panel of the night.

Chronicling The Contemporary African Story brings together two South African authors, Kgebetli Moele and Niq Mhlongo.

Moele’s debut novel, Room 207, was published in 2006 by Kwela Books and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best First Book (Africa) in 2007. It was the joint-winner of the Herman Charles Bosman Prize for English fiction as well as joint-winner of the University of Johannesburg Prize for Creative Writing in the debut category. His second novel, The Book of the Dead, received the South African Literary Award in 2010. He released his third novel, Untitled, in 2013.

Mhlongo is a Soweto-born journalist and author who has presented his work at key African cultural events, including the Caine Prize Workshop, and was a 2008 International Writing Program fellow at the University of Iowa. His debut novel Dog Eat Dog, released in 2004, has been translated into Spanish. He has since published two more novels, After Tears (2007) and the highly praised Way Back Home in 2013.

The panel discussion will be facilitated by Duduzile Mabaso.

Storytelling Programme

Understanding the rich history that storytelling carries on the continent, The Time of The Writer festival is excited to present a storytelling programme, in collaboration with the Gcinamasiko Arts & Heritage Trust, taking place on Friday, 21 March.

The event will feature Nomsa Mdlalose and Mshai Mwangola in a panel discussion looking at the art of storytelling.

Mdlalose, who holds a Master’s Degree in Storytelling from East Tennessee State University, has years of experience in the artform and is the managing director of Kwesukela Storytelling Academy. Through her work at the Academy, she promotes the ancestral oral tradition as a heritage of sophistication, wisdom and philosophy.

Nairobi native Mwangola is talented performance scholar, storyteller, and oraturist. She has performed, conducted performance workshops, researched and worked with and for diverse performance ensembles and individuals across four continents in a career spanning over 25 years. She is the chairperson of the Governing Council of the Kenya Cultural Centre.

The panel will be facilitated by Dr Gcina Mhlophe.

From The Mouth of Babes

The second panel of the night will focus on youth literature, featuring Lauri Kubuitsile (Botswana) and Khulekani Magubane (South Africa).

Kubuitsile is a writer living in Botswana who has published three children’s books, two detective novellas and three collections of short stories for children, co-written with two other Motswana writers.

She has published three romance novels with Sapphire Press, Kwaito Love, Can He Be The One?, and Mr Not Quite Good Enough. Kubuitsile was the 2007 winner of the BTA/ Anglo Platinum Short Story Contest and the recipient of the Botswana Ministry of Youth and Culture’s Orange Botswerere Award for Creative Writing in the same year. In 2009 she won the USA’s Baobab Literary Prize in the junior category and in 2010 in the senior category. She was on the shortlist for the 2011 Caine Prize.

Magubane is a journalist and author. At the age of 23 he has published more than 18 books. Although he is a children’s author his work deals with important issues such as class, race and religion.

Saneliswe Ntuli will facilitate the panel discussion.

Children’s Storytelling Matinee

In addition, Time of The Writer and the Gcinamasiko Arts & Heritage Trust will host a special matinee for children, to be held at the UKZN Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre on Saturday, 22 March, from 2.00 PM to 4.30 PM. The matinee will feature Mdlalose and Mwangola, who will be joined by Gogo MaBhengu and Lwazi Thwala.

New African Women Writers Rising

The final day of the festival features a discussion focused on the stories and work being produced by young female writers from Africa.

On the panel are prolific authors Hawa Jande Golakai (Liberia) and Chibundu Onuzo (Nigeria).

Born in Liberia, Golaka moved around extensively with her family due to political and economic unrest. She has lived in Togo, Ghana and Zimbabwe, before arriving in Cape Town as a student in 2003. She trained and worked as a medical researcher in immunology, and her first novel, The Lazarus Effect, is a gripping fictional drama set in Cape Town.

Onuzo is a young author whose debut novel The Spider’s King Daughter has received critical acclaim. She has been shortlisted for this year’s Commonwealth Book Prize and was shortlisted for the 2012 Dylan Thomas Prize, as well as longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize in the same year.

The panel discussion will be facilitated by writer Sandile Ngidi.

Finding the South African Funny Bone

This discussion features Sarah Britten and Zukiswa Wanner.

Britten is a former journalist, artist and author from Johannesburg. She has been published extensively, wrote her Master’s research report on South African humour (with a focus on Madam & Eve) and has a doctorate in Applied English Language Studies. She has published three novels focusing on the colourful and unique art of South African insults, The Art of the South African Insult, McBride of Frankenmanto: The Return of the South African Insult, and More South African Insults.

Wanner is a journalist, author and blogger whose work includes The Madams: A Wildly Provocative Novel (2007), Behind Every Successful Man (2008) and Men of the South (2010). Her latest work is Maid in SA: 30 Ways to Leave Your Madam (2013). She is a founding member of ReadSA, an initiative encouraging South Africans to read local books.

The panel discussion will be facilitated by writer and radio personality Ndumiso Ngcobo.

Seminars and Workshops

In addition to the nightly panel discussions at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, the festival’s Community Outreach Programme features a broad range of activities during the day, including seminars and workshops aiming to promote a culture of reading, writing and creative expression. The festival will also conduct visits to schools, and present a prison writing programme. Book launches take place at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre’s Wellington Tavern deck prior to the evening shows, from 6:45 PM.

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.

For more details about the Time of the Writer, visit the Centre for Creative Arts website at or call 031 260 2506

The 17th Time of the Writer Festival supported by the City of Durban, the French Institute of South Africa, and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture. It is organised by the Centre for Creative Arts, which 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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Entries Are Open for the 2014 Time of the Writer Schools Short Story Competition

Time of the Writer School Short Story Competition 2014

The 17th Time of the Writer International Writers’ Festival invites high school learners to submit their short stories for the annual Schools Short Story Competition.

The deadline for entries is Thursday, 28 February 2014.

Held in conjunction with the festival, which is hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Creative Arts, The Time of the Writer Schools Short Story Competition is open to all high school learners and aims to encourage creative expression in young people.

The competition is the springboard for future storytellers and, with its long-standing commitment towards nurturing a culture of reading and writing among the youth, it has received wide and growing appeal in previous editions of the Time of the Writer Festival.

Competition information

There is no particular topic for the short stories and they can be written in English, isiZulu or Afrikaans. A maximum of five pages (preferably typed) are to be written. Illegible entries will not be considered.

Winners will be awarded cash prizes, book vouchers and complimentary tickets to the festival.

Entries can be submitted via any one of the following methods:

Fax: 031 260 3074
Hand delivery: Centre for Creative Arts, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College Campus, Mazisi Kunene Ave, Durban, 4041, South Africa.

Festival information

The Time of the Writer Festival takes place from 17-22 March 2014. As one of the country’s premier literature festivals, Time of the Writer brings together some of the world’s best authors, publishers, and editors; it also offers a platform to KwaZulu-Natal talent. The festival provides Durban with an educational yet entertaining programme of workshops, reading sessions and panel discussions. This year’s edition of the festival will also include a storytelling focus in partnership with The Gcinamasiko Arts & Heritage Trust.

In addition to the nightly showcases, a broad range of free day activities including seminars and workshops are formulated to promote a culture of reading, writing and creative expression. This includes the educator’s forum with teachers, on the implementation of literature in the classroom, the community writing forum with members of the public interested in literature as well as visits to schools by the festival participants.

For more information on the festival or the competition, please contact the Centre for Creative Arts on 031 260 2506/1816 or email

Tweets and Photos from the 2013 Poetry Africa Festival

This year’s Poetry Africa International Poetry Festival, organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), took place from Monday 14 to Saturday 19 October 2013 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre with the finale held at The Bat Centre. The festival boasted an impressive line-up of local and international poets.

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Khethukuthula Lembethe, from Journalism Iziko at the Durban Institute of Technology, attended a talk by Malika Ndlovu, Kole Oluwatoyin and Kobus Moolman on “Poets in the media”. Lembethe said the discussion “unveiled the relationship between journalism and poetry and stressed the fact that journalists should speak and write truth in the best humanely possible way”.

The 17th International Poetry Africa festival brings together the world’s finest poets and musicians to Durban and the Durban University of Technology’s journalism Program today had the privilege to experience some of the poets and engage in dialogue.

The session was eye-opening and it unveiled the relationship between journalism and poetry and also pressed on the fact that journalists should speak and write truth in the best humanely possible way.

Poetry Africa tweeted from the opening night and shared photos on their Facebook page, which can be seen below:

Photos from the opening night:

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Image courtesy Poetry Africa

WKRB Will Be Broadcasting Live from Poetry Africa 2013

For the first time ever the opening evening of the Poetry Africa International Poetry Festival will be broadcasted live via the internet radio station Whizz Kids Radio Beta.

Anyone from anywhere in the world will be able to tune in to follow the start of the 17th Poetry Africa Festival this year. The opening evening, and its live broadcast, kicks off on 14 October from 7 PM.

We’re quite proud to announce yet another landmark in the life of WKRB. In its 17 years, Poetry Africa and the beauty of the spoken word, organised by the Centre for Creative Arts at UKZN, has never been streamed to those far and wide via the internet.

Image courtesy Whizz Kids Radio Beta

17th Poetry Africa International Poetry Festival (14 – 19 October 2013)


The 17th Poetry Africa – International Poetry Festival presented in partnership with the City of Durban and the KZN Department of Arts and Culture is proud to announce the festival line-up, which promises to be an exhilarating showcase of diverse voices and sounds. Organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal) to take place from 14-19 October, this festival is a critical platform for self-expression that offers a space for cultural exchange in the city of Durban.

The festival’s line-up features a ground-breaking poetry project – a 12 track recorded album entitled Insurrections – featuring poets and ethnomusicologists from India and South Africa. The project sees the rich sounds of the Indian music tradition blend with African instruments accompanying radical poetry from both continents. The Insurrections ensemble will be performed by musicians Sumangala Damodaran (India), Jürgen Brauninger (South Africa), Neo Muyanga (South Africa), Pritam Ghoshal (India), Brydon Bolton (South Africa), Bettina Schouw (South Africa), Sazi Dlamini (South Africa) and Paki Peloeole (South Africa). The poetry contingent for Insurrections will comprise of Ari Sitas (South Africa), Malika Ndlovu (South Africa), Sabita TP (India) and Vivek Narayanan (India). The ensemble will perform on Thursday, 17 October.

Keeping with the musical theme of this year’s edition, the festival will feature five poets who also work as recording musicians. Kabomo Vilakazi is a singer, songwriter and actor who also features in South African poetry circles. Nominated four times for the SAMAs and a former editor of youth culture magazine Y-Mag, his credentials in the entertainment industry are indeed formidable. Kalawi Jazmee artist Busiswa Gqulu returns to Poetry Africa in the middle of her impressive reign on the music charts throughout Africa. She first graced the Poetry Africa stage as part of the all-women poetry collective Basadzi Voices in 2008 and has also performed solo in 2010. South African poet Natalia Molebatsi is also a writer, facilitator and programme director who recently founded a South African-Italian music project with the band Soul Making. Her poetry is published in the books We Are (2008) and Sardo Dance (2009). Durban-born poet, performer and MC (Ashleigh La Foy) is well-known on Durban stages for both her poetry and her musical prowess. Having earned her stripes as a female rapper, she will indulge Durban audiences with her poetic oeuvre ahead of her much-anticipated debut album. Hailing from the Eastern Cape, Pura Lavisa is a writer, performer and poet whose musical arrangements incorporate percussion and African sounds. Lavisa will be presenting a collection of poems mostly in isiXhosa.

Returning to the Poetry Africa stage, well-respected Soweto-born dub-poet and writer, Lesego Rampolokeng, will deliver an infectious brand of poetry influenced by Black Consciousness and rooted in the lived experience of people on the margins. Also from Soweto, Khulile Nxumalo will present works from his first title ten flapping elbows, mama and his latest collection fhedzi, published by Die Hard Press. Critically acclaimed, Nxumalo was twice named the recipient of the DALRO prize for poetry. Nigerian-born poet Kole Odutola will also be reading his latest work at the festival. Odutola teaches at the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at the University of Florida and has published extensively both in academia and literature. Another participant with a background in teaching languages is Kobus Moolman, based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Moolman’s latest collection Left Over is currently enjoying rave reviews in the press and his performance will allow an eager Durban audience a chance to celebrate his vast canon of works.

Johannesburg-based performance and slam poet Mandi Poefficient Vundla forms part of the Word n Sound collective and is featured on the online and print publications of Poetry Potion. Crowned ‘Queen of the Word and Sound Mic’ in 2012, she has graced numerous poetry stages including Arts Alive and Jozi Book Fair. Another young female voice featured in the line-up is Sanelisiwe Ntuli, a wordsmith from Hammersdale who writes and performs in isiZulu. Ntuli is a graduate of the Kwesukela Storytelling Academy and regularly features as a storyteller and voice artist on educational programmes of Ukhozi FM. Also writing in isiZulu is Professor Langalibalele F. Mathenjwa is holding a Doctor of Literature and Philosophy from UNISA. He is a published writer of isiZulu poetry, novels, short stories and folklore and has chair Usiba Writers Guild, South African Geographical Names Council, IsiZulu National Language Body and the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names-Africa South Division.

Four poets from the Irish poetry collective O’Bheal will present their work at the festival. This contingent consists of Paul Casey, Afric McGinchey, Billy Ramsel and American-born Raven. Completing the international line-up will be Ian Kamau (Canada), Barnabe Laye (Benin) and Raphael d’Abdon (Italy/ South Africa). Kamau is a writer, visual artist, hip hop and spoken word artist from Toronto, whose discography lists five collections, including the popular album One Day Soon (2011). He will be presenting additional workshops in advance of the festival. A poet and novelist, Laye has published a dozen books and is the recipient of the Nelligan Prize his lifetimes work. His most recent work is entitled Poems in Absent, a long wait (2010). D’Abdon is an Italian scholar, writer, editor and translator and a post-doctoral fellow in the English Studies Department at UNISA. As an editor, D’Abdon recently published Marikana – A Moment in Time, as well as an anthology of poetry about the massacre and his own collection, Sunnyside Nightwalk.

The festival’s community outreach programme will see poets visit over twenty community centres, campuses and tertiary education departments across Durban and beyond. In addition, participating poets will visit twenty schools to discuss reading, writing and the performance aspects of poetry.

Organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), the 17th Poetry Africa is funded by the City of Durban and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture. The Centre for Creative Arts is housed in the College of Humanities at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The CCA is a special project of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Cheryl Potgieter, in the College of Humanities at UKZN.

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:

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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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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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16th Time of the Writer International Writers Festival Durban 18 – 23 March

The written word will envelop Durban as nineteen writers from South Africa, Africa and abroad, gather for a thought-provoking week of literary dialogue, exchange of ideas and stimulating discussion at the 16th Time of the Writer International Writers Festival (18 – 23 March). The festival, hosted by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), with principal support by National Lottery Distribution Fund, will feature a diverse gathering of leading novelists, social commentators, activists, playwrights and short story writers.

Opening night will feature all participating writers as they make brief presentations at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, while the newly appointed Deputy Vice Chancellor of the School of Humanities, Prof Cheryl Potgieter will make a keynote address and a tribute to the late Phyllis Naidoo will be read. The rest of the week’s evening presentations will be panel discussions with writers talking about their writing and the issues dealt with in their work. The musical act opening the festival is Zimbabwean band Tanga Pasi.

The panel discussion titled Perspectives in South African Writing on Tuesday 19th March will feature South African writers Kabelo Duncan Kgatea and Jo-Anne Richards. Trained as a journalist and working as a miner, it was after Kgatea’s first book Njeng manong fa ke sule! (Devour me, vultures, when I’m dead!) was published and won the Sanlam Prize Youth Literature (silver) in the Sotho category, that he got promoted to communications officer and no longer worked below ground. When The Innocence of Roast Chicken, the debut novel of internationally published author and journalist Richards first appeared, it topped the South African best seller list in its first week and remained there for 15 weeks. This discussion will be facilitated by Zukiswa Wanner.

Controversial human rights issues are brought to the fore in the evening’s second panel titled Africa Writing Queer Identity, featuring leading Nigerian writer Jude Dibia and Graeme Reid of South Africa, and will be facilitated by Sarojini Nadar. Dibia’s books address issues which range from sexuality, gender roles, race to the stigma of HIV/AIDS in modern day Africa. Reid, the director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Programme and founding director of the Gay and Lesbian Archives of South Africa, explores gay identities in South Africa in his book How to be a Real Gay. Music by Durban duo Njeza and Siphelele Dlamini will commence the evening proceedings at 19h30.

Book launches take place at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre’s Wellington Tavern deck prior to the evening shows, from 18h45. The first book launch of the festival is the UKZN English/IsiZulu Book (UKZN Press)– a collaborative venture of stories by various authors.

On Wednesday 20th March, the first panel, titled Reflections on the Palestinian State, features Palestinian-born American-based novelist and essayist, Susan Abulhawa, in an interview discussion with Lubna Nadvi. Abulhawa’s Mornings in Jenin was translated into 24 languages worldwide and hailed by The Times as the “first English-language novel to express fully the human dimension of the Palestinian tragedy”. Exploring Genre in African Literature is the topic of the second panel, featuring South African author, photographer and filmmaker, Zinaid Meeran, alongside Nnedi Okorafor, award-winning author born in the United States and of Nigerian descent. Meeran was awarded the European Union Literary award for his debut Saracen at the Gates in 2009. About a curious exploration of living raceless in a country where just about everybody seems to have one, this debut was also shortlisted for the Sunday Times fiction prize in 2010. A professor of creative writing, Okorafor has received numerous accolades for her books, which are often characterized by African culture infused with reminiscent settings and memorable characters. This panel will be facilitated by True Love books editor and publisher Melinda Ferguson. Music by Durban duo Nhlanhla Zondi and Zulublue will kick start the evening presentation, while Molope’s book, This Book Betrays my Brother launches prior to the show.

On the evening of Human Rights Day, Thursday 21st March is the panel titled Perspectives in SA Writing, with a panel which features Elana Bregin and Damon Galgut, and facilitated by Siphiwo Mahala. Galgut’s In a Strange Room, a novel which follows the journey of an isolated South African traveler seeking a deep satisfaction in life, was shortlisted for several awards, including the 2010 Man Booker Prize and M-Net Literary Award. Bregin is well known for her award-winning young adult titles, which include The Kayaboeties and The Red-haired Khumalo, which all deal with the social realities of a changing South Africa.

Under the title The Reporter as Writer, Jackee Batanda from Uganda and Aman Sethi from India, both novelists and journalists, feature in the evening’s second panel discussion. Together with the numerous awards for her fiction writing, Batanda also featured in the London Times alongside 19 young women shaping the future of Africa. A seasoned journalist working as a correspondent for The Hindu, a newspaper in India with a daily readership of about 2.5 million, Sethi has also contributed articles to various publications, around health policies in India. The evening’s musical act is the pair Mike Muyo and Tom Watkeys.

Following the book launch of The Imagined Child (Picador) by festival participant Jo-Anne Richards, and a music performance by the band Nje, the presentation of prizes to winners of the schools short story competition will take place on Friday 22nd March. The first session titled Youth Literature, similarly puts a spotlight on young people, and features writers Elieshi Lema from Tanzania and BD Khawula from South Africa. Lema started off writing poetry before moving on to children’s books. Her first novel Parched Earth – A Love Story received an honorable mention in the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa and forms part of the curriculum in various universities. Based in Durban, Khawula’s inspiration to write stems from his love for his country. His debut novel Yihlathi Leli, won a silver award in the African Languages category at the Sanlam Youth Literature Awards.

The second panel for the evening, Writing Transformation, features South African critical thinkers and writers Andile Mngxitama and Prof Sampie Terreblanche. While Mngxitama writes significantly around the philosophy and writings of late Black Consciousness leader, Steve Biko, Terreblanche’s focuses lies on the history of economic thought and policy matters in South and Southern Africa.

The Saturday evening book launch is On Being Human featuring contributions by various writers and edited by Duduzile Mabaso (Black Letter Media). Music and song by Durban songbird Skye Wanda will precede the discussion Writing the Other, featuring the South African panel of Ashwin Desai and Jonny Steinberg. An activist intellectual, Desai is celebrated the world over, for his poignant articulation of stories about struggle, oppression and resistance. Award-winning author Steinberg, writes about experiences about everyday life in the wake of South Africa’s transition to democracy. His debut novel Midlands, about the murder of a white South African farmer, won the Sunday Times Alan Paton Prize in 2003. This panel discussion will be facilitated by Dr. Frederico Settler from the Philosophy department at UKZN.

The festival closes with a look at the pertinent issue with South African writers Shafinaaz Hassim and Kagiso Lesego Molope, in a panel titled Writing Gender Violence. Hassim, a writer, poet and sociologist and driving force behind Johannesburg-based publishers, WordFire Press, recently published a novel on domestic violence titled SoPhia in November 2012, while Molope’s third novel This Book Betrays my Brother raises many gender equality issues prevalent in South Africa, amongst them the perception that women who wear revealing clothing invite sexual advances. Molope’s first novel, Dancing in the Dust, was put on the IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) list for 2006, making her the first Black South African to make the list.

Publishing is undoubtedly one of the central elements in the development of a local literary culture. That said a notable event that has become a significant part of the annual Time of the Writer international writers’ festival, is the Publishing Forum. Taking place on Wednesday, 20th March between 10h00 – 14h00 at the Centre for Creative Arts, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College Campus, this year’s forum will feature a range of panels on salient issues within the publishing landscape. Topics discussed will cover the magazine industry, maximizing exposure in the world of digital publishing, converting your PhD thesis into a book and what publishers look for in a manuscript.

In addition to the nightly showcases at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, a broad range of day activities including seminars and workshops are formulated to promote a culture of reading, writing and creative expression. This includes the educator’s forum with teachers on the implementation of literature in the classroom, the community writing forum with members of the public interested in literature, visits to schools, and a prison writing programme.

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.

The full programme of activities, and other information is available on

Durban International Film Festival 6th Talent Campus: Call for Filmmakers and Film Critics

talent campus


Talent Campus Durban is looking for 40 of the most innovative voices of African cinema to take part in the 6th edition of this leading networking and developmental event held at the 34th Durban International Film Festival.

Talent Campus Durban seeks to provide selected participants with an opportunity to meet with international industry professionals and experts in various aspects of the filmmaking business through participations in a 5-day programme of masterclasses, workshops and industry networking events. The continent of Africa is a source of a myriad narratives which offer possibilities to be re-imagined, re-told, overlapped and adapted within numerous contexts. Under this year’s theme of “Memetic Africa”, Talent Campus Durban calls for African filmmakers to participate in this programme and be inspired by stories shaped by varying innovative patterns, ideas, customs, traditions, practices and skills that enforce the legacy of the African film context.

Talent Campus Durban also calls for participants for Talent Press, a mentoring programme for three African film critics in collaboration with FIPRESCI and Goethe Institut, which makes a welcome return in its second year. Talent Press mentors will offer their expertise to guide selected participants in the art of film criticism with access to all the screenings of the 34th Durban International Film Festival.

The five-day programme also includes the 3rd edition of Doc Station, where three selected documentary projects submitted by accepted talents will be finessed and packaged for presentation within the DOC Circle pitching forum at the 6th Durban FilmMart. Applications for Doc Station are open to selected participants for Talent Campus. Mohamed El Amine Hattou of Algeria was one of the three Doc Station participants in the 5th Talent Campus Durban who, after presenting his project at Doc Circle, also had the invaluable opportunity to meet one-on-one with potential investors. Describing his experience, Hattou says, “Doc Station is a great opportunity to gain in maturity, networking, and dive into a promiscuous and professional African market. After my pitch on Doc Station, I had some positive and interesting feedback on my project. It was also an easy way to know about new funding and co-production opportunities. Durban Talent Campus is a unique way for African filmmakers to connect, meet and share their stories.”

Held in co-operation with the Berlinale Talent Campus, and with support from the German Embassy of South Africa, Goethe Institut of South Africa, and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development and Tourism, Talent Campus Durban runs from 19 to 23 July 2013. Apart from the main event in Berlin, Talent Campus partnerships also take place at selected festivals in Buenos Aires, Guadalajara, Tokyo and Sarajevo. Opportunities for participating talents are enhanced through Talent Campus networks and the Berlinale’s global information platform.

Application is open to filmmakers and critics who are resident in Africa. Applicants are encouraged to apply well before the deadline in order to submit their work samples timeously. Application can be done online here ( and applications close on 1st April 2013.

Participation Conditions (abridged) Full regulations available at

To qualify, applicants must:

  • work within one of the following categories: screenwriting, producing, directing, acting, cinematography, editing, sound design, film music composition, animation, art direction, production design, video installation OR (for Talent Press) work as a film reviewer.

  • have completed at least one short film, OR had a film screened at a recognised film festival, OR be a final year film student (undergraduate or post-grad) OR have proven experience in the film industry, OR have published reviews for at least six months.
  • submit a sample of creative work formatted as per regulations.
  • be an African citizen, currently residing in Africa and in possession of a valid passport by 1 May 2013.
  • be at least 18 years of age.
  • complete an online application form (English only).

For Doc Station (a mentoring programme for documentary filmmakers). An invitation to apply opens only after you have completed the above online application process. Doc Station will feed into the Durban FilmMart DOC Circle.

For Talent Press (a mentoring programme for film critics, in collaboration with FIPRESCI and the Goethe-Institut). Follow the separate online application process.

Application deadline 1 April 2013 Applications and materials which arrive after 1 April will not be considered. Incomplete applications will not be considered. Successful applicants will be informed via email and the website by 1 May 2013.


  • The course will be conducted in English.
  • Travel costs, accommodation and a subsistence contribution will be offered to participants, at the discretion of Talent Campus Durban.
  • In addition to the Talent Campus Durban activities, the selected participants will have the opportunity to attend films and the events of the 34th DIFF.