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 Lovebooks 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 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.
The full programme of activities and other information is available on www.cca.ukzn.ac.za