A previous version of this article was published with a language error: ‘Deaf’ was spelled with a lower case ‘d’. This article refers to the Deaf community as a whole and the difference Kerrin Kokot and Jayne Batzofin are making in encouraging a love of storytelling among the Deaf community in South Africa.
Carla Lever recently conducted an interview with filmmakers, storytellers and language activists Kerrin Kokot and Jayne Batzofin for Nal’ibali’s weekly column. The three of them discussed Kerrin and Jayne’s latest TV project focused on nurturing a love of storytelling among Deaf children, the education opportunities for Deaf children in South Africa, and heartwarming stories of working with Deaf children.
Kerrin Kokot and Jayne Batzofin
Your latest TV project and envisaged accompanying book for Deaf children – Let’s Pretend With Fumi and Friends – is pretty groundbreaking in South Africa. Can you tell us a little about the story?
KK: In extraordinary storyteller Jay’s home, a curious rabbit called Fumi discovers how to use its imagination to help make-believe creatures solve problems and, by doing so, learns valuable life skills.
JB: Let’s Pretend with Fumi and Friends is a world where stories come to life through imagination and sign language, and problems are solved through creativity and team-work.
What stage of development is Fumi at?
KK: The first project phase (concept development) is complete. We developed everything with Deaf education partners and a television script editor and adapted the story concepts and artworks with feedback from children. Those visuals would feed straight into our visual if we ran a book later.
We’re now in project development stage, working with excellent film and education partners to finalise the project and distribution plan, budget and schedule. Our partners are helping us raise finance for production, as well as a training programme to upskill Deaf animators, designers and other production staff. It’s incredibly exciting!
Concept art for Let’s Pretend with Fumi and Friends
In your experience, Jayne, what are education options and resources like for Deaf children in South Africa?
JB: In the last few years there has been a strong focus to develop teachers’ signing skills and capacity by organisations like SLED (Sign Language Education Development). Sign language resources are still incredibly limited for choice and often outdated in material, though. Deaf children deserve as much variety as hearing children.
Are there enough qualified SASL teachers in South Africa?
JB: For me, we really need more qualified teachers who are Deaf themselves. I watch Deaf teaching assistants make huge progress with children because they share the same mother tongue language, but because of the way our education system is structured, they don’t have the means to qualify as teachers.
How are you using your skills to tackle the problem?
JB: In addition to Fumi, I’m using theatre productions and drama exercises to create playful resources as alternative tools to developing sign language literacy. How dull to only learn a language in a formal classroom setting! Language is learned through acquisition, which is strengthened when taught in a variety of mediums.
Are there any unique considerations to bear in mind when creating literacy resources for Deaf children?
KK: Deaf children seldom get development in creativity and abstract thinking skills – learning is often extremely functional. SLED (Sign Language Education and Development) pushed us to develop unique tools within the programme to boost those skills and animation is a great fit for doing that.
Kerrin, you’ve got tons of experience in making stories visually compelling and fun. What have the challenges been in conceptualising this kind of project?
KK: One of the challenges has been making this series accessible to Deaf children around the world. Sign language is like any language: It is specific to regions. A South African Sign Language (SASL) programme won’t be easily understood by, say, British Deaf audiences, who use British Sign Language (BSL). To combat this, we’ve made the most expensive parts of the production – the animated parts – universally accessible. The show’s live-action presenter, the only character that communicates in sign language, can be sourced regionally and inserted into the animated world using relatively inexpensive post-production techniques.
Jayne, are there any moments working with Deaf children over the years that you’ve found particularly heartwarming?
JB: So many! Obviously the children when they laugh or light up from within because adults besides their teachers are signing with them. But I also love watching the teachers be amazed by how bright and creative their students can be when given a different way to learn sign language.
How can people find out more and get involved with Fumi?
KK: We’d love to share resources with, and learn from, other organisations seeking to promote Deaf literacy. Please get in touch on email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Fans can follow the project on Facebook: @fumiandfriends.
Why is storytelling so important – for adults, as well as children?
KK: Adults and children gain valuable skills through storytelling: language, social, abstract, conceptual, and so many more. Stories are integral to human society, shaping our worldviews, our very existence. A world without stories would be a world of robots!
JB: It evokes and develops imagination, creativity and fantasy! These skills are of fundamental importance in childhood (and literacy) development, and equally essential for adults to connect with each other and their often neglected playful selves.
Reading and telling stories with your children is a powerful gift to them. It builds knowledge, language, imagination and school success! For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of South African languages, visit: www.nalibali.org.
Famed US novelist and birder Jonathan Franzen was recently in South Africa, where he shared literary insights, and a defence of the LBJ, with Michele Magwood.
Jonathan Franzen is, as is his wont, talking about birds. Specifically, South African birds, and, even more specifically, the Cape grassbird. This is a bird that is usually dismissed at a glance as an LBJ – a little brown job, one of those ubiquitous dun-coloured birds that fade into the landscape and live in the shadow of rarer, more colourful birds. But not by Franzen. “I like the little brown ones,” he exclaims. “The Cape grassbird is the epitome for me of what a great bird is – it’s small and unobtrusive and yet when you look at it carefully with binoculars it just explodes with detail and subtle colours.”
Looking carefully and finding subtlety in seemingly ordinary things that then explode with detail is precisely what Franzen does as a writer. He comes heavily garlanded and routinely described as one of the US’ s greatest living novelists, but in Cape Town last week there wasn’t a trace of ego or the testiness he is famous for.
He was in the country for a National Geographic story on seabirds. South Africa, he says, is doing “very good things” for seabirds. He’d added on a 19-day birding tour of the country, and was now planning on getting out into deep water to see what he called the incredibly diverse seabird life off the coast.
Franzen is tall and rangy, woodsy in a way in scuffed boots and a checked shirt. He has beautiful, expressive hands and a mind like a sheathed blade. He has been interviewed countless times but there is none of the well-oiled shtick that many authors inevitably slip into. There are Pinter-long pauses as he considers a question, sighs and glances out of the window as he carefully composes his thoughts. Every now and again a teasing, self-deprecating humour ripples out.
He says he is less angry than he used to be, and less depressed – although he does refer to himself as a “depressive pessimist” – but concedes that there is still simmering anger at “the stupidity of the world and the meanness of people”. What human beings are doing to the natural world, the “atrocious political times in the US”.
He’s dismayed at the Trumpian effect on reading and writing. “A lot of people who used to read books are no longer remembering why they did, because they are so focused now on the outrage of the day. I blame devices. It seems to be an excuse to be distracted by your phone. People claim they have to remain up to date with what’s going on in Washington, but really they’re dependent on the stimulation from that phone.
“To me it makes the role of the writer all the more urgent. People need a haven from this ultra politicised, ultra angry nonsense that is coming at them every waking minute through their phones.”
Since Trump won the nomination, he says, book sales have collapsed in the US.
Franzen has written five novels. The first two, The Twenty-Seventh City and Strong Motion, were well-received critically but not commercially. It was the third, The Corrections, that broke out, picking off literary prizes and selling more than three million copies. The infamous spat with Oprah helped, of course, but the two made up when she anointed his next novel, Freedom, for her book club and this time he appeared on the show. His latest novel, Purity, was published in 2015. In the lengthy gaps between books he writes astringent essays in such publications as the New Yorker and the Guardian.
Fiction, though, is clearly his first love, and he returns to it again and again during the course of the conversation, whether pointing out the historical correlation between liberalism and the rise of the novel, his belief that reading fiction is an opportunity to be somebody you aren’t – “very important if you’re living in any kind of diversity as a society” – or the value of escapism. “It’s good to be reminded that there’s a world in which meaning is possible – sophisticated, nuanced meaning, that doesn’t have to reduce to political simplicities. There are other more humane ways to make sense of the world.”
He calls writing “purposeful dreaming” and describes the intimacy of the relationship between writer and reader. “It’s the magical quality of the written word, that what you do as a writer, the process of investing imaginatively in a character or a story in order to put the words on the page, that that experience then gets replicated when you read that page, that the same investment springs up on the reader’s part. That is unique to the written word.”
One of the hallmarks of Franzen’s fiction is his intense characterisation. He leans in and drills down into his characters, excavating them with forensic skill. And when he’s done with excavating them he throws in a hand grenade. Life, he shows us, is messy. He is uncommonly perceptive about the human condition. What is the source, the spring of this perspicacity?
“I wish I could say something completely, brilliantly original,” he chuckles. “But I do go back again and again to my position in the family.” Franzen was a laatlammetjie, his two brothers much older than him. “So by the time I was 10 years old there were four adults in the house and me. They all had powerful, different personalities and although there was never any doubt they loved each other, they didn’t get along all that well. I grew up listening and trying to provide comic relief.”
When he discovered literature in college “it was like someone had handed me a key to understanding why people were saying the things they did. I suddenly had a magic decoder for my mother’s utterances. When I learnt to understand what Kafka was doing, I could understand the subtext of what was happening in the room. What was really going on when my mother would talk about the cranberry sauce. She’s not just talking about the cranberry sauce!” he laughs. “And that’s it right there – as a writer you want to present the cranberry sauce in its full specificity and vividness but you also want to understand what it signifies.”
Just as Franzen excavates his characters, so he excavates his own self, and one gets the sense of how hard the work really is, how psychologically gruelling it is for him.
“The process of trying to find a new character who is vivid to me, who I instinctively love, is in part finding some part of my existence that I have not explored. That relentless question of ‘What does the character want?’ is the medium of self-investigation, really. It only gets harder because I have colonised more and more of my interior to look for live material.”
He has what he calls “shadow documents” for each novel, drawers of abandoned pages and jottings. “The shadow documents are much longer than the books – they consist of almost daily note-taking, relentless psychoanalysis done in the symbolic language of fiction. It’s tedious and repetitive.”
He’s started a shadow document for a new novel he’s working on. “I’ve got, like, two and a half characters and a few pages.
“Each time it feels like I can never do this again.”
Bridge Books, your go-to bookstore for new and second-hand African and South African books in downtown Joburg, has just published its first book, The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey!
Marcus Garvey was born in Jamaica in 1887. He became a leading pan-Africanist in the United States, where he urged black Americans to return to Africa and preached solidarity among blacks around the world.
In South Africa in the 1920s, Garveyism inspired early protests for the return of land from whites to its ancestral owners.
This collection of his writings and speeches is the first volume of his work compiled by his second wife, the pioneering black journalist and publisher Amy-Jacques Garvey.
Via PEN SA
Prufrock Magazine is calling for submissions of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction:
Prufrock magazine is calling for submissions. We have no restrictions on content or style. We publish writers from all over the world but pride ourselves on publishing the best writing by African writers.
Click here for the submission guidelines.
Megan Ross is a writer, journalist and poet from the Eastern Cape. Her work has appeared in New Coin, New Contrast, Prufrock, Aerodrome, Itch and in several award-winning collections and anthologies. She is the winner of the Brittle Paper Literary Award for Fiction, and also the second runner up of the 2016 Short Story Day Africa Prize, for her short story, ‘Farang’. She is a Miles Morland Writing Scholarship shortlistee. In 2016 she travelled to Reykjavik as the first-ever winner of the Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award. Megan is most herself when she is in the Indian Ocean. Her debut poetry collection, Milk Fever, is forthcoming from uHlanga. Joanne Hichens, curator of the Short.Sharp.Stories Awards, and Megan recently discussed ‘Eye Teeth’, the body as memory, and subverting the patriarchy.
‘Megan Ross’s ‘Eye Teeth’ is a lyrical psalm of recovery written from the worst type of betrayal. This story reminds one that abuse all too frequently takes place in the home, by those we know and love. At a deeper level, this story is a rewriting of a trauma narrative by a narrator who reclaims the geography of her body, effecting both a re-imaging and a re-imagining of her past.’
You planted a question (or several questions) at the heart of your commended story ‘Eye Teeth’: how to speak the unspeakable? Did clarity come with the writing? Or did you have an idea of how you’d proceed?
I think because my process in life and in writing is rushing straight to the heart of things, which I think I do unapologetically, because it’s so personal, and so urgent a task for me, that clarity did arrive, eventually, mostly because it had to. Something cannot be spoken if it is unspeakable, but perhaps it can be shown, in another way, find life in new forms. I think this was where the tattoos came in. They are not just images: she specifically used motifs and scenes from her past that came to symbolize the horror she couldn’t verbalise, a private language she wrote across her body, with care and love. No matter how difficult it is to confront, my protagonist finds release, and nourishment, in realizing what has really happened to her, what her father has been doing, all these years, which has been blanketed by the gauze of denial, and of course, a life of being gaslit. I wrote the germ of this story years ago, and returned to it just last year, when the series of vignettes became known to me.
The story, about abuse so very much in the news, is also a reflection on memory. Can you tell us a little more about your understanding of memory, and concepts of time, ways in which memory is recreated as words, or images, and how memory is central to this story?
The idea of dipping into and out of the past came naturally to me because I find that time is most days, more circular than linear. The past is always very much disrupting and interacting with the present, which impacts on the future. I wanted to explore the idea of memory being its own entity, a ghost almost, but more living than that, something embodied, in the way that we carry our memories with us, our pasts are always present, in our bodies, in our minds, we take our emotional and psychic baggage along with us into every relationship, into every exchange with people. We also know that childhood trauma impacts the memory quite significantly, and anyone with PTSD will understand how a traumatic event is not returned to us as a flashback, as it is explained, but that the traumatic event is very much relived.
So there is this idea, for me at least, that until something is properly dealt with, which I am not sure is actually possible, by the way, that it will return, again and again, not as a reminder, but as itself. I myself have given birth only once, but I have relived its scariest moments many times: in the bank, in bed, in restaurants, in moments when I’d rather be doing anything but having a PTSD flashback. And during those moments it is not a flashback, perhaps that would be a comfort for people who experience them. No, it’s very much the moment, the hour, the day itself being reborn. So, for my protagonist at least, there is this sense of legitimizing her own passages of time, as circuitous as they are, with signposts and symbols personal to her, that form part of her own mental and emotional constellations.
You talk of the body’s memory too, ‘memory lives in the bloodstream’. Do you believe that memory is stored in the cells?
I think that if one has experienced a traumatic event, and has or has had PTSD, then we can really agree that memory is a very physical thing, at times. Certainly an experience can be lived countless times over a lifetime, simply because the body refuses to forget something that perhaps someone would rather not confront. But that’s the nature of abuse, and of being abused: there is sadly no escape. At some point, no matter how deeply trauma is buried, it will arrive, and demand to be felt and acknowledged. I was speaking to a friend who is a neuroscientist, and he was explaining how every single thing someone does, feels, thinks, believes, can be brought back to neuroscience, to the brain.
We know that events that occur at certain points in a baby or child’s life can impact their psychological health later on, perhaps precipitating a predisposition to being on the schizophrenic or mood disorder or autism spectrums. So in terms of memory being stored in the cells – there is definitely evidence to prove how memories both positive and negative will affect the chemistry, and makeup of some of the body’s most important cells, which is difficult for some people to understand because we still view so much of emotional and mental health as being these ethereal concepts quite detached from the body. Which they really aren’t. Serotonin and dopamine are physical, depression is physical: these are all events that take place within the body.
You talk of the body as an archive, of writing experience, over the experience already stored in the body’s memory. What do you mean by that?
The body already has its scars: its pains. It doesn’t lie. For instance, if you’re around someone who you don’t trust, you might tell yourself you’re being silly but you may experience a really visceral reaction to them – an aversion to their touch, a need to cross one’s arms over one’s body when they move closer. So, there is this intimate, instinctual knowledge that our bodies possess, an intuition that we should heed more often than not, and so writing the body is really narrating what is already playing out in the form of physical sensations; acknowledging that yes, this person gives me the grils, here I am, writing to that, and yes, this person hurt me, here lies my hurt, in the belly ache I get when I know I’m going to see them, in the inexplicable headaches I have before this meeting. Here I am, honouring that, by giving it verbal and written expression, by articulating it. I think great relief and catharsis comes from finally listening to one’s body.
My own experience with self-harm has taught me that sometimes inflicting physical pain on one’s self, and leaving a scar, creating a physical site for emotional trauma, is powerful, and addictive, because it feels healing somehow. In the same way that a tombstone can be a site for mourning, a place to locate and cement one’s grief, probably because, as I said in a prior answer, we still view so much of our emotional lives as being nebulous and untethered from the body. I don’t want to link tattoos to self-harm in any way, but I think what is interesting about creating a permanent web of images on one’s body, is that they are a private and wholly personal superstructure that command one’s body, that change its appearance and perhaps create for someone a stronger tie to their body, to their experience of it. Perhaps externalizing values and beliefs and memories that might not otherwise be known to anybody else, were they not plainly visible.
“I use writing to make sense of my life, and my past. The body is an archive, of writing experience, over the experience already stored in the body’s memory.”
The protagonist remaps her body with tattoos in order to tell her story and to reimagine her past. The reader is treated to a masterful insight into the artistry inherent in the process of creating tattoos. Do you have tattoos? Did the experience of having tattoos etched under skin influence the writing of this story?
Funnily enough, I don’t have a single tattoo, but my boyfriend is a tattoo model, and so I’ve watched as his body has become this incredible expression of his life over the last decade. He is also the father of my child and so the experience of his body is intrinsic to how I have experienced my own body; perhaps this is why tattoos interest me so much. Maybe if I had my own I wouldn’t be as fascinated by them, but being a voyeur in this instance, of his and my sister’s tattoos, and what they have meant to both these very significant people in my life, who have shaped me so much, influenced the way I wrote the story, and how I knew I might create these homing beacons for my character, who feels lost in her own histories, and needs some kind of lighthouse to guide her back to her sanity, to her sense of self. Which is not to define tattoos in this single light, far from it; but rather, I thought it an interesting way, and perhaps a method of creating understanding, and initiating healing, that I could get on board with, being a visual person who also very much admires the artistry of tattooing and the beauty of permanently altering one’s appearance.
In what way is this a process of reclamation? Is it possible to reclaim the body from trauma?
Tattoos, for my protagonist, are a way of making her body her own, and changing how it looks, as well, transforming it from the naked naiveté of its childhood incarnations to this vessel that is more in line with her spirit, using images from her past that are so vivid, and immediate to her, that they become this comforting armour when she wraps them around her body. Talismanic, in a way. Certainly I think she feels that she has taken steps to reclaiming her body from her father, whose distortion of her childhood, and body, and sexuality cannot be erased, but, perhaps, can be set apart from her. She steals her body back from his gaze: I think she manages to view her body away from his terrible, powerful gaze, and begin working against its distortions. The tattoos are another skin, a new body, as if she shed the old one to which so much happened, growing into this new, albeit scarred body, in terms of its history, that gives her confidence.
I think one of the most terrible things about being abused or hurt is that one loses one’s sense of self; it’s either distorted or simply lost, and a lot of people spend years trying to figure out who they are, why they have been hurt, if they are deserving of love, how to treat people with kindness when you have not always received it yourself, and it means that knowing what you want, what you like, your ambitions, your dreams, your goals, your talent, it all takes a back seat, because you’re just trying to survive. Knowing that you can choose, that you can have likes and dislikes and interests, that you can create a life very different to the one thrust upon you, takes a long time to understand, and accept.
Can you comment about feminism in your work in general, and the way women articulate pain?
My feminism and my writing cannot be separated. I believe that in writing – in bringing my subjective experience into the world – I am subverting the patriarchy. Writing is resisting silencing, and writing about the things that I want to: girlhood, womanhood, motherhood, the body, themes that are considered to be ‘domestic’ when written by women, are my own particular stake in the fight against the male gaze, in fighting for my right to express myself and to articulate freedoms and beauty and pain and wonder that are particular to me, to young girls, to women, to mothers. I feel fortunate to write and have my work recognised without having to use a male pseudonym, and in that way I am always amazed by the way in which women artists articulate pain: there is always such inventiveness, and creativity, and almost cruel incisiveness. Women have largely not had the luxury of articulating pain without being pathologised for it. And I still feel that now, very much. But I think that things are changing, and looking at the crop of young writers and visual artists that are rising to the fore on this continent, there is certainly not only a wealth of talent amongst women and non-binary artists, but an ambition, and single-mindedness, and sense of community that is making it possible for many, many more people to create.
What writing Trade Secret would you like to share?
I’m just going to drop one of the old clichés which has served me well the last two years, which is: persist. Through every heartbreak, through every shitty story, shitty rejection, shitty everything, persist. Keep writing. Never stop. If you want this, then you’re going to get your heart broken a couple times and it does every writer good to grow as thick a skin as humanly possible and keep focused on the end goal. Which is personal to every writer. Persist through trying times with your notebook in hand, and write all the junk out of your system, keep writing and writing and don’t feel like you have to publish everything you write because some of it is just the starter and you have to get to the main course, to the dessert, because that’s where the goodness lies, that’s where story is.
So, if you end up with an entire book, be it a novel or short story collection or collection of poetry, and you don’t like it, it’s not the end of you. You’ve just been writing out all the gunk, cleaning house. Write to the end of yourself and you will see that you too are round and the world doesn’t end at the horizon: you can keep sailing and writing and you will eventually, always, reach new land, discover new stories, articulate new truth, find a new way to describe something. It is the most exciting part of writing, this pushing-through, and part of it is being okay with failure, because it’s only by getting through each let down and rejection that we can get to the heart of what it is we’re trying to say, and improve and evolve as artists.
INVITATION TO SUBMIT AN APPLICATION FOR THE POSITION OF PROJECT COORDINATOR
The South African Book Development Council (SABDC) is the sector representative body for the South African book industry. It aims to increase access to books through a diverse range of strategies.
The work of the SABDC firmly declares the values and principles required for change and transformation in the South African book industry. Its success has far-reaching positive consequences for the country.
As such, the SABDC is a leading-edge organisation that is working in new and pioneering ways to overcome the most challenging barriers faced by the South African book publishing sector. We therefore require skilled, innovative and leading-edge staff to facilitate and deliver our ambitious vision.
The opportunity below seeks a skilled individual with the necessary drive and passion to fulfil the demands made by this ambitious vision.
CLOSING DATE: 24 NOVEMBER 16:00
Please send detailed CV to email@example.com.
CEO – SOUTH AFRICAN BOOK DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL
Tel: 021 914-8626/7
Fax: 021 914-8615
MAIN PURPOSE OF THE JOB
Assist in the implementation of projects of the South African Book Development Council
KEY RESULT AREAS
1. Assist in the conceptualization of book development projects
2. Draft and submit project implementation plans
3. Implement projects
4. Attend project meetings and take minutes
5. Report on project implementation based on project plans
6. Basic research to inform project plans
CORE SKILLS AND COMPETENCIES
• Excellent written and verbal communication skills
• Excellent organization and planning skills
• High integrity
• Ability to follow instruction
• Team player
• Ability to work with diverse players
• Excellent work ethic
• Attentive to detail
• Very good time management
• An appropriate Bachelors Degree in publishing or similar
• A minimum of 5 years project implementation experience in development or business setting
• Basic understanding of the development sector in South Africa
• Knowledge of the Cultural or Book sector
• Computer proficiency essential ® Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Data management skills
Follow SABDC Project Coordinator 2017 for more.
LITERARY PROGRAMME MANAGER
Join the exciting journey of bringing storytelling, books, the book industry in all its wonderful forms and so much more to South Africa.
About the South African Book Fair (SABF)
In 2017, the South African Book Development Council (SABDC) chartered a new journey for the South African Book Fair (SABF) by firmly declaring the values and principles required for change and transformation in the South African book industry. These were articulated and manifested at the 2017 SABF event. The SABDC remains committed to the ongoing use of the SABF to further develop, with all its stakeholders, a shared understanding of the following:
- The meaning of being South African.
- The meaning of having an African perspective.
- The shape and forms transformation should take.
- The reading culture(s) that need to emerge and flourish.
Post: Literary Programme Manager
An excellent opportunity is available for an experienced Literary Programme Manager for SABF 2018. The successful candidate will assist with leading the very ambitious vision of the SABF through a diverse, dynamic, topical and uniquely African literary programme.
Reporting to the CEO of the SABDC, the Literary Programme Manager will work with the SABDC core staff and the SABF team to ensure all elements of the literary programme are implemented on time and within budget.
The key responsibilities of the role will be to:
- Develop and deliver a programme that is innovative, transformative, diverse and engaging.
- Develop collaborative programming, with engagement from key stakeholders.
- Ensure that established authors, and emerging and new talent, are all represented on the programme.
- Secure the presence of continental and international authors that embody the vision of a repositioned SABF.
- Ensure that the speakers are representative of South Africa and are diverse in their views.
- Develop and implement a fun, light and enchanting children’s programme.
- Develop key literary activities in the lead-up to SABF 2018.
- Work with a programme assistant to manage all the logistics around speakers and their events.
- Liaise with service providers to ensure the smooth, effective delivery of the literary programme (e.g. with events company, ticketing company, PR and marketing).
- Make input into and support the PR and media plan for the SABF.
- Write creative content for the Literary Programme.
- Set up an effective knowledge-management system that includes efficient record management.
- Gather monitoring and evaluation data for statistics and analysis on success indicators for the SABF’s Literary Programme.
- Organise and co-ordinate debriefs for the programme.
The successful candidate will:
- Work within the governance structures of the SABDC, in a neutral, pre-competitive, growth-oriented manner.
- Work in a high-pressure environment, be team oriented, with a flexible approach.
- Be knowledgeable and sensitive to the prevailing challenges and dynamics within the book industry.
Competencies and skills required
High levels of knowledge, competency and skill are required. The following apply:
- Extensive knowledge of South African literature and South Africa’s literary communities.
- Strong management, written and communication skills.
- Willingness to work as part of a small team.
- Ability to initiate as well as collaborate.
- Ability to work within a strategic framework.
- Excellent time-management skills.
- Ability to work independently.
- Industry-wide contacts.
- Ability to work with diverse stakeholders.
- Basic financial record-keeping experience.
- Some event-management experience.
Please submit a detailed CV and a brief programme strategy to the SABDC by 24 November 2017. Interviews will be held around 30 November 2017.
Please contact the SABDC at (021) 914-8626 for further information.
Published in the Sunday Times
Blackwing: The Raven’s Mark
ED McDonald, Gollancz, R310
Multi-volume fantasy series are generally soap operas, but every so often there is an excellent series with a rich, complex story that’s simply too long for a single volume. Blackwing may be one such, set in a world with three moons, where energy is spun from moonlight, magic has replaced science, and The Deep Kings (evil sorcerers) battle against The Nameless (non-evil magicians). Captain Ryhalt Galharrow works for Crowfoot, one of the Nameless; his workplace is the blasted wasteland of The Misery, frontier between The Republic and the Dhojara Empire of the Deep Kings. Galharrow and his cronies win this battle, but the war is still to come. Riveting. – Aubrey Paton
100: A Lovely Spirit Here
Written to commemorate the centenary of Parkview junior and senior schools in Joburg, the book traces their evolution from one small school for whites to two multi-cultural, racially diverse schools open to all. Parkview Government School opened in 1917, a difficult time in both South African and world history. Kros has built a picture of what the school must have been like then, with the discovery of a fragile admissions register unearthed at Parkview Senior. Fast forward 100 years and you have a Model C school known for its academic excellence. This is not just a book about a school but one about the sorrows and triumphs of South Africa. – Bridget Hilton-Barber
Reading with Patrick
Michelle Kuo, Macmillan, R330
In her early 20s Michelle Kuo was determined to teach US history through black literature. Instead, the reality of rural poverty and institutionalised racism slapped her in the face. She persisted, making progress with her students before leaving for law school. A few years later, Patrick Browning, her most promising student, landed in jail for murder. Kuo returned to the Mississippi Delta to tutor him during his incarceration, feeding his love of words. The memoir goes beyond their story, providing insights into US racism. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie
Published in the Sunday Times
Fate of the Nation
Jonathan Ball Publishers, R240
I’m not the first writer to try and anticipate the future of South Africa. But where Fate of the Nation differs is in its dependence on data and modelling using a comprehensive forecasting tool called International Futures.
I began to work on forecasting while I was a Fulbright scholar at the Frederick S Pardee eCenter for International Futures at the University of Denver. I used their forecasting system to model the scenarios in Fate of the Nation.
The book is based on a number of papers I have written since 2013. It includes forecasts relating to economic performance, governance and violence/crime with a time horizon to 2034. There is nothing we can do about the past. But we can change the future.
For the ANC to go into the 2019 elections with Zuma at the helm would be disastrous.
In my high-road scenario, Mandela Magic, a reformist coalition triumphs at the December elective conference, modernising the party and putting South Africa on a path to a prosperous future. Mandela Magic is the optimistic story of a country pursuing a clear economic and developmental vision, with a reinvigorated ANC retaining its majority at least until 2029. This does, however, imply the end of the tripartite alliance and a party that embraces growth-orientated policies. But I am no longer sure the ANC is capable of reform.
My most likely scenario, Bafana Bafana, is named after South Africa’s mediocre national soccer team, a perennial underachiever. In this scenario, a mix of ANC traditionalists and reformers are elected in December (or the divisions result in a compromise candidate), an outcome that might keep the party together, but South Africa will merely muddle along.
The worst case sees the ANC split following the election of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in December. The result will inevitably be a full foreign investment downgrade, a split in the ANC early next year and the party losing Gauteng to a DA-led coalition in 2019.
Published in the Sunday Times
Elif Batuman, Jonathan Cape, R290
It’s difficult to classify The Idiot. Elif Batuman’s novel begins on the narrator’s first day of college. Selin, a tall and clever Turkish-American girl, is going to Harvard. She is going to do all the things expected of a protagonist in a coming-of-age novel: she is going to make some friends, take some classes, and fall in love for the first time with an unsuitable mathematician called Ivan. She is going to Experience Life. Easy.
Not at all easy, though. The Idiot is about experience, but it’s also about the way we describe and understand experiences, and how we summarise the incoherencies and absurdities of everyday life and turn them into a story that makes sense.
Early on in the novel, Selin describes her approach to literature (and to life: Selin’s world is made of words). Selin believes that “every story has a central meaning. You could get that meaning, or you could miss it completely.” How does she understand the meaning of the conversations she has with the unsuitable mathematician, where all they ever do is “mishear each other and say ‘What?’ all the time”, and yet she comes away from these interactions feeling so besotted and preoccupied she can hardly see straight? What is she supposed to do, and what is she meant to think, and how is she meant to behave all the time, and who is going to tell her? Who is going to decode the e-mails between her and the unsuitable mathematician, or explain what his sigh means when she produces a pack of alcohol swabs from her bag? Well?
This is all much funnier and much less tortured than it sounds. Batuman, a staff writer for the New Yorker, has a high sense of the absurd and a gift for observation that borders on the creepy. She see things that other people don’t see, and she makes her readers see them too. – Rosa Lyster, @rosalyster