The idea of Book Dash start barely 10 months ago, but as at the time of this publication, some 22 childrens books have been published and more than R64 000 has been raised via the Thundafund Campaign – which has been extended to Christmas Eve – to ensure that these books get into the hands of the children who most need them.
Talking at the final fundraising bash held earlier this month at The Book Lounge, Arthur Attwell said, “When we started working on this project we believed that South African literacy organisations needed to be able to give more books away that were created locally, in local languages and at much lower prices.” He was joined in a fascinating discussion with editor, Glynis Lloyd, literacy advocate, Kathryn Torres, artist, Alice Toich and publishing professional Nicola Rijsdijk.
Attwell explained that his background in the publishing industry had given him insight into how the expenses of administration, overheads and infrastructure push up the prices of books.
Driving this project with him is Tarryn-Anne Anderson and Michelle Matthews. “We figured there were enough creative types in Cape Town, also the World Design Capital, to produce beautiful children’s books on volunteer time. We gathered volunteers together, first in a very small way,” he said.
The first (unofficial) Book Dash took place at their office with two teams, including the well known children’s author Helen Brain. Within just six hours, two teams had experimented with the model to investigate its viability. This was tremendous fun and offered the team useful insights into how to run a big event. In June, some 40 industry professionals gathered at the City of Cape Town Central Library to share their expertise as writers, illustrators, designers and editors.
“By the end of the day, there were 10 new books in the world that hadn’t been in existence before,” Attwell said. “An initial sponsorship enabled us to print and donate 750 copies of the first three books on Mandela Day to the Jireh early education centre. “It was the moment when we started handing those books to small children, some as young as two years old, the circle of production is closed. You realise just how incredible it is to be part of a movement of people volunteering their time to give books away.”
At that precise moment, his two-year-old son arrived waving a book. He climbed onto dad’s lap, anticipating a story. It is no coincidence that the logo on the back of each book is that of a father reading to a child. Inherent in the vision of the project is the deeply cherished hope that the battered institution of fatherhood might benefit from this inspired image.
Attwell continued: “Aidan’s a big reason that Book Dash exists. Watching him learn to read was the first time I saw the power books have to open children’s minds, to bring the world in close.”
After the success of the Jireh Centre giveaway more sponsorship arrived via Rock Girl. The second major Book Dash went ahead with the vision of creating biographies of inspiring African women, offering strong female role models to young boys and girls.
The tales of the lives of Basetsana Kumalo, Graça Machel, Zanele Situ, Phyllis Spira, Miriam Makeba, Wangari Maathai, Sindiwe Magona, Helen Martins, Dr James Barry and Albertina Sisulu Soon another 10 books telling South African women’s stories in an accessible and age-appropriate way had been created.
“Once we’d created all these beautiful books, we didn’t want them to live as PDFs on our website. They needed to be turned into books and given to children. We had to print a lot of books and the quickest way to print thousands of books was – again – to ask the community. We needed individuals to get behind a project that was close to their hearts,” Attwell said. This brought the project to the Thundafund crowd-funding campaign.
Nicola Rijsdijk spoke about volunteering. “As a professional in publishing, you’re often working alone. You believe in fiction, in the power of words, and you believe in empathy that a reader derives from a text, but often you’re alone. Sitting in a group of people collaborating together, the creative energy is fantastic.” Alice Toich echoed her sensibilities and said, “It didn’t take long for Tarryn to persuade me. When I thought back to my childhood and the books that I’d loved, I realised what a tragedy it would have been to grow up without them. It’s great to imagine you can influence a child’s experience of reading.”
Kathryn Torres is part of closing the circle of creation via The Shine Centre. “We’re going to ensure that even the youngest of children are going to own their own book,” she said. “It’s relatively easy to get hold of second-hand books, but for a child to hold a brand new book in their hands is much harder.” She said it was tremendously important that children had books in their home, that reading wasn’t merely something one did at school.
Glynis Lloyd said Book Dash made it easy to do service. “It’s a defined amount of time, 12 hours, and the results are fantastic. You feel like you’re producing a book. It’s challenging professionally, because it’s a very different way of looking at and exploring book production. It raises a lot of questions about how we make books in the industry.” This is a completely different kind of process possessing both advantages and disadvantages.
She highlighted how all aspects of a children’s book are important, the written text, the visuals and design. She said, “Those three things need to work together. In conventional publishing, because of the chronological way in which books are done, we often don’t get the opportunity to really consider how those things work together. Book Dash forces you to consider how the text works with the illustrations and with the design in a positive way.”
Attwell suggested that it was hardest on the day for the illustrator, who had to produce at least 12 images in 12 hours. Each book has 12 double page spreads to tell the story. Toich spoke about the “crazy” time constraints and how they shaped her sensibilities. “A major thing to remember during the 12 hours was to avoid getting stuck on minor details. Working in watercolour, I wanted it perfect. There are these whimsical mistakes that creep in. I try to remind myself that ‘progression is better than perfection’. Let’s get to the next point. Let’s keep this rolling. That’s the energy I tried to keep going.”
Rijsdijk recalled working with Karen Lilje on Kom Terug, Kat! who had a hard time finishing the illustrations on the day. “The text could only say so much but little in-jokes arrived via the illustrations. The fact that the cat had muddied the laundry was not what I had written,” she said. “I had been able to work ahead of time, writing the story, but it was such a privilege to work with the illustrator in the moment.”
Attwell said a real anxiety had been whether the process could truly produce books of quality. He put Torres on the spot and praised the standardised size of the books that would help young readers identify them as Book Dash books. She loved the visual humour of Kom Terug, Kat! and the precise amount of text on the page, suitable for a small child. She predicted that after the parents read these books to their children, they become books that children can read to themselves and then to one another. “Often children’s first readers are dry and droll. In all these books, the local flavour, the personalities – Miriam Makeba – the gentle language is balanced with humorous illustrations,” she said.
Lloyd articulated the challenges of the second Book Dash, where she guided teams writing the biographies, saying, “The writers needed to do their research, to be sure about their facts. The responsibility as editors was to make that due respect was paid to whomever was being written about.” Rijsdijk added her considerations: “Most of the volunteers have worked in this kind of intellectual medium where you have had to confront the ethics of putting something down on paper that will affect people, and change their perspectives. This influenced the quality of the work that was produced.”
Sloman expressed his excitement on how Book Dash aims to get children’s books into children’s hands, saying, “This project is incredibly important. Hearing participants talk about their experience and how fantastic that has been is testament to the brilliance of the project, as well as the people involved. The harder part is to see this thing grow ridiculously. I want to be sitting here in six or nine months times, hearing how you have distributed 50 000 books.”
Sloman asked, “How is that possible? You have many of the elements nailed down, in terms of the creative process and cutting out superfluous costs in the production line. Is this the next step trying to get big corporate involvement? Or will that screw it up? How do we make this explode?”
Attwell lies awake at night, pondering these questions. He recently registered Book Dash as a non-profit organisation which is already unlocking possibilities for fundraising. “We’re now working with Jill Ritchie of Papillon Press, who doesn’t usually take on small new organisations,” he said.
“Folk tend to step it up a notch when they’re volunteering,” he said. “Watching people work, there was a kind of determination in everyone’s eyes to get this right.”
For those who care about this country, this is something wonderful to celebrate. There are a whole lot of things going right here. Any and all support in the last few days of the Thundafund campaign will surely make a difference.
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Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) tweeted live from the event using the hashtag #livebooks:
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Books by authors involved in Book Dash include:
Max du Preez has described Michael Schmidt’s Drinking with Ghosts: The Aftermath of Apartheid’s Dirty War by Michael Schmidt as “the best reporter’s notebook I’ve ever read”. At the launch of the book at il Giardino Decor in Milpark recently, Rian Malan said: “I hate to agree with Max du Preez about anything, but he’s quite right.”
Schmidt has 19 years’ journalistic experience, including at The Mercury and Sunday Times. He is now the director of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism. Malan said Drinking with Ghosts is not your obvious journalistic memoir but contains snapshots and vignettes of half a lifetime of journalism. From the book one can get a clear picture of who Schmidt was when he started out, and while many journalist start of as idealists and then lose their enthusiasm, this has not been Schmidt’s case. “His lungs keep hungering … he’s still in pursuit of the ultimate South African story,” Malan said.
The author thanked Malan for the “embarrassing yet erudite introduction”. Schmidt said that writing Drinking with Ghosts was a purgative exercise for him. “As a journalist you realise you are incredibly privileged to see how a society operates,” he said. “To be there and to be the first draft of history – but that history is a burden on the people of my generation.”
Schmidt has been outspoken about the fact that South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy has not been as peaceful as we would like to tell ourselves. In Drinking with Ghosts Schmidt goes behind the scenes to unearth the terrorist actions of the previous regime – from arms deals and massacres to mass poisoning and nuclear weapons. Schmidt’s generation has been haunted by the ghosts of apartheid. He said the Truth and Reconciliation Commission‘s hearings, flawed as they were, gave voice to people trying to exhume their country’s past.
Malan asked Schmidt to share an anecdote from the book, and the author told a tale of when he was a journalist for the Sunday Times and he and Mzilikazi wa Afrika pretended to be Catholic priests in order to enter a hospital. Schmidt and Wa Afrika were looking for victims of Wouter Basson, the cardiologist also known as “Doctor Death”, who was the head of Project Coast, a secret chemical and biological warfare project. Schmidt was wearing a T-shirt and a crucifix around his neck, which he flipped out and proclaimed to the orderly: “We’re from the church, we’ve come to spread some cheer!”
Malan asked: “Is journalism what it used to be?” Schmidt said that the media live inside a bubble and project outwards from this bubble. He said he considers himself a field journalist and can think of nothing better than to be away from the news desk, travelling and writing stories on the ground. “The job of the journalist is truth seeking,” he said, adding that the facts of our past have been obscured. “This notion of a peaceful transition is bullshit. Get the facts straight and all of those different truths will emerge.”
“I’ve seen two things happen with my generation,” Schmidt said. The first is a flood of memoirs like a dam that has broken, which he called a “psychological watershed”. The second is a surge in suicides over what happened during apartheid.
The question and answer session was dominated by discussions of politics, identity and representation in the media, activism, the decline of grassroots journalism and how ideology shapes politics and our idea of democracy. At the end of the formal session the audience moved outside for more wine and debate under a drizzling Joburg sky.
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Annetjie van Wynegaard (@Annetjievw) live tweeted from the event using the hashtag #livebooks:
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In rhythmic prose and with striking lyricism, Ntshanga whisks us into the world of Lindanathi and his two accomplices – Ruan and Cecelia – where drugs, legal and illegal, subsume the three characters’ lives. The three friends maintain their drug habit by selling Lindanathi’s ARVs to the – presumably – startling number of people who are infected with HIV with no foreseeable rehabilitation.
The latest issue of The New Yorker features new fiction by Nuruddin Farah, and an interview with the author about his life and work.
The story, entitled “The Start of the Affair”, is about a retired professor of politics at Wits who owns a North African restaurant in Pretoria. Farah says the idea for the story came to him soon after he had finished his most recent novel, Hiding in Plain Sight, “More or less out of the blue, you might say.”
Farah, along with Njabulo Ndebele, was recently presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the South African Literary Awards. He was born in Somalia, but now divides his time between South Africa and New York, where he teaches at Bard College. He still travels frequently to Somalia, but tells The New Yorker it has been a “deliberate decision” to set his novels outside of his home country, both for political and stylistic reasons. However, although he agrees that he now feels at home in New York, he says he is unlikely to set his work there.
Read the interview:
It is one thing to feel at home in a place; it is altogether another matter to set one’s fiction there. After all, there are stages of feeling at home in a place. Anyhow, I doubt I will set my fiction in upstate New York in the near future. My attitude towards setting my fiction anywhere in Africa is entirely different, because it is as if the continent is mine to write about.
Listen to Farah reading the story:
Read the story on The New Yorker website:
“The Start of the Affair”
At a fire sale a few years ago, James MacPherson, a retired professor of politics at Wits, Johannesburg, known for his seminal work on the Frontline States’ war of attrition against the apartheid regime, bought a restaurant in Pretoria specializing in North African cuisine. His knowledge of Africa was extensive, a result of having lived in various places around the continent for a number of years, most notably Zambia and Tanzania, and of having travelled frequently to the neighboring states.
Now he spends much of his time at a corner table in the restaurant, surrounded by the papers on which he has scribbled notes for a book he intends to lick into shape. He seldom interferes with the business side of the restaurant, allowing the manager, Yacine, a Moroccan, full authority to deal with most problems. And, on the rare occasion that Yacine seeks his input, James defers to him, saying, “It is your call.”
Donna Bryson has written a thought-provoking book. Given our obsession with race (and that’s what this book is all about), it should be mentioned that Bryson is an African American journalist who has lived in South Africa – in the late 1990s and again from 2008 – 2012. She brings her own experiences to the table as well as many interviews with students, academics and administrators at the University of the Free State.
Dis moeilik om die boek neer te sit – dit lees soos ’n spanningsroman en jy kan nie wag om te verneem of Ester haar huis gaan behou en of sy uitgesmyt gaan word nie.
En gaan die korrupte amptenaar en sy seun wegkom, selfs met moord?
In Zackie Mostert en die meisie-moles maak Zackie kennis met die onbekende wêreld van die teenoorgestelde geslag. Vrouens is vreemd, moeilik, vol draadwerk en moet liefs nie vir die gek gehou word nie. Maar dan ontdek hy dat hulle gemeenskaplike belangstellings het en skielik is meisies nie so heeltemal JIG as wat hy gedink het nie.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation has revealed that it plans to publish a sequel to Long Walk to Freedom in 2015.
In his introduction to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Nelson Mandela Memorial Lecture on Monday, Njabulo Ndebele said Mandela had been working on the project, provisionally entitled “The Presidential Years”, from 1998 till 2002, when he “ran out of steam”.
Madiba passed away last December aged 95.
The foundation has released the first two hand-written pages of the book. On the first, Mandela writes a list of the people who were to be given the first 10 chapters of the manuscript: John Samuels, Cyril Ramaphosa, Mac Maharaj, Joel Netshitenzhe and Jacob Zuma.
On the second page, dated 16 October, 1998, Mandela writes:
“Men and women, all over the world, right down the centuries, come and go.
“Some leave nothing behind, not even their names. It would seem that they never existed at all.
“Others do leave something behind: the haunting memory of the evil deeds they committed against other people; gross violations of human rights, not only limited to oppression and exploitation of ethnic minorities or vice versa, but who even resort to genocide in order to maintain their horrendous policies.
“The moral decay of some communities in various parts of the world reveals itself, among others, in the use of the name of God to justify the maintenance of actions which are condemned by the entire world as crimes against humanity.
“Among the multitude of those who have throughout history committed themselves to the struggle for justice in all it implications, are some who have commanded [...]”
From Ndebele’s speech:
[T]onight is significant for two other reasons. Firstly, it coincides with the 20th anniversary of the publication of that seminal work Long Walk to Freedom. Not only has it become one of the world’s all-time bestsellers, it is also arguably our post-apartheid South Africa’s founding narrative. Later this week the Foundation will be placing online a feature about the writing of Long Walk, which began in 1976, and the text’s long journey to publication in 1994.
It is not widely known that Madiba intended to write a sequel to Long Walk. Indeed, in 1998 he started the manuscript of a work he provisionally titled “The Presidential Years” and kept working on it sporadically until 2002, when he finally ran out of steam. Here in the Centre of Memory’s archive we have versions of ten chapters from that work.
I want to announce tonight that the Foundation has embarked on a project to see the completion of The Presidential Years as an authorised account of Madiba’s presidency. The work on the manuscript is painstaking and calls for the most rigorous collaborative work. We aim to publish the work in 2015.
Long Walk to Freedom, which was originally published in 1994, covers Mandela’s early life and 27 years in prison, It sold millions of copies and was turned into a Hollywood film starring Idris Elba last year.
I’m not usually a big fan of the fantasy genre, but I loved this adventure. I found the balance between the real world and the fantasy world quite intiguing and was never quite sure whether the world of Mr Devilskein existed only in Erin’s unstable psyche or whether it was part of reality
Published in the Sunday Times
My father must be turning in his grave, I thought, when I saw the first copy of Weeping Waters, the English translation of my crime debut, Plaasmoord.
Right there, where he’d been making old bones for the past 42 years, in a dusty graveyard in the far Northern Cape.
He was a typical Boere-oom. Stern, strict, conservative, an NG Church elder attending Sunday services in a long black tailcoat. Weekdays he worked for a farmers’ co-op in the rural towns of Griqualand West: Postmasburg, Olifantshoek and Daniëlskuil. And, come Saturday evenings, he was king of the braai in our stony backyard. He’d be on his own by the fire, quietly dancing to the haunted howls of the “donkey lung” concertinas of the Boere musiek they played over the radio.
He was a hard man, my father, born dirt poor on a farm in the Hantam Karoo in the late 1920s and pulled from school at an early age to go to work.
He chased away my first teenage sweetheart because he was English speaking, sternly reminding me of the concentration camps of the Anglo-Boer War. I almost died of shame. Felt like a Boere-Juliet, tragically wrenched from the clumsy embrace of my Romeo, the youngest son of Mister Shone of Shone’s Garage in Postmasburg.
The one thing my father was soft on, however, was the colourful culture of the Griqua people among whom we lived. He loved their artistic way with words, their stories and fables and he could mimic the theatrical way in which they told them.
By the time I started writing crime, I naturally returned to this landscape for some of the characters. And to the pure poetry of the language with its expressive and often wickedly ticklish sound.
But when it came to translation, Griqua-Afrikaans turned out to be quite a challenge. Thank goodness there were two excellent translators – Maya Fowler and Isobel Dixon – to hand. Simple, everyday words were often difficult to translate – like “hoeka”, meaning either “a long-long time ago” or “already” or anything ranging from “of course, yes” to “I totally disagree”.
You have to know your way around diminutives too, sometimes used in triplicate – “klein ou hysietjie” meaning “tiny-small little old house”. And then you get your piled up verbs, like “hy’t geloop staat en droogmaak”. Literally meaning “he went to stand and make dry”, in other words “he bungled”.
In the end Maya and Isobel managed to tell the story in an authentic and uniquely South African English voice. Heaven knows what the French and the Germans and Dutch, to whom it had been sold, will make of it.
And I know for sure that the shifting of my father’s bones isn’t a sign of displeasure. Oh, no. He’s simply turning to get comfortable, in order to start reading.
Follow the author on Twitter @karinbrynard