Via READ Educational Trust
In a country of great contrasts and diversity, in which the future seems filled with uncertainty, our focus should be on empowering our young people at all costs.
What better way to do so, than with helping them discover facts about their world, and most importantly, about themselves, through that one little gift we should be passing on from generation to generation; from child to child: the gift of reading.
For nearly 40 years, READ Educational Trust has focused on promoting literacy across South Africa.
This is achieved through various programmes, with Readathon being READ’s pride and joy. In conjunction with National Literacy Month, held in September, READ is excited to unveil the fifth Readathon Red Reading Box; an invaluable tool to encourage reading amongst a broad cross-section of learners.
Each Red Reading Box has had a fascinating theme, and this year’s is no different. The ‘Finding Facts’ box is visually appealing with its ‘Superpower’ look and feel. It is designed to help children discover their special skills through a fact-finding mission which begins and ends with reading. Children are taught that reading is their superpower … it’s the key to unlocking facts about the world around them, about what interests them, and about what they are good at!
In the 2018 Red Reading Box you’ll find a ‘Finding Facts Magazine’ – a place to find out about our ancestors, our family, our country and our culture. The ‘Superhero Journal’ is a journey of self-discovery, and ‘Everyday Heroes’ is a book filled with stories about children similar to the readers. The ‘Finding Facts Cut-Outs’ book contain instructions for all the games in the box, as well as fun cut-outs. Games include a ‘Flags of Africa’ game, ‘Word Power Playing Cards’ and more.
A young reader taking a peek inside his Red Reading Box.
While we’re on the topic of facts, a heartening statistic is that 12 000 children have been reached through Red Reading Boxes over the past four years. The Pizza Hut Initiative in support of the Africa Literacy Project, distributed an additional 2 500 this past year, and READ aims to distribute 3 000 new Red Reading Boxes this year.
The launch of the Box at Boepakitso Primary School in Soweto!
An additional Literacy Month activity saw the new Box being launched at Boepakitso Primary School in Soweto, on Friday 7 September. Children were delighted to explore the boxes and their contents, and were even more thrilled with the donation of several Red Reading Boxes for their school.
Budding bibliophiles exploring the new 2018 Red Reading Box.
Educators and parents are urged to purchase a Readathon Red Reading Box for only R255. Every cent of the profits is ploughed back into promoting literacy in disadvantaged communities across South Africa.
To find out more, visit www.read.org.za or purchase your Readathon Red Reading Box directly from the READ Online Shop for R255 – https://thereadshop.co.za/. Join the conversations on:
The six authors shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize have been announced!
First awarded in 1969, the Man Booker Prize is recognised as the leading prize for high quality literary fiction written in English.
This year’s list features four female writers, among which the 27-year-old British debut novelist Daisy Johnson – the youngest writer ever to be in reckoning for this £50,000 literary award.
The six authors, of which three are from the UK, two American and one Canadian, vying for this esteemed award are as follows:
Anna Burns (UK) for Milkman
Esi Edugyan (Canada) for Washington Black
Daisy Johnson (UK) for Everything Under
Rachel Kushner (US) for The Mars Room
Richard Powers (US) for The Overstory
Robin Robertson (UK) for The Long Take
The winner will be announced on Tuesday 16th October in London’s Guildhall.
Ambassadeur is an annual literary lifestyle journal featuring art, literature and travel. The third edition of this journal will be revealed at the launch event on Friday, 28 September 2018, at Just Like Papa, 73 Harrington Street, Cape Town.
The latest edition will feature: the photography of Jaco S. Venter, an in-depth interview with vanguard artist J.E. Foster, a discussion on the relationship between art and cuisine with renowned chef, Johnny Hamman, a near-death experience in the Congo, a look inside Bulgaria’s Soviet monuments and much more.
Ambassadeur have also once again collaborated with the Italian luxury brand Gucci, to bring to life another revered South African novel through a unique photo-essay where fashion meets literature. This time around the novel is André P. Brink’s literary tour de force, The Ambassador, first published in 1963.
“You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.”
Liberty Two Degrees (“L2D”) has partnered with international award-winning South African poet and social philosopher Athol Williams and Read to Rise, a non-profit organisation that promotes youth literacy in under-resourced communities, to boost literacy and creativity this National Literacy Month.
In its commitment to making a positive contribution to the communities it operates in, L2D together with Read to Rise, will roll the initiative out across its portfolio. The initial phase will commence at L2D’s superregional assets, Sandton City and Eastgate Shopping Centre, with Liberty Midlands Mall and Liberty Promenade joining the initiative in the first quarter of 2019.
While children in the foundation phase should be reading an average of 40 books a year, children in South Africa’s poorest and most under-resourced communities are reading as little as one book a year; which limits the development of their minds and imaginations.
South Africa was ranked last out of 50 countries in the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy (PIRLS) study, which tested the reading comprehension of learners in their fourth year of primary schooling. 78% of South African pupils at this level could not read for meaning, a further reflection of how South Africa is lagging behind other developing countries, when it comes to literacy.
L2D endeavours to provide more than 6000 young children an opportunity to own books, as a medium to nurture their love of reading, and ultimately improve their performance at school.
A challenge has been posed to schools to share the joy of reading with someone else.
For every reading book that learners and/or schools purchase, the same book will be donated to an underprivileged child. Sharing the importance of reading; learners, educators and parents can visit www.readtorise.co.za to order books, which will be delivered directly to the school. Schools that have bought the most books will win their share of R20 000 in gift vouchers from Sandton City and Eastgate Mall. (Terms and conditions apply).
In addition, L2D, through Sandton City and Eastgate Mall is treating 200 children on an excursion to both malls on the 26th and 27th September 2018, where they will be afforded a sensory experience in celebration of the book. A trio of South African actors will adapt and perform this piece in an entertaining and engaging way, involving the children as audience members to understand the core messaging of Oaky The Happy Tree, a feel good children’s book. Through role play, the children will be whisked away to an imaginary land, recreated by Sibusiso Mdondo, Schelaine Bennett and Taryn Louch.
Read to Rise excites children about reading and gives new books to learners in under-resourced communities. To date, the organisation has visited over 2 400 classes to conduct their programme and given out over 120 000 new books; and together with L2D, by turning the book into an interactive theatre piece, the aim is to ignite the children’s passion for books.
Nal’ibali – the national reading-for-enjoyment campaign – kicked off National Literacy Month (celebrated in September) – with the launch of their fourth Story Bosso competition at Uncle Tom’s Community Centre in Soweto on August 31st.
In commemoration of the 30 days dedicated to encouraging a love of reading, storytelling and writing, this annual multilingual storytelling competition invites all South Africans (storytelling has no age restriction!) to enter a story of their own, with the winning entry being published as a book, and the adroit author receiving a cash prize of R 5000.
The theme of this year’s competition is none other than ‘South African hero’s’ – be it your mother or Winnie Mandela, your father or Fatima Meer, a best buddy or Bonang – Nal’ibali is interested in reading your story on that one singular South African whom you regard as a true Hero. (Yes, with a capital ‘H’ sommer!)
Schoolchildren, Nal’ibali volunteers, FUNda Leaders, Miss Soweto, and none other than UN Goodwill Ambassador and South African icon, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, were present at this joyous occasion which included improv games, singalongs, an intro to the Sustainable Development Goals (à la Ma Yvonne), and an opportunity for the children to play Nal’ibali’s inventive Hero’s board game.
Take a look at the day in pictures, courtesy of Daniel Born:
The gees was tangible during an improv storytelling game facilitated by a FUNda leader!
A schoolgirl having a jol as her peers cheer her on amid the improv game.
Singalong time! (All together now: “We are the reading club! / The Nal’ibali Reading Club!”)
A demonstration of Nal’ibali’s very own Hero’s board game.
And enter Yvonne Chaka Chaka!
Suffering from a bout of post-FOMO? You need only take one look at these delighted faces to imagine yourself in the crowd as Yvonne performed her iconic ‘Umqombothi’.
Yvonne asked two volunteers (“one boy and one girl, please”) to join her in reading the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals out loud. (And after reiterating the importance of number four – ‘help children in your community to read’ – forthrightly stated that one shouldn’t “just dala WhatsApp.” #truth!)
The kids were invited to try their hand at Nal’ibali’s Hero’s board game to get those creative storytelling juices a-flowing.
High five to heroes and storytelling!
Via Exclusive Books
Exclusive Books, The Market Theatre Foundation and The Coloured Cube have been announced as BASA Award winners for the Sponsorship in Kind Award for The Exclusive Books Pan African Reading Room and Pan African Reading Lounge at the Windybrow Arts Centre.
“We are delighted by this recognition of our efforts in the Pan-African literature space,” said Ben Williams, GM: Marketing for Exclusive Books. “This partnership has firmly established the Windybrow Arts Centre as a hub for the advancement of Pan-African literature and has helped bring African stories and literature to life for a wider audience.”
The 21st Annual BASA Awards, held on 16 September at the Victoria Yards, recognise and honour businesses that invest in an inclusive economy through art. Exclusive Books was one of 11 winners announced at the ceremony.
The Windybrow Arts Centre opened the doors on the Exclusive Books Pan-African Reading Lounge for adults and The Exclusive Books Pan-African Reading Room for children on Nelson Mandela Day, 18 July 2017. Over 2000 Pan-African titles are housed in the 121-year old Windybrow Heritage House, courtesy of Exclusive Books.
The Pan-African Reading Initiative, the first of its sort in the world, has also contributed enormously to the success of the advancement of Pan-African literature, Williams adds.
Exclusive Books will continue to add to this initiative, consisting of a “spectacular list of Pan-African titles from around the world”, says Williams. This includes bringing books back into print, supplying Windybrow with 400 Pan-African titles, and an “entire hemisphere” of Pan-African titles which will be added to the soon-to-be-reopened Sandton branch of Exclusive Books, Williams concludes.
The reading rooms have encouraged a reading culture among the more than 120 daily visitors to the Windybrow Arts Centre – most of whom are youths. In addition, the Centre launched a monthly book club programme for children and a series of forums for adults focusing on African authors and on the titles available in the Reading Lounge.
“We warmly congratulate each winner and thank all the finalists for their commitment to supporting and working with creative people,” said BASA Chairman André le Roux.
Heidi Brauer, Chief Marketing and Customer Officer at Hollard, a BASA sponsor, said, “In beautiful harmony with Hollard’s special partnership model, the BASA Awards really do deliver win-win-win.
“Artists benefit through having their work recognised and celebrated; corporates grow their brand and gain exposure to the creative arts; and broader society is enriched through the conversation, challenge and stimulation provided by art that may not otherwise have seen the light of day. Such partnerships enable a better future for us all.”
Nal’ibali Column 25: Term 3, 2018
By Carla Lever
Poet Primrose Mrwebi. Picture supplied.
You’ve written for magazines like Fair Lady, taught young up-and-coming writers and even performed your poetry at the opening of Parliament in 2004. Do you have a favourite experience of where your storytelling has taken you?
Every experience matters! Being a magazine journalist taught me a lot about looking at the world objectively, performing in Parliament meant that the whole country was listening to my voice and my art, and teaching young people gives me a spiritual feeling of finally coming to meet the purpose of my talent.
Now it seems you’re creating opportunities for others to find their talent. You held your own self-funded poetry competition – PrimPoetry – in Khayelitsha earlier this year. What was that like?
The competition left me with sleepless nights for days. I am so inspired by the talent that exists in our communities – the language skills of those poets are exceptional.
Why do you think it’s important for people to give back to their communities when they’re able?
It’s one of the ways that we can bring positive change in our world. It also eliminates the culture of complaining too much and doing nothing! One of my mantras is “If you want something and it’s not there, start it yourself and invite like-minded people to join you.”
PrimPoetry allowed people to enter for free and to perform poems in Afrikaans, isiXhosa or English. Why do you think we need more opportunities that are open to all, regardless of income or home language?
For so many centuries a lot of people have felt excluded due to their race or class. That’s not fair. If we truly want to live in a world without exclusion, we need to begin on a journey that leads us there.
Are there any more plans for competitions that people can enter?
We had one at the Rainbow Art Organisation in Delft on Saturday the 8 of September and we will be having others in the very near future. We always do a call out on our PrimPoetry Facebook Page, so keep an eye on that if you’re interested in entering.
Can you tell us a little about the children’s book you’re working on for isiXhosa and English learners?
I got inspired to write for children after I had my son. I suddenly wanted to speak in a language that children can understand. This is a collection of stories that I think will make an impact on children today. It’s also important that I write in my mother tongue because there is clearly not many books that are written in our home languages.
What kinds of resources and opportunities do our young people need to make sure they grow up loving books and confident about telling their own stories?
Children need to have libraries close to their homes. They need their parents or siblings to take the time to read to them, to be taken to storytelling clubs, book clubs or recreational centres. People like us need to bring the skills we have to our communities so that we can create that change.
Do you have any advice or encouragement for people interested in starting a poetry or storytelling event in their own communities?
Identify people that have interest in poetry and start a group. Share ideas and ask for advice from organisations, or people that work with poetry and literature. People are wonderful resources!
Nal’ibali’s annual multilingual storytelling competition is running this September for Literacy and Heritage Month. Aimed at reviving a love of storytelling amongst adults and children, and connecting South Africans to their rich and vibrant heritage, the theme of this year’s contest is South African Heroes. Enter by telling the story of your favourite SA icon, your personal hero, or a fictional hero in your language, and you could be crowned this year’s Story Bosso! To find out more about Nal’ibali and Story Bosso, visit www.nalibali.org, www.nalibali.mobi, or find them on Facebook and Twitter.
Published in the Sunday Times
Sharlene Teo, Picador, R285
In 2003, Szu Min lives shyly in the shadow of her beautiful mother Amisa Tan, a former B-movie actress and her Aunt Yunxi, who works as a medium. In 2020 Szu’s childhood friend Circe is put in charge of the media blitz for the remake of the 1970s horror film Ponti, in which Amisa plays the leading role. This drives Circe to reconsider her friendship with Szu Min and its bitter end. Split between several decades as well as Circe, Szu and Amisa’s perspectives, Ponti is a quietly tragic and slow-moving read exploring grief, abandonment and broken loyalties in Singapore. Though Teo’s debut is atmospheric in language and setting, it fails to satisfy in its resolution. Efemia Chela @efemiachela
A Double Life *****
Flynn Berry, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, R285
Lord Lucan’s disappearance in 1974 still fascinates true-crime aficionados. Berry’s story is told from the point of view of Claire, a London GP who has lived under a new name since her father vanished. Names and dates have been changed in this fictionalised tale but the crime in the novel mirrors the real case: in his absence a court found Lord Lucan guilty of murdering a servant. In this version eight-year-old Claire finds the body of her au pair and still bears the emotional scars. Berry flips between past and present as Claire pursues the only course of action that will free her from her father’s shadow. Sue de Groot @deGrootS1
The Chalk Man ****
CJ Tudor, Penguin, R175
If Stephen King and the Duffer Brothers (Stranger Things) had a British love child, her name would be CJ Tudor. The Chalk Man is spine-tingling and deliciously macabre; Tudor spins a tight yarn with remarkable constraint. A gang of pre-teens ride their bikes around town causing mischief when one day they stumble upon a body in the woods. There’s a strange new teacher who coaxes them into playing with chalk, and every time someone dies, creepy chalk men appear near the murder scene. Nothing is as it seems, and everyone seems to be nursing a secret. Right up to the very last page, The Chalk Man thrills and simultaneously terrifies. Anna Stroud @annawriter_
Published in the Sunday Times
By Pearl Boshomane Tsotetsi
The acclaimed author of Intruders, Mohale Mashigo. Picture: Sydelle Willow Smith.
Mohale Mashigo, Picador Africa, R180
“A collection of stories about nobodies who discover that they matter.” That is how Mohale Mashigo describes her latest, Intruders. And while the short stories are set in the future (yet deeply rooted in the past) SA, and they feature familiar characters, the author requests that we don’t label the tales in Intruders “Afrofuturism”.
She says Afrofuturism (the genre du jour in literature, film and – as Nando’s points out in their latest cheeky ad – marketing) doesn’t “feel like the right coat to dress my stories in”.
And once you’ve devoured all 12 stories in the book, you understand why Mashigo feels the need for that disclaimer in the first place. To refer to Intruders as Afrofuturism is lazy and inaccurate. The stories aren’t as performative as that label would suggest and while they have a strong sense of familiarity, it’s not in a “seen this all before”, unoriginal way.
The familiarity in Intruders is both comforting and disconcerting. The people in the stories could be our friends, our families, our neighbours – they could be us. The settings are familiar to anyone who knows any corner of this land. That makes it harder to dismiss these tales of werewolves, mutants, monster slayers, shapeshifters and magicians as just tales of fiction.
It’s difficult to do so when you get sucked into them quickly because you recognise the world they are set in. Some of the stories themselves are inspired by or make reference to tales that many of us grew up on.
About this, Mashigo says: “Some of our stories are so magical, scary and downright beautiful. I wanted to show people that there is value in what we have … Our things are nice too!”
For instance, “BnB in Bloem”, a story about two sisters who hunt monsters, brings up the legendary story of Vera the Ghost.
There are a few different versions of Vera’s story, but the basic premise is that she is a beautiful hitchhiker ghost picked up by men who would sleep with her and then later wake up at her gravesite. In “BnB” Vera isn’t just one apparition, but many, who are terrorising men. All of the Veras have died at the hands of the opposite sex, and are out for revenge.
“We would never have to deal with a Vera if men would stop killing women,” one of the sisters says. Imagine if every woman in SA murdered by a man returned for retribution.
That’s part of the beauty of Intruders: it is also a commentary on gender, violence, race, addiction and class in SA done masterfully and in such unexpected ways that stumbling across bits of commentary in the stories feels like discovering sweets you didn’t know were hidden in your pockets.
Take “Once Upon a Town”, for instance. It’s the tale of two brilliant children who were both the hope of their families and communities, who end up hiding in the shadows because of afflictions they have no control over.
Streetlights reflect off the Orange River in Upington. Picture: 123rf.com/Demerzel21
While it’s a charming love story, “Once Upon” is also incredibly sad because – while it deals with the supernatural – it’s such a familiar South African tale.
The tale of brilliance that flourished in the sun for a while before being snuffed out by circumstances beyond the control of the gifted; the gifted kids who grew up in a place that wasn’t made to nourish their kind; the gifted kids who were the hopes of their families and communities for a better life; the gifted kids who, in the end, couldn’t escape the world they lived in.
One of the best stories in the Book is “Little Vultures”, a sci-fi fantasy set in a Jurassic Park-esque world, minus the horror (well, at least in the beginning). Basically, a sci-fi Garden of Eden. A widowed scientist, who is a pariah because of an experiment, lives on a farm with the animals she has created or resurrected. She is joined by two women, both coping with their own pain in different ways (one through cosmetic surgery, the other through isolation).
While the story is a literary Venn diagram about science and magic, at its heart is a stunning tale of loss, grief, loneliness and the value of life. The story ends on a suspenseful note, which is both fantastic and frustrating. Frustrating because you want to know more.
And that is the only disappointment with the tales in Intruders: how incomplete they feel. It’s as though Mashigo sucks the reader into her supernatural world as quickly as she spits you out from it. A lot of the stories leave you feeling like an addict who needs a fix. More please. @Pearloysias
Published in the Sunday Times
Kate Atkinson, Doubleday, R290
Kate Atkinson was immersed in the National Archives in London when a set of documents caught her eye. Part of one of MI5’s periodic releases of historical records, they concerned a WW2 agent with the code name “Jack King” who infiltrated fascist circles. He posed as a Gestapo agent and would meet members of the so-called “fifth column” in an innocent-looking flat with hidden recording devices. Next door a junior agent transcribed the meetings.
On the telephone from the UK Atkinson describes how it sparked the idea for the new novel.
“I have to have a title before I can even think about a book, so as soon as I’d read those transcriptions I had it. And then I looked up the OED definition and found it is also a word for broadcasting so it fitted perfectly, because I wanted to write about the BBC in wartime.”
Atkinson’s last two books Life After Life and A God in Ruins – both winners of the Costa Prize – were set in World War 2 and she’s nowhere near done with it yet.
Transcription is a story about ambiguity and duplicity, about idealism, loyalty and the lifelong price of those.
Juliet Armstrong is just 18 and an orphan when she is recruited by the secret service in 1940.
Initially she is the typist who transcribes the interviews taking place in the flat next door. She’s a sharp young woman with a delightfully derisive interior voice: for example, her boss is describing the fifth columnists. “Our own home-grown evil … instead of rooting them out the plan is to let them flourish – but within a walled garden from which they cannot escape and spread their evil seed.” A girl could die of old age following a metaphor like this, Juliet thought. “Very nicely put, Sir,” she said.
“I never design a character,” says Atkinson. “I write very, very slowly at the beginning of a novel and that helps to get into that interior voice. I’m inside their heads. But I don’t construct them – they simply exist. I don’t understand the neurological process, the imaginative process that helps that to occur.”
Juliet is not particularly ambitious, she is more interested in romance and going to dance halls, but her boss promotes her to undercover agent. At first she thinks it is a bit of a lark but it quickly becomes deadly serious and she learns, appallingly, what the consequences of espionage can be. As the book moves forward to 1950 and even further to 1981, we wonder whether she can ever be free of the war.
“I’m really interested in the postwar period,” Atkinson explains, “the 10 years after the war. It was so dingy and hard, there was no sense of euphoria, no money, no food still.”
Romanian actress Nadia Gray in the BBC studios, London, England, December 14 1950. Picture: Underwood Archives/Getty Images.
Juliet goes to work for the BBC where she produces nostalgic history programmes for children. It’s a safe and uneventful life, until the intelligence services reel her in for one last job.
Atkinson is bemused by the prevailing Brexit jingoism, the idea of a brave Great Britain standing proudly alone in the war.
“I think the war makes us very nostalgic, and let’s not forget that our view of the war is filtered through the propaganda of the time: the Blitz spirit and so on. When in fact crime rates rocketed, illegitimacy rocketed, people complained a lot. Everything was destroyed. Also, we fought for Europe and now we want to let it go, that to me is slightly mystifying.”
Is there more to be revealed from archives?
“Yes, I think there is. The MI5 and secret service archives are sealed – it’s not like the public records where everything gets released after 40 or 50 years – they only release to the public what they choose to, so I imagine there’s a great deal more. But in a way it was an untried service in the war. They were still learning. When you think about what it must be like now, just the technological aspect of what they must be doing, we really don’t know.
“But we don’t know what we don’t know, do we?” @michelemagwood