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Four SA Queens Take up the Cause of Literacy at the Big Read

Gcina Mhlope Golden Windows Haai Zoleka!The Singing ChameleonBy all accounts, last month’s Big Read literacy event was a beautiful sight to behold at the Sandton Library and everyone – from the youngest eager-to-read little person to the oldest grandparent – was amazed by the four beautiful queens who came to fight in the war against illiteracy in South Africa. (The Big Read is part of the Global Campaign for Education.)

Journalist Sarah Huddleston describes the event, which involved a “real queen, Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan; one of SA’s favourite former beauty queens, Basetsana Kumalo; SA’s queen of song, Simphiwe Dana; and the queen of storytelling, Gcina Mhlope, the most regal-looking of them all, resplendent in a long silk outfit, wearing a silk turban like a crown”.

Queen Rania herself, meanwhile, writes up the do for The Huffington Post and supplies a few pics:

The project is being staged around the world from April 20-26, although because of the elections, it will only end here on June 16.

Alex Kent, of the Global Campaign for Education in SA, says she hopes this will give her organisation time to lobby the new education minister to back the campaign’s work.

The Big Read is an internationally published collection of stories from global leaders, including authors and celebrities, that demonstrates the power of education in their lives.

Contributors include Queen Rania, Mhlope, Khumalo, Nelson Mandela, Alice Walker and Paulo Coelho.

Queen RaniaI’ve never walked into a library to the sound of stomping, rattling, and rhythmic gumboots pounding the floor, but I did today, thanks to two amazing dance groups from Soweto and Thembisa. Not only did it wake me up, but it set the tone for some pretty lively storytelling and discussion with them.

Sitting in a cozy and colorful little amphitheater in Sandton Library, we talked about books…the joy they give us, the friends we meet through them, the new experiences they teach us, and the imaginary places they transport us to. Larger than life, Gcina Mhlope, South Africa’s popular poet and inspirational storyteller, held us spellbound with her animated and expressive tales. Gcina has a rare gift, made all the more remarkable by the fact that until she was 20, she had never set foot in a library. Her aunt was illiterate, but she collected words and books in a suitcase. Now, in her memory, Gcina travels around schools and centers putting those words to work, and encouraging children to read. She leaves a suitcase of books behind everywhere she goes. Luggage for life.

Book Details

Photos courtesy Victor Dlamini and The Huffington Post


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    April 7th, 2009 @17:25 #

    I don't think Queen Rania is originally South African...

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    April 7th, 2009 @19:17 #

    You're quite right, Fiona - thanks for the fact checking. The error's mine, not Liesl's - it's been corrected!


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