The attack on author ZP Dala has been roundly condemned by the Centre for Creative Arts and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, while her fellow authors expressed shock at the incident.
Dala was viciously attacked in Durban on Wednesday, and called “Rushdie’s bitch”, after expressing admiration for Salman Rushdie’s literary style (among that of other authors) at a writing forum for schools at the Chatsworth Education Centre the previous morning.
Carol Campbell said the incident showed that South Africans are “writing in difficult times”, while Futhi Ntshingila said she believes the attack would not have happened if Dala was a man.
Rushdie has since tweeted his condolences to Dala, who replied that she was recovering with her family.
After an outpouring of support, Dala also took to the social network to stress that the incident should not be turned into a marketing campaign, saying: “Being hit on the face with a brick and having permanent facial scarring is certainly NOT a way 2 sell a book. It must be read for what it is!”
Books LIVE broke the news of the attack on Friday, after it was announced ahead of the evening Time of the Writer events.
Festival manager Tiny Mungwe said the CCA condemns the attack, and called it “ironic”, considering the festival’s motto “Writing for Our Lives”.
“The CCA, as organisers of Time of the Writer Festival, is fully behind every writer’s right to freedom of expression, whether they are part of this festival, or not,” Mungwe said. “It is ironic, actually, that this assault took place during a festival whose theme is ‘Writing for Our Lives’. We completely deplore the violent attack that Zainub has suffered and the harassment that she has been subjected to.
“The festival exists in a space that enables the public to discuss and engage in a myriad challenging issues that we believe helps to stimulate tolerance and understanding in society.”
UKZN Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Humanities Head of College Professor Cheryl Potgieter took to the podium next, stating that the university aligns itself with the CCA’s position, but stressing the need for “due legal process”.
“As Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities, I would like to endorse what Tiny has said,” Potgieter said. “The university endorses the right to freedom of expression. And we find it unacceptable as to what has happened. But we are also wanted due legal process to be followed. We are hoping that what needs to be done will be done.
“On behalf of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and specifically the College of Humanities which hosts the festival, we condemn in no uncertain terms what has happened.
“It’s not the first and it will not be the last of the many incidents that one has to manage, because what we are managing is essentially is a mirror of what is happening in our society.”
The announcement of the assault was made just before a discussion entitled “Written in the Margin”, with Campbell, author of Esther’s House, and Ntshingila, author of Do Not Go Gentle. Facilitator Matthew Savides opened the discussion by asking the authors their thoughts on the attack, in the context of the discussion.
“I think marginalisation chooses those that are the easiest targets,” Ntshingila said. “If someone can present a physical challenge, if ZP had been male, and tall, with a bodybuilder’s look, I’m not sure it would have gone down the way it has.
“Although I try to run away from a syndrome of victimisation, because that can also be limiting.”
Campbell added: “I think it brings home to all of us that we are writing in difficult times.
“Sometimes as an author you don’t realise that what you are putting out there is going to offend people, even if you don’t mean to. You take for granted our new freedom in South Africa, you kind of write what you like. And suddenly, when something like what has happened happens, it’s quite shocking. It’s been quite something for all of us. It’s been very upsetting.”
Dala spoke to The Daily Vox, saying that “rage and violence is never an answer”.
It is certainly not something that anyone should resort to, to anything, least of all, a writer’s work. I have understood it on two levels. I am trying to process it on a personal level by trying to heal, both mentally and physically. On a macro level, I am trying to understand it in a way that does not makes me look at the entire community as people who resort to violence. I can understand fully that it’s just a small, possibly ignorant group of people that have perpetrated this crime.
Listen to a podcast of the interview:
Top image courtesy of Time of the Writer, second image Steve Connelly on Twitter