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“You Feel Like A Dancing Monkey” – Zakes Mda on Predominantly White Literary Festivals

Rachel’s BlueUnimportanceZakes Mda has added his voice to the debate around South Africa’s “white literary system” that was initiated recently by Thando Mgqolozana at the Franschhoek Literary Festival.

In an interview with Charl Blignaut for City Press, Mda expresses solidarity with Mgqolozana, saying that the FLF replicates the feelings generated by European literary festivals: “You feel like you are a dancing monkey.” He says he will “never go back” to Franschhoek, although he says his reasons differ slightly, and are more to do with irrelevant discussions.

Mda says that although it is white people who perpetuate this kind of exclusion, black leaders are somewhat at fault for allowing it to happen.

Mda’s most recent novel is Rachel’s Blue, and he has a children’s book coming out soon.

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Regarding a similar lack of transformation around the inclusion of black African novels in school curriculums, Mda said: “Who’s in charge of the syllabus? It’s us. Thando should be angry with us mostly. Because we run this country now and we’ve been running it for 21 years. If there’s anything wrong here, we should have changed it. You don’t hear me going around saying whites this and whites that. If whites are doing that it’s because we have allowed them to do it. That is why my criticism is directed at the people I have employed to change that situation. The people I elected and then also us who must work towards changing it.”

A word of caution: it seems that Mda believes that the headline of the above article, “Blame black leaders, not white thieves,” misrepresents his stance on the matter, as he tweeted:

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