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We Need a Service Delivery Protest Directed at the Question of Writing – Mandla Langa on the #LitApartheid Debate

Mandla Langa

The Texture of ShadowsMandla Langa, Executive Vice President of PEN South Africa and author of The Texture of Shadows, who was recently longlisted for the FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Award for fiction, weighed in on the debate on “Decolonising the Literary Landscape” which took place on Tuesday evening at Wits University.

The event was organised by Jacana Media and chaired by Eusebius McKaiser, with authors Thando Mgqolozana and Siphiwo Mahala, as well as Ben Williams, Sunday Times books editor and founder of Books LIVE, and Corina van der Spoel, festival organiser, book facilitator and former manager of Die Boekehuis.

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Throughout the evening’s speeches Langa was making copious notes and as the three-hour event drew to a close he raised his hand to say something. He started by thanking McKaiser, Mgqolozana and all the other panelists and said he believes that the debate is the first step in “unscrambling the egg”, referring to Mgqolozana’s statement that “an omelette cannot be unscrambled”.

“We South Africans are very good at fuming and being angry,” Langa went on, “but we do not become angry at exactly the source or the force or the agency that we should be angry at. So we divert our anger, like in a family where there’s abuse, we hit very, very clearly at the most vulnerable among us.

“I’m saying this because one of the points that Thando has made refers to the role of the black writers, he even cited writers who had been to exile, and I just felt that I really do think that’s something that I should appraise. And there’s supreme irony in all this because the writer he quotes is Keorapetse Kgositsile, who is our Poet Laureate, who spent 30 years in exile and came back without a trace of an American accent.

“We need to refocus ourselves, especially when it comes to what it is that we need to do to transform, to change, to create an upheaval when it comes to this whole issue of writing of literature.

“We, as black people, have taken from ourselves the agency of being the organs or the agents of change ourselves.

“I think by now we should be thinking quite hard of having a service delivery protest directed specifically at the question of writing.”

We’ve transcribed some soundbites from the event here, but to get the full feel of the debate, listen to the podcast:

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See a Twitter timeline of the #LitApartheid hashtag:



Flickr album from the event:


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