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Decolonising the book: Thando Mgqolozana explains this year’s Time of the Writer Festival theme

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The 2016 Time of the Writer Festival kicks off in Durban today, Monday 14 March.

The Centre for Creative Arts announced a change in venues and a special programme for the Time of the Writer this year, under the theme Decolonising the Book.

Instead of the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, this year’s events will each take place in a different location across Durban, namely Umlazi, KwaMashu, Inanda, Clermont and Cato Manor.

In addition, the eThekwini Municipality Libraries Department has purchased two copies of each book by every writer featured at the festival this year, and they are being prominently displayed in 92 municipal libraries around eThekwini.

Thando Mgqolozana, whose most recent book is Unimportance, co-curated the festival this year, along with the Centre for Creative Arts.

Mgqolozana has been a vocal proponent of the need to decolonise South Africa’s white literary system, a process he says will take more than a few months.

“It remains to be seen what the outcome of that discourse will be,” he says. “We’ll be able to assess more over a longer period of time, say five to 10 years from now.

“But to begin with, we’ve got people talking and thinking about decolonising the literary landscape, as well as the society in which that literary landscape finds itself.”

Mgqolozana says literary activities and access in black communities are sorely lacking, something the Time of the Writer is trying to address.

“The difference with this Time of the Writer is that we are definitely taking it to the communities. We are going to Umlazi, KwaMashu, Inanda, Clermont and Cato Manor, which has never happened before.”

Mgqolozana also unpacked the concept of decolonising the book: “The reason why we are talking decolonisation is because in the first place there was colonisation, and the basic definition of colonisation is the subversion of the native, the subversion of black people in our case, and decolonisation is the correction and reversal of the subversion.”

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