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Archive for the ‘Feature’ Category

Exclusive Books wins BASA Award for its Pan-African Reading Room

Via Exclusive Books

 
Exclusive Books, The Market Theatre Foundation and The Coloured Cube have been announced as BASA Award winners for the Sponsorship in Kind Award for The Exclusive Books Pan African Reading Room and Pan African Reading Lounge at the Windybrow Arts Centre.

“We are delighted by this recognition of our efforts in the Pan-African literature space,” said Ben Williams, GM: Marketing for Exclusive Books. “This partnership has firmly established the Windybrow Arts Centre as a hub for the advancement of Pan-African literature and has helped bring African stories and literature to life for a wider audience.”

The 21st Annual BASA Awards, held on 16 September at the Victoria Yards, recognise and honour businesses that invest in an inclusive economy through art. Exclusive Books was one of 11 winners announced at the ceremony.

The Windybrow Arts Centre opened the doors on the Exclusive Books Pan-African Reading Lounge for adults and The Exclusive Books Pan-African Reading Room for children on Nelson Mandela Day, 18 July 2017. Over 2000 Pan-African titles are housed in the 121-year old Windybrow Heritage House, courtesy of Exclusive Books.

The Pan-African Reading Initiative, the first of its sort in the world, has also contributed enormously to the success of the advancement of Pan-African literature, Williams adds.

Exclusive Books will continue to add to this initiative, consisting of a “spectacular list of Pan-African titles from around the world”, says Williams. This includes bringing books back into print, supplying Windybrow with 400 Pan-African titles, and an “entire hemisphere” of Pan-African titles which will be added to the soon-to-be-reopened Sandton branch of Exclusive Books, Williams concludes.

The reading rooms have encouraged a reading culture among the more than 120 daily visitors to the Windybrow Arts Centre – most of whom are youths. In addition, the Centre launched a monthly book club programme for children and a series of forums for adults focusing on African authors and on the titles available in the Reading Lounge.

“We warmly congratulate each winner and thank all the finalists for their commitment to supporting and working with creative people,” said BASA Chairman André le Roux.

Heidi Brauer, Chief Marketing and Customer Officer at Hollard, a BASA sponsor, said, “In beautiful harmony with Hollard’s special partnership model, the BASA Awards really do deliver win-win-win.

“Artists benefit through having their work recognised and celebrated; corporates grow their brand and gain exposure to the creative arts; and broader society is enriched through the conversation, challenge and stimulation provided by art that may not otherwise have seen the light of day. Such partnerships enable a better future for us all.”


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“A collection of stories about nobodies who discover that they matter” – Mohale Mashigo discusses Intruders with Pearl Boshomane Tsotetsi

Published in the Sunday Times

By Pearl Boshomane Tsotetsi

The acclaimed author of Intruders, Mohale Mashigo. Picture: Sydelle Willow Smith.

 

Intruders ****
Mohale Mashigo, Picador Africa, R180

“A collection of stories about nobodies who discover that they matter.” That is how Mohale Mashigo describes her latest, Intruders. And while the short stories are set in the future (yet deeply rooted in the past) SA, and they feature familiar characters, the author requests that we don’t label the tales in Intruders “Afrofuturism”.

She says Afrofuturism (the genre du jour in literature, film and – as Nando’s points out in their latest cheeky ad – marketing) doesn’t “feel like the right coat to dress my stories in”.

And once you’ve devoured all 12 stories in the book, you understand why Mashigo feels the need for that disclaimer in the first place. To refer to Intruders as Afrofuturism is lazy and inaccurate. The stories aren’t as performative as that label would suggest and while they have a strong sense of familiarity, it’s not in a “seen this all before”, unoriginal way.

The familiarity in Intruders is both comforting and disconcerting. The people in the stories could be our friends, our families, our neighbours – they could be us. The settings are familiar to anyone who knows any corner of this land. That makes it harder to dismiss these tales of werewolves, mutants, monster slayers, shapeshifters and magicians as just tales of fiction.

It’s difficult to do so when you get sucked into them quickly because you recognise the world they are set in. Some of the stories themselves are inspired by or make reference to tales that many of us grew up on.

About this, Mashigo says: “Some of our stories are so magical, scary and downright beautiful. I wanted to show people that there is value in what we have … Our things are nice too!”

For instance, “BnB in Bloem”, a story about two sisters who hunt monsters, brings up the legendary story of Vera the Ghost.

There are a few different versions of Vera’s story, but the basic premise is that she is a beautiful hitchhiker ghost picked up by men who would sleep with her and then later wake up at her gravesite. In “BnB” Vera isn’t just one apparition, but many, who are terrorising men. All of the Veras have died at the hands of the opposite sex, and are out for revenge.

“We would never have to deal with a Vera if men would stop killing women,” one of the sisters says. Imagine if every woman in SA murdered by a man returned for retribution.

That’s part of the beauty of Intruders: it is also a commentary on gender, violence, race, addiction and class in SA done masterfully and in such unexpected ways that stumbling across bits of commentary in the stories feels like discovering sweets you didn’t know were hidden in your pockets.

Take “Once Upon a Town”, for instance. It’s the tale of two brilliant children who were both the hope of their families and communities, who end up hiding in the shadows because of afflictions they have no control over.

Streetlights reflect off the Orange River in Upington. Picture: 123rf.com/Demerzel21

 
While it’s a charming love story, “Once Upon” is also incredibly sad because – while it deals with the supernatural – it’s such a familiar South African tale.

The tale of brilliance that flourished in the sun for a while before being snuffed out by circumstances beyond the control of the gifted; the gifted kids who grew up in a place that wasn’t made to nourish their kind; the gifted kids who were the hopes of their families and communities for a better life; the gifted kids who, in the end, couldn’t escape the world they lived in.

One of the best stories in the Book is “Little Vultures”, a sci-fi fantasy set in a Jurassic Park-esque world, minus the horror (well, at least in the beginning). Basically, a sci-fi Garden of Eden. A widowed scientist, who is a pariah because of an experiment, lives on a farm with the animals she has created or resurrected. She is joined by two women, both coping with their own pain in different ways (one through cosmetic surgery, the other through isolation).

While the story is a literary Venn diagram about science and magic, at its heart is a stunning tale of loss, grief, loneliness and the value of life. The story ends on a suspenseful note, which is both fantastic and frustrating. Frustrating because you want to know more.

And that is the only disappointment with the tales in Intruders: how incomplete they feel. It’s as though Mashigo sucks the reader into her supernatural world as quickly as she spits you out from it. A lot of the stories leave you feeling like an addict who needs a fix. More please. @Pearloysias

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A Darker Shade of Pale adds to the growing genres of books about the everyday and painful experience of apartheid and racism in SA, writes Donnay Torr

Published in the Sunday Times


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A Darker Shade of Pale: A Memoir of Apartheid South Africa ****
Beryl Crosher-Segers, Torchflame Books, R250

In an entry on her blog, Beryl Crosher-Segers ponders: “I couldn’t get to know white or black South Africans while growing up. But our lives were intertwined in some absurd way. I think absurd is the right word here …”

“Absurd” is the perfect word for the juxtaposition of what reads like a normal childhood – but set within the abnormal strictures of apartheid SA.

At its heart, A Darker Shade of Pale is about family. Beryl was born in Cape Town in 1955, seven years after the National Party imposed the system of apartheid. As the middle child of five, she was a quiet observer. “I was the typical ‘Dear Diary’ girl,” she laughs. “I didn’t speak much until I was about 17. But I wrote things down. I’ve always written things down.”

These early recordings of her life are what make her memoir an engrossing read. It weaves clear and poignant memories together in a straightforward, unsentimental way: of a hard-working survivor of a mother, a dissatisfied revolutionary of a father, the solace of good neighbours and friends, moments of joy, pain at the tragic loss of a brother … And finally, a grown-up Beryl and her young family emigrating to Australia. The things that make up a life. There’s one difference, of course. Beryl and her family were classified as “coloured” under the laws of apartheid SA. This meant separate schools. Forced removals from beloved homes and public spaces. Genial white bakers who called you “hotnotjie”, not “child”. Benches that read “Whites Only”.

A “whites-only” beach. Picture courtesy of Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Getty Images.

 
Beryl is now living in Sydney, Australia, and was named one of the country’s most influential Africans, receiving the Celebrate African-Australia’s Captain’s Award. She’s received a human rights award from the University of Technology in Sydney, participated in the organisation of the 2000 Olympics and has worked for senator Penny Wong, parliamentary leader for the opposition. Despite her success, the humiliation of apartheid still lingers and she shares a vignette that illustrates how the hurt is still there, even decades after leaving SA.

“In 2017, a filmmaker from the Australian Film and Television School made a documentary about my story. We went to visit my mother, she’s 86 now and also living in Australia. I took two of the original ‘Whites Only’ signs from the trains along. My mom would not touch them. She would not look at them. She’s been out of SA for 40 years, she hasn’t seen these signs for that long, but she just wouldn’t …”

Writing the book opened old wounds, but also purged some of the more traumatic experiences Beryl had while growing up, such as the night she and her then-boyfriend, now-husband, Chris, went to the Rhodes Memorial to make out – and witnessed a mixed-race couple being arrested by the cops. The (white) male got to sit in the front of the police van, the (non-white) woman was thrown in the back.

“Chris and I still talk about that night,” says Beryl. “I can still hear the woman’s screams. I wonder what happened to her. Where she is now, if she is still alive. And I wonder what we could have done, if we weren’t so scared and helpless to do anything back then.”

Writing the book has also opened the floodgates for more memories from her friends and family.

“My mother told me something that she’d never mentioned before … She grew up in a suburb called Retreat in Cape Town. She said that one morning, the bridge they’d always had to cross to get to the train station was suddenly off limits to them. It happened overnight. She said, ‘We were herded like cattle down to the railway crossing to walk around and go on to the other side.’ She’d never told me that before. To go from human one day, to not-quite-human the next … She told me this story, and I thought she probably has so many more she hasn’t told me …”

Engaging people with the power of story is the point of this book. “People really need to tell their stories,” says Beryl.

“We need to make it clear that all this is not forgotten. There needs to be dialogue. I think if we can engage and talk about how wrong it was … That’s all we want to hear. Because we, and I’m talking about myself, I live with that. It was an abuse of our human rights.” @SAPixi

Book details


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The newbie’s guide to nailing Open Book 2018

By Mila de Villiers

Eight steps to make your literary journey easier:

1. Cape Town is known as ‘Slaapstad’ for a reason. Wake up at 7h15. Scroll through Insta-G. Write in your dream journal. Have coffee. Meet up for brunch. Arrive at work at 11h30. Leave at 16h. Lekker, nè? Yet for four nights and five days (5 – 9 September) Open Book’s festival programme will keep local bibliophiles busy from 10h to 21h30. What I’m trying to get at is that the days are loooong. Plan your sessions accordingly. You wouldn’t want to overexert yourself, forget to set your alarm and miss the opportunity to show off the grainy IG picture you sneakily snapped of a Man Booker Prize winning author over brunch the next morning, now would you?

2. Live tweeting is #LitFam, but pick your seat wisely if you’re going to spend the next hour or so sending 140 characters into the Twittersphere. Try to avoid the, ahem, mature members of the audience. Your screen is ‘too bright’, taking photos is ‘distracting’, your incessant typing is ‘symptomatic of the younger generation’s lack of social mores, inconsideration, ageism, avo toast-ism, craft beer-ism, nihilism’. Etc etc.

3. Cool. You’ve organised a kief spot a safe distance away from the Luddites. Next step? Memorise Twitter handles like you’re revising for your grade nine Biology: Paper 1 exam. (“The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell!”) And double-check that the person you’re @’ing is, in fact, the legit author and not, say, a Trump-supporting troll or someone who’s been verified for having their plea to re-open the Nando’s in Stellenbosch re-tweeted 666 times.

4. If you missed the opportunity to ask an author for their signature after a session or forgot to pose for a selfie – not to worry: simply loiter in the foyer of the Fugard Theatre. Not unlike wildlife photography, you’ll have to be patient. And preferably station yourself in close proximity to the natural habitat’s most popular watering hole. (Aka the cash bar.)

5. Selflessness, thy name is Day Zero. And best you remember (and respect) this, whilst simultaneously reminding affiliates of the international literati squad that “soz, esteemed author of Nordic noir, if it’s not a number two, you unfortunately can’t flush the loo”.

6. “Sorry ma’am, we don’t serve tap water anymore … Yes ma’am, we do still serve [insert an alcoholic beverage which, if you so request, will be served on the rocks despite tap water being the PNG of the Mother City's liquid universe, here]“. Bars – of both the Kaffee and debauched variety – are abundant in Cape Town’s city bowl / the vicinity of Open Book venues. Hotfoot to Haas Coffee, Truth Coffee Roasting, Vida E, Swan Cafe or New York Bagel if you need a caffeine kick during the hour-long break between sessions. Or if you fancy something with a skop (and the Fugard foyer is too packed with authors), the Kimberley Hotel, Dias Tavern, Perseverance Tavern, German Club, Lefty’s and Roxy’s are all within walking distance* from Open Book HQ. (*Yes, Jo’burgers – you’ll be walking. A lot.)

7. ‘Book’ applies to more than the noun we devote our daily lives to. Tickets for popular sessions go faster than that first gulp of Leopard’s Leap after a marathon day of attending discussions on topics varying from normalising menstruation, to self-publishing, to the future of spec fic, and trusting sources in an age of public mistrust. Kanti, kry daai kaartjies!

8. We’ve all schlepped through Moby Dick, attempted/pretended to understand Ulysses, and written half-hearted essays on the significance of the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. But how many of us have ever attended a comic book workshop, a spoken word event, or a poetry reading? Enter Open Book – a festival which caters not only for English majors but all of those interested in the Art of Books and the Ways of Words.

Brava, OB 2018!


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“Anger and desperation inspire me to help be one of the few voices for our Khoe issues because we are seldom, if ever, spoken about” – a Q&A with Denver Breda, Khoe language and cultural activist

Via Nal’ibali: Column 23, Term 3

By Carla Lever

Language and cultural activist, Denver Breda. Pic: supplied.


 
As a language and cultural activist, what issues do you feel most passionately about in South Africa today?

I’m most passionate about ending the Kakapasa or denial that pervades the South African consciousness, about the people who were found here in the 1600s.

You have campaigned for Khoekhoegowab to be taught in South African schools. Why do you think this is an important move?

It’s important to remind people that this land was not empty, that it indeed had many people who spoke the oldest languages and cultures that sadly were forced to adopt other names, create and speak other languages. Most of all, to show that we are still here and that the country as a whole has a responsibility to restore what was so violently taken.

Language is identity, it roots you, instils in you a set of values. This has but all been lost, especially with Coloured people who are often majority Khoe people. Language loss is actually found among First Nation communities all over the world, yet in South Africa it’s not researched enough.

Every language has its own ‘flavour’ or beauty. What are some of your favourite sayings or expressions in Khoekhoegowab?

Some of my favourite words are ‘Kawakawas’ which in Khoekhoe means restoration, ‘Kakapusa’ which means to forget, ‘Munanai’ (which is what I called my company), means to imagine. Some of my favourite sayings are ‘Ada Hoatsama gon’ which means ‘together we move’. Also ‘Toa tama !khams ge’ which is ‘the struggle continues’. But also to tell people the original name of Cape town ||Hui !Gaeb which means ‘where the clouds gather’.

How can we make sure that indigenous languages – and the cultures related to them – don’t die out?

By first acknowledging that we indeed all have a responsibility towards South Africa’s First Nations people and to learn at least one of the Khoe languages that remain, such as Khoekhoe. We can also put pressure on government and society to support the cause. People can also become what I call Xambassadors – a combination of the word Xam which means lion in the Khoekhoe language and ambassadors.

You have written short story collections, produced a play, self-published a story inspired by your mother’s journey from Graaff-Reinet to the Cape, and you have a podcast, Draadloos virrie Raadloos. That’s a lot of creative words! What inspires you to be so prolific?

Anger and desperation inspire me to help be one of the few voices for our Khoe issues because we are seldom, if ever, spoken about – not on TV, not in newspapers. We can wait to be written about, or we can write about ourselves and that is what I do.

Why is it important for people to share their stories, whether written or spoken?

I believe as Khoe – as Africans – when our stories die, we die. For me, writing stories has been hugely therapeutic. Writing about the Cape Flats, about my mother who had to leave her home in Graaff-Reinet at the age of 16 to work as a domestic worker, about a very dear trans friend of mine who I have known for almost two decades and who now lives on the street, it has allowed me to cope, to understand, to not be as angry, to look at solutions. I believe as a country our stories of pain, of hope can actually bring us together. The truth is that we are more of a family than we wish to consider.

The idea of mothering is something we have extended to language – mother tongue – and even space – motherland, mother city. Do you think there is a good time and place for all South Africans to reconnect – have a family reunion – with their land and their languages? Is it possible?

There is always a good time to connect. Not a specific time, but anytime. At the bus, at work, at schools, at your place of worship to reconnect first with self, which I believe to be more important than with others and with nature. In a way we have to become mothers to our hearts and our souls which carry so much hurt and pain. Learning one of South Africa’s First Nation languages has certainly helped me to connect with myself, others and South Africa. I’m still learning, but something happens when you either connect – or khoennect – with your ancestors or to the first languages of this land. That is truly the start of the decolonisation process.

How can people who are interested learn more about indigenous languages like Khoekhoegowa?

There are a lot of resources on the internet – YouTube particularly – though not as much as I would like to have available. For those in Cape Town, come to our public talks on 9 September at Open Book Festival and hear what one of SA’s oldest languages sound like.

Nal’ibali’s annual multilingual storytelling competition is running this September or Literacy and Heritage Month. Aimed a reviving a love of storytelling amongst adults and children, and connecting South Africans to their rich and vibrant heritage, the theme of this year’s contest is South African Heroes. Enter by telling the story of your favourite SA icon, your personal hero, or a fictional hero in your language, and you could be crowned this year’s Story Bosso! To find out more about Nal’ibali and Story Bosso, visit www.nalibali.org, www.nalibli.mobi, or find them on Facebook and Twitter.


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“I wanted to interrogate the legacy that belonged to me” – Panashe Chigumadzi on These Bones Will Rise Again

Published in the Sunday Times

By Rea Khoabane

Panashe Chigumadzi looks beyond the ‘big men and guns’. Picture: KB Mpofu.

 

These Bones Will Rise Again
****
Panashe Chigumadzi, Jacana, R185

In search of mothers of the nation, Panashe Chigumadzi discovered that black women need to be seen in all their complexity. Her latest book, These Bones Will Rise Again, is an interrogation of the liberation movement that was created through the spirit of a woman but led by men and guns.

How did the book come about?

Essentially the book was a commission by Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, the publishing director of Indigo Press. I happened to tell her about the research I’ve been doing independently at Wits University, about the figure of Mbuya Nehanda, an anticolonial heroine, amongst, if not the most famous person in Zimbabwe’s liberation history. She was a spirit medium who was also one of the first leaders of the Zimbabwe liberation movement Chimurenga. At the same time I had been thinking about my grandmother, who’d just passed away, and thought of a photograph of her that I’d lost.

Why did you choose to present this through the structure of a woman?

I was inspired by Alice Walker’s essay “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens”, which speaks to the way that, even as black people, we learn to take on the eyes of the world in the ways that we look at ourselves and in the ways that we look at other black women.

It was difficult for me to see beyond my grandmother as a person, so it was really saying, how do I take on new eyes? It’s seeing her and others; I see our humanity, our fullness. I see the complexity of our humanity and that means crafting an image of a strong black woman. It’s an image of a rock but also an image of someone who loves, who cries, dreams, prays and can be nasty and nice. Complexities that black women are denied.

The title is from the words that Mbuya Nehanda spoke before she was executed…

The image of her when she was about to be executed is one we continually use within Zimbabwe … Grace Mugabe last year said she sees herself as Mbuya Nehanda. She’s always present, but it was also important for me to interrogate what this spirit has meant to us as the people. What does it mean that an ancestor who really is an ancestor spirit initially belonging to the Zulu people has now come be an ancestor of the Zimbabwean nation, and what does it mean if she is the ancestor that is spoken of to other ancestors? To question if there is maybe one primary ancestor…

You see Robert Mugabe’s ousting as a way for Zimbabweans to refer back to history…

Zimbabwe’s national history and its versions of history, and this moment of history, are created by a clash of big men and guns. I was interested to speak about this moment that is outside the figure of Mugabe and outside of our usual understanding of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. I wanted to understand this moment through Zimbabwean people and particularly women, using the figure of Mbuya Nehanda, and I thought it was my way of inventing history through her history.

I also wanted to interrogate what is the liberation struggle to me and what does it mean to the Zimbabwean people outside of what we’ve been taught? I wanted to interrogate the legacy that belonged to me, to my mother and to my grandmother, and that would one day belong to my grandchildren.

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“We are seeing that there is more to poetry than the dead white men of high school textbooks” – a Q&A with poet and cultural activist, Vangile Gantsho

By Carla Lever

Nal’ibali column 21: term 3 2018

Published in the Sunday World (26/08/2018), Daily Dispatch (27/08/2018), Herald (30/08/2018)

Poet and cultural activist, Vangile Gantsho. Pic: supplied.

 

How would you describe your own work?

Honest. Uncomfortable. Deeply mine. I don’t think it’s for everyone, mostly because not everyone wants to know how deeply we – as people/womxn/black womxn – feel. There is a responsibility that comes with knowledge.

You are participating in several of the exciting panels at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town this September. What role do you think SA arts festivals should have in bringing all kinds of people together around storytelling and culture(s)?

I guess I think festivals should be well-crafted mazes, where people are inspired to be so curious that they arrive expecting one thing, and leave having experienced something they wouldn’t have bumped into otherwise. I would hope that this adventure would spark conversation, because at the heart of storytelling is conversation – between writers and readers and society.

A lot of people see poetry as something you learn in school or intimidating to understand. Can poetry be a relevant and accessible form of expression for everyone?

I think that’s how poetry used to be taught. Now, poetry is an evolving language. We are seeing that there is more to poetry than the dead white men of high school text books. That before Lebo Mashile, there was Jayne Cortez and June Jordan. That poetry can have agency, and that emotional complexity does not always have to be trapped in complicated language.

What language/s do you write and perform in and what motivates that choice?

English. Because the way in which this freedom was/is structured meant that my parents felt it was best for me to prioritise English so my brothers and I could be successful in life. Even if it was at the expense of our home language.

You have said that people can use poetry as a healing tool – a way of feeling safe inside our own bodies. How can writing be a form of self-care?

From a young age I learned that journaling was a way of making what I was feeling and experiencing real. I think, when you are silenced, writing especially can be an important way of existing. I have seen that free writing exercises often leads people to unexpected places: “Wow! I didn’t even realise I was feeling like this.” In existing, in “saying out loud” what you are living through, you can heal from it, or discard it. You can claim some power over it.

It’s hard to break into South Africa’s very small publishing industry. You’ve proven that going it alone can be a great solution, by self-publishing your own very successful book of poetry. Can you tell us a little about what that involves?

My debut poetry collection, Undressing in front of the window (2015), taught me that no one will willingly open doors for you. You have to knock, or break the doors down yourself. And in order to do that, you must always be willing to learn. Self-publishing requires more than just raising funds. You still need a good team. And it’s not an easy process. It’s difficult, expensive work…but fortunately also deeply rewarding!

Your publishing company, Impepho Press, is a self-described “Pan-African” publishing house. Are you currently accepting submissions from authors?

We just announced our first open call, open throughout September. We are accepting submissions from people born in Africa and people of colour from the diaspora. This includes gender non-conforming people.

For those not able to afford books, are there other ways to access writing from poets working across our continent?

I think the biggest tragedy is that everything costs money. So even if I say the internet is a way of accessing the work of international writers of colour, data is expensive. And access to technology is a luxury. I think more and more second-hand books shops and the bigger libraries are getting better at stocking some contemporary writers at a steal. But the internet is probably the best bet, for now, because access to literature is seen as a luxury.

How can parents, friends and teachers encourage young people to tell their stories creatively?

By encouraging young people to express themselves honestly and without fear of intimidation or prejudice. Exposing ourselves to art also encourages us to be inspired by art!

Reading and telling stories with your children is a powerful gift to them. It builds knowledge, language, imagination and school success! For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of South African languages, visit: www.nalibali.org.


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The wound at the heart of Afrikanerdom: Koos Kombuis describes how a new book about child abuse helped him solve his identity issues

By Koos Kombuis


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I recently flew back home from yet another Afrikaans arts festival in the platteland. As it was the last day of the festival, the flight was full of Afrikaans celebrity performing artists. I remember overhearing one of them saying, as we were boarding: “As hierdie vliegtuig vandag val is die hele Afrikaanse kultuur in sy moer.”

I sat on the plane, surrounded by people I knew from my past, having collaborated with many of them, and knowing a lot of their personal lives. It struck me how almost all of us shared certain traits. We had all struggled to get where we were. Many of us, especially those of us who had set out moving boundaries and setting new trends, were filled with ambivalent feelings about our own culture.

Being an Afrikaner has always implied, to me, to have a love-hate relationship with oneself.

And, speaking of relationships: I realised that day, as I looked at my friends and colleagues from the entertainment industry, what a surprising number of us had had turbulent personal lives. Some had struggled with drugs or alcohol. Some had survived messy divorces.

Apart from the personal problems, there was also lots of hostility bubbling under the surface. Though, on the face of it, we all got along with one another, we all knew about the factions, the petty rivalries, the in-fighting and gossip. Oh, yes, we all smiled at each other, but our smiles were hiding so much hurt, so much resentment, so much personal baggage.

Fortunately, the plane did not crash, and we all arrived at our destination, plus all our luggage AND baggage.

It is the year 2018, and the Afrikaners, as a group, are possibly more isolated from the outside world than ever before. We are isolated from our fellow South Africans, we are isolated from the rest of the planet, and we are isolated from ourselves.

That is a surprising paradox, given the fact that our arts industry is thriving. We are making CDs, writing books, producing films. We are creating new works in great quantity and of great quality.

Yet our paradise has a dark side. We may be doing well for ourselves, but we are in hell. There is something rotten in the state of modern Afrikanerdom, and we are powerless to do anything about it. We somehow cannot break free to make real contact with others, to truly connect with ourselves.

The one ray of light in this dark diagnosis is the fact that, as a group and as a nation, we are not all that unique. Many nations have a dark side. Both the British and the Americans are suffering, collectively, from deep inner divisions, and the fact that they voted for Trump and Brexit tells the sorry story of their schizoid states. The Germans are haunted by the shadows of their own history. South African blacks, of course, have their own demons to fight as they struggle to overcome the cultural and economic wounds inflicted by apartheid.

Few nations, however, are as ignorant of the true causes of their own suffering as the Afrikaner. We all know how we feel, but we are not sure why we feel like this.

This ignorance and denial is mirrored in the selective way many of us have chosen to deal with the historical fact of apartheid.

Take Afri-Forum, for instance. Oh, we all love to hate Afri-Forum. We hate them, because they say out loud what many of us secretly think but are afraid to admit to ourselves. They say things like: “Oh, apartheid wasn’t all that bad. It certainly wasn’t a crime against humanity.” (This same sentiment is often uttered around the ritual braaivleis fires of Afrikanerdom, and often in much less nuanced language.)

I have often thought whether there is a deeper reason for our vehement denial of the pain caused by apartheid. The answer, when it hit me, came from the most unlikely source imaginable.

A few months ago, I happened to meet a prominent counselling psychologist during drinks with friends in a Kalk Bay restaurant. She mentioned that she had just had a book published in America.

“Congratulations! What is the book about?” I asked her.

“It is about survivors of sexual abuse in childhood,” she said.

“What a terrible thing that must be to endure in childhood!” I exclaimed. “I have had a rotten childhood myself, but thank God, I was never sexually molested.”

It was only when I started reading her book, weeks later, that I learnt the terrible truth about my own denial.

In the opening chapters of Working with Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse, published by Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group), psychologist Liezel Anguelova outlines eighteen different types of child sexual abuse and classifies them in three categories: “very severe”, “severe” and “less severe”. Among the “less severe” she lists occurrences such as “touching of clothed breasts or genitals”, “use of child as an emotional partner”, and “use of enemas”. Among the “very severe” she lists “genital sex”, “penetration with an object”, “depiction of sexual acts”, et cetera.

It was a heading under the middle section (“severe”), however, that caught my eye: “pornography”.

When I was a very young boy, there was a paperback publication with photographs of scantily-clad women lying around our house. At some stage I picked up the book and glanced at the pictures with interest.

That, however, was not what caused the scar.

It was the day some of my family members brought me the book, forced me to page through it, and stood around laughing at me while I did it, that caused the scar.

It was an incident I had confronted my father with already years before, while he was still alive. I did not realise, at that stage, how much damage he had caused with his age-inappropriate deed. For years, I had thought my problems with relationships, my weakness for voyeurism and my inability to connect the sexual act with emotional intimacy was caused simply by lack of self-control or immaturity.

Once having identified this one incident as the pivotal moment the wound was inflicted, as I read through Anguelova’s book, a pattern emerged and I started connecting the dots. My family’s obsession with purgatory medicines. The numerous enemas. The time, when I was a toddler, my father taunted me by embracing in front of me in a suggestive way, dressed only in his underpants.

After finishing the book – I read every part of it, also these which did not apply to myself, I thought of how the ultra-strict Calvinist dogmas of my youth had actually caused the impact of the pornography incident to be more severe. Sex was depicted as something evil and naughty, and masturbation was considered a sin.

This teaching in itself, according to Anguelova’s system, could be categorised under “less severe” or “psychological” molestation.

Anguelova’s book changed everything. I had thought I had worked through all my youth traumas. I had already forgiven my parents. It was all there in a corner of the room: the cardboard boxes filled with notebooks in which I had worked through the pain.

After reading this book, I filled one more notebook. I put it in the top box, and closed it one final time.

And I was free. Finally free. The truth had set me free.

How many of my fellow Afrikaners, not only those of my generation but also many younger than me, carry the scars of their upbringing with them?

You see it all the time, the horror effects of a patriarchal system based on outdated tribal values. The family killings and suicides. There are too many victims, too many cases like Henri van Breda, too many of my friends who simply cannot fix their damaged relationships with their parents and siblings.

Is this what lies at the heart of our hostility to our fellow South Africans? Because the real cruelty of apartheid was not simply the most obvious incidents of torture, murder and jail. Apartheid was a social engineering tool that separated families, degraded peoples’ self-respect, and, through the homelands system which virtually forced adult males to seek work on the mines, created an entire generation of blacks who had grown up with absent fathers.

It seems preposterous, on the face of it, to link apartheid with sexual abuse, yet I can see it now, I can see it clearly, and it makes me sick and nauseous to even think of it.

After meeting up with Liezel Anguelova, and reading her book, I sent her one email, asking her: “How many people you treat for childhood sexual abuse are Afrikaners?”

And she replied: “Many. Most of them.”

This, I believe, is the real wound. This is the real reason we are still in denial about apartheid. It’s not simply the fact that we cannot face the pain we caused others. More importantly, it’s the fact that we cannot face our own pain.

Of course, there is hope. As the era of the Verwoerds and the Bothas recede further into the past, and as many South Africans from different backgrounds start mingling socially or at the workplace, young Afrikaans-speaking people are developing a different perspective on the world. Both my children have had school crushes on, and friendships with, children who are not white. This is the kind of thing that would have caused an uproar as late as the 1990’s. In the years between 2000 and 2010, it might have been frowned upon. Today, it is hardly noticed.

It will take a long time for the scars to heal. We will not be a completely normal society until they heal. But perhaps we are slowly getting there.

I sit here, staring at those closed cardboard boxes in the corner of my study, and I think: there, buried inside those boxes, lies my old agonised and bitter self. It is finally dead and dying, like apartheid, even as a new me is being born, a new me who will hopefully find his feet in a new country, finally freed from the hurt and the hell of the four decades after 1948.

Book details


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World class artists line-up for Comics Fest 2018

Via Open Book

Brought to you under the Open Book Festival umbrella, the popular Comics Fest takes place on 8 and 9 September.

Comics Fest is an opportunity to engage with leading South African and international artists, illustrators and comic book creators. With a range of exciting activities, workshops, discussions and demonstrations, it’s a chance to unleash your inner geek – professional or amateur, young or old. The Open Book Comics Fest will again be running from the D6 Homecoming Centre and surrounding venues in Cape Town.

Brought to you by the Book Lounge and the Fugard Theatre, Open Book Festival runs from 5 to 9 September and offers a world-class selection of book launches, panel discussions, workshops, masterclasses, readings, performances and more. In addition to Comics Fest, the Festival also hosts the popular #cocreatePoetica and various children’s and outreach programmes.

The bustling Comics Fest Marketplace will be home to organisations such as Stellenbosch Academy, the SAE Institute, Red and Yellow School, Tulips and Chimneys and the Unblush Collective. Engage with acclaimed creators such as Danelle Malan (Cottonstar), Roberto Millan (Squeers), Kay Carmichael (Sophie Giant-Slayer) and Mohale Mashigo (Kwezi) either at their stands on the Marketplace or at the discussions they will be involved in.

International artists joining Comics Fest this year include Canadian graphic novelist Guy Delisle who is renowned for his travelogues. His most recent book Hostage, was longlisted for Brooklyn Public Library’s 2017 literary prize and he was described by the The Guardian as “one of the greatest modern cartoonists”. Delisle joins Comics Fest thanks to the support of Canada Council of the Arts.

Mariko Tamaki, who also attends Comics Fest courtesy of the Canada Council of the Arts, is the author of Skim, Emiko Superstar, and This One Summer to name but a few. Her numerous accolades include a Joe Shuster Award, a Doug Wright Award in 2009, the 2015 Michael L. Printz Award and the German Rudolph-Dirks-Award in the category Youth Drama / Coming of Age. Tamaki has also been writing for both Marvel and DC Comics for two years.

Icinori, aka Mayumi Otero & Raphael Urwiller are a French duo whose collaborative efforts have seen them illustrate, design, print and publish works across a range of mediums. They have been commissioned by Le Monde, New York Times, Canal + and Wired among others. Their passion for design, image and form culminates in their publishing projects which has seen them produce over 30 books. Icinori join Comics Fest thanks to the support of The French Institute.

Artistes! (As per Open Book’s Comics Fest site)

 

“We’re really excited about all aspects of Comics Fest 2018 – we’ve got fantastic events lined up, an exciting Marketplace and a wonderful group of participants,” says Festival Co-ordinator Frankie Murrey.

Following its popularity last year, seasoned illustrator Andy Mason will again be hosting the Monster Battle Draw Off throughout the weekend. It’s a friendly competition that starts on Saturday where participants draw flat-out for 6 rounds! The winner will go through to Monster Battle 3 on Sunday and spectators are welcome.

Artists taking part include Allison Brennen, Amber Kneisel, Andrea Barkhuizen, Andy Mason, Any Body Zine, Ben Geldenhuys, Courtney Lawson-Peck, Danelle Malan, Daniel Clarke, David Griessel, Dianne Makings, Die Tuinhekkie, Frank Lunar, Gavin Thomson, Guy Delisle, Gwendolene van der Merwe, Hugh Upsher, Icinori, Illana Welman, Jess Bosworth Smith, Kalai Mydral-Ward, Katya Wagner, Kay Carmichael, Lara Corriea, Mariko Tamaki, Martin Mezzabotta, Max Whitehead, Maya LeMaitre, Mohale Mashigo, Nick L’Ange, Nompilo Sibisi, Pulane Boesak, Readers Den, Ree Treweek, Roberto Millan, Robyn-Jade Hosking, Ruby Lou, Sector Comics, Stephanie Simpson, Stephen Spinas, Su Opperman, Theo Key, Tulips and Chimneys and Ziyaad Rahman.

Comic Fest will take place on 8 September from 09h30 to 18h00 and on 9 September from 09h30 to 17h00.

All tickets for events on the Comics Fest programme need to be booked through Webtickets (www.webtickets.co.za) unless otherwise stipulated. Bookings will be open from early August.


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“Here they have a chance to tell people their story” – a Q&A with two hosts of Red Cross Children’s Hospital’s child reporter-driven radio station, RX Radio

Nal’ibali Column 17: term 3

By Carla Lever

At the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, children are empowered to tell their own stories through RX Radio: a child reporter-driven radio station. Amirah and Hakeem talk to us about why no-one’s too young to author their own story.

Amirah (16) presents her own show and helps train new reporters.

 

Hakeem (17) is both a reporter and an apprentice.


 
Thanks for doing this interview. What’s it like to be asked the questions instead of asking them?

Hakeem: It’s quite weird as all my questions are prepared way before the interview. Now that I’m being interviewed, I understand now the pressure the interviewees must be feeling on my shows!

What does your job at RX radio involve? Is it fun?

Amirah: It’s so much fun working here at RX Radio. I present and script my show but I also help with training the new reporters.
Hakeem: It’s definitely super fun. As a reporter, I come up with content for my shows and collect Vox Pops because it’s nice to know how other people feel about things. I’m also an apprentice, which means editing different shows, training new recruits and covering different events.

Why do you think telling stories and sharing experiences is helpful for kids when they’re at Red Cross?

Amirah: It could help them become more confident and comfortable in telling their stories and come to grips with their health condition. Other kids with the same condition might also understand more.
Hakeem: Here they have a chance to tell people their story – even if it’s traumatizing or painful – and get it off their chest. They are constantly surrounded by children with different, and sometimes similar, illnesses and feel almost immediately at home and at ease at RX Radio.

How many patients and children work at RX?

Amirah: RX Radio has trained 67 child reporters.

Do you have to be a loud, outgoing person to be on radio?

Amirah: No, you don’t. In the beginning I was very quiet, but after a few weeks, months I came out of my shell and now I’m confident.
Hakeem: Not everyone is able to be like that and we don’t want anyone to be left out. So we’d usually allow all the children to take part in many different roles, such as reading the news or sports or participating in Vox Pops.

Often, doctors don’t see people unless they are sick. Why do you think it’s important and exciting for kids to be able to interview doctors who are helping them?

Hakeem: This way they feel more comfortable with their health care workers and build up a good relationship with them. In most interviews, they’ll disclose personal experiences which allows the child to think of as a friend.

Do the kids at RX get to choose what kinds of stories and features they make?

Amirah: Yes, they do. You get to choose what show and features you want.
Hakeem: Most definitely. The staff at RX Radio aim to be as little involved as possible. I’ll support, but the material comes mainly from the children themselves.

What are the most important skills kids would need to work at RX?

Amirah: Well they should be able to be social and confident enough to talk to someone face to face and be able to share their stories.
Hakeem: Also using a field recorder, which is important for someone on radio.

Amirah, I love your Hot Playlist – I listened a little while I was at work. And Hakeem, I can’t wait to hear some top tips on the outdoors from your show. What does it feel like to have a whole hour to tell people across the world stories about things you’re passionate about?

Amirah: It’s always nice to have time to share your favourite things, even if you’re not confident enough to share it with people closer to you. I’ve also met and interviewed so many new people during that one hour. And have listened to lots of amazing stories from Nal’ibali.

I know there are libraries and book clubs available at Red Cross. Can you tell me a little about the “Books and Breakfast” with Yusrah?

Amirah: In Yusrah’s show she talks about books she has read, interviews authors and talks about new books that have come out.
Hakeem: Yusrah’s sister Naseerah features in her show as well. She tells riddles and sometimes discusses books too.

There are people from so many different backgrounds at Red Cross. Do you use different languages at RX, or is it all in English?

Amirah: We mainly use English.
Hakeem: … but children are allowed to do things in their own language.

What advice would you give to kids who feel they have a story to tell the world?

Amirah: Well, they could always contact us and we will help them tell their stories.
Hakeem: Speak to your parents and tell them how you feel and I’m sure they will make sure you have a chance to tell your story. Also RX Radio will always be willing to hear your story and play it on air.

How can people tune in to listen?

Amirah: Children in the hospital can just switch to RX Radio but for outside listeners, they can stream us on www.rxradio.co.za.
Hakeem: They can also search RX Radio on Twitter or Facebook. We even have an app in the Play Store for download!

Reading and telling stories with your children is a powerful gift to them. It builds knowledge, language, imagination and school success! For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of South African languages, visit: www.nalibali.org.


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