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Archive for the ‘Feature’ Category

Long Story Short Event at Es’kia Mphahlele Community Library Leaves Yewande Omotoso with Some Questions

Long Story Short event
Bom BoyUnimportanceIf I Could Sing

The fourth Long Story Short took place at the Es’kia Mphahlele Community Library in Pretoria last weekend, with Khulu Skenjana reading Thando Mgqolozana’s short story “The Weeping Willow”, but the event was forced to shut down before the Poet Laureate had had a chance to speak, leaving Yewande Omotoso with some questions.

Long Story Short is a Kajeno Media initiative, involving a short story being read at a public event, with high quality podcasts and videos being produced for free consumption and download afterwards.

Long Story Short event

The reading was a very festive affair, attended by Keorapetse Kgositsile and the “who’s who” of South African literature, while Africa Flavour Books brought in a pop-up store with discounted African books – including some rare classics.

However, after the reading the discussion was interrupted by a booming intercom announcing that the library was closing, and the whole group was forced to leave the library in a hurry.

Omotoso is the curator of the pieces to be read for Long Story Short. Read her piece on the event:

The Day the Library Finished

Long Story Short eventWe gathered at the Es’kia Mphahlele Community Library in Tshwane City, a library folded into a mall – Sammy Marks Square – which is really a thoughtful arrangement. Why put the library on a hill somewhere? Put it on the white sands of beaches, dig it underneath our cinemas, plant it on top of our spaza shops – the point is treat the library like the hearth, what good is a fire if nobody can reach it to be warmed?

The Sammy Marks building has a robust history. Sammy Marks, for whom the building is named, was born in 1843 and was a South African industrialist and financier. In addition to paying for the bricks and chandeliers of the Pretoria synagogue he commissioned a statue of Kruger that stands on Church Square. Possibly Sammy Marks Square was once offices and commerce but now a huge portion of it is full of glorious books.

The purpose of that particular gathering was to hear a reading of “The Weeping Willow”, an eerie story by Thando Mqolozana. A story so sharp it prickles. Performed by Khulu Skenjana to a warm crowd of about 30 hungry people, the day would have been a success if not for a few holes in our otherwise solid ground.

One can’t claim to understand all the holes, the extent of them and how to fill them up, but you don’t need to be a professor of something to know you’ve fallen and you can’t get up.

Before the reading, armed with an infusion of earnestness and at the behest of organiser Kgauhelo Dube, I trawled the library aisles and accosted innocent library visitors. I told them about Long Story Short and that they may have noticed a small commotion, that we were about to have a short reading, and asked if perhaps they wanted a break from their intense studying. There weren’t that many people to begin with but I passed out flyers to the few I saw and I’m pleased to say I was persuasive enough to attract an extra four or five curious folk.

At the appointed time the reading began. Khulu has gravel in his voice and Thando’s story, as small as it is, is full of heavy rocks which sink to the bottom of your heart. People leaned forward in their seats, keen not to miss anything. The good news is whatever was missed can be heard again thanks to the podcast and a thing called Wi-Fi.

Seconds after Khulu finished his performance, cutting off MC Masello Motana in mid-sentence, a determined voice tinkled through the intercom to let us know that the library would be closing at 12.50pm. Possibly we, the organisers and guests, were guilty of the disease called Denial because I remember hearing the announcement but not really understanding. As if the woman had spoken in a foreign language. There was bustle you see, great excitement. A posse of writers, publishers, readers, high-school students. It is possible that when you’re that excited you consider yourself immune to intercom announcements.

Long Story Short eventWhile the MC navigated us through the question and answer session, a second announcement cut in. Thando Mgqolozana and South African Poet Laureate Keorapetse William Kgositsile were on stage at the time. With that strange combination of embarrassment and indignation, Masello had the excruciating task of telling the book lovers that we had to leave, adding that perhaps we could gather outside in the square, as it would appear that the library was kicking us out or – as a three-year-old succinctly put it – the library was finished.

Of course libraries must close. I had the luxury of experiencing a real-life 24-hour library, and it’s a wondrous thing; hopefully this invention will soon land on our shores. But for now libraries close. Do a little tour and you’ll note the different times the different libraries around South Africa close, I won’t dwell on it here. The point is that Es’kia Mphahlele closes at 12.50pm on a Saturday. Perhaps that’s a hole. Not the fault of the receptionist and workers who want to get home and need to catch a cocktail of buses and taxis to do so. But how about the senior librarian, what should one expect of such a person when you come and visit them? Foolishly, Long Story Short and its slowly growing tribe thought to be welcomed and feted. We were bringing books and readers and writers into a library, we were filming and promoting reading, we had Ntate Keorapetse with us, we thought ourselves bullet-proof or at least kick-out-proof. We certainly didn’t intend on staying till Christmas – our programme was wrapping up – we simply wanted a few extra minutes to end in a dignified fashion. Instead we packed hurriedly and scurried out.

Long Story Short eventOutside in the gorgeous Sammy Marks Square the sun hit our eyeballs, we moved about, conspicuous; we laughed about the recent eviction, took resplendent photographs and selfies and eventually dispersed. Should the library close that early on a Saturday? What a wonderful space it is, what an awesome facility, shouldn’t it have been fuller? Where was the librarian, why didn’t she come through to greet Ntate? Why that double dose of officious intercoming? Could the deliverer of such news not have walked the 10 paces to where we sat and whispered in Kgauhelo’s ear, apologetic to break up such a dazzling party? Libraries close, of course, but that seems the least of the problem. There was a certain spirit we missed and it made us nostalgic and frustrated. The irony of starting a reading movement in a library that seems at best bemused, at worst hostile. Perhaps we weren’t imposing or important enough. Books are powerful but books aren’t guns. Books are enriching but books aren’t bars of gold. Of course any reader knows that books are more than guns, pomp, flash and gold and we assumed any library would know that too.

Long Story Short eventEs’kia Mphahlele, father of African literature – that child blessed with a sprinkling of parents. Mphahlele was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1984 and, in 1998, was awarded South Africa’s highest symbol of recognition – the Order of the Southern Cross. The renown came from his brilliance in fiction and non-fiction, in theatre, teaching, activism and in thought. A bust of Prof. Es’kia Mphahlele sits in the library. If, instead of his likeness, he himself had been there that day, what would he have said, preacher of humanism and the importance of African consciousness?

“There must surely be much more to be said than the mere recounting of an incident: about the loves and hates of my people; their desires; their poverty and affluence … their diligence and idleness; their cold indifference and enthusiasm …”

What I take from his words is that we are complex, our histories are complex, our struggles are complex and our solutions will occasionally slip through holes and fight for purchase. Mphahlele preached, despite immense challenges, the survival of an African humanism. It seems intelligent, whatever the upsets of the day, to keep returning to this nugget of wisdom.

Yewande Omotoso

View a photo album from the event:


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The 2015 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize: Shortlisted Authors Discuss Their Novels

Read a series of interviews with the five authors on the 2015 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize shortlist.

The overall winners of this year’s Barry Ronge Fiction Prize and Alan Paton Award will be announced on Saturday, 27 June, at a gala dinner at Summer Place in Johannesburg.


2015 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize shortlistees

Tales of the Metric SystemA Croc of Silver: 2015 Barry Ronge Prize Shortlistee Imraan Coovadia Discusses Tales of the Metric System
OctoberLeaping Upstream: 2015 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize Shortlistee Zoe Wicomb Discusses the Origins of her Novel October
nullArctic SummerSecret Journeys: 2015 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize Shortlistee Damon Galgut Discusses the Origins of Arctic Summer
nullThe Savage HourThe Outsiders in My Head: 2015 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize Shortlistee Elaine Proctor on Writing The Savage Hour
nullThe ReactiveAn Honest Imagining: 2015 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize Shortlistee Masande Ntshanga Talks About Writing The Reactive

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A Croc of Silver: 2015 Barry Ronge Prize Shortlistee Imraan Coovadia Discusses Tales of the Metric System

Published in the Sunday Times

By Imraan Coovadia

This book comes the closest I can to telling the story of contemporary South Africa. It’s made out of the experiences, the happiness and unhappiness, the entanglements and ironies of a thousand people who I have known or read about or imagined. It’s not a book for intellectuals or academics, for book club readers or radio show reviewers, for bankers or clerks, but it’s not a book against them either. It’s a book, as I see it, and to borrow a thought, “for everyone and nobody”.

In our country books are like stones. Someone throws them into the pond. They skip a few times and then disappear forever. I think a book should be more like a crocodile. Let it hang around disguised, and every now and again ambush some unlucky reader and take him or her down deep into the water.

You ask where the nugget of truth is in the story.

First of all, I hope it’s not a nugget. A nugget, even of gold, is something you would sift out, leaving the rest. There has to be a sense of overall truthfulness, sincerity, and conviction, for a novel to work – at least for this novel to work – and there shouldn’t be anything you can leave out. For a poem, gold may be the right measure of value: every word needs to be worth its weight in gold, because there are few words and each demands attention and display. In a novel the currency of words is closer to silver or bronze. Each word and sentence has to cross your palm almost without your noticing. In my experience, that’s the way that truth operates – steadily, quietly, surprisingly – in a novel.

Excerpt from Tales of the Metric System:

Yash had been planning to kill himself for almost a year. He dated the decision to the Diwali before last, soon after the start of television, when his cousin Logan bought a dozen boxes of fireworks from Singapore Retailers. They had orange fuses and flaking green paper sides, smelled of the bitter black pepper of gunpowder when you held them in your hand, and shone with an alien light in the sky above that Logan’s uncle’s house. There had been a Catherine wheel turning back and forth like a hosepipe full of sparks and yet its brilliant white revolutions struck him as unendurably sad. Yash had been unable to stop his eyes filling with tears.

On the same evening, the Pioneer sound system had been stolen out of Logan’s car while the guests were in the yard. Although Logan’s uncle had immediately identified the thief, who lived across the road and subsequently played his own music on the stolen speakers, it was impossible to have his cousin’s property returned because the miscreant was the nineteen-year-old, ne’er-do-well son of a sergeant in the police force. He and his father could make life difficult for Logan and his uncle, teachers in the same government school, if they went to lay a complaint.

Logan wasn’t the type to forget an injury. Under the proper conditions he was prepared to take action. When the school boycotts came here to Phoenix, Logan had promised to march up to the sergeant’s door, ring the buzzer until they were forced to let him in, and take back his speakers and graphic equaliser.

Yash thought that he wouldn’t live to see the day this Logan put his speakers back in the sockets in the doors of his car. In the meantime, they remained empty to remind Logan of the theft, also because he couldn’t afford to replace the system on his junior teacher’s salary. Yash had an idea that Logan was one person who was capable of bringing about a revolution.

In a way none of them were good for him. Logan and Sanjay and even this Kastoori made claims on life far stronger than his own. Could they know that this difference in their intensities, the sum of their wills to survive subtracted from his own, reduced him to thoughts of suicide. He was at less than zero.

Book details

Tales of the Metric SystemTales of the Metric System by Imraan Coovadia
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EAN: 9781415207239
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Full 2015 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award shortlist

Full 2015 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize shortlist

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Related news:

Leaping Upstream: 2015 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize Shortlistee Zoe Wicomb Discusses the Origins of her Novel October

Mapping the Mind of a Joburg Flaneur: 2015 Alan Paton Award Shortlistee Mark Gevisser Talks About Lost and Found in Johannesburg

The Tortured Past That We Try to Ignore: 2015 Alan Paton Award Shortlistee Jacob Dlamini Discusses Askari

A Stitch in Time: 2015 Alan Paton Award Shortlistee Maria Phalime Discusses Postmortem: The Doctor Who Walked Away

The Outsiders in My Head: 2015 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize Shortlistee Elaine Proctor on Writing The Savage Hour

An Honest Imagining: 2015 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize Shortlistee Masande Ntshanga Talks About Writing The Reactive

In Search of Common Ground: 2015 Alan Paton Award Shortlistee Lindie Koorts Answers Some Tough Questions on Her Biography of DF Malan

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Remembering Sol T Plaatje, 83 Years After His Death

On the anniversary of Sol T Plaatje’s death, we dug through the Sunday Times archive to discover more about how his legacy has been viewed over the years.

Plaatje was a journalist, politician, translator, writer and intellectual – who spoke at least seven languages. He died on this day in 1932, aged 55.

His book Mhudi was the first novel to be written in English by a black South African, but it’s his translations of Shakespeare into Setswana – Othello, The Merchant of Venice, Dikhontsho tsa bo-Juliuse Kesara (Julius Caesar) and Diphosho-phosho (The Comedy of Errors) – that brought him fame.

Read an Excerpt from Mhudi here

MhudiSol PlaatjeNative Life in South AfricaLover of His PeopleThe Story of Sol T. Plaatje


Newspaper clippings on Sol T Plaatje

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Image courtesy of Wikipedia

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19 Pieces of Writing Advice from South Africa’s Literary Greats

Shirley Goodness and MercyChris van Wyk on how to listen:

I always tell writers who want advice to listen. Listen if you are in a taxi; listen to the way people speak, not just to what they say. And reproduce that.

Source: A Quotionary by Jenny Hobbs

Footprints in the QuagMiriam Tlali on the difficulties of writing in South Africa:

You have to remove all the problems that prevent people from sitting down, reading the books, appreciating them and developing their own writing.

Source: Writing South Africa: Literature, Apartheid, and Democracy, 1970-1995

Down Second AvenueEs’kia Mphahlele on imagination:

It was never a problem. In fact, I always had to rein it in. Reining it in is always an act of art. To create art you need to put your imagination together so that it does not run wild when shaping your work.

Source: Selves in Question

July\'s PeopleNadine Gordimer on creation:

The tension between inside and outside – it is out of that that the work comes.

Source: A Quotionary by Jenny Hobbs

Mandela's EgoLewis Nkosi on improving his craft:

I don’t learn very much from critics writing about my work. How I learn from criticism and how I apply it to my work is when I read about the kinds of writing that I am interested in, the people who are impressive to me, and then their weaknesses are sometimes pinpointed. And then I say to myself, ‘Ah, Lewis, you too must try and avoid those pitfalls’.

Source: Lewis Nkosi documentary

To My Children's ChildrenSindiwe Magona on autobiography:

It’s within writing that you are forced to unlock doors that you have closed, to unveil yourself to yourself, to examine things you skim through and gloss over because, as you put them down, they ring a false note.

Source: Selves in Question

The Good StoryJM Coetzee on ambition:

One isn’t, in writing, transforming the world into the world as it should be. That would be too much of a task if one undertook it every time. No, I think that grasping the world as it is, putting it within a certain frame, taming it to a certain extent, that is quite enough of an ambition.

Source: Betapicts on YouTube

Way Back HomeNiq Mhlongo shares his best piece of advice for young writers:

Write as provocatively and as fearlessly as you can. Read more widely.

Source: Decentered

SynapseAntjie Krog on facing a white page:

For poetry the process has to be as tentative as possible, has to avoid any notion of permanence or importance. I write with a pencil, lightly, without really moving, as if it is merely an extension of my skin.

Source: Read SA

Rachel’s BlueZakes Mda on inspiration:

Waiting for inspiration? You will wait forever. Write and write and write again. Inspiration will find you on the way.

Source: Read SA

Strange PilgrimagesAchmat Dangor on being a South African writer:

And I think right now, as a writer, I don’t have any duty to support or criticise anyone. The only duty I have is to be imaginative.

Source: The Ledge

Desert GodWilbur Smith on finding ideas:

Every good idea breeds another good idea.

Source: BBC

Walter and Albertina SisuluElinor Sisulu on discipline:

I have found that the discipline required to write is the same for all genres; regularly engaging in some kind of writing exercise, even writing letters, is important.

Source: African Gender Institute

Tales of the Metric SystemImraan Coovadia on the best material:

Families are our point of entrance into society. They provide a lot of our starting capital as writers.

Source: A Quotionary by Jenny Hobbs

PhilidaAndré Brink shares his best piece of writing advice:

To believe utterly in the story you have to tell.

Source: Writers Write

OctoberZoë Wicomb on the importance of a routine:

To settle on a suitable routine, a time to write, and to consider the routine sacrosanct. If only I followed my own advice throughout …

Source: Aerodrome

Sounds of a Cowhide Drum / Imisindo Yesighubu Sesikhumba SenkomoMbuyiseni Oswald Mtshali on the value of poetry:

For me coming from this environment and the repressive conditions under which I grew up, poetry was a gateway to ‘success’. It provided a way out of morass of misery under a very ruthless system that was designed to destroy all those who opposed it.

Source: HTML Giant

RumoursMongane Wally Serote on being a writer:

There are phases that a writer moves through. Writers are the most unfortunate artists because they grow through speaking loudly in public and everybody remembers what they say.

Source: Writing South Africa: Literature, Apartheid, and Democracy, 1970-1995

The Lion Sleeps TonightRian Malan on the violence of creation:

You have to open the door to creation. The problem is the door only opens once you have bashed your bloodied head against it over and over again.

Source: A Quotionary by Jenny Hobbs

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Concerning Franschhoek Violence, by Mike van Graan

Mike van Graan, playwright and executive director of the African Arts Institute, has written a satirical piece on the Franschhoek Literary Festival controversy.

For those out of the loop, at the festival this year Thando Mgqolozana announced that he was “quitting what I call the white literary system in South Africa”.

The debate will continue tomorrow night at Wits, where Eusebius McKaiser will lead a panel discussion entitled “Decolonising the Literary Landscape”, with Mgqolozana, Siphiwo Mahala, Ben Williams, and Corina van der Spoel.


UnimportanceA Man Who is Not a ManCould I Vote DA?DA of nie?When a Man CriesAfrican DelightsYakhal’ Indoda

Read Van Graan’s article for a lighter side of the argument:

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Concerning Franschhoek Violence

South Africa’s reputation as a violent country reached new heights at the recent Franschhoek Literary Festival where Democratic Alliance members – thinly disguised as festival audiences – assaulted mostly young black writers with their collective white gaze.

Front-page Sunday Crimes’ photographs of a Pinelands bookclub member, Mrs Emily Parkinson, violently shaking her head during a panel discussion on “The TRC and the Mismanagement of Black Anger”, have gone viral. Raised eyebrows, raised voices and raised temperatures provided the ideal backdrop for the announcement of this year’s Sunday Crimes’ Friction Awards, with How White is This Valley heading the list, followed by Zim comes to Joburg.

One young writer, Ntomba Zana, spoke of her tremendous pain after being hit by a volley of compliments about how well she spoke English. “Phew! I now know what Saartjie Baartman must have felt like”, she said, vowing never to return to the festival as a performing monkey, unless it was “to teach these people to say ‘Nkandla’ properly.”

A black writer who asked not to be named in order to keep his options open (both with his fellow black writers and with the festival organisers) said that he was less disturbed by white audiences disagreeing with him, than when they agreed with him. “As a writer who speaks truth to power, it’s really difficult to accept praise from our former oppressors when I’m critiquing our former liberators. But these are the people who buy my books. My own family doesn’t read my books. Even when I give it to them as presents.”

Cure Pedi, a veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle and now a multiple, post-1994 award-winning writer, compared the “violence of exclusion” of his youth – arrests, detention without trial, torture and having his works banned – with the “violence of inclusion” of today’s younger writers. “Fortunately for us, our generation was not subjected to the traumas of the white gaze. They never looked at us, just at our passbooks”, he said in between scones at the Green Room. “But I’ve paid my dues. I’m done with decolonizing,” continued Pedi, who has acquired shares in M-Net, Shoprite, MTN and the Spur as – in his words – his contribution to creating jobs in African countries that once hosted him as a guerilla.

Approached for comment, Awurama Kwame, a writer from Ghana who attended the Festival for the first time, said that she had not noticed the white gaze. On the contrary, she had been relieved to look at the festival’s website before coming, and to learn that Franschhoek was not a township. She had been in two minds about accepting the invitation to attend, but was somewhat assured by the Festival’s predominantly white audience and by its English lingua franca, as she feared that if the main language was Zulu, she would not have known when to start running.

China Amanda Aditchie, the celebrated Nigerian writer whose elderly father had recently been kidnapped, thrown into the boot of a car, and held for ransom on her account, said she was shocked to learn that a white couple had actually walked out of one of the sessions being addressed by black writers at the Festival. Speaking from the safety of America, she said “South Africa is clearly heading for a genocide”.

While students are occupying buildings as part of their strategy to decolonize their universities, an ad hoc group of writers has called upon all black writers to decolonize the Festival by refusing to occupy future festival panels to share their views, insights and experiences. “It is not our role to educate whites. Let them educate themselves. We refuse to tell them our stories. (Which doesn’t mean that Brett Bailey should do it for us!). We decline to be anyone’s object of anthropological interest,” said a spokesperson for the collective, before she boarded a plane for a literary festival in Britain, where she was to appear on a panel of African writers.

We interviewed three white women audience members – Liz*, Jane* and Lara* (*their real names) – for this article. “I take great exception to being dismissed as a white supremacist”, said an indignant Liz. “I have a photograph with Mandela,” continued the former executive member of NUSAS, and current university professor. Jane, a lawyer who was once active in the UDF, suggested that “It’s our role to listen. That’s all we can do. And meditate on our whiteness.” “Bullshit!” countered Lara, a township tour operator who has employed five Xhosa-speaking tour guides, “If I want to make a contribution to this country, I’ll be damned if some kid born after Madiba’s release is going to tell me what I should or shouldn’t do!”

“I buy their books, and I’m both excited and intrigued by their ideas. That’s why I came here to listen to what these young writers have to say,” lamented Jane. “So what’s with this literary bantustans idea? Whites in their corner, blacks in their corner…what happened to the rainbow nation?” the livid Liz was nearly shouting in the restaurant with its white patrons and black waitrons. Lara said that it was at times like this that she really missed Madiba. “We don’t have any black friends since Themba left our friend Margie for a black woman because it made better business sense for him. So I want to know what black people think about our country. Not in a performing monkeys sense; if I want that, I tune in to the parliamentary channel”. “We must listen. We have to learn to listen”, said Jane. “And then?” asked Lara. “We drink!” said Jane.

In response to the post-Mandela suggestion that whites should refrain from doing charity in the townships, Ben Evans Smith of Tamboerskloof said that he’s been doing Charity in the suburbs for years. “It all started when my hetero-normative, capitalist, mono-textual parents decided to take Charity – our maid’s daughter – out of the township, place her in a Model C school, and then support her through varsity. It did not even enter my supremacist parents’ heads that they were depriving isiXhosa of a potential reader,” said an ambivalently-distressed Evans Smith.

Suzette de la Rey – a first time visitor to the Festival in search of an autograph by her favourite crime writer – supported the call for the Festival to be decolonized, and to give greater prominence to local languages. “That’s exactly what we need. Another Afrikaans festival,” she said.

We tracked down festival director, Anna MacDonald, who was hiding deep inside a bottle of white wine. “We too are concerned about the image of the Festival” she said. “In fact, we offered a 51% stake in the Festival to a local chef of colour, Reuben Refill, but he wanted a rarer portion. Now we’re hoping that Tokyo doesn’t lose his Franschhoek farm in his divorce settlement so that we can have him either as our BEE partner and/or to bus in workers from his farm”.

MacDonald, who doesn’t own a farm in Franschhoek but colonizes the leadership of the Festival from her plot in Muizenburg East, indicated that they are brainstorming other innovative ideas to attract a larger black audience. “We’re thinking of having jazz at the start of some sessions, or finding a sponsor for giveaway weaves and inviting a KFC pop-up outlet – just for the weekend,” she enthused.

For the purpose of this article, we undertook research at Exclusive Books in the V&A Waterfront to determine whether an absence of the black literary market is peculiar to Franschhoek. Within five minutes, our researchers encountered two black millennials in the bookshop, one of whom was wearing a “Rhodes must Mall” T-shirt, and the other was looking for a biography of her role model, Rihanna.

In a qualitative research interview, the manager of the bookshop said that despite the name of the bookshop, everyone was welcome although they knew exactly the number of black visitors to the bookshop. This varied between 13% and 27% depending on whether a Biko definition or a post-apartheid definition of ‘black’ was applied. “The reason for our use of security cameras is because of the numerous titles that are regularly shoplifted,” she said. She did not believe that it was racist to assume that it was black people redistributing their books. “Since the rise of the EFF, one of our most stolen books is the biography of Thomas Sankara. So it’s not as if there isn’t a black market for books, it’s just that they don’t want to pay the prices we’re asking”.

Which is a bit like Nollywood. There is great local demand for Nigerian movies and stories, but at the lowest possible prices, hence the proliferation of piracy, we suggested.

“Ja, but even in Nigeria, someone makes money,” said the manager, “even if it is the pirates!”

In response to our query about the allegations of rising book theft, the EFF issued a statement declaring that after the mines, SARS and Jack Daniels, bookshops may be nationalized. As an aside, the EFF indicated that they were less concerned about the rise of the white gaze than the dark daze on the other side of the parliamentary floor, and of the white shirts that protected it.

With tourism as Franschhoek’s leading industry, the literary festival makes no small contribution to the town’s trickle down economy, comparing favourably in this regard with the decolonized National Arts Festival (well, no-one’s calling for the fall of the 1820 Settlers monument), and which, after 40 years, struggles to dent Grahamstown’s 70% unemployment rate.

In a country wracked by deep inequality, it was inevitable that the arts generally, and literature in particular, would again become both sites and weapons of struggle. While ISIS has shown that the sword is in fact mightier than the pen, it remains to be seen whose pens will cut to the core of local issues that really matter.

Mike van Graan
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“I Can’t Wait for a Blacks-Only Literary Festival” – Andile Mngxitama Adds His Voice to Thando Mgqolozana’s Decolonisation Programme

Andile Mngxitama

From a Place of Blackness LaunchAndile Mngxitama (editor of New Frank Talk journal and co-author of From a Place of Blackness) believes Thando Mgqolozana should be thanked for opening up a space for a “belated and urgent debate” around the state of black literary practices – but he warns that the “complexion of the Franschhoek Literary Festival” is merely an indication of a deeper – and extremely complex – problem.

Read his piece:

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Thando Mgqolozana has kick-started a massive, exciting debate about the decolonisation of literature in South Africa. Mgqolozana’s debut novel, A Man Who Is Not a Man, blew my mind. His second, Hear Me Alone, disappointed me. But his third, Unimportance, restored my faith in the author, even if my enthusiasm is being dampened somewhat now.

I generally share with the late uber rebel Lewis Nkosi an unforgiving criticism of black South African literature. Of white literature I have nothing to say. For those who may not know, in the ’60s Nkosi was already arguing that black South African literature was hobbled, stunted by white domination, with debilitating consequences. Nkosi went as far as arguing that perhaps blacks shouldn’t engage in literary practices until apartheid was defeated. Unfortunately for Nkosi, the formal ending of apartheid didn’t lead to the black literary nirvana he was fantasying about, perhaps another indication that indeed the 1994 democratic transition didn’t signify a break with colonial racist domination. The last time I spoke to Nkosi in a bar in Johannesburg’s bohemian Melville, he was a wounded man, laughing sardonically about writing memoirs to name and shame the spoilers of black writing. He cursed both the white establishment and the mediocrity of post-1994 black writing, and blamed some elders of the literary world who are now being emulated by younger writers. Incidentally, he also decried the fact that they were writing for white sensibilities. I wonder what Nkosi would make of the recent rebellion by black scribes who are denouncing “white literary systems”.

Mgqolozana, an acclaimed author, has caused a delicious furore in our literary circles by declaring his exit from the colonial literary festivals. His reasons for removing himself include a statement of protest against the racism of his predominantly white audiences, who treat black writers as objects of anthropological curiosity. So he has chosen to “honour” himself and stop the charade. Luckily he will not stop writing; he has just stopped going to the festivals which do not judge him for his talent but rather treat him as a kind of sub-human in a zoo.

Mgqolozana’s language of defiance against the white racist literary establishment is uncharacteristically strident: no more Mr Nice Guy, no more of the expected nuance and gentleness of a literary gentleman. He punches the air and shouts “amandla” like a revolutionary figure on a rostrum. Ya basta! He is part of today’s gatvol movement, which draws inspiration from the militancy of the uncompromising Rhodes Must Fall Movement of the University of Cape Town (UCT), which has so beautifully changed the landscape of that city. He declares his activism for a new reader and a new literary dispensation, and turned to Twitter to present to the reading world his 21-point decolonisation programme a few days after bidding farewell to the world of white lit fests at the Franschhoek Literary Festival.

There is something charming about someone choosing to stand by their principles and be truthful to their beliefs no matter what the consequences. We live in a cynical world, where words don’t mean what they say; our leaders say one thing and do the opposite. We have got used to the idea of “talking left and walking right”. Here the writer is walking the talk. “If the literary festivals are racist and reduce one to a mere curiosity, why subject oneself to such a demeaning exercise year after year?”, Mgqolozana seems to ask with his brave action. Instead of playing along, he has chosen to leave the plantation, Django style. Candyland is left in literary flames as he trots off in his black literary horse defiantly, almost triumphantly. Of course there are cheers and jeers from the reading public, but he doesn’t care; true freedom is never negotiated, it’s taken.

The writer as warrior for justice is established practice in the African scene. In fact, contemporary African literature emerged from the foundations of resistance against both colonialism and its son, neo-colonialism. For instance, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is usually taken as a statement against colonialism. On the other hand, Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born is an exposé of the neo-colonial rot. In a similar vein, Dambudzo Marechera’s revolting writing is a performance of neo-colonialist dementia. The sons of colonialism, the black colonialists, rule through sheer mindless brutality. Devoid of the power of their fathers, who directed things from the Western metropolis, black leaders who take over from the white man in the “post colony” plunge into the depths of the grotesque, drunk with power. Gluttonous bloated monsters with shiny eyes, their sweaty hands unleashed in all directions. When Marechera returned to liberated Zimbabwe, Harare thanked him by banning some of his “obscene, anti-African” works; an outcast under the colonial regime of Ian Smith, an outcast under the Chimurenga regime of comrade Robert Mugabe. He died a black outsider, on the cold benches of Harare’s parks. Homeless in his home.

Most African writers have written from behind the walls of jail. When literature chooses the side of justice, there are dire consequences. When authors choose to battle for liberation, they become hunted, vilified and silenced. But they keep writing, to keep the hope of liberty alive. When Ngugi wa Thiong’o took the stand of abandoning English for his native Gikuyu, he was taking a stand against both colonialism and neo-colonialism. He risked losing direct financial gain and international acclaim. Defiance is no stranger to the world of the pen.

So have we entered a new era in the South Africa black literary scene? More importantly, what explains the sudden open rebellion against whiteness? The answer may be that the black writer is playing catch-up and is caught up in the rebellious euphoria engulfing the country right now. It is not a small matter that Rhodes has literally fallen within the gates of white privilege at UCT. A new discourse has opened that puts things back in black and white, and in this milieu one has to adapt or die. I’m fascinated by the voices that have joined Mgqolozana’s call for decolonisation. Some of these voices are known to be pliant in the face of racist provocation.

It seems too that there is a disjuncture between the actual literary practice and the political stance of the black writers. In other words, the rebellion against white racism is not integral to their literary practice, rather it’s external. The art itself is not rebelling at the level of the author’s public statements on decolonisation. It’s like the writer had dropped the pen and grabbed the microphone. If one were to read the books of some of these authors without being privy to their utterances about decolonisation, one would search in vain for decolonisation in their writing itself. This is unusual, because generally art is ahead of social and political protest, often giving impetus to the rebellion. So here again we can say the writer is playing catch-up, and hope to see the next generation of black literature go into combat with the monster of white supremacy.

At a literary festival a few years ago I ignited a little controversy when I took issue with Professor Zakes Mda’s book Black Diamond for a lack of critical awareness of how BEE rot was the creation of white supremacy and that if the well deserved criticism of black tenderpreneurs is not directed at its foundations, which is whiteness, then by default it becomes a defence of white supremacy. Such literary production unintentionally hidEs white racism from view. So it is good to see that Prof Mda has also thrown his weight behind the Mgqolozana-led “decolonisation” movement.

The 2013 edition of the Time of the Writer literary festival was an eye-opener for me. I was on a panel discussion with two white men, Professor Patrick Bond and the affable Sampie Terreblanche. Unbeknown to me, a fellow black author, Kagiso Lesego Molope, took to Twitter to express her displeasure, saying: “Andile Mngxitama asking Sampie Terreblanche: ‘What right do you have as a white man … yadi yadi yada.”

More of the same followed after the panel discussion. So you can imagine my surprise and delight when I read that Molope had also joined the protest led by Mgqolozana, writing in support: “literary events are not meant to be bohemian free-love festivals. They’re artists’ spaces and you’re supposed to engage, the way art does. You’re supposed to make the world a little less comfortable, you’re meant to point out what is and isn’t right about the country we’re in”. I thought this was precisely what I was doing in that panel discussion in Durban.

It seems the first thing is to accept that the decolonisation call is ethically correct, but that it must be supported and engaged critically. The meaning of these moves needs further elaboration, and more questions need to be asked. What do we mean by decolonisation today? Is this not a moment of neo-colonialism? Why are literary festivals still white 20 years later? Can transformation come from the white beneficiaries of colonialism and apartheid or is it correctly the responsibility of the black government, which has massive political power, to define a different trajectory for society? Does literary autarky mean the coexistence of white literary spaces with black ones or does real decolonisation make it a necessity to obliterate “white literary systems” completely?

It is true, as Mgqolozana avers: for a pro-black literary infrastructure to be a reality needs state support. The challenge here is that the state itself is anti-black and driven by a neo-colonial ethic. The destruction of black children’s futures through the systematic neglect of public schooling is at the centre of the death of a black reading public. It is not uncharitable to conclude that the building of libraries without librarians and books by the state is a function of accumulation by theft which is central to the reproduction of the neo-colony. This brings us to a fundamental question: Can we have decolonised literature in a colonial society? I would like to answer the question in the negative and posit that in a society like ours, which is structured by both colonialism and neo-colonialism to sustain white supremacy, a committed author should aspire to rebellion against both the colony and its new black managers. This doesn’t mean demands must not be made on the system. But a better understanding of the contradictions must be developed and expressed.

The black writers concerned with liberation have to choose between two evils or refuse both overtures and take the path of revolution. On the one hand is the white establishment, which controls the whole literary “value chain”, from publishing up to marketing; literary festivals are a small part of this colonial edifice. On the other hand, the black author can choose to enter into an unholy alliance with the state managers of neo-colonialism and shake hands with the murderers of Marikana. The more ethical and idealistic route is to fuse a battle plan against both the white moneybags and the black colonialists simultaneously. And in fact, a critical literary discourse that shows how the two movements are united by the same anti-black logic is critical in the quest for a new liberatory black literary practice.

Those of us who are interested in the decolonisation process must thank Thando Mgqolozana for opening up a space for this belated and urgent debate on the state of black literary practices in South Africa. The complexion of the Franschhoek Literary Festival is not an isolated case and should not surprise us at all. This is how things have been and are likely to be for a long time. The best support we can give Mgqolozana’s decolonisation programme is principled, critical engagement. A clarification of the root problem will assist a correct diagnosis for a correct prescription. I, for one, can’t wait for a blacks-only literary festival to debate these developments so that we can start on the path of rebellion towards decolonisation.

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“Africa is Taking its Own Shape – and You are Not Even in that Conversation” – Binyavanga Wainaina Delivers a Public Lecture in Joburg

Binyavanga Wainaina

Binyavanga Wainaina says the youth of Africa have “stopped waiting” for their colonial custodians to “think the continent into being” – and have gone in search of adventure.

Wainaina was in South Africa to deliver a public lecture entitled “Being African in the World” for the Department of Arts and Culture’s Africa Month celebrations.

Scroll to the end for a podcast of Wainaina’s talk

One Day I Will Write About This PlaceHow to Write About AfricaKwani?

Related story: Binyavanga Wainaina Explains why He’s Not “The Black Franzen from Africa”

Wainaina famously and defiantly came out as a homosexual amid a wave of homophobic feeling on the continent last year, and was subsequently named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. He began his lecture at the Joburg Theatre with an extended reading from his memoir, One Day I Will Write About This Place, because, as he explained, it is not readily available in South Africa, although it is partly set here.

The Kenyan author lived in South Africa from 1991 to 2000, through the magical time of South Africa’s transition to a democratic government, and says his memoir is “a love letter to some degree to South Africa”, and lamented the fact that in Mzansi “only great adventurers who want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro can find it”.

“That season here [in South Africa] defines me,” he says. “Every adventure, every idea I’ve had, how I became a writer. Grace – that one of the Bible – was given to me here, to carry me forward. Encountering Africa here set me on a path to go everywhere.”

Wainaina went on to speak about the “class problems of post-1994 arrival” in South Africa, placing them in a broader African context:

Africa is taking its own shape. The youth bulge is enormous, and they stopped waiting. And so, they are going to make Nollywood, or they are going to make Boko Haram, and you are not even in that conversation. The States are not in that conversation.

It’s now no longer a question of saving them, to come and bring them to learn English and become I don’t know what and give them income generation … they have gone. It’s not even, more, a question of a lost generation.

Wainaina believes the transitional period the continent is existing in, “Africa is rising”, is one of “anarchy or libertarianism”, and he says the youth of that period will “define the fate of everyone”, as they have “signed out of the contract” they had with the middle class or, as he calls it, the “colonial rulers”.

They will define not just the safety of you in Sandton but the fates of all things, because we failed as the custodians, those colonial custodians, to really think our continent into being properly.

Wainaina says he has no answers to these problems, but offers some different advice:

On the one hand, I have no prescriptions, really. But I’m enjoying this adventure of transition. I’m enjoying seeing middle class Yoruba kids learning to rap in Yoruba, which they could never do, and coming on DStv with no subtitles.

All these things from underneath the ground have come up to these boring university spaces, public school spaces, government spaces, they have come and are taking over – for better or for worse.

In terms of where we are looking forward to, that storm – which I call a hurricane – has gone. It went, and it’s only now we are seeing the different kinds of effects, sometimes in very overt political terms – elections, like Senegal and so on – sometimes in really devastating crises, and even manifest in this xenophobic violence that was happening here.

But I don’t really think those who have gone are coming back.

Even the language that is being used by governments in Africa, Wainaina says, indicates that they have “given up”, and that in response the youth are in search of adventure.

It seems to me, in a certain sense, that this language that is appearing, ‘empowerment’, ‘service delivery’ – which came from one document; all the governments of Africa say the same words – I have no problem with it, they are very sensible, inoffensive-seeming things … but I feel like there is now a conversation of nation states that have actually effectively given up, and the things that they used to service, that they knew how to service, they service them okay, and they improve three percent every year, like basic education in Zulu, Sotho, Kikuyu, or whatever, will arrive in 22 years. But the African who did not finish that university degree is never going to care about articulating his intelligence in English. It’s just never going to happen.

So I just wanted to put this gauntlet down. Because for my generation, I’m in my 40s, it’s not a matter of just taking leadership but actually agreeing to see. For me, for now, I prefer to see the continent as an enormous adventure. Its feature is youth, and youth are bending their bodies in complicated ways to adventure and find ways to break out of what is just boredom. Not even unemployment, which is terrible, leave all of that – it’s just boredom.

He illustrated his point with some fascinating anecdotes about how youngsters in countries such as Congo or Senegal combat that boredom:

Did you know that people leave Congo with $10 000? They hitchhike or bus to Senegal, which is a stopover place because the Senegalese as a Francophone people are generally quite tolerant, and you hang out there and you try and make some money, but you’ve still got your money in your pocket because you still have to cross the Sahara, to go to France or Italy or Belgium.

Now people say, ‘Oh, that’s very impractical. How stupid are you? If you started a little spaza shop in your township with $10 000 you’ll do very well. Why?’ – No.

There are some who leave Congo to go to Angola. With their money they get on a ship to Brazil, where they hustle for three or four years, to get back to Italy, to make it to the UK. Do you know why? Because it’s an adventure.

What happens in Senegal? They all meet on the beach; they are training. They are training and they have this rap called “Barcelona or die”. So each time someone gets deported from Barcelona, he comes back to the beach and he’s like, ‘You can’t believe what happened. I nearly died, I nearly drowned, in the Sahara I was walking for 14 days.’

You are sitting in your house, your parents are telling you, ‘Oh, you know, at least we have got our house, if it’s a one bedroom, just stay here you can breed chicken. Just breed some chicken, you don’t want to become spoilt like the children of so-and-so.’

Now those are the kids who end up running away. It’s not that he becomes rich, even if he’s living on the streets and it’s cold and horrible in Barcelona – he comes home and he can marry. You have 34-year-olds who can’t marry and are staying in their parents’ home. People are like: ‘I can rather live in hell. I would rather eat chicken shit across the Sahara. Because I am a person with hunger, desire, to control the world in my own terms.

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Binyavanga Wainaina’s Twitter Outburst: “Dear Caine Prize, U Made Nothing, Produced Nothing, Distributed Nothing”

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the Elite Cult of Feminism, Being Unpopular, and the Trauma of Her Father’s Kidnapping

AmericanahHalf of a Yellow Sun Purple Hibiscus

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was in Massachusetts, USA, on Friday to deliver the commencement address to Wellesley College the class of 2015.

Wellesley is an elite private women’s liberal-arts college, and Adichie had some valuable advice for the graduates on feminism, gender, love and changing the world – from her singular perspective.

On makeup, gender injustice and privilege

I wasn’t very interested in makeup until I was in my 20s, which is when I began to wear makeup. Because of a man.

A loud, unpleasant man. He was one of the guests at a friend’s dinner party in Lagos. I was also a guest. I was about 23, but people often told me I looked 12. The conversation at dinner was about traditional Igbo culture, about the custom that allows only men to break the kola nut, and the kola nut is a deeply symbolic part of Igbo cosmology.

I argued that it would be better if that honour were based on achievement rather than gender, and this man looked at me and said, dismissively, “You don’t know what you are talking about, you’re a small girl.”

I wanted him to disagree with the substance of my argument, but by looking at me, young and female, it was easy for him to dismiss what I said. So I decided to try and look older and I thought lipstick might help. And eyeliner.

And I am grateful to that man because I have since come to love makeup, and its wonderful possibilities for temporary transformation.

I’ve not told you this anecdote as a way to illustrate my discovery of gender injustice. If anything, it’s really just an ode to makeup. It’s really just to say that this, your graduation, is a good time to buy some lipsticks – if makeup is your sort of thing – because a good shade of lipstick can always put you in a slightly better mood on dark days.

That story is not about my discovering gender injustice, because of course I had discovered years before then. From childhood. From watching the world.

I already knew that the world does not extend to women the many small courtesies that it extends to men. I also knew that victimhood is not a virtue. That being discriminated against does not make you somehow morally better. I knew that men were not inherently bad or evil, they were merely privileged. And I knew that privilege blinds because it is the nature of privilege to blind.

I knew from this personal experience, from the class privilege I had of growing up in an educated family; that it sometimes blinded me, that I was not always as alert to the nuances of people who were different from me.

And you, because you now have your beautiful Wellesley degree, have become privileged. No matter what your background. That degree, and the experience of being here, is a privilege. Don’t let it blind you too often. Sometimes you will need to push it aside in order to see clearly.

On being a female “chairman” and the Secret Society of Certified Feminists

My mother is 73 and she recently retired as the first female registrar of the University of Nigeria, which was quite a big deal at the time.

My mother likes to tell a story of the first university meeting she chaired. It was a large conference room and at the head of the table was a sign that said “chairman”. My mother was about to get seated there when a clerk came over and made to remove the sign. All the past meetings had of course been chaired by men, and somebody had forgotten to replace the “chairman” with a new sign that said “chairperson”. The clerk apologised and told my mother that he would find the new sign, since she was not a chairman. My mother said “no”. “Actually,” she said, she “was a chairman”. She wanted the sign left exactly where it was. The meeting was about to begin. She didn’t want anybody to think that what she was doing in that meeting, at that time, on that day, was in any way different from what a chairman would have done.

Now, I always liked this story, and I admired what I thought of as my mother’s fiercely feminist choice. I once told this story to a friend, a card-carrying feminist, and I expected her to say “bravo” to my mother. But she was troubled by it. “Why would your mother want to be called a ‘chairman’, as though she needed the ‘man’ part to validate her?”, my friend asked.

In some ways I saw my friend’s point.

Because if there were a standard handbook published annually, by the Secret Society of Certified Feminists, then that handbook would certainly say that a woman should not be called, nor want to be called, a chairman.

But gender is always about context and circumstance. And if there is a lesson in this anecdote, apart from just telling you a story about my mother, to make her happy that I spoke about her at Wellesley, then it is this: Your standardised ideologies will not always fit your life. Because life is messy.

On her decision to leave medical school in Nigeria to try to become a writer in the USA

We can not always bend the world into the shapes we want but we can try, we can make a concerted and real and true effort.

And you are privileged that, because of your education here, you have already been given many of the tools that you will need to try. Always just try. Because you never know.

And so as you graduate, as you deal with your excitement and your doubts today, I urge you to try and create the world you want to live in. Minister to the world in a way that can change it. Minister radically in a real, active, practical, get-your-hands-dirty way. Wellesley will open doors for you. Walk through those doors and make your strides long and firm and sure.

Write television shows in which female strength is not depicted as remarkable but merely normal. Teach your students to see that vulnerability is a human rather than a female trait. Commission magazine articles that teach men “how to keep a woman happy”. Because there are already too many articles that tell women how to keep a man happy. And in media interviews make sure fathers are asked how they balance family and work. In this age of parenting as guilt, please spread the guilt equally. Make fathers feel as bad as mothers. Make fathers share in the glory of guilt.

Campaign and agitate for paid paternity leave everywhere in America. Hire more women where there are few. But remember that a woman you hire doesn’t have to be exceptionally good. Like a majority of the men who get hired, she just needs to be good enough.

On the elite cult of feminism

I began to really ask myself what it means to wear this feminist label so publicly. Just as I asked myself, after excerpts of my feminist speech were used in a song by a talented musician whom I think some of you might know, I thought it was a very good thing that the word “feminist” would be introduced to a new generation. But I was startled by how many people – many of whom were academics – saw something troubling, even menacing, in this.

It was as though feminism was supposed to be an elite little cult, with esoteric rights of membership. But it shouldn’t.

Feminism should be an inclusive party. Feminism should be a party full of different feminisms. And so, class of 2015, please go out there and make feminism a big, raucous inclusive party.

On what she learned from her father’s kidnapping

The past three weeks have been the most emotionally difficult of my life. My father is 83 years old. He’s a retired professor of statistics, a lovely kind, simple man, who is full of grace. I am an absolute daddy’s girl.

Three weeks ago my father was kidnapped near his home in Nigeria, and for a number of days my family and I went through the kind of emotional pain that I have never known in my life.

We were talking to threatening strangers on the phone, begging and negotiating for my father’s safety, and we were not always sure if my father was alive. He was released after we paid a ransom.

He is well, he’s in fairly good shape, and in his usual lovely way, he’s very keen to reassure us that he’s fine. I’m still not sleeping well. I still wake up many times at night in panic, worried that something else has gone wrong. I still cannot look at my father without fighting tears. Without feeling this profound relief and gratitude that he’s safe. But also rage, that he had to undergo such an indignity to his body and to his spirit. And the experience has made me rethink many things. What truly matters and what doesn’t. What I value, and what I don’t.

On being raised as a woman, to be likeable, and online shopping

All over the world, girls are raised to be make themselves likeable, to twist themselves into shapes that suit other people.

Please do not twist yourself into shapes to please. Don’t do it. If someone likes that version of you, that version of you, that version of you that is false and holds back, then they actually just like a twisted shape, and not you. And the world is such a gloriously multifaceted, diverse place that there are people in the world who will like you, the real you, as you are.

I am lucky that my writing has given me a platform that I choose to use to talk about things I care about, and I have said a few things that have not been so popular with a number of people. I have been told to shut up about certain things, such as my position on the equal rights of gay people on the continent of Africa, such as my deeply held belief that men and women are completely equal.

I don’t speak to provoke. I speak because I think our time on earth is short and each moment that we are not our truest selves, each moment we pretend to be what we are not, each moment we say what we do not mean because we imagine that is what somebody wants us to say, then we are wasting our time on earth.

I don’t mean to sound precious but please don’t waste your time on earth.

But there is one exception. The only acceptable way of wasting your time on earth is online shopping.

On “because you are a woman”

My mother and I do not agree on many things regarding gender.

There are certain things my mother believes a person should do, for the simple reason that said person “is a woman”.

Such as, nod occasionally and smile even when smiling is the last thing one wants to do. Such as, strategically give in to certain arguments, especially when arguing with a non-female. Such as, get married and have children. Now, I can think of fairly good reasons for doing any of these, but “because you are a woman” is not one of them. And so, class of 2015, never, ever accept “because you are a woman” as a reason for doing – or not doing – anything.

On love

I would like to end with a final note on the most important thing in the world: love.

Girls are often raised to see love as only giving. Women are praised for their love when that love is an act of giving. But to love is to give and to take. Please love by giving and by taking. Give and be given.

If you are only giving and not taking, you’ll know. You’ll know from that small and true voice inside you that we females are so often socialised to silence. Don’t silence that voice. Dare to take.

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21 of Our Favourite Quotes from 2015 Franschhoek Literary Festival

We’ve collected the best of the quotes we can remember hearing at the 2015 Franschhoek Literary Festival.

If you recall one that we’ve overlooked – or if you are an author who said something really witty and wants to be acknowledged – share your pearls of wisdom in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Tales of the Metric System
“What’s the biggest mistake I see in my writing students? That they didn’t choose accountancy.” – Imraan Coovadia
Don't Film Yourself Having Sex
“If you don’t want your mom to see it, don’t put it online.” – Emma Sadleir
101 Detectives
“After I submit the book I have some hellish weeks. What have I done? I should have kept this to myself.” – Ivan Vladislavić
“Life doesn’t do what stories do. Life continues. Stories end.” – Christopher Hope
Green Lion
“If we choose not to write African stories we are impoverishing our literature.” – Henrietta Rose-Innes
A History of Loneliness
“I’d like to think my sexuality is one of the least interesting things about me, much like my head of hair.” – John Boyne
The Paying Guests
“Only now can we start writing about miserable lesbians, as it is no longer necessary to create positive images.” – Sarah Waters
Dying in New York
“There’s swagger to Nigerian attitude which is great – see their soccer World Cup confidence. We need more swagger as SA authors.” – Ekow Duker
Rusty Bell
“I see a lot of sentences that could have been written better in my books. But then I would never publish anything.” – Nthikeng Mohlele
“Non-fiction as a category is like calling all the clothes in your wardrobe ‘non-socks’.” – Hedley Twidle
The Reactive
“Writing is more than a compulsion.” – Masande Ntshanga
“Banging your head against a wall because it’s so nice to stop. Writing is like that.” – Deon Meyer
“Writers do half the job. The reader who picks up the book does the rest.” – Thando Mgqolozana
Literary Landscapes
“Nobody cares what people in Nigeria think about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novels. Value is created elsewhere.” – Harry Garuba
One Midlife Crisis and a Speedo
“When you’re young you hear people say ‘everybody dies’ and you hear in your head ‘everybody else dies’.” – Darrel Bristow-Bovey
Could I Vote DA?
“Many black professionals, including the few who are here, are actually secretly indebted – we’re not genuinely middle class.” – Eusebius McKaiser
Arctic Summer
“The only way you can be universal is to be sure you are very specifically local.” – Damon Galgut
“Julius Malema is a mixture of Hitler, Idi Amin, Mobutu Sese Seko and many other dictators together.” – Kenny Kunene
Dare We Hope?
“If soup kitchens are there to cleanse guilt and not to restore dignity then there’s a challenge.” – Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela
What Will People Say: A Novel
“Once people have been free to express themselves in racist, antisemitic, senile ways … then we can klap them.” – Rehana Rossouw
Still Grazing
“All my experiences removed geography from my world.” – Hugh Masekela
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  • Literary Landscapes: From Modernism to Postcolonialism by Harry Garuba, Ina Grabe, Merry M Pawlowski, Carrol Clarkson, Johan Geertsema
    EAN: 9780230553163
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