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Archive for the ‘Independent’ Category

Ons Klyntji launch (5 December)

Established as a title in 1896, Ons Klyntji has risen, died, been reborn, died off again and finally been reinvented somewhere in the murky 1990s to become what it is today: a 144 page, pocket-sized annual of the doen en late of South Africans at home and abroad.

Afrikaans and English sit side by side (plus bits and bobs of other languages) to create a kind of restless vernacular in poem-form, short story-shape, photographs, cartoons, funny things, rude things, sad things and just plain truths too.

The 2018/19 edition of Ons Klyntji Internasionaal will be launched at The Book Lounge on Wednesday 5 December at 5:30 PM for 6 PM.

Zines will be on sale. RSVP to

Oh yes, there will be free wine!

Ons Klyntji is sponsored by Oppikoppi music festival and Woordfees.

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“It’s crucial for us to create plays that sound like the people they speak of and about” – a Q&A with playwright, director and storyteller J Bobs Tshabalala

Nal’ibali Column 31: Term 4 (2018)

By Carla Lever

J Bobs Tshabalala, as photographed by Jan Potgieter.

Congrats on your new publication – “Khongolose Khommanding Khommissars” is quite a title! Can you tell us a little about what it’s about?

Enkosi kakhulu for the congratulations, I really do appreciate it. This is an incredible milestone for me, and for my organization Kiri Pink Nob. Seeing also that it is my debut publication, makes it even more special for me and my team at large. So, for us, this is truly a moment!

“Khongolose Khommanding Khomissars” is a heightened period piece, only the period is very recent and very South African. It’s actually the playscript of a political satire we performed, written in what we call “Comrade-Speech” – elevated language synonymous with the Black South African aspirational discourse in the political and academic spheres.

As a young Black playwright, I think that it’s crucial for us to create plays that sound like the people they speak of and about. It’s incredible how people have taken to the first ever staging, and now, the publication. It is an important shift that we are proposing here!

It’s often a challenge to get plays published for a wider audience to read and stage them. We have powerful and interesting new theatre being made in South Africa, but are we doing enough to preserve and promote the scripts?

A simple, answer… No! We’re not doing enough – far from it. Amidst all the excuses there are some valid reasons, though.

One: some of our most interesting theatre, is physical, not text-based narrative, so it seldom translates to being a strong script offering.

Two: In the case of well written plays that are as engaging as performance texts as they are literary works, the question of commerce enters. Why spend some money on publishing for a market that I know will not spend any money on reading?

Three: There is very little collaboration between actors and publishers in South Africa. It’s a gap that needs to be closed, and my partner Monageng Motshabi and I intend to do just that! I can continue listing the ills, but my answer holds: NO! NO, we are not doing enough. Far from it!

What was your experience of self-publishing? Do you have any tips for people interested in doing the same?

It was glorious: an absolute dream! Hard work, yes. Kodwa, it was a very beautiful experience.

Monageng “Vice” Motshabi of diartskonageng is my co-publisher. This experience was such a pleasure because he and I gave it the time that it needed and we worked on it diligently at our own pace. He’s published independently before, so he knew the ropes and was more than generous in showing them to me as the process unfolded. Above all else, it’s his generosity of knowledge, contacts and spirit that made this experience so delightful.

For those who are keen to do the same, my best advice would be find someone who is equally passionate about the project and pursue it as a collaboration. Having that other person makes the brutal parts of the journey easier to endure and overcome. People should not mistake self-publishing as a synonym for “I did everything by myself as a solo project” – that’s a dangerous narrative around being independent. That’s not what it means at all.

Do you think there’s been a cultural shift where we’re telling – and listening to – our own South African stories enough, or do South Africans still tend to be more interested in international plays, books or films?

In the spaces that I operate in, the shift is tangible. People are demanding local content, and many are even demanding it in indigenous languages. That said, we need to compete for market share with the international players who have way more money than we do. What they spend on marketing one product, is what we spend on making ten, so a long way is still to be travelled when it comes to making our stories the products of choice (for the middle-class market, that is). In the working classes however, South African content is treasured. This is where I am looking to play mostly.

Your theatre work has often explored the ways we understand – and misunderstand – each other in South Africa. What interests you about this?

I’m very interested in the ways that I understand and misunderstand the country and its people. In the many ways that the country and its people understand and misunderstand me. South Africa is incredibly rich with heightened complexity and complicated nuance. I aspire to make work that captures that, so that its signature is unique to Mzansi as a character and my brand of theatre as a creative undertaking. What an amazing offer it is to be a theatre practitioner in a land that is this fertile with gems of content, concepts and people so ready to engage!

You’ve been very innovative in the ways you’ve chosen to explore socio-political issues with people. Can you tell us a little about your successful use of the game show format to draw people in and make them question their own cultural assumptions?

The Game Shows are gold for me. They took me very long to create and refine, and I feel as though only now am I getting to the heart of what they really are about and for.

Their success is based on rewarding our connections more than our divisions. On highlighting similarities in the veil of exposing our differences. On being scathing in a way that is cathartic for all, and on being funny in a way that is laughable only to our national humour. They are about using theatre to explore the theatrics of our reality.

Kodwa, my proudest achievement is that they have been made what they are by the multitude of South Africans who have witnessed them. Audiences have co-authored this journey with me, and at best, I have been very attentive and careful to be their dedicated scribe and dramaturge. It honestly feels like a commissioned work, by the people. I love doing them. The Township one, and The Suburban one – as I call them. They are triumphs. They remind me that South Africans are ready handle any concept that you may throw at them, as long as you trust them with it, they will delve in deeply.

Why is storytelling – whether through film, theatre, books or poetry – an important way for us to connect and explore our histories and realities?

It is a true monument of who we are as a people, in the time that we live in. Of all the stories to be told, the untold South African story is the most critical of them all. We want to talk about us now. We are ready to hear ourselves. We have watched as the world fantasize about us and we’re done with that!

How can people get their hands on a copy of your book?

From me! The book costs R150 a copy. In Gauteng, I deliver. In other parts of South Africa and the rest of the world, I post, which costs extra. Drop me an e-mail to

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:

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Editor needed for New Coin

New Coin is looking for a new editor to begin work in January 2019 (first issue: June 2019).

The editor should have a good sense of the range of genres and sub-cultures in South African poetry today, and be willing to engage constructively with new writing and writers.

The main responsibilities would be:
• selecting and compiling material for each issue
(two issues a year – typically 50 poets submit work to each issue)
• selecting cover art for each issue
• identifying and selecting new books to review, and finding knowledgeable reviewers
• corresponding with poets, notifying them of acceptances and rejections, as well as making constructive editorial suggestions
• appointing a judge for the annual DALRO Prize
• liaising with the designer of New Coin on production matters
• proofreading
• maintaining the New Coin page on Facebook
• promotion of New Coin
• liaison on administrative matters with the publisher – the Institute for the Study of English in Africa (ISEA) at Rhodes University in Grahamstown.

The editor can be based anywhere in South Africa. He or she will have the support of an editorial advisory board appointed by the ISEA. A small stipend is paid for the work.

If you’re interested, please send a letter of motivation spelling out your vision for the future of the journal, together with a short CV, to before 31 October 2018.

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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.

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“The aim of VW is to ensure that every 10-year-old child in Uitenhage will be able to read with comprehension and write.” A Q&A with Vernon Naidoo, manager of the Volkswagen Community Trust

Published in the Sunday World, Daily Dispatch, Herald

By Carla Lever

Vernon Naidoo, manager: The Volkswagen Community Trust.

What role do you think corporates can play in making meaningful change in South Africa?

Most corporates are trusted because of the brands they represent. They have power in the form of leverage and resources. Government will never be able to fully turn the SA ship around – there’s a shortage of resources and skills, not the mention a lot of red tape! Meaningful change can be achieved, though – we just need Government, media, NGOs and Corporates to work together.

VW has chosen education as one of its target areas for giving back. Why is it something you feel so strongly about at VW?

The aim of VW is to ensure that every 10-year-old child in Uitenhage will be able to read with comprehension and write. In fact, we’ve been in the education space for more than 30 years – we believe it’s one of the key ingredients to true freedom.

In comparison with Africa and the world, South Africa ranks low on the literacy (reading with comprehension) scale. Volkswagen, together with the Department of Education and other stakeholders, want to part of the solution to change this statistic.

You partner with literacy NGO Nal’ibali on an exciting project in Uitenhage. What does it involve?

Volkswagen funds story supplements in newspapers across the country. In the Nelson Mandela Bay area, Nal’ibali has been tasked to set up Reading Clubs in schools and communities. Since books are so expensive, the reading supplement is utilised in the schools. Grade 2 and 3 learners are paired together – we call this the Book Buddy system. Each child is given a container (ice cream 2 litre works well) with 30 stories in it. These stories are cut out from the supplement. We call this the “mobile library” because the children take it home and can read a story wherever they are.

These two images were taken at the opening of the second literacy centre, opened by VWSA, Mngcunube Literacy Centre, on 26 February in KwaNobuhle.


That’s great, because if there is one ‘magic bullet’ solution to the education challenges South Africa is facing, studies seem to suggest it is books. Yet very few books are available in the mother tongue languages spoken by most people in this country. Why do you feel reading is an important part of education?

I feel that reading with comprehension is the key to education. This enables the young person to grasp concepts and skills. It will also assist them to think critically and to develop their reasoning skills. If you can’t read, this automatically excludes you from many things but especially from participating in the economy.

VW also seeks to encourage a volunteer culture in its staff as a way of giving back at a personal level. Have there been any particularly interesting staff campaigns with education?

Absolutely! As part of our Employee Volunteerism, we recruited staff to read to learners from five schools. We bused in the learners to the VW People’s Pavilion Hall. The other campaign that we ran was for every staff member to donate a book. These were donated to schools. Through this, VW has placed reading corners in all the schools that we work in. Our follow-up studies showed that those learners with reading corners in the class fared significantly better than those without, so we feel this is making a real difference.

What’s your challenge to other South African businesses, large or small?

As VWSA, we cannot do this alone. We have an annual literacy conference in Uitenhage – it would be a great idea if someone from another organisation can attend and share insights. We can all work on this together. We can change that low SA statistic! Let’s partner, because in this space there is no competition!

From Sunday April 15, Nal’ibali will be publishing its supplements in two new languages. An English-Setswana edition will be published in the Sunday World in the North West, and an English-Xitsonga edition will be donated to reading clubs in Limpopo. Clubs in both provinces will collect their copies from select post offices. The post offices (10 in each province) will also have 50 additional editions each to give away to member of the public.

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The Killing of Butterfly Joe is a tale of violence, guns and greed – and the process of storytelling – told from a prison cell, writes Anna Stroud

Published in the Sunday Times

Rhidian Brook’s protagonist sells butterflies in glass cases – a job he once had. Pic: Nikki Gibbs. © Unknown
The Killing of Butterfly Joe
Rhidian Brook, Picador, R285

The Killing of Butterfly Joe is a fast-paced, neo-gothic thriller that starts in the Catskills Mountains of New York and takes the protagonists on a whirlwind adventure across America. The provocative set-up of the title adds to the sense of dread as the story unfolds, while cutaway scenes reveal the narrator is telling the tale from his prison cell. From the start we know that the narrator, Welsh wannabe-writer Llew Jones, is in for a wild ride when he becomes entangled in the Bosco clan and their butterfly business.

Rhidian Brook is like his main character – a Welsh novelist, except he is successful and living in London with his wife and two children. This year readers can look forward to a film based on his 2013 novel The Aftermath, starring Keira Knightley.

Brook explains where this latest novel comes from: “When I was 23 I had a job selling butterflies in glass cases in America. I worked for a guy who, as well as being a butterfly salesman, had ambitions to be America’s first Pope (an ambition he ditched on account of wanting to marry). I drove all over the US and sold in 32 states. It was 1987 and was pre-internet and pre-mobile phone, which increased the sensation of having an adventure in a land far, far away. I was not a novelist at the time but I told myself that I had to write about these butterflying days if I could. And so I did – 30 years later.”

The characters are well-rounded and entertaining. There’s Joe Bosco, the charismatic, dynamic oldest son; Edith, the powerful, terrifying matriarch; Isabelle, the sensible sister; Mary, the sensual sister; and Clay, Elijah and Celeste who, like the narrator, come to the business in unorthodox ways.

Brook says the characters’ interaction is vital to the story: “Llew is coming into an established, albeit eccentric, family in which there are different temperaments and different histories all clashing. Part of Llew’s journey is working out who is true and trustworthy. The characters also bring out the best and the worst in our narrator.”

Llew and Joe’s relationship reminds the reader of Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby; Llew is enthralled by the sheer magnitude of Joe’s personality and despite his affection for both sisters, it is Joe he loves.

Joe was inspired by two “untameable, creative/destructive mavericks” in literature, The Cat in the Hat and Zorba the Greek. There are echoes of Kerouac and F Scott Fitzgerald in the story, and Brook unpacks the notion of the American Dream in a new and refreshing way.

“The American Dream is a chimera. And yet, the sense of possibility – the idea – of America is so powerful it gives you the feeling that you can do and be anything. And sometimes that happens. Joe actually despises the idea of it – for him it stems from the constitution’s attempt to encode happiness in law. He also thinks it’s a kind of idolatry. In his view America is a religious country but its real religion is money, backed by violence and guns. True religion has been lost.”

Writing is a central theme as elements of storytelling appear throughout the book. Joe tells Llew, “If it’s your story, you can do what you like with it”, Joe makes up his own words and Llew admits he’s an unreliable narrator. Brook says: “I was interested in the tension between experiencing versus imagining, but also how we can sometimes stumble into being writers via the most unexpected roads. Llew gets to write his ‘Great Welsh-American Novel;’ just not in the way he expected.” @annawriter_

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The Single Story Foundation is calling for submissions!

Via The Single Story Foundation

TSSF Journal seeks well-crafted stories about Africa, Africans, and African issues in all genres from writers of African descents or those associated with Africa. Send your poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction to journal@singlestory[dot]org. Email title should be: TSSF Journal: [Work Name], [category].

We accept all kinds of stories, whether genre or literary. Send us your speculative, thrillers, romance, comedy, Sci-Fi, magical realism, contemporary, historical, history, mystery, adventure, fantasy, etc. stories and poems.

We do not offer a specific theme to adhere to. Therefore we would like a plethora of stories that deal with different themes. Don’t be afraid to send us stories that deal with chronic illnesses, disability, LGBTQI issues, depression, and anxiety, etc.

We welcome any story or poem, in any category or subject as long as it isn’t racist, sexist, or promoting hatred. We believe that anything, from speculative fiction to romance, to a queer space opera, can be a wonderfully well-written story or poem.

Submission should be sent as a .doc or .rtf attachment, one single document. Failure to adhere to this will result in rejection. Also, entries submitted in the body of the email will not be accepted. Your contact information, such as your name, address, phone, and email, should be in the body of the email. Your bio should also be included in the body of the email.

TSSF Journal is published yearly. We read year-round, so it is not uncommon for a decision to take up to 6 months. If you have not heard from us since the initial confirmation email, please assume your submission is still under consideration. Please, do not send new work until we call for it.

We do not accept simultaneous or previously published works. Do not send us multiple submissions. TSSF Journal will only accept one submission at a time from an author. We will automatically decline any additional submissions. We accept email submissions only. There is no submission fee. At this time, we do not pay our contributors.

Click here for the submission guidelines.

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Provoking thoughts, great inspirations and heated discussions at the opening night of the 21st Time of the Writer Festival

By Marlyn Ntsele

Attendees at the 21st Time of the Writer Opening Night. ©Charles Dlamini.

Literature lovers gathered at the opening night of the 21st Time of the Writer Festival which took place on Monday 12 March 2018 in Elisabeth Sneddon Theatre at the University of KwaZulu Natal. To give all guests a warm Durban welcome maskandi guitarist and vocalist Mphendukelwa Mkhize provided the musical opening.

Prof Stephen M. Mutula, acting DVC & Head of College of Humanities, had the honour of opening the festival with a speech in which he emphasised the importance of the festival in bringing together leading African intellectuals and cultural practitioners and placing them in public events and engagements with local communities. Following this Miss Tebogo Msizi from eThekwini Municipality, one of the partners of the festival, emphasised the important role Time of the Writer has played within acquiring the title of “City of Literature” by UNESCO in 2017.

After the speeches, host Chipo Zhou, acting director of the Centre of Creative Arts that organises the event, opened the stage for the participating writers to present themselves and offer the audience a taste on their perspective on this year’s theme: “changing the narrative”.

The Zambian Jennipher Zulu shared her experience of writing her first book with the audience: “I didn’t really sit down to write a book, I was just putting down my issues.” She will be launching her book It’s Hard to keep a Secret on Saturday morning 17 March at Ike’s book shop.

Lesego Rampolokeng introduced himself the only way he knows how to, with a thought-provoking four minute poem.

Lindiwe Mabuza shared that she was encouraged by Can Themba to write, but she only took his advice years later when in 1977 she went to Lusaka to work with the ANC women authors and they published a book titled Malibongwe.

Lindiwe Mabuza. ©Charles Dlamini

Another Zambian author on the program, Luka Mwango, shared that he thinks stories are the metaphor of life: “We live in two worlds, in the material world and the world in our head.”

American MK Asante broke out in rap when he shared: “Take two sets of notes, the one to pass the test and the truth.”

Mohale Mashigo shared with the audience that she never use to recognise herself in the stories she used to read when she was younger: “I did not know how distant my life was to the people in the books, until I read The Colour Purple.”

Patrick Bond mentioned the importance of polital-economical critique.

Children’s author Refilwe Moahloli emphasised the importance of magic, she feels anything is possible in the world of literature.

Rapper and PHD student at Oxford, Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh (author of Democracy & Delusion) also decided to break out in rap, before telling the audience: “Nobody claps when I quote from the book, but they do when I rap….”

Themba Qwabe started writing many years ago around 1994 when he first met his former lecturer Mr. Hlengwa, who forced him to write. He shared his thoughts on language in literature: “I do not know why I am called an African author if I write in English, but an isiZulu author when I write in an African language.”

Unathi Slasha shared his feeling that there is nothing of interest in this country and encouraged the audience to “engage with the text”.

Yewande Omotoso got the audience thinking with the following line: “In order to change the narrative, we need to know what the dominant is.” She also questioned how we can make a gift of something we stole.

Lastly, Durban based Kirsten Miller shared that she feels that we are all humans and the political is always personal.

All in all the audience experienced a great mix of inspiring authors and challenging opening speeches. It gave everyone something to look forward to during this coming week: provoking thoughts, great inspirations and heated discussions.

On Tuesday 13 March, the authors went out on their respective field trips, Themba Qwabe brought a visit to Phambili High School where he met a group of aspiring learners and addressed them about literature.

“The learners were very interested in learning more about writing, I adviced their coordinator to form a reading writing club at the school, so the learners to follow their aspirations,” says Qwabe.

Another group of authors, MK Asante, Lindiwe Mabuza, Refiloe Moahloli and Yewande Omotoso, visited the Tongaat Central Library for a series of workshops and panel discussions. “It was absolutely beautiful, I really enjoyed it. There was a group of high school kids. It was a very interactive sessions, as much as we were sharing with the kids, they were sharing with us, which was really beautiful,” says Refiloe Moahloli about the session.

Additionally Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh and Luka Mwango visited learners at Mangosuthu University of Technology and Patrick Bond addresses learners at Worker’s College.

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Fiksie Vrydag: lees Jacques Myburgh se kortverhaal, ‘Die Paartjie op Touwsrivier’

Hierdie storie het oorspronklik op Myburgh se blog, Woordtsotsi, verskyn (21/02/2018)


Net buite Touwsrivier het hulle 1993 wit Toyota Camry sy laaste gulsige hap uit die brandstoftenk gevat. Oom Daan het geweet hy en sy vrou Ansie gaan by die Engen op die dorp se soom moet stop.

Die rit van George was stil. Bedees. Oom Daan het net so nou-en-dan vir Ansie gevra om die klein koelersak agter die passasiersitplek aan te gee. Sy het die oggend vir die laaste keer in haar ruim plaaskombuis, met die teëlrangskikking van wit ganse bo haar stoof, gekookte eiers, tamatie-en-kaastoebroodjies, droëwors en ’n fles koffie gepak. Sy sou so sit in die kar en kyk hoe die landskap verander. Van tuinroete se lowergroen tot die dorre Karoo se meedoënloosheid van klip en jakkalsskedels.

By die vulstasie het oom Daan vir die soveelste keer sy kaart in die OTM gedruk. Hy het eers gehuiwer. Weer sy Blackberry uitgehaal en gekyk of daar nie dalk ’n kennisgewing van die bank is nie. ’n Klein greintjie hoop. Net ’n paar sente om hom en sy Ansie veilig tot in die Kaap te bring. Hy het vir sy dogter gevra om ’n paar rand oor te betaal en vir haar gelieg. Hy het gesê dit is om sy nuwe lisensieskyf te gaan kry. Nie omdat hy geld nodig het omdat hulle dros nie.

Niks. Hy sug en vryf met sy ruwe duim van jare se werskaf op die plaas die foon se skermpie skoon.

Hy besluit om die kaartjie tog in te druk. Wie weet? Banke kan nie vir al sy kliënte 24 uur per dag SMS’e stuur nie? Nie eers die bank het so baie geld om op airtime te spandeer nie.

Hy druk versigtig sy pinkode in. 193105. Ansie se geboorte maand en jaar. 5 Mei. 1931. Hy lees die bedrag. Sug. Neem sy kaart en gooi die strokie in die klein asblikkie en stap terug na hulle motor.

Oom Daan sien ’n jong man in ’n silwer klein motortjie langs sy Camry stop. Een van daai Koreaanse karre. Hy het nooit iets vertrou wat hy nie eers behoorlik kan uitspreek nie.

Hy stap bedees na die jong man toe. Hy daal nooit so laag om vir geld te vra nie, maar as hy dit nie doen nie, gaan hulle dit nie maak tot in die Kaap nie. Daar wag ’n job as ’n hyskraanoperateur by die hawe vir hom.

Hy gaan vra skaam en versigtig vir die man. Hy is lank en skraal. Inkepe op sy voorkop wys dat hy binnekort daai bruinlokke van hom koebaai gaan roep.

“Jammer, meneer,” hy kom agter sy stem is skielik hees. So asof die snare van sy stembande skielik styfgespan word. Die jong man draai om. Hy dra ’n leerbaadjie met stywe noupypjeans. Oom Daan wonder of hy in die oggende van die kas af moet spring om in daai broek in te kom.

“Ja, Oom?” Die man frons effens, maar sy gesig is gemoedelik. Oop. Dit lyk soos ’n verstandige seun, dink hy.

“Ek en my vroutjie is op pad Kaapstad toe.

“Ek het soos my pa en sy pa se pa op ons plaas geboer op George, maar die droogte het ou bene van die boerdery gemaak. Ons sit nou met die paar goedjies in ons kar.

“My kinders sit almal oorsee. Ek het nog nie vir hulle gesê daar is nie meer ’n familieplaas om Krismis by te kom kuier nie.

“Ons probeer op die volgende dorp kom, maar daai ou Camry is mos maar ’n gulsige masjien as dit by petrol kom.”

Oom Daan kan voel sy linkerbeen raak rusteloos. Hy vryf sy arm en wag vir ’n antwoord van die man. Dit voel soos ’n ewigheid.

Die man se frons verdwyn. Sy bruin oë versag.

“Jis, Oom… ek is self op pad Kaap toe. Ek het ook nie veel geld nie, maar ek is seker ek kan ietsie vir oom-hulle gee. Ek sal kyk hoeveel ek kan trek.”

Die seun verdwyn met sy kierie-beentjies in die Quick Shop in.

Oom Daan gaan staan by die kar. Hy sien Ansie is besig om uit die Bybel te lees.

Ag jirretjie, dink hy. Die vrou het geen meer hoop vir ons nie, maar ten minste is sy nog gelowig. Job se geduld, dink hy. Dit is al wat Ansie nou nodig het. Hy sal weer vir hulle ’n pragtige plaasopstal kry.

Een daar in die Matroosberge se wêreld sodat hulle die Here se wit laken op die berg se toppe kan dop hou terwyl hulle op die voorstoep sit.

Oom Daan se oë volg die man deur die winkel se glasvensters soos wat hy by die OTM geld trek en na die Steers toe stap.

Nou voel hy nog meer soos ’n charity case. Die man kom met twee koppies koffie terug.

Dalk kry hulle weer ’n paar werfkatte wat kom en gaan soos hulle lekker kry. Dalk is daar tarentale. Sy oupa het altyd na hulle verwys as polisiehoenders oor hulle koppe soos dié van ’n polisiekar se sirenes lyk.

“Hierso, Oom. Vir die pad, sodat Oom nie agter die stuur aan die slaap raak nie.”

Hy gee twee koppies koffie vir hom en plak ’n R100-noot in Oom Daan se hand.

“Dit is nie baie nie, Oom, maar dit sal oom-hulle op ’n plek kry wat nie so godverlate is nie.”

Tannie Ansie breek haar stilte.

“Die Here seën jou, my kind.” Sy het ’n gehekelde kombersie oor haar bene. Die Bybel nog voor haar oop.

Die man se oog vang ’n stukkie in die Bybel wat sy onderstreep het. Steek vas asof hy dit lees en loop dan na sy motor.

Oom Daan wag eers dat die jong man ry voor hy die Camry na die petrolpompe vat. Hy wuif vir hom.

Die gesuis van die Camry se wiele op die teerpad kalmeer vir oom Daan. Vir die eerste keer sedert hulle uit George gery het, begin hy weer ’n toekoms vir hom en Ansie sien.

Die Moederstad. Dit was vir hom altyd so lekker om daar by die Waterfront te gaan rondloop. Skilderagtig-mooi het sy oudste dogter, Rachel , altyd gesê. Die berg ingeëts aan die eenkant en die see aan die ander.

Ansie sit en staar by die ruit uit. Bybel op die skoot. Hande oor die boek gevou. Dit lyk vir hom of sy ook begin droom oor hulle nuwe lewe.

Skielik is daar ’n harde geknars van metaal op metaal. Hulle torring en kantel. ’n Pyn skiet deur oom Daan se nek. Hy klou vas aan die stuurwiel.

Oom Daan het om ’n haarnaalddraai nie die aankomende motor gesien wat ’n ander een probeer verbysteek het nie.

Die windskerm ontplof in miljoene glasstukkies. Hy kan die doodskyk op Ansie se gesig sien soos wat die motor tuimel en draai.

En toe, die niksseggende donkerte. So asof die Here ’n swart kleed oor Oom Daan se kop gegooi het soos toe hulle as kinder op Naboomspruit donkerkamertjie gespeel het. Hy hoor net die gejaag van sy asem en uiteindelik ’n oorverdowende stilte.

Die N1 is afgesper. Die Camry is net ’n verinneweerde homp metaal. Die voorkant in sy maai. Die blou en rooi ligte van nooddienste glinster op die N1 soos wat ’n jaloerse reënbuitjie uitsak. Soos tarentale wat in gelid marsjeer staan die polisievoertuie in ’n ry.

Die een konstabel loop verby die motor. Sy oë wat afkyk grond toe. Hy wil nie sien hoe die twee liewe ou mense ná so ’n ongeluk hul einde gesien het nie.

Hy merk ’n vel papier op wat moedswillig in ’n fynbos deur die wind rondgepluk word. Dis ’n bladsy uit die Bybel uit, sien hy.

Hy tel dit op. Daar’s ’n streep bloed op die papier en ’n versie wat onderstreep is. Hy lees dit:

“Korintiërs 4:8, 9

“In alles word ons verdruk, maar ons is nie terneergedruk nie; ons is verleë, maar nie radeloos nie; vervolg, maar nie verlate nie; neergewerp, maar nie vernietig nie.”


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“I think a child without anyone to tell them stories is an abandoned child” – a Q&A with author and JRB City Editor, Niq Mhlongo

Nal’ibali Column 6, published in the Sunday World (18/02/2018), Daily Dispatch (19/02/2018), Herald (22/02/2018)

By Carla Lever

Niq Mhlongo, author and City Editor of the Johannesburg Review of Books

How do you think storytelling helps us understand place – can it make sense of where we are from?

It’s really fundamental. If Joseph Conrad didn’t write Heart of Darkness I don’t think people like Donald Trump would have had the audacity to call African countries ‘sh*tholes’. Perhaps is he had been forced to read Emecheta, Laye, Mphahlele, Ngugi and others he would have had a clear understanding of Africa.

So much of our cultural geography is imported – TV shows and novels glamorise places like New York or Paris. At the same time, African cities tend to be written about, often in negative terms, by outsiders. Why is it important that we write about African places and cities and create our own literary maps?

Someone once told me that the biggest commodity that America was able to sell to Africa was its culture. I agree. Cultural geography, as you call it, is a very powerful tool that powerful countries have used to dominate other countries. When South Africans today talk about ‘decolonization’ I think it is a legitimate appeal to break away from, among other things, the shackles of cultural dominance. So when authors write about African places and cities they contribute a lot in creating our own literary maps that have been disregarded by the imposed colonial narratives of places and spaces that we live in.

Your upcoming book Soweto, Under the Apricot Tree, takes us into the places you were born and raised in. Can you tell us a little about why you wrote the book and how it felt to be making a place meaningful to people through your writing?

I wrote Soweto, Under the Apricot Tree because I could not find a good written story about Soweto that I could read and actually identify with. I was tired of the meaning of Soweto always being confined to Vilakazi Street and the Twin Towers. I decided to write that story I was searching for myself – in fact, as an insider, it made perfect sense that I do it!

You have weaved African oral traditions, cultural practices and storytelling traditions into your previous novels, too – I’m thinking here particularly of your novel Way Back Home. What does it mean to you to be called an African author? Is that a useful description or one you find unnecessary?

There is no problem being called an African author. It all depends on the context in the context in which the name is used. If it means that my writing is inferior compared to the so-called ‘European author’ or ‘American author’, then such a name is already loaded with negativity.

I know you write adult fiction, but you have written for children too! Can you tell us a little about writing for the TV series Magic Cellar and why projects that get young people excited about stories are so important?

Ah, let me not exaggerate my involvement with Magic Cellar. In fact, I only wrote one script for them. But the project trained me as a children’s story writer. During the same period I actually wrote a script for children based on African folktales. It was animated for a children’s program on SABC 2…so I suppose I learned something!

I think a child without anyone to tell them stories is an abandoned child. Stories make all of us happy, and give us a sense of belonging in society. They guide us and give us hope in the world. Any project that give young people that kind of wholeness deserves full support from everyone.

What changes would you like to see in the South African literary scene? Are there things (maybe organisations, new spaces for writers or publishing initiatives) that you find exciting?

I would like to see a full government involvement in the South African literary scene by supporting any literary project, especially projects that make children read. I would like to see government officials and schools reading and prescribing more South African literature. I would like to see more political leaders at the ABANTU Book Festival this year and years to come. The JRB, ABANTU, Nal’ibali, Longstory Short are some of the most important literary projects in South Africa today which give me a right to write.

How can we get more children excited about reading, particularly proud of our own, rich African literary heritage?

We need to prescribe more South African books and make things like Shakespeare optional in our school curriculum. In that way we can show them our rich African literary heritage.

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:

Book details
Soweto, Under the Apricot Tree


Way Back Home

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