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Archive for the ‘Non-fiction’ Category

Imagining ourselves into existence: First ever Abantu Book Festival in Soweto a roaring success

Words and images by Thato Rossouw

My Own LiberatorUnimportanceSweet MedicineAffluenzaNwelezelangaThe Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other StoriesRapeFlying Above the SkyNight DancerBlack Widow SocietyThe Everyday WifeOur Story Magic

 
“A conquered people often lose the inclination to tell their stories.”

These were the words of former Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke at the inaugural Abantu Book Festival, in discussion with readers about the importance of black people telling their own stories and having spaces where they can share them with one another. “We have stories to tell, they are important, and they are liberating in nature,” he said.

 
Moseneke’s words came as a preamble to compliment the authors Thando Mgqolozana and Panashe Chigumadzi, and the rest of their team members, for organising a festival that not only celebrated black writers, readers, pan-African book stores, and online platforms that celebrate African literature and narratives, but also gave them a safe space to speak freely about the issues they face in their struggle to liberate themselves.

The festival, which was themed “Imagining ourselves into existence”, came as a result of Mgqolozana’s decision early last year to renounce white colonial literary festivals. In an interview with The Daily Vox in May last year, Mgqolozana told Theresa Mallinson that his decision to reject these festivals came from a discomfort with literary festivals where the audience was 80 percent white. “It’s in a white suburb in a white city. I feel that I’m there to perform for an audience that does not treat me as a literary talent, but as an anthropological subject,” he said.

 
The three-day festival took place at two venues: the Eyethu Lifestyle Centre, which hosted free events during the day, and the Soweto Theatre, which hosted events in the evening. These evening festivities cost R20 per person and featured over 50 poets, novelists, essayists, playwrights, literary scholars, screenwriters, performing artists and children’s writers from across Africa and the diaspora. Some of the writers and artists who were present at the festival include Niq Mhlongo, Unathi Magubeni, Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, Thandiswa Mazwai, Pumla Dineo Gqola, Lebogang Mashile and Chika Unigwe, among many others.

 
The first day of the festival began with a discussion featuring four black female Fallist writers, Dikeledi Sibanda, Mbali Matandela, Sandy Ndelu and Simamkele Dlakavu, titled “Writing and Rioting Black Womxn in the time of Fallism”. The discussion covered topics ranging from the role of the body, particularly the naked body, in challenging old narratives, to writing and rioting as acts of activism. It was then followed by a highly attended talk with Justice Moseneke entitled “Land and Liberation”, a concert by the group Zuko Collective at the Soweto Theatre, as well as speeches and performances at the opening night show.

Some of the riveting discussions at the festival were titled: “Land and Liberation”, “Women of Letters”, “Writing Today”, “Cut! Our Stories on Stage and Screen”, “Ghetto is Our First Love”, “Creating Platforms for Our Stories” and “Writing Stories Across and Within Genres”. The festival also included seven documentary screenings, poetry performances, a writing masterclass with Angela Makholwa and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, and performances every night at the Soweto Theatre by Zuko Collective.

 
Dr Gcina Mhlophe gave the keynote address at the festival’s opening night, which was preceded by the singing of the decolonised national anthem and a rendition of the poem “Water” by poet Koleka Putuma. Mhlophe reminded the audience that, while it is important for us to celebrate young and upcoming artists, it is also important to remember and celebrate those that came before them. She sang and told stories about people like Mariam Tladi and Nokutela Dube and spoke about their role in the development of the arts. Dube was the first wife of Reverend John Langalibalele Dube who was the first President General of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) which was later renamed the African National Congress (ANC).

 
The festival ended with a sold-out event at the Soweto Theatre that featured a discussion on “Native Life in 2016” between Chigumadzi and I’solezwe LesiXhosa editor Unathi Kondile, facilitated by Mashile; a performance by Zuko Collective; and a Literary Crossroads session with Unigwe, facilitated by Ndumiso Ngcobo.
 

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The hashtag #AbantuBookFest was on fire for the duration of the festival and long afterwards:


 
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Jacket Notes: Christa Kuljian talks about her latest book Darwin’s Hunch: Science, Race and the Search for Human Origins

Published in the Sunday Times

Darwin's Hunch•Darwin’s Hunch: Science, Race, and the Search for Human Origins
Christa Kuljian (Jacana)

When I studied the history of science at university in the ’80s, I learned that science is often shaped by the context of the time. So when I began research for Darwin’s Hunch, I was curious to find out how the changing times had shaped the search for human origins. For over a century, scientists rejected Darwin’s theory that humans evolved in Africa, but today it is widely accepted.

One of the fascinating things I found was that anthropologist Raymond Dart has a lot in his papers that he did not share with the world. Many of his scientific practices were shaped by colonial thinking. Dart collected human skeletons in an effort to understand what he called “race typology”, which he believed held clues to evolution.

Paging through his documents, I learned the disturbing story of how one of those skeletons came into his collection, a story that remained hidden in the archives for 75 years, and which showed how scientific methods at the time treated human beings as specimens.

Phillip Tobias was Dart’s successor as the head of the department of anatomy at Wits Medical School so it was interesting to learn more about his relationship with Dart. I delved into some of Tobias’s papers as well, and it was surprising to see how his thinking on race and human evolution shifted from his youth in the 1940s through to his death in 2012. Back in the 1950s and ’60s, it was one of Tobias’s colleagues, Hertha de Villiers, who helped to shift scientific thinking away from Dart’s race typology. It was fascinating to learn about this accomplished scientist and her work.

Another of Dart’s theories was that humans are naturally violent. He based this idea on the fact that ancient human ancestors were carnivores and he believed that they used certain bones as weapons to kill their prey. This idea was so popular in the 1960s that it spread to millions of people via Robert Ardrey’s book African Genesis and the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Dart’s research inspired another young scientist, Bob Brain, based at the Transvaal Museum. Brain concluded that human ancestors did not choose certain bones as weapons, but that those bones remained in the fossil record because they could not be easily chewed.

By the late ’80s and ’90s, genetics had begun to play a big role in understanding human origins. Research with mitochondrial DNA led to the finding that all living humans had shared a common ancestor in Africa as recently as 200,000 years ago. While the changing science is engrossing, it is often the scientists themselves, and the times in which they live, that are most revealing.

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‘Deeply sobering’ – Margaret von Klemperer reviews Into the Laager: Afrikaners Living on the Edge by Kajsa Norman

First published in The Witness

Into The Laager

Picking up this book, I couldn’t prevent a visceral doubt about the value of an outsider’s view – Kasja Norman is a Swedish journalist. It’s a knee-jerk response: we live here, we know our country best. Any visitor, however much they think they have explored the situation, remains an outsider, unable to get under the skin of their subject. However, the outsider’s view is often the most compelling. It is salutary, as Robert Burns reminded us, to see ourselves as others see us.

In her author’s note, Norman makes a statement that is worth quoting: “I believe that all people are more or less blind to their own culture. Certainly, it has taken a decade away from my native Sweden for me to slowly begin to notice the peculiarities of my own culture.”

And so she begins her exploration of white Afrikaner society and its attitudes, ranging from the battle of Blood River in 1838 to life in the town of Orania with its attempt to create an Afrikaner island, surrounded by a sea of contemporary South Africa. The chapters alternate between historical events that shaped the Afrikaner mindset, and Norman’s interactions with Afrikaners in Orania and elsewhere over the past few years.

Those outside its bubble are inclined to see Orania as a kind of dreary joke, head deep in the sand. Somehow Norman manages to get herself accepted, particularly among the misfits who have washed up there. Some are damaged, sad people who have found a level of protection and acceptance, and whose stories are unexpectedly moving. It is more often in communities outside Orania where Norman uncovers really horrific attitudes.

You think: but I don’t know anyone like that. And then you are pulled up short by the recent news story of the two men who forced a farm worker into a coffin and threatened to set him alight. When Norman’s book ends with the expensively built Reconciliation Bridge at Blood River, ostensibly linking the two sides who fought the ancient battle, but which is still locked and barred because the representatives of the Ncome and Blood River heritage sites cannot agree on how it should be managed, you realise that mutual accommodation and tolerance are a very long way away – and receding. This is a deeply sobering book.

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‘Rhodes Must Fall made it possible for us to imagine these things’ – Abantu Book Festival launched in Soweto

Thando Mgqolozana

 
The Abantu Book Festival was officially launched at the Eyethu Lifestyle Centre in Soweto this afternoon.

The festival is the brainchild of Thando Mgqolozana, who explained how and why it came about.

Why Abantu?

I named the festival Abantu because I could not think of any other festival that was focusing on black people – that was created for and by black people – and I wanted to create that.

I was absolutely tired of always begging to be integrated more comfortably into coloniality. I realised that I was ashamed, actually, that we had been begging to be integrated into coloniality. It’s like asking to be put nicely into a fire. It’s not going to end well. You are going to burn.

So I wanted to walk away from the fire. I wanted to create a different kind of fire, for abantu and by abantu.

Thando Mgqolozana

 

Mgqolozana first conceptualised the Abantu Book Festival on Facebook, creating it as a purely imaginary event. One year later, it is a reality.

“I’m a fiction writer, so I know what it means to imagine something into existence, I’ve done it many times,” he said.

“I have written books that were just fleeting ideas, and you write it and you publish it and it affects real people in their real lives.”

Images: Abantu Book Festival on Facebook

 

Mgqolozana also thanked Rhodes Must Fall and the young people of South Africa for creating an environment in which a festival like Abantu can feel possible.

“If we had tried to do something like this five years ago, it would probably not have happened. But Rhodes Must Fall created the context for us, made it possible for us, to imagine these things. Rhodes Must Fall made it possible for us to imagine things that are not framed by coloniality.

“So I want to thank the young people for affording us the opportunity to dream and hope, and be able to deal with our pain in a different way from before.”

Mgqolozana is the author of three novels, A Man Who is Not a Man, Hear Me Alone and Unimportance. He said he finds it unacceptable that the people he has written for and about do not have access to his work.

“I write about the people I was born with, I was raised with, the people in my street. It makes me so angry that these people cannot access this literature. And it is not by accident, it is by design. I cannot accept that. I cannot keep on writing about these people and for these people and not do anything about the fact that they cannot access this literature.

“I would really love to just be a writer and just be in my imagination the whole time. But I think I was born in a time that requires me to do more than just that.

“We have libraries in all black communities now, and if you go to any of them you will find that there is an African fiction section. We shouldn’t have an African fiction section in Africa: that should be the standard. It reminds me of the Homelands Act; the rest of the space belongs to other people.

“So it is my mission to change this thing. I am not going to do it alone. I am going to require all of your support.”

Panashe Chigumadzi

 

Panashe Chigumadzi, the festival curator, explained the thinking behind this year’s theme: Our Stories.

“A key part of our thinking around Abantu Book Festival and how we can remove the alienation that many of us as black people have around literature and books is to try and destabilise the centrality of the book,” she said.

“Yes, it is Abantu Book Festival, but we want to remind ourselves that storytelling is very much a part of what it is to be black people and it’s always been part of our cultures.”

Chigumadzi stressed that Abantu Book Festival should be a safe space for difficult conversations, and emphasised its zero tolerance policy to sexual harrassment and other kinds of prejudice.

“When we are creating these spaces for black people and new visions of futures, it is important that all black people are recognised, all of our humanity is recognised, and it is not only for a particular kind of blackness.

“We are really interested in having important, necessary, uncomfortable, robust but loving conversations amongst us as black people, that really is the important part about this. This is for us. All those things that we haven’t been able to say, we’d like this to be the kind of space that we can talk about them, and be able to challenge each other in the ways that we often can’t.”

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Jennifer Malec (@projectjennifer) tweeted live from the launch:

Follow @projectjennifer on Twitter for more

 

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Ukuba MtshaThe Woman Next DoorLondon – Cape Town – JoburgSweet MedicineNwelezelanga

 

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Writing in English is a waste of ink if we consider the shortage of books in African languages – Vonani Bila at the launch of A Ri Hlanhlekangi

By Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho

Writing in English is a waste of ink if we consider the shortage of books in African languages.

- Poet and publisher Vonani Bila during the launch of Samuel Malamulele Risenga’s Xitsonga autobiography, A Ri Hlanhlekangi

Launch of A Ri Hlanhlekangi
Moses Mtileni, Valerie Risenga (author’s wife), Prof. Samuel Malamulele Risenga and Vonani Bila

 

Professor Samuel Malamulele Risenga, who is head of the Department of Paediatric Pulmonology and Allergy at the University of Limpopo and at the Polokwane Provincial Hospital, has just launched his autobiography, A Ri Hlanhlekangi.

What makes his story unique is that he has written the book in his mother tongue, Xitsonga.

null

 

It took Risenga about five years to finish the book, and he says the writing experience was full of emotion because he was reliving things he went through in his life, both good and bad.

“I would at times feel sad and at times feel happy for having overcome obstacles on the way,” he said.

Risenga decided to write his autobiography in Xitsonga because he says he can express himself much better in the language.

“The other reason is that there is a need to promote our indigenous languages,” he said. “If we do not do that, these languages will slowly be forgotten. Our languages are actually very rich in expression and this needs to be maintained.”

He said that the book showed that poverty should not be a determining factor in terms of achievement. It is possible to make it against all odds. “I would like to recommend it to the youth as it is an inspirational work,” he said.

Samuel Malamulele Risenga

 

The book was launched a fortnight ago at a glittering evening at Oasis Hotel in Giyani. The launch was well attended by professionals across many fields and community members who all came to celebrate a life told on paper and told in the language of the people. A talented Afro-soul singer, Mphuzi Chauke (below), rendered some songs during the launch.

Mphuzi ChaukeAttendees who had read the book before the launch all praised Risenga for his amazing use of the Xitsonga language in telling his story. Some even quoted from the book, while others spoke fondly about certain parts or chapters that they had found entertaining or touching.

A prominent poet and publisher, Vonani Bila, said that the significance of writing an autobiography was that your adventures in life were preserved for posterity.

“Although not every life lived bears the same weight, it is nonetheless crucial to record each life using your own pen so that your life is not misrepresented by secondary observers,” Bila indicated. “Of greater importance is to write in our indigenous languages, which carry the richness of cultural expression. Writing in English is a waste of ink if we consider the shortage of books in African languages.”

The director of Nhlalala Books, Moses Mtileni (below), who published the autobiography, said that A Ri Hlanhlekangi was one of only a handful of books in the genre in the Xitsonga language, with the ones preceding it published largely pre-1994. “A Ri Hlanhlekangi is published as part of Nhlalala Books’s effort at pushing boundaries in the language, publishing genres neglected and experimental works in other genres,” he stated.

Nhlalala Books' publisher Moses Mtileni

 

The publisher’s statement on the book reads:

It was his N’wa-Khimbini, when asked to name the son of Ben and Rossy Makhanani Makhubele, who said: “We will call him Buwa, a particle of soil, it will crumble like the two before it. She referred here to his two late brothers who had died in infancy. But it is 66 years today, and Buwa (Samuel Malamulele Risenga) has not crumbled. Hence the title, A Ri Hlanhlekangi (It has not crumbled). He has wrestled poverty, having lost his father at around age 14, leaving school at some point to work as a builder to save for school fees and accommodation. He reflects on the forced migration following the adoption of the Group Areas Act, on the challenges of studying medicine in the Black Section of the University of Natal, the inspiration he drew from the Chris Barnard story. It is story of triumph and loss, of perseverance and patience and a deeper thirst for learning and service.

Those interested in A Ri Hlanhlekangi can contact the publisher at nhlalalabooks@gmail.com or 0725943448.

nullThe Violent Gestures of LifeA Traumatic RevengeTshifhiwa Given Mukwevho is the author of A Traumatic Revenge and The Violent Gestures of Life, and a Tshivenda novel, A Thi Nga Tendi, which he serialised on Facebook.
 
 
 

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‘A kaleidoscope of contemporary African literature’ – Read Thando Mgqolozana’s introduction to the Abantu Book Festival

Image: Abantu Book Festival on Facebook
Black Widow SocietySigh The Beloved CountryPowers of the KnifeNight DancerThe Short Story is Dead, Long Live the Short Story!Memory is the WeaponWalter and Albertina Sisulu
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The inaugural Abantu Book Festival is taking place this week at the Eyethu Lifestyle Centre in Soweto.

The festival is the brainchild of Thando Mgqolozana, who imagined it on Facebook. After a year of planning it has become a reality.
 


 
This year’s event is curated by Panashe Chigumadzi, who recently won the K Sello Duiker Award for her debut novel Sweet Medicine, and the inspirational African Flavour Books is the official bookseller.

In his introduction to the programme, Mgqolozana says it is the organisers’ wish that “when the festival ends, the bookseller has no books to take back – they’ll all have been adopted by readers”.

 

 

Read Mgqolozana’s introduction:

Dear Reader

It gives us great pleasure to bring you the inaugural Abantu Book Festival. We can hardly believe that this dream, longheld by writers and readers alike, is finally coming true.

Through the lens of literature and the arts, the festival creates a platform to celebrate Our Stories, and amplify brave voices that grapple with social phenomena – this being the end of 2016, the year of rebellion and hard questions, marking with certainty the end of an era, there’s no shortage of said social phenomena to grapple with.

This first edition is ably curated by Panashe Chigumadzi, author of Sweet Medicine, a Fallist as well as a vociferous campaigner for a Global Black Literary Network.

We’re hosting over 50 superbly accomplished poets, novelists, essayists, playwrights, literary scholars, screenwriters, performing artists, and children’s writers from Soweto, South Africa, Africa and the diaspora. The line-up is a kaleidoscope of contemporary African literature, illustrating a sense of continuity in our narrative.

The traveling writers arrive on the 6-7 December 2016. In these two days the authors will visit schools and cultural centres in and around Soweto, as well take part in the media launch.

From 8-10 December 2016, the Abantu Book Festival programme spans 32 unmissable panel discussions, in-conversations, hands-on masterclasses, poetry slams and film screenings, many of which are free.

The day events are held at the Eyethu Lifestyle Centre in Mofolo, 09:30-16:00, and the evening sessions at the Soweto Theatre at 18:00-21:30.

The people’s bookseller, African Flavour Books, which specialises in African Literature, has all your favourite titles on sale at both venues throughout the festival. It is our wish that when the festival ends, the bookseller has no books to take back – they’ll all have been adopted by readers.

We hope to create a festival that truly speaks to our pan-Africanist ideals wherein we have more writers from the continent represented, not just within Anglophone Africa, but to include Francophone and Lusophone Africans. The black experience is global, so we need to be hosts to Black British, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latino and African-American writers.

Even as we use the languages of our (former) colonial masters to reach each other across regions, we must work to ensure indigenous languages are prominently featured.

We also need to have a greater contingency of young writers. We’re learning that many of our writers are self-published, so we will work to include more of them.

We invite you to peruse the schedule of events, take note of where you need to be, at what time. Some of the events will be running concurrently, so you’re bound to have several dilemmas to solve.

Welcome to Abantu Book Festival. We wish you a fine week of bibliotherapy.

My best regards,
Thando Mgqolozana
Festival Director

 
Have a look at the programme:

2016 Abantu Book Festival programme by Books LIVE on Scribd

 

The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other StoriesMemoirs of a Born FreeRumoursEat, Drink and Blame the AncestorsAffluenzaWe Need New NamesHappiness is a Four-Letter Word
The Everyday WifeRapeEndings and BeginningsWhat Will People SayGa ke ModisaAlmost Sleeping My Way to TimbuktuWhen a Man Cries
Ukuba MtshaThe Woman Next DoorLondon – Cape Town – JoburgSweet MedicineNwelezelanga

 
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Lessons from a heartbreaking Zulu heritage: Jennifer Platt chats to Nomavenda Mathiane about her book Eyes in the Night: An Untold Zulu Story

Published in the Sunday Times

Nomavenda Mathiane

 

Eyes in the NightEyes in the Night: An Untold Zulu Story
Nomavenda Mathiane (Bookstorm)
****

Nomavenda Mathiane is one of those people you immediately feel comfortable talking to, but at the same time you want to impress her. Her book Eyes in the Night: An Untold Zulu Story sticks in your head and plays with your emotions. Mathiane was one helluva journalist who worked on most major South African newspapers. She started off at The World during the uprisings of 1976. Later she worked at Frontline magazine – one of the few black women journalists who wrote about how people really lived in Soweto and other townships.

In her latest book, Mathiane tells the story of her grandmother. It’s a story she didn’t know, one she stumbled upon at her mother’s funeral.

“There was no other time I could have written it,” Mathiane says. “Because I didn’t know about my grandmother’s life. I heard about the story two years before I retired. In retrospect, if I had known the story a long time ago, I wouldn’t have done a proper job. I would’ve been too emotional. I found my voice and now I am able to sit back and look back at my life and their lives.”

It’s the story of how her grandmother, Nombhosho (which means bullet), survived the Anglo-Zulu war as a young girl. “A tale of woe and triumph,” Mathiane writes.

It’s a story of hardship and dispossession that traces the fate of one Zulu family since 1897. Mathiane says the British colonialists were “ruthless” with the Zulus. “The English torched their homes. People had no homes. That narrative [of what] happened to the Zulu people still hasn’t been told properly.”

During the time of the Anglo-Zulu war, after their land was stolen by the Abelumbi (literally “sorcerers”, the term King Shaka used for white people), her grandmother and great-grandmother and their family had to live in a cave. They had only roots and rats to eat.

There’s a heartbreaking moment when Nombhosho’s mother realises her husband is dead. She finds his shield and assegai at the entrance of the cave. That was a sign from his fellow warriors that he had died.

“It was challenging to write,” Mathiane says. “I was an alien coming into Zululand and listening to the stories. We hardly know where my grandmother’s home was. All we know is she lived next to ‘the shadow mountain’.” Mathiane had to question family members and make many visits to KZN to piece together Nombhosho’s life.

The accounts of what Nombhosho was subjected to as a young girl make the reader angry and sad. Her mother is forced to marry a man she doesn’t know and work with him on a farm, “hell on earth”, as Mathiane describes it. The white farmer beats Nombhosho and tries to rape her.

But it’s not all dire. Mathiane tells her own story of discovering the past, and discovering who she really is. There are light moments when she talks about her family and her visits to them. “There we were, young and old females sharing this huge bedroom. We were like high-school girls having a pyjama party.”

Mathiane hopes that Eyes in the Night will inspire readers to examine the past more closely.

“I want my book to make young people question who they are. When we were told about the Zulu wars at school, we were taught superficially about what happened. We never learned about the Zulu warriors.

“My father was Christian, we lived in the townships. My sister [Sis Ahh] was different, she lived with my grandmother. She was in touch with the soil. She was brought up in the Zulu rituals. None of us other six girls performed the rituals. But I’m richer for knowing what happened. I know who I am now, after writing this book.

“There are so many stories still to be told about that era. This book is just a drop in the ocean. We need people to tell and write these stories.”

Follow Jennifer Platt on Twitter @Jenniferdplatt

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Book Bites: 27 November 2016

Published in the Sunday Times

Fifty Shades of FeminismFifty Shades of Feminism
Edited by Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes & Susie Orbach (Virago)
Book buff
The term feminism has never left my mouth; simply because I was raised by my grandparents, and my grandfather did everything for my grandmother, including bringing her breakfast in bed every morning. I always believed it’s logical to do things in a fair and equal way without putting a word to it. And if your thoughts are like mine, I suggest you read this book. It looks at 50 women, exploring what feminism means to them and what still needs to be done – from sexuality and politics to family and fashion. Even readers who have never considered themselves to be feminists might change their minds. – Rea Khoabane @Rea_Khoabane

On BowieOn Bowie
Rob Sheffield (Headline Book Publishing)
Book real
****
Sheffield is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and a lifelong David Bowie fan. He was up late at night working when he heard the news of the star’s death, and immediately leaned over to press play on his Bowie mixtape. Later that morning, his editor phoned to ask him to keep writing about Bowie for the next month. The result is this hastily written “love letter”, with a breathless quality that seems fitting in the face of genius. Sheffield’s observations are acute and his anecdotes illuminating, and he is able to lay his hand on the perfect lyric to illustrate a point. Bowie’s arcane wisdom is a reassuring presence. – Jennifer Malec @projectjennifer

The Monster's DaughterThe Monster’s Daughter
Michelle Pretorius (Melville House)
Book mystery
****
In her action-packed debut novel, Pretorius creates a skilful narrative involving a determined young sleuth whose work on a contemporary murder case reveals the unedifying history of South Africa and exposes the intrigues of unscrupulous individuals. Transferred to a dorp in the Western Cape, disgraced Constable Alet Berg becomes involved in investigations following a murder on a local farm. She pursues the case despite warnings and threats. The background to the murder extends as far back as 1901, when a medic performs experiments on women in the British concentration camps; and continues through apartheid, its deconstruction and the complexities of the present. A work of powerful imagination and profound insight. – Moira Lovell

What a BoykieWhat a Boykie: The John Berks Story
Robin Binckes (30 Degree South Publishers)
Book thrill
****
Who would have thought that a stammering young chap with an Afrikaans accent, who left school without passing Standard 8, would become one of the best-known voices on English radio in South Africa? This follow-your-dream tale traces Berks’s antecedents from Lithuania to South Africa, recounting his childhood on the West Rand, his military training, and his determination to become a radio jockey. Sensitive, witty and humorous, it shows Berks’s passion for drawing pictures with words. Berks became notorious for his pranks, for breaking taboos and handling (inciting?) controversy on air. This portrait touches on the challenges of navigating apartheid laws to bring relevant news to listeners. Prankster, raconteur and family man, this memoir reveals multiple facets of a unique personality. – Ayesha Kajee @ayeshakajee

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Genesis of a drummer: Michele Magwood interviews Phil Collins about his memoir Not Dead Yet

Phil Collins’s excesses were mild by rock star standards, but he still feels plenty of guilt, writes Michele Magwood

Not Dead YetNot Dead Yet: The Autobiography
Phil Collins (Century)
****

“Music made me, but it also unmade me,” writes Phil Collins towards the end of this absorbing autobiography. “I carry guilt over each of my kids, I carry guilt for everything, frankly.”

On the shelf of rock memoirs it’s comparatively mild: there’s none of the anguish and glamour of Eric Clapton or the visceral swagger of Keith Richards. There’s no heroin or groupies or smashed hotel rooms. Only late in the book – and late in his life – does he tip into alcoholism, bored by retirement and depressed by his patchwork family, shuttling between three ex-wives and five children all over the world, trying to be a presence in their lives.

There are blackouts and falls, pancreatitis and smashed teeth, stints in hospitals and rehabs and eventually – and only recently – sobriety.

Most of the book, though, is an entertaining chronicle of the making of a maestro, a musician whose songs have formed the soundtrack to millions of lives. He is one of only three recording artists to have sold more than 100 million albums both as solo artists and as part of a band (the others are Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson). He’s won an Oscar (for the song “You’ll Be In My Heart”, from Tarzan) and a Lieutenant of the Victorian Order medal from Buckingham Palace for his admirable charity work. (He donates all royalties in South Africa to the Topsy Foundation.) He counts rock gods and royalty as his friends.

Collins sounds tired on the phone from London, vague and slightly rambling. Recent photographs of him show him to be frail. His back is, by his account, “completely shot” after 50 years of drumming, his hands have seized up and he’s deaf in one ear.

We talk about the process of songwriting, whether it starts with a melody or a line. “Basically it starts with improvisation on a piano,” he says. “If it’s Disney you have some kind of guideline, but otherwise you can do what you want. I just improvise and play around with it and record everything until it starts to become an idea. It’s fairly haphazard.”

The early chapters cover his love affair with the drums. He was given his first toy set when he was barely three, moving on at age five to a homemade set that consisted of biscuit tins and a triangle. He’d set it up in the corner of the lounge and play along to all the TV shows. “I’ll play to anything, with anyone,” he remembers. “I’m a versatile jobbing drummer.”

It was a comfortable, lower-middle class upbringing in the dull suburb of Hounslow in London. He had a difficult, distant father and a doting mother who ran a children’s theatrical agency. At the age of 13, young Philip was cast as The Artful Dodger in a West End production of Oliver!, attending school by day and performing at night. It ingrained in him a steely work ethic that has remained with him all his life.

“I can count on one hand the number of shows I cancelled,” he writes. “I will do whatever I can to ensure the show goes on – even if that means dodgy doctors, dubious injections, catastrophic deafness and sustaining injuries that will require major, invasive, flesh-ripping, bone-bolting surgery.”

He would have carried on acting were his head not turned by the emerging – and golden – music scene of the ’60s. He hung out in the clubs watching Cream, The Who and Led Zeppelin, often paying his way by sweeping the club floors. He played in a series of dead-end bands himself until answering an ad in Melody Maker for a drummer for a new band. It was the birth of Genesis, and Phil Collins was launched.

Ask him what he is proudest of in his life, aside from his children, and he doesn’t mention his charity work, the platinum records, the deafening applause of heaving mega stadiums. Instead, he remembers playing drums in a temporary band with his friend Eric Clapton. “We called it The Heaven Band because we all just loved every night, going on stage and playing those songs.”

Ultimately, he says, “I’m a musician. I got a chance to play with a few great people and that’s all I wanted to do. To play. Whether I was a pop star or not was irrelevant.”

He’s not dead yet, and he’s not going quietly yet, either. He’s announced a comeback tour of Europe next year. It won’t be him behind the drums, though. That honour will go to his 16-year-old son, Nic, who’s shaping up to be a mean drummer. Bred in the bone, it seems.
 
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“Finding your voice”: Announcing the 2016 Ba re e ne re Literature Festival in Lesotho (9-11 December)

Invitation to the 2016 Ba re e ne re Literature Festival in Lesotho (9 – 11 December)

 
Alert! The annual Ba re e ne re Literature Festival will take place from Friday, 9 December, to Sunday, 11 December. The theme of this year’s Lesotho-based festival is “Finding your voice” and the proceedings will kick off on Friday evening with a poetry slam event and the launch of the short story anthology Likheleke tsa puo.

This year’s guests include South African wordsmiths Sindiwe Magona, Masande Ntshanga, Ace Moloi and Joe Machina, as well as Efemia Chela, Karina Szczurek and Catherine Shepherd. Lesotho will be well represented by Thato Mochone, Liatile Mohale and Tumelo Moleleki.

The Ba re e ne re Literature Festival was first held in 2011 by the late founder Liepollo Rantekoa. Ba re e ne re is an educational organisation established to enrich the lives of Basotho people through improved literacy and creative platforms for expression. The festival aims to provide literary training for the next generation of writers and leaders, to connect Lesotho’s literary community with the rest of Africa, and to address issues through the use of literature.

The three-day event will close with a writer’s workshop hosted by The Alliance Française of Maseru and Short Story Day Africa.

For more information, visit the Ba re e ne re Literature Festival’s website and Facebook page.

Chasing The Tails of My Father’s CattleTo My Children's ChildrenThe ReactiveThe ReactiveHolding My Breath
Adults OnlyInvisible OthersWaterHer Heart

 
Press release

As the team behind Ba re e ne re, we’re extremely excited to announce that our annual event the Ba re e ne re Literature Festival will be held from 9 to 11 December, 2016. We have some incredible activities and guests lined up. We’ll be hosting a poetry open mic and Likheleke tsa puo short-story anthology book launch at Rockview in Khubetsoana from 6 to 10 PM on Friday the 9th. On Saturday, 10 December, from 10 AM to 5 PM we’ll have panel discussions, kids’ activities, a craft market with Nala Social Market and the annual Liepollo Rantekoa Keynote given by the renowned author Sindiwe Magona at Maseru Preparatory School. On Sunday, 11 December, at Alliance Française we’ll host a writing workshop facilitated by Cape Town-based collective Short Story Day Africa from 12 to 4 PM. The theme of the 2016 edition of the Ba re e ne re Literature Festival is “Finding your voice”.

2016 Ba re e ne re Literature Festival Guest biographies

International guests

Sindiwe Magona is a writer, poet, dramatist, storyteller, actress and motivational speaker. She has published autobiographical works, novels and several children’s books over the years. We are very excited to hear her address on the importance of finding our voices as writers. Until 1994 she presented UN radio programmes about the UN’s role in ending apartheid. She then worked in the UN’s Public Information Department until 2003.

Masande Ntshanga was the winner of the 2013 PEN International New Voices Award. He graduated with a degree in Film and Media and an Honours degree in English Studies from the University of Cape Town. He received a Fulbright Award and a National Research Foundation Freestanding Masters scholarship. His debut novel, The Reactive, was published in 2014 by Penguin Random House South Africa. After much interest in the United Kingdom, publisher Jacaranda Books have acquired the rights to publish Masande’s acclaimed literary novel in the United Kingdom and across the Commonwealth. An American edition of the novel was published earlier this year, and German translation rights have also been sold.

Ace Moloi graduated from the University of the Free State where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Science. He was the editor of Young Minds Magazine, a founding editor of Student Leverage Magazine, as well as a former IRAWA Post news editor. In 2013 he self-published his first book, In her fall rose a nation, with New Voices Publishing. His second book, Holding My Breath, was published by Blackbird Books, an imprint of Jacana Media in May of 2016. Ace describes the Exclusive Books (Free State) bestselling memoir as a graveside conversation with his mother.

Joe Machina, born Norman Ncube in Bulawayo Zimbabwe, is a freelance journalist, a member of “Johannesburg writers” and a co-founder of Write Africa. Joe left Bulawayo in search of a new life in Johannesburg. When he first arrived in the new city, he worked as a journalist, and his writing appeared in the Mail & Guardian, and an array of other South African publications. Joe’s work is primarily inspired by the immigrant experience: why do people leave their homes in different parts of the world, to go to foreign lands where they were subject to discrimination, xenophobic attacks and even death? Who drives people to make these difficult decisions? Who is responsible for this suffering? His debut novel Victims of greed was published by Bahati Books.

Short Story Day Africa facilitators

Efemia Chela was born in Zambia in 1991, but grew up all over the world. She studied at Rhodes University, South Africa and Institut D’Etudes Politiques in Aix-En-Provence, France. Her first published story, “Chicken” was nominated for The 2014 Caine Prize For African Writing. Efemia’s subsequent stories and poems have been published in places like Brittle Paper, Jalada, Short.Sharp.Stories: Adults Only, Prufrock and PEN Passages: Africa. Efemia is currently a fellow of the inaugural Short Story Day Africa / Worldreader Editing Mentorship Programme and continues to write fiction whenever she can find a moment on the train and a working pen.

Karina Szczurek was born in Jelenia Góra, Poland, and lived in Austria, the United States and Wales, before finding a home in South Africa when she met and married the author André Brink. She was editor in chief of Water: New Short Fiction from Africa (with Nick Mulgrew, 2015) among many others. Her play for young adults A Change of Mind won the MML Literature Award in the Category English Drama in 2012. She writes short stories, book reviews, essays, and poetry. Invisible Others, her first novel, was longlisted for the 2015 Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize.

Catherine Shepherd started writing as a child but it was only recently through projects like Short Story Day Africa and Writivism Literary Initiative that she got the courage to put her writing out there. Catherine has a degree in journalism from Rhodes University. Catherine is currently a fellow of the inaugural Short Story Day Africa / Worldreader Editing Mentorship Programme and is editing an anthology of young writers under the supervision of Szczurek. Her short stories have appeared in various publications including My Holiday Shorts, My Maths Teacher Hates Me, Imagine Africa 500 and the 2016 Writivism Anthology. She lives in Cape Town, but has plans to build a writer’s retreat in Suurbraak.

Lesotho-based guests

Thato Mochone is an ambassador of World Vision Lesotho, a Kaya FM correspondent, Martin Luther King Fellow, Mandela Washington Fellow, media consultant and blogger. She is an advocate for youth and women empowerment as well as the LGBT community, an activist journalist interested in social justice, a volunteer fundraiser for an orphanage in her hometown and an English and Geography tutor. She is currently the Communication and Foundation Specialist at Vodacom Foundation after over five years working as a radio personality on Ultimate FM.

Liatile Mohale is a Fulbright scholar who graduated in May 2016 with an impressive 4.0 GPA for her Master’s Degree in Theatre Arts, at San Francisco State University. Before then she obtained her BA in Drama and Theatre Arts from the University of the Free State. Besides being an avid storyteller who tackles pressing social issues and Sesotho culture through theatre, she is a theatre teacher at Machabeng college and has sat as a judge on the Vodacom superstar contest.

Tumelo Moleleki started writing when she was still young and in high school as an outlet because the creative writing she did then always felt so stifling. She self-published a book called Her Heart after which she received an offer from an American company called Dorrance Publishing. In 2006 she got the opportunity to work in Belgium where she took French lessons and developed her grammar skills. She is currently working on manuscripts in French and Sesotho.

Sponsors

Ba re e ne re Literature Festival 2016 would not be possible without the generous support of Miles Morland Foundation, Vodacom Foundation, Unesco, Maseru Prep School, Alliance Francaise, MXXL radio, Bahati Books, Short Story Day Africa, Nala Social Market and Rockview.

Background

Ba re e ne re is a registered educational organisation whose mission is to enrich the lives of Basotho people by promoting initiatives that support improved literacy and creative platforms for expression. Through our work, Basotho, and youth in particular, access training and outlets to practice literacy and share the unique stories Lesotho has to offer with local and international audiences.

Our flagship project is the Ba re e ne re Literature Festival, first held in 2011 by our late founder Liepollo Rantekoa. The festival is an annual international literary arts event, which brings writers, readers and leaders together to share ideas and creative works.

The three goals of the Ba re e ne re Literature Festival are focused for high impact. Through our programming, we aim to:

  • Cultivate the next generation of writers and storytellers in Lesotho through literary training and platforms for expression.
  • Connect Lesotho’s literary arts community with creatives in other African countries and beyond for creative exchange and improved publishing opportunities.
  • Instigate the use of literature as a tool to address pressing socio-economic and political issues within Lesotho.

For more information please visit our Facebook, our website www.bareenere.com, send us an email at Barelitfest@gmail.com or give us a call on 28322405.

Ke tšomo ka mathetho!

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