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Archive for the ‘Non-fiction’ Category

“I deeply admired the work of Thuli Madonsela as our public protector.” Thandeka Gqubule talks about No Longer Whispering to Power, shortlisted for the 2018 Alan Paton Award

Published in the Sunday Times

Thandeka Gqubule has practiced as a journalist and worked in the media for nearly three decades. She has followed the story of former public protector Thuli Madonsela with great dedication and passion.

What prompted you to write the book?

I deeply admired the work of Thuli Madonsela as our public protector. I felt strongly that her choices and values were instructive and could provide a navigational tool for us to approach the choppy political and social waters of our land. I was passionate about the need to share this example, and the trials and tribulations of being South African – nonracialism, corruption, active citizenship, a rocky political transition and much more. As I was thinking about this, seated in the lobby of Johannesburg’s Hyatt Hotel, I spotted Jeremy Boraine from Jonathan Ball Publishers. I thought this must be a gift from the angels! I approached and told him that I wanted to do the Thuli book. He was interested and the rest is history.

Where did the title came from?

Thuli gave the idea of the title. It was in one of her iconic speeches. She was attempting to give a non-legal explanation of the role of the public protector in our society. She said it was like that of the makhadzi — a traditional female Venda leader — normally the sister or the aunt of the king. The makhadzi had to be above reproach and above suspicion, much like Caesar’s wife. She was to be exemplary in her conduct, so she quietly led by example. The makhadzi would lean over and counsel the king by whispering, so she wielded her influence surreptitiously and her power was to be known but not seen or heard. She was to make supplications to the king on behalf of the wounded, marginalised and weak in society — even plead for clemency on behalf of those whom the king had treated unfairly. The king ignored the makhadzi at his peril. When the makhadzi was just, the king was thought to be fair-minded. But when the makhadzi raised her voice to the king it means she was “no longer whispering to power” — thus all was not well in the kingdom. I thought this explains the Thuli/Jacob dynamic beautifully.

Who should read your book?

I think all South Africans should – all those who grapple with ethics-centred leadership should study the example of Thuli Madonsela.

What would people be most surprised to learn about Thuli Madonsela?

Thuli was not always self-assured. She was shy and socially awkward when she was a teenager. She also has an elegant sense of humour!

You write about the many rivers South Africans have to cross for a just and equitable society. Where do we stand now?

We still have many rivers to cross. We need to find our common humanity and bond as a people … out of the practical reality that we need to provide a peaceful and meaningful future for our children. We must cross the river of hope or our hearts will slowly die. To do this we must build a bridge over the sea of poverty and inequality. Problems have solutions and we must find them. As Tata said: we have many mountains to climb.

How important was it to situate Thuli in reference to our history?

I think Thuli Madonsela is one of the most significant South African historical figures of the post-apartheid period. I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to write this book.

Book details

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“I wanted to give voice to a story I felt hadn’t been fully explored yet in South Africa – that of children who grew up in exile.” Sisonke Msimang discusses her Alan Paton Award shortlisted memoir, Always Another Country

Published in the Sunday Times

Sisonke Msimang lives in Perth, Australia, where she is programme director for the Centre for Stories. She regularly visits South Africa, where she speaks on current affairs. She has degrees from Macalester College, Minnesota, and the University of Cape Town, is a Yale World Fellow, an Aspen New Voices Fellow, and was a Ruth First Fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand. She contributes to The Guardian, The Daily Maverick and The New York Times and has given a popular TED Talk which touches on events that appear in Always Another Country.

Why did you decide to write this memoir?

I wanted to give voice to a story I felt hadn’t been fully explored yet in South Africa – that of children who grew up in exile. While we have had many amazing freedom fighters, I wanted to also demonstrate to young people and women especially that you don’t have to have a long CV and a long list of accomplishments for your life to be worthy of examination. All of us have stories – big and small. In South Africa we have tended to be interested in the big men of our history – black and white. As a contrast I wanted to look at my small little stories, set against the backdrop of South Africa’s much larger story.

Did writing your story give you new insights into your experiences growing up?

The process of writing always helps to clarify your experiences, but a lot of these experiences I had already worked through, so I was ready to share them.

It is an intensely personal and revealing book. Was it painful to write?

Not at all. There is a wonderful quote I use when I teach storytelling – “Tell your stories from your scars, not from your wounds”. I only shared experiences that I had felt I had fully dealt with at a personal level so that by the time I was sitting down to write, I wasn’t treating my readers like therapists. For me there is a very clear line between catharsis and publishing a book. Your diary is for catharsis; a memoir should be about what you hope people might be able to take away from the experiences you’ve had in your life.

What does the word “identity” mean to you?

Your identity is who you are; the component parts that make you a unique individual.

You became disillusioned after your return to a free South Africa. Why?

I didn’t become any more disillusioned with South Africa than other South Africans did during the end of the Mbeki years and the Zuma years. I had high hopes for our political leaders – as we all did. I think the last decade has taught us that anyone can let you down but only you as a person can take responsibility for addressing the challenges you see around you.

Now that you live in Australia, does the distance from South Africa help to focus your views on the country?

Not really. I am here a lot, so there really isn’t much distance. I see myself as being incredibly lucky; someone who is able to make a home anywhere, but who is fundamentally connected to her country – South Africa. It’s as though there is an umbilical cord tying me to this place. Exile made that bond very strong and I have come to realise that no matter what happens or where I live or go, that cord will never be broken. It makes me who I am.

After writing the book, do you feel more at peace with the past?

Ha! Well, the truth is I am a very balanced person because my parents tried hard to make sure that we were okay, in spite of all the moving. So I’ve been at peace with my past for a long time, and I am incredibly grateful for the journey I have travelled.

Book details

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Book Bites: 3 June

Published in the Sunday Times

Golden Prey
John Sandford, Simon & Schuster, R290

Sandford’s novels, featuring the independently wealthy and suave Minnesota detective Lucas Davenport, all have the word Prey in the title. After 28 books, not only the titles but the writing was getting a bit hackneyed. And then, voila! Sandford pulls a rabbit out of a hat. The latest Davenport mystery is back to his pacy, thrilling best as Davenport – now with the US Marshals service – hunts a brace of killers in Mississippi, racing against a mob torturer known as the “Queen of home improvement tools”. The plotting is good, the characterisation of the baddies chillingly convincing. Good to know that old Davenport still has some mileage in his crisply laundered chinos. William Saunderson-Meyer @TheJaundicedEye

You Have to be Gay to Know God
Siya Khumalo, Kwela Books, R255

We’ve all read the stories about how many members of the LGBTQI+ community in South Africa are treated badly because of who they are. And then we go on with our daily lives. Siya Khumalo does something else. His journey of growing up in a Durban township and being gay is narrated in the most perfectly painful way. As he searches for truth in a newly democratic South Africa, Siya’s story is filled with uncompromising and uncomfortable realities that many have never experienced. It’s a narrative we shouldn’t ignore and Siya’s brutally honest writing knocks at our conscience. There is no negotiation in this story. Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

How I Lose You
Kate McNaughton, Doubleday, R290

This book is a sob fest. Don’t read it if you are still grieving over a loved one dying. Eva and Adam are married and they go out to a party in London. They have a good time, but the next morning Eva wakes up next to a cold Adam. Only 31 years old, he died in the night from a heart attack. Eva’s grief is palpable. McNaughton then takes us back in time to see how their love developed — a holiday in New York during 9/11, falling in love on a weekend away, fighting about jealousy and meeting each other’s parents. The whole gamut of a relationship. For fans of One Day and The Notebook. Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

Book details

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Bongani Ngqulunga discusses his book, The Man Who Founded the ANC, shortlisted for the 2018 Alan Paton Award

Published in the Sunday Times

 Bongani Ngqulunga is a fellow at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. He is a graduate of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where he earned three degrees. He also holds a PhD from Brown University in the US.


Pixley ka Isaka Seme, founder of the ANC, was one of South Africa’s most important leaders.

What sparked your interest in Pixley ka Isaka Seme?

It always puzzled me that no substantial biography had been written about Seme even though he had made major contributions to the life and politics of South Africa. Not only was he the founder of the ANC at 30 years old, he started a company that bought land for black settlement in the eastern Transvaal (Mpumalanga today). He was the second black South African to be admitted to practice as an attorney. He established a national newspaper and did many other things. And yet when he became the president-general of the ANC from 1930 to 1937 he brought it to its knees. I found the paradox of the founder of the ANC nearly killing it when he became leader interesting.

Why this book, and why now?

The book tells a fascinating story not only about the life of a man, Seme, but also about the history of this country and the hurdles we have overcome to get to where we are today. Sometimes when we look at the political problems we face today we tend to glorify the past and present it as if everything was perfect. The story of Seme demonstrates that our past is as complex as our present. And herein perhaps lies the significance of the book: it cautions us against accepting oversimplified versions of our history. The person who reads this book will be struck by the similarities between what went on in the ANC 80 years ago and what is going on now. The book cautions against what the novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie calls the danger of a single story.

What does the past of the ANC tell us about its present and the future?

The most important lesson, I suppose, is that the ANC has done well when it has put ordinary people at the centre of its political mission. The disasters that it faced in the 1930s were largely caused by a political leadership that was inward looking and self-serving. While the ANC leaders were caught in squabbles among themselves, they forgot about ordinary people who faced mass unemployment, landlessness and poverty. It was only when the ANC changed its strategy and focused on mobilising masses of ordinary South Africans in the 1940s and 1950s that it regained its purpose and attracted support.

What drove Seme?

Seme had extraordinary vision and intellect with insatiable ambition and energy. He cared deeply about the unity of black people and their liberation. His predilection for the finer things in life and an autocratic style of leadership were the cause of his political downfall.

Why did he become authoritarian and autocratic?

He had great faith in his intellect and political vision. He thought he alone knew what was good for the ANC and the people it led. That, largely, was the cause of his political downfall. And because he attracted so much criticism from his colleagues in the leadership of the ANC, he was alienated from them and made mistakes that could have been avoided had his leadership style been more inclusive.

How did you research his life?

Unfortunately Seme did not leave behind an archive of personal papers when he died in 1951. That in turn made researching his life challenging. Researching and writing the book while working full time complicated matters a bit. But I spent considerable time trawling through archives and reading old newspapers, some as old as 100 years! I also received assistance from archivists and librarians in South Africa, Swaziland, the US and England, countries in which Seme lived at one point or the other.

What surprised or disturbed you about Seme that you found while researching?

I did not know that he did not have a doctorate. I found it strange that a man of his accomplishments would feel the need to claim a degree he did not possess. I was also disappointed by several instances when he took advantage of desperate black people who came to him for help as their political leader and a renowned lawyer.

Was there any hindrance from others about the revelations about Seme?

No, there was no hindrance at all. Some Seme family members were unhappy about the revelations concerning the doctorate, which is understandable. But nobody tried to stop or hinder me from writing the book.

The Man Who Founded the ANC

Book details

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Open Book Festival announces first group of authors

Via Open Book Festival

Throwback to a panel discussion at Open Book Fest 2016. ©Retha Ferguson

The first group of authors has been announced for the eighth Open Book Festival taking place from 5 to 9 September this year.

Brought to you by the Book Lounge and the Fugard Theatre, Open Book Festival offers a world-class selection of book launches, panel discussions, workshops, masterclasses, readings, performances, and more. The festival also hosts the popular Comics Fest, #cocreatePoetica and various children’s and outreach programmes. Venues for the event include the Fugard Theatre, District Six Homecoming Centre, the A4 Arts Foundation, and The Book Lounge in Cape Town, and are all within walking distance of one another. Selected events will also take place outside the city centre, such as at Elsies River Library and Molo Mhlaba School.

Open Book Festival has established itself as one of the most innovative literature festivals in South Africa. It has twice been shortlisted for the London Book Fair Excellence Awards. Last year, nearly 10 000 people attended the festival’s record 140 events, with ticket sales from previous years surpassed in the first two days. Open Book Festival is committed to creating a platform to celebrate South African writers, as well as hosting top international authors. The festival strives to instill a love of reading among young attendees, with the programme designed to engage, entertain and inspire conversations among festival goers long after the event.

“We are once again compiling a phenomenal line up of authors, across a wide range of genres, to join us at the festival,” says Festival Director Mervyn Sloman. “We’ve put together a short preview of some of the authors joining us, to help plan your reading.”

The international authors include:

Author: Lesley Arimah (Nigeria / USA)
Books include: What it Means when a Man Falls from the Sky
Why we’re excited: Lesley has been a finalist for the Caine Prize and a winner of the African Commonwealth Short Story Prize among other honors. She was selected for the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 and her debut collection What it Means when a Man Falls from the Sky won the 2017 Kirkus Prize.

Author: Jonas Bonnier (Sweden) joining us courtesy of the Swedish Embassy
Books include: The Helicopter Heist, Stockholm Odenplan
Why we’re excited: Jonas Bonnier is a novelist, screenwriter and journalist. His latest book, The Helicopter Heist is a gripping suspense thriller about the Västberga helicopter robbery. It has been sold to 34 territories.

Author: David Chariandy (Canada) joining us courtesy of Canada Council of the Arts
Books include: Brother, Soucouyant
Why we’re excited: David Chariandy won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize in 2017 for Brother. The Guardian UK described it as ‘breathtaking…compulsive, brutal and flawless’. David’s debut novel, Soucouyant, received nominations from eleven literary awards juries.

Author: Anna Dahlqvist (Sweden)
Books include: It’s Only Blood
Why we’re excited: Anna Dahlqvist is a leading voice writing about women’s and girls’ rights. She is editor-in-chief of Ottar, a Swedish magazine focusing on sexuality, politics, society and culture.

Author: Nicole Dennis-Benn (Jamaica/USA) with thanks to the University of Stellenbosch for assisting with her joining us
Books include: Here Comes the Sun
Why we’re excited: Her debut novel, Here Comes The Sun, received a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a NPR Best Books of 2016, an Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Entertainment Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2016, a BuzzFeed Best Literary Debuts of 2016, among others.

Author: Guy Deslisle (Canada) joining us courtesy of Canada Council of the Arts
Books include: Hostage, Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China, Burma Chronicles, Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City
Why we’re excited: Guy Deslisle is a cartoonist and animator, who is acclaimed for his graphic novels about his travels. His most recent book, Hostage, was longlisted for Brooklyn Public Library’s 2017 literary prize.

Author: Frankie Edozien (Nigeria/USA)
Books include: Lives of Great Men
Why we’re excited: Frankie Edozien is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of AFRrican Magazine. Lives of Great Men was shortlisted for a Lambda Literary Award. The Financial Times called the book ‘a fine contribution to the important work of pursuing equality and social justice on a global scale’

Author: Mariana Enriquez (Argentina) joining us courtesy of the Embassy of Argentina
Books include: Things We Lost in the Fire
Why we’re excited: Stories by Mariana Enriquez have appeared in anthologies of Spain, Mexico, Chile, Bolivia and Germany. The New York Times Book Review called Things We Lost in the Fire, ‘[P]ropulsive and mesmerizing, laced with vivid descriptions of the grotesque…and the darkest humor’.

Author: Aminatta Forna (Scotland/Sierra Leone/USA)
Books include: Happiness, The Hired Man, The Memory of Love.
Why we’re excited: Aminatta Forna’s award-winning work has been translated into eighteen languages. Her essays have appeared in Freeman’s, Granta, The Guardian, LitHub, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, The Observer and Vogue. She has written stories for BBC radio and written and presented television documentaries.

Author: Adam Smyer (USA)
Books include: Knucklehead
Why we’re excited: Adam Smyer’s debut novel Knucklehead is a refreshingly honest, fierce, intelligent, and often hilarious read.

“By setting his novel in the ’90s, Smyer, has crafted some brutal deja vu. As Marcus reflects on Rodney King, the Million Man March and the Oklahoma City bombing, we think of Freddie Gray, Black Lives Matter and school shootings that have become a way of life… Here we are more than 20 years on, and it’s only gotten worse. We should all be furious.” San Francisco Chronicle

Author: Mariko Tamaki (Canada) joining us courtesy of the Canada Council of the Arts
Books include: Skim, Emiko Superstar, This One Summer.
Why we’re excited: Mariko Tamaki is an acclaimed graphic novelist and author. In 2016 she began writing for both Marvel and DC Comics.

“A key objective of Open Book Festival is to celebrate the wealth of South African talent,” says Sloman. “We have a selection of the most insightful minds and compelling storytellers joining us. Here are a few.”

“We are looking forward to The Last Sentence, a psychological thriller and the debut novel from Tumelo Buthelezi and also to welcoming Ijangolet S Ogwang, whose novel An Image in a Mirror, is a richly told African coming-of-age story.”

Clinton Chauke’s Born in Chains: The Diary of an Angry ‘Born Free’ is a story of hope, where, even in a sea of poverty, there are those that refuse to give up and, ultimately, succeed. Journalist Rebecca Davis, author of Best White and Other Anxious Delusions will talk about her new memoir and journey on a spiritual quest.

Sorry, Not Sorry author Haji Dawjee joins us to discuss this revealing experience of moving through post-Apartheid South Africa as a woman of colour. “We are delighted to welcome back Judith February of the Institute for Security Studies, and author Pumla Dineo Gqola, whose book Reflecting Rogue was the best selling title at last year’s Festival,” says Sloman.

Nozizwe Jele has recently released her new novel, The Ones With Purpose. Happiness is a Four-Letter Word was Jele’s debut novel and won the Best First Book category (Africa region) in the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2011, as well as the 2011 M-Net Literary Award in the Film category. Playwright and theatre director Craig Higginson whose novels include The Dream House also joins the line-up to talk about his new novel, The White Room.

Siya Khumalo’s debut memoir, You Have to be Gay to Know God, is a powerful book dealing with gay identity. In Becoming Him, Landa Mabenge explores his own journey that includes being the first transgender man in South Africa to successfully force a medical aid to pay for his surgeries.

The Blessed Girl by Angela Makholwa sees an unraveling of the life that ambitious, social climber Bontle Tau was aiming for. Makholwa’s previous books include Black Widow Society, The 30th Candle and Red Ink. The Gold Diggers is the latest novel by Sue Nyathi (The Polygamist).It is a simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-warming chronicle of immigrant experiences.

Singer-songwriter and author Mohale Mashigo (The Yearning) returns to talk about her new collection, Intruders while in Soweto, Under the Apricot Tree, another festival regular Niq Mhlongo brings the complexities of Soweto to life on the page.

Zuki Wanner’s books include Men of the South which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize Africa Region for Best Book; London – Cape Town – Joburg and children’s book Refilwe. Her recent Hardly Working: A Travel Memoir of Sorts explores the politics of nations, and the ‘burden’ of travelling on an African passport.

SAPS Major General Jeremy Vearey also joins us to talk about Jeremy Vannie Elsies which chronicles his journey of growing up in Elsies River, from rough-and-tumble youngster to the head of the anti-gang unit in the Western Cape. Along the way he mastered the Communist Manifesto in Afrikaans, joined MK, and was sent to Robben Island for his role in the struggle.

The eighth Open Book Festival will take place from 5 to 9 September at the Fugard Theatre, D6 Homecoming Centre, The A4 Arts Foundation and The Book Lounge from 10:00 to 21:00 each day. For further information and the full programme, which will be available in early August, visit

Bookings can be made at Webtickets:

Open Book Festival is organised in partnership with the Fugard Theatre, The District 6 Museum, The A4 Arts Foundation, The Townhouse Hotel, Novus Holdings, The French Institute, The Canada Council for the Arts, The Embassy of Sweden, The Embassy of Argentina, The Dutch Foundation for Literature, UCT Creative Writing Department, University of Stellenbosch English Department and Central Library and is sponsored by Leopards Leap, Open Society Foundation, Pan Macmillan, NB Publishers, Jonathan Ball and Penguin Random House.

An Image in a Mirror

Book details

Born in Chains

Best White and Other Anxious Delusions


Sorry, Not Sorry


Reflecting Rogue


The Ones With Purpose


The Blessed Girl

The Gold Diggers

The Yearning

Soweto, Under the Apricot Tree

Jeremy vannie Elsies

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Make way for great South African Books: Exclusive Books celebrates local books and writing this June with its 2018 Homebru Campaign and free in-store catalogue

Exclusive Books, South Africa’s leading bookseller, celebrates South African authors this June with the launch of its annual Homebru campaign. There are more than 50 books in this year’s Homebru selection, and the languages represented include, in addition to English and Afrikaans, isiZulu, seSotho, isiXhosa and Sepedi.

Homebru 2018 features great fiction, biography, history, politics and current affairs, engaging children’s books, comics for young adults, poetry, cookery and more. Fanatics members earn double points on all titles, and the official 2018 Homebru catalogue is available to all members of the public for free in stores.

The books and authors featured represent a true slice of South African writing and include Mandy Wiener’s fascinating and disturbing Ministry of Crime, Schalk Bezuidenhout’s hilarious Truitjie roer my nie, Mpho Dagada’s inspiring Mr Bitcoin, Refiloe Moahloli’s delightful new children’s book, Tullula, Lukhanyo and Abigail Calata’s sobering memoir My Father Died for This, Nozizwe Cynthia Jele’s fantastic second novel, The Ones with Purpose, and Dudu Busani-Dube’s epic romance Zulu Wedding, among dozens of other titles.

“Without local writers there would be far fewer local readers,” said Ben Williams, GM: Marketing for Exclusive Books. “It’s a great privilege to be able to promote these titles, and Homebru is always one of the most exciting times of the year for those who love great reads.”

Browse the 2018 Homebru selection at Exclusive Books Online:

Exclusive Books is planning more than 30 events during the month of June to showcase its Homebru selection: watch out for invitations to its stores in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Bloemfontein. The full list of events will be online here:

Select Homebru 2018 events:


Mandy Wiener: Ministry of Crime Book Signing
EB Bedford Centre
DATE Saturday, 02 June 2018
TIME 11:00 – 12:00
RSVP email

Schalk Bezuidenhout: Truitjie roer my nie
EB Rosebank Mall
DATE Tuesday, 05 June 2018
TIME 18:00 vir 18:30
RSVP email

Vimla Naidoo and Sahm Venter: I remember Nelson Mandela
EB Hyde Park Corner
DATE Wednesday, 06 June 2018
TIME 18:00 for 18:30
RSVP email

Mpho Dagada: Mr Bitcoin
EB Rosebank Mall
DATE Wednesday, 06 June 2018
TIME 18:00 for 18:30
RSVP email

Mpho Dagada: Mr Bitcoin
EB Menlyn
DATE Thursday, 07 June 2018
TIME 18:00 for 18:30
RSVP email

Refiloe Moahloli: Tullula – Children’s Reading
EB Mall of the South
DATE Saturday, 09 June 2018
TIME 10:00 for 10:30
RSVP email

Lukhanyo and Abigail Calata: My Father Died for This
EB Hyde Park Corner
DATE Tuesday, 12 June 2018
TIME 18:00 for 18:30
RSVP email

Clinton Chauke: Born in Chains
EB Menlyn Park
DATE Tuesday, 12 June 2018
TIME 18:00 for 18:30
RSVP email

Nozizwe Cynthia Jele: The Ones with Purpose
EB Rosebank Mall
DATE Wednesday, 13 June 2018
TIME 18:00 for 18:30
RSVP email

Kwa-Zulu Natal

Dudu Busani-Dube: Zulu Wedding
Bessie Head Library, PMB
DATE Saturday, 02 June 2018
TIME 10:00 – 12:00
RSVP email

Free State

Marinda van Zyl: Dors
NALN, Bloemfontein
DATE Wednesday, 06 June 2018
TIME 17:30 vir 18:00
RSVP email

Western Cape

Clinton Chauke: Born in Chains
EB Cavendish Square
DATE Wednesday, 06 June 2018
TIME 18:00 for 18:30
RSVP email

Joanne Jowell: Winging It
EB Cavendish Square
DATE Thursday, 07 June 2018
TIME 18:00 for 18:30
RSVP email

Ministry of Crime

Book details


Truitjie roer my nie




My Father Died for This


The Ones With Purpose


Zulu Wedding

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Hermanus FynArts 2018 (8 – 17 June): authors who journey to unravel issues

Festival goers can expect ten exhilarating days celebrating the arts at Hermanus FynArts, the annual arts festival and winter school that will take place from 8 – 17 June 2018. A unique and quality event on the South African Arts Calendar, this classic-feel festival showcases top South African artists, speakers, chefs, wine makers of note, and more. With something for everyone, the programme is filled with exhibitions, music, talks, demonstrations, workshops, tastings, films and events for children.

Knowing where you come from, understanding and experiencing diverse cultures and communities are topics for discussion at the sixth annual Hermanus FynArts festival, from 8 to 17 June. During the Strauss & Co lecture and presentation series, five authors will be interviewed about their books from which they will also read in a separate session.

In his newly-published book, The Café de Move-On Blues, the long-awaited sequel to White Boy Running, Christopher Hope travels to find out just who South Africans think they are and where they think they’re going. He recounts his great trek around South Africa to visit toppled and assaulted statues and monuments, ranging from Cecil Rhodes to Saartjie Baartman. Fellow-writer and journalist Bryan Rostron will talk to him about this, his latest book. In a separate session Christopher will read selected tales from an earlier work, The Love Songs of Nathan J. Swirsky, described by reviewers as a ‘little jewel-box’ of a book. These stories were originally commissioned and recorded by the BBC and read by the author.

Sindiwe Magona, writer, storyteller, actress and motivational speaker, will talk about her books and her remarkable life, with Nancy Richards, well known as a former presenter on SAfm Literature. Sindiwe’s jouney from domestic worker in the suburbs of Cape Town to the United Nations in New York where she worked for 20 years, and her substantial oeuvre of writings for both children and adults form the basis of the discussion. In a separate session, Storytime with Sindiwe Magona, children will be in for a special treat when they are invited to doss down on blankets on the stage of the Auditorium while Sindiwe reads them stories.

Small towns and the Afrikaans culture are common threads in the work of Sally Andrew and Jennifer Friedman. Sally, author of the Tannie Maria mystery series set in the Klein Karoo, and Jennifer, whose book Queen of the Free State, is about growing up Jewish in a small town in the 1950s and ’60s, will talk to Petrovna Metelerkamp, a publisher and an authority on the life of Ingrid Jonker. Sally and Jennifer will also join forces for a book reading.

The Keeper of the Kumm – Ancestral Longing and Belonging of a Boesmankind is the spiritual journey of Sylvia Vollenhoven in search of her roots, telling the story of a battle-hardened, 21st century journalist who has to journey with her 19th century ancestor to delve into the hardest story of them all: Who am I really? In the process of writing she is cured of a debilitating illness that had left her bedridden. Sylvia will be interviewed by media personality Shado Twala. In a separate session she will read extracts from her book.

Award-winning poet Alfred Schaffer, who is partly Dutch, partly Aruban and a lecturer in Afrikaans-Nederlands at Stellenbosch University, will read from his poetry in Dutch, with English and Afrikaans translations. He will also read poems by other Dutch and Belgian poets, with English translations.

The full FynArts programme, also in e-booklet format, is at Bookings can be made at Webtickets, also at selected Pick n Pay stores and on 060 957 5371.

The Café de Move-on Blues

Book details


White Boy Running


The Love Songs of Nathan J. Swirsky


Recipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria Mystery

Queen of the Free State


Keeper of the Kumm

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“It was healing in ways I never thought could happen.” Thuli Nhlapo on writing Colour Me Yellow, shortlisted for the 2018 Alan Paton Award

Published in the Sunday Times

Thuli Nhlapo studied journalism, communications and script writing. She has written for Drum, The Star, City Press, Mail & Guardian and True Love. Other writings appear in Orbit Magazine, Scottish Daily Mail and the Guardian. She has published books in isiZulu and siSwati and Colour Me Yellow is her first English book. She is the managing director of her media company, Thuli Nhlapo Media.

Why did you write your memoir?

It all began when I was a reporter at the Mail & Guardian. My editor asked me to write a story and the response was overwhelming. Publisher Erika Oosthuysen saw the piece and encouraged me to write, following my every move for over 10 years. In the end I decided I was mature enough to tell my story.

How important is it for us to tell our personal history?

As an avid reader — reading other people’s personal stories — for me it is therapeutic. Even though it’s now changing, it’s not a fashionable thing in black communities to go for therapy. But by telling our stories, we can go back to our roots and the tales told by our grannies and aunties as a way of imparting knowledge and assisting us to cope with life. The response to Colour Me Yellow confirmed my worst fear: there are many out there hurting, unable to share their grief because they think no one will understand.

You write about how you grew up feeling like an intruder in your own family; about how badly your parents treated you. How you were called “yellow” or “boesman”. That for adults like you to heal, a good idea would be Unwanted Babies Anonymous. Can you explain more about that?

I borrowed the idea from Alcoholics Anonymous. I imagined a group of adults who were unwanted babies sitting in a circle and telling their stories in a safe environment, with people who won’t judge them but who relate to their experiences. Well, it hasn’t happened in a formal way, but I get calls daily from people and all they want is to talk to someone who will understand what they are going through. It’s amazing that even men 50 years and older still break down over this. It shows that there’s a need to have a dialogue and to heal.

Why is knowing our ancestry important?

We get our inheritance — wealth, wisdom and other traits from our ancestors, those in our families who once walked this earth. If one doesn’t know who their ancestors are, there cannot be a connection and communication. How are people’s ancestors supposed to pass on their inheritance to someone they are not in touch with? It’s crucial to know who you are and where you come from to be certain about where you are going.

Do you see your story as a microcosm of South Africa’s dysfunction?

Most definitely. Why do we have to deal with such violent crime, violent rape, loveless marriages and abandoned children in our society? There’s a lot of bottled up anger; wounds that have not healed and it manifests in our daily life. How can you love if you have never been loved? And you have not acknowledged the fact that you were deprived of love? I’ve visited juvenile centres and the bulk of teenagers in those cells come from dysfunctional families. They have no knowledge of who their father is, or had an abusive stepfather or biological father who was emotionally absent. While it is a great idea to have campaigns focusing on the girl child and their empowerment, we also need to focus on the boy child and adult male. There’s healing that needs to take place for our society to be safe to live in.

How did your family react to the book?

The word “family” for me isn’t the same as family in other people’s lives. My two sons are my family. I had told them about my childhood and they had witnessed some of the nasty events while they were growing up. It wasn’t a complete shock for them to read the book . My “other family” — people I share a surname and have blood relations with — had mixed reactions. Some didn’t react at all. The younger generation congratulated me on the book and those who read it asked a few questions. Others have blocked me.

Was writing about your life a cathartic experience?

It was healing in ways I never thought could happen. I feel light and free now that I have nothing to hide and nothing that will need to be explained later in life. I no longer walk around with shame buried deep down inside me. I’m walking naked and it’s liberating. I’m just myself — warts and all. Take it or leave it.

How different was it exploring your own story to writing about other people’s experiences as a journalist?

Telling my own story was extremely difficult because I couldn’t divorce myself emotionally. I felt the pain with every word I wrote when I had to relive hurtful experiences. When telling other people’s stories I had a deadline to meet and after the story was published, there was nothing forcing me to keep in touch with them. But in my case, I was the story and I have to deal with the consequences of every word in the book. I must answer questions and comfort those who hurt after reading it.

Do you feel that you have all your truth, or are there still some missing pieces?

Finally, I can say I have all the truth even though it was not the truth I was looking for. I thought it would be a happy reunion with my paternal family but it turned out the family I’ve been looking for was in the next room in the same house and in the same yard. There’s no missing pieces now but the healing continues.

Colour Me Yellow

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Alan Paton Award shortlist: Stuart Doran talks to us about his book Kingdom, Power, Glory: Mugabe, Zanu and the Quest for Supremacy, 1960-1987

Published in the Sunday Times

Stuart Doran is and independent historian. He completed his secondary education in Zimbabwe and later graduated from the Australian National University with a PhD in history. He has spent the last 15 years researching and writing about Zimbabwe’s early post-independence period, including the Gukurahundi massacres of 1983 and 1984.

You have a PhD in history – what was your area of study for that?

I studied 20th-century political history during my undergraduate days and then wrote a PhD thesis on the Cold War.

What sparked your interest in history?

There were two reasons why I grew to love history. The first was its applied nature. It’s about real people and real events. I found that fascinating. The second reason was that I was blessed to have a number of teachers through high school and university who were passionate about history. Those teachers genuinely loved the subject – and because of that they were better at what they did than most of my other teachers. And their enthusiasm rubbed off on others. I consider myself fortunate. Many students have poor history teachers who quickly kill off the interest of their pupils by giving the impression that history consists of nothing more than memorising a string of boring and irrelevant events. It’s a false view of a historian’s work. Historians are sleuths, investigators, pioneers – people who unearth and explain mysteries. I did much of my schooling in Matabeleland and lived in Bulawayo during the Gukurahundi. I wanted to understand the turmoil of the 1980s.

Can you describe your process of research?

Like any half-decent historian, I try to unearth new source material, while re-examining the primary source material that’s already known. And, of course, I look at what other historians have written. Then there’s the process of analysis – and, finally, the challenge of presenting the results in a way that makes sense to others. One of my mentors, the great historian Hank Nelson, drilled into me the idea that you’re not a historian if you’re writing stuff that can’t be understood by a normal educated person.

Western governments were accused of “not doing enough” to prevent the mass killing of civilians – would you agree?

I don’t subscribe to the view that historians are public intellectuals. What I mean is that we shouldn’t be in the business of making moral or political judgements when we’re writing history. Our job is to find out what happened and why it happened. It’s up to our readers to decide what the moral or political implications are. That’s not to say that historians don’t have personal views on these things. But when we have our hats on as historians, we must try to separate ourselves from such matters. So, to answer your question, I’d point to the reality as it occurred rather than making a theoretical statement about what should have been done. The reality is that western governments made private representations to the Mugabe regime about the massacres, but were not prepared to push their relationship with Zanu-PF to the wire over the issue. Those representations played a part in prompting Mugabe to scale down the intensity of the killings. But he also became convinced that there would be few consequences once he had adopted a lower-intensity approach.

Was there ever a legitimate reason for the existence of the Fifth Brigade in Matabeleland?

Mugabe and his ministers claimed that 5 Brigade was a crack unit that was established to deal with banditry in Matabeleland. But that was propaganda. The brigade was created to smash the support base of Zanu-PF’s main political opposition – and that’s exactly what it did when it was deployed in January 1983.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa was Robert Mugabe’s minister of state security during the Gukurahundi – do you believe, as some do, that he was instrumental in the massacres?

Yes. The evidence is clear. He was by no means the only player, but he was one of the most important. His outright denials are, frankly, pretty silly. He needs a new PR team.

Gukurahundi happened more than 30 years ago – do you think Zimbabweans are willing to leave it behind now?

Ordinary Zimbabweans aren’t close to having a choice in the matter. The perpetrators are still in control and any dialogue is severely constrained by that fact.

What was the most disturbing or surprising thing you uncovered in your research?

There were many. The depth of the violence was not surprising – human history everywhere is immersed in blood – but it was disturbing. When former colleagues are prepared to rip each other apart, when men take pleasure in dismembering women and children alive, it’s arresting. These things are not done by monsters, but by people like you and me. It gives you a jolt. What is this beast in the human basement?

What were your biggest challenges in writing the book?

Climbing a mountain that seemed to have no end. I bit off a lot to chew. I tried to tell myself that this was finite; that it would come to an end. Yet I wasn’t sure when that would happen and there were many times when it didn’t seem worth it. You’ve got to keep on plodding, even when the oxygen runs out. Another challenge was the lack of financial support. Many donors, institutions and individuals wring their hands over issues like the Gukurahundi, but few put money and mouth together. It means that a lot of vital research never happens. And if you’re foolhardy enough to forge ahead, most of the time you’re on your own.

It is a monumental book – do you feel there is any more to be revealed in Zimbabwean history?

I’ve barely scratched the surface. There are relatively few historians looking at modern Zimbabwean or Southern African history. The more the better. There can never be too many.

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The Sunday Times Literary Awards shortlist announced

After months of extensive reading, careful evaluation and fierce deliberation it is finally time to reveal the shortlists for South Africa’s most prestigious book awards, the Alan Paton Award for non-fiction and the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize, in association with Porcupine Ridge. The winners, who will each receive R100 000, will be announced on Saturday June 23.

Alan Paton Award

Chair of judges Sylvia Vollenhoven comments: “When nations sink into division and despair creativity points to a way forward. The collective power and style of the five authors (three of them women) on this year’s shortlist represent the finest artistic vision for the future. Literary flair is coupled with excellent research that takes us into places we need to visit. Exploring recent history a remarkable opus dissects Zimbabwe like no other, the man who founded the ANC is honoured in all his complexity and we get to know exactly why we owe the former Public Protector such a huge debt of gratitude. Balancing the political with the personal, two achingly beautiful memoirs give us deep insight into the family terrain where all our horrors and delights originate.”

Kingdom, Power, Glory – Mugabe, Zanu and the Quest for Supremacy, 1960-1987, Stuart Doran (Sithatha Media/Bookstorm)

The judges voted quickly and unanimously to shortlist this massive book. It is an exhaustive, meticulously detailed history of Zimbabwe’s formative years that draws on previously classified information and throws new light on such events as the Gukurahundi massacres. One judge called it: “Monumentally researched, monumentally annotated and evidenced, and monumentally impressive.”

No Longer Whispering to Power – The Story of Thuli Madonsela, Thandeka Gqubule (Jonathan Ball Publishers)

The biography of the former public prosecutor reminds us of the enormous impact she made during her seven years of tenure. Gqubule reveals details of Madonsela’s life, as well as her investigations, findings and their consequences, in what one judge described as “an energetic, passionate whirl of words.”
Always Another Country: A Memoir of Exile and Home, Sisonke Msimang (Jonathan Ball Publishers)

The judges regarded Msimang’s memoir to be one of the best entries in terms of style. It charts her way from childhood through multiple identities and roles, beginning with her early years in exile in Zambia and Kenya, young adulthood and college years in North America, and returning to South Africa in the 1990s.
The Man Who Founded the ANC: A Biography of Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Bongani Ngqulunga (Penguin Books)

The panel hailed this biography as an important part of Afrocentric history, an even-handed and scholarly study of a complex man and the conflicting and fluctuating strains of Pan Africanism and Zulu chauvinism. Seme was just 30 when he founded the organisation, but he eventually brought it to its knees.
Colour Me Yellow: Searching For My Family Truth, Thuli Nhlapo (Kwela Books)

Shunned by her paternal family while growing up, journalist Thuli Nhlapo embarked on a painful journey to find her “true” identity. The judges were moved by its brutal honesty, finding in her story the roots of so much of the nation’s dysfunction, “a smaller story illuminating a greater picture.”
Barry Ronge Prize

Judging chair Africa Melane says: “The authors on this list help us search for truth, which is often unsettling and uncomfortable. There are stories of love and loss, of lives not yet lived and those long forgotten. Our history narrates heartbreak and pain, and we learn how to carry our past in our souls. The pulsating veins of our cities are laid bare through deeply personal accounts and there is a fearlessness in addressing controversial issues. The works are thought- provoking, unflinching and disturbing at times, but very compelling. Every read has been immensely rewarding.”

Softness of the Lime, Maxine Case (Umuzi)

Set in the Cape of Good Hope in 1782, and drawing on Case’s own family history, the story traces the relationship between a wealthy Dutch settler and his young slave. The judges admired the fluent writing and vivid sense of place.

A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg, Harry Kalmer (Penguin Books)

Kalmer probes the lives of a handful of disparate characters including the exiled, those returning from exile, and those who never left, casting back a hundred years and bringing the narrative right up to date. This richly faceted portrait of Jozi was applauded for its originality and finely observed writing.

The Third Reel, SJ Naudé (Umuzi)

Described as “intense, intelligent and accomplished”, Naudé’s unsettling novel is set in London and Berlin in the 80s and centres on a young man, Etienne, who has fled conscription in South Africa. It is an intense love story as well as a quiet exploration of film, architecture, music and art.

Bird-Monk Seding, Lesego Rampolokeng (Deep South Publishers)

Rampolokeng’s third novel is a stark portrait of a Groot Marico township two decades into South Africa’s democracy. Innovative and violently sensory, one judge noted that he “brandishes his scatting be-bop voice like a fearsome weapon” as he renders the resilience of people marked by apartheid.

The Camp Whore, Francois Smith, translated by Dominique Botha (Tafelberg)

Based on the true story of a young woman who was raped and left for dead in a concentration camp during the Anglo-Boer War. She manages to recover and dedicates her life to healing trauma, but in the process comes face-to-face with her attacker. “An inspiring character and a deeply skilful, atmospheric story,” noted the panellists.

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