Bontle Senne considers the immeasurable value of South African stories for South African children, and shares some upcoming projects that aim to reinvigorate African oral storytelling for the next generation.
I wish my grandmother had told me stories.
I was often left in the care of my paternal grandmother while both my parents worked full-time jobs. A former domestic worker, she was the kind of granny you see in movies and read about in books, down to her incredible homemade ginger biscuits. As a child, I was obsessed with reading. My parents did not buy me many books but I devoured the fiction section of my primary school library. After I had tired of Babysitters’ Club, Choose Your Own Adventure and Goosebumps, I made my way through Dickens, Austen and other authors who I’m not sure I would have the time or inclination to read now as an adult.
A book was a preferable companion to me than any person or pet but I don’t remember ever reading a South African book outside of school setworks. And even then, our exposure to South African English fiction was limited Maru by Bessie Head who, though born in South Africa, perhaps belongs more fairly to Botswana. My school offered only Afrikaans as an additional language and we read many interesting, complex works in the language. While I enjoyed many of these books immensely, I could not do so without a bit of black middle-class guilt. My father had been among the children who risked their lives in the Soweto Uprising of 1976 protesting against Afrikaans as a language of instruction in their schools and there I was, some 25 years later, happily tucking into Skilpoppe and Vlerkdans. South Africa can be a weird place sometimes.
Had I had the option of taking another indigenous language as a subject, I would certainly have taken it. Had I had any South African or Africa children’s books in my school library, I am sure I read them as enthusiastically as I read Roald Dahl or Jacqueline Wilson. And had my grandmother or mother told me the stories of her grandmother or mother, I think I would have had an even richer relationship with the written word.
The invalidation of oral African storytelling
I understand now why they did not. My work at the Puku Children’s Literature Foundation exposed me to many realities that had never occurred to me as a child. One such reality was that the reason my grandmother did not tell me stories was likely because of the systematic invalidation of African oral storytelling during apartheid and after it.
As my former colleague and current chairperson of the Puku Children’s Literature Foundation, Elinor Sisulu, put it:
“The denial of our own stories was perfectly logical in the education system of a racist settler society but I find it difficult to understand why we remain in the same grey area of confusion in post-colonial societies.
Throughout Southern Africa there is little conscious investment in ensuring that African folklore and traditions are reflected in the literature that our children consume in classrooms.” (Quoted from an article that originally appeared in The Times, 22 January 2013, as part of the of the Nal’ibali ‘Here’s the Story’ series of columns)
The education system that I am a product of did not believe that oral storytelling had a place in our curriculum or as a tool to unlock a love of the written word. My grandmother did not believe that she would add value to my education or literacy with her stories and so she did not tell me any. She encouraged me to read everything I could get my hands on but was never concerned about the Eurocentric nature of everything I had access to. And so, with her passing, I lost the stories that my granny had grown up listening to and loving. I will never be able to tell my future children her stories and history of the Senne family. That link to my heritage and my identity is forever severed.
Bringing our stories back
Today, there is a growing recognition of the role that oral storytelling plays in literacy and the acquisition of complex concepts in home and additional languages. In South Africa, PRAESA and Nal’ibali have done much to stimulate more appreciation for the value of our indigenous stories, sharing their multilingual stories online as well as tips for parents trying to share their own.
Early next year, Puku will host its third annual isiXhosa Children’s Story Festival organised in association with the National Arts Festival and Rhodes University and sponsored by Redisa. SAIDE’s African Storybook Project is working with teachers and parents in South Africa, Lesotho, Kenya and Uganda to turn oral stories into digital ones in print or video format. I could list a half a dozen other organisations involved in similar work across the continent but the real tipping point will be in the home. When someone else’s grandmother starts to believe that her stories are valid and in telling them, she is changing the educational outcomes of her grandchildren forever, that will be the signal that we are really making progress on reviving oral storytelling for both urban and rural African children. Until then, I’ve already made it very clear to my future children’s grandmothers that they should start collecting their stories now because there is no way my children will lose the stories of their grandmothers the way I lost the stories of mine.
Bontle Senne is a Golden Baobab Media Fellow who produces articles on behalf of the organisation to promote and highlight the African children literary scene and Golden Baobab’s work. Golden Baobab is an organisation with a dream of seeing a world filled with wonder and possibility one children book at a time. Bontle is a blogger, web editor, speaker and literary activist on the board of NPO Puku Children’s Literature Foundation and NPO READ Educational Trust. She writes stories for FunDza Literary Trust and regularly speaks on social media and children’s literature at international literary festivals and conferences.
Image courtesy of Golden Baobab
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The 2014 Midlands Literary Festival will take place this weekend, with Marguerite Poland, whose new book The Keeper was released a few days ago, Kobus Moolman, who won the 2013 Sol Plaatje European Union Award, Ashwin Desai, whose most recent book is Chatsworth: The Making of a South African Township, and many others in attendance.
The festival is held on Saturday and Sunday (23 and 24 August) at the Yellowwood Cafe in Howick. Tickets are R50 for the day.
Christopher Nicholson’s debut short-story collection will be launched at the festival, and other notable authors include Nicki von der Heyde, author of the popular Field Guide to the Battlefields of South Africa, Craig Higginson, who won the UJ prize for his novel The Landscape Painter, and Kerry Jones, co-author of the Ju|’hoan Children’s Picture Dictionary, which provides San children with a valuable piece of mother-tongue literature.
Festival director Darryl David says securing a visit from Poland was a big coup: “The exciting news is that after eight long years, I have finally bagged one of the great names in South African literature: Marguerite Poland.”
Other books that I am really looking forward to are Chris Albertyn’s book Keeping Time: The Photographs and Cape Town Jazz Recordings of Ian Huntley (1964-1974), Barbara Siedle’s book Breathe the Dust, Mike Hardwich’s memoir of being a vet in KZN and Kerry Jones with the first picture book dictionary of a San language ever to be published. Famous dancer Tossie van Tonder comes to the Midlands Literary Festival with the most poetic name and a book to match. And Howick High pupil Jonathan William will undoubtedly talk on the most fascinating topic of the festival: a history of Japanese comics. I met Jonathan while buying a bunny chow at Mac Curry in Howick. There was something about how he opened this tome that told me – here was a book lover. A talk not to be missed!
But what fills my heart with pride on this our fifth anniversary is the people who have supported us since year one. The likes of acclaimed Pietermaritzburg poet Kobus Moolman; the legendary Ian Player, a man who should surely be honoured in the Icons of SA project. Judge Chris Nicholson who will unveil his debut short story anthology and Ashwin Desai, undoubtedly the most prolific author in SA. His latest book is definitely going to feature in my top five reads of 2014.
For more information contact Darryl David, on 082 576 4489 or email@example.com, or Sandra Murphy, on 033 330 2461.
2014 Midlands Literary Festival Programme
9 am — 9.30 am: Kobus Moolman – Left Over.
9.30 am — 10 am: Jonathan Williams – A Drifting Life (Japanese comic history).
10 am — 10.30 am: Kerry Jones — There’s a n!aq’u in my dictionary.
10.30 am — 11.15 am: tea.
11.15 am — noon: Marguerite Poland: Nguni — The Abundant Herds and Other Inspirations.
noon — 12.30 pm: Nicky von der Heyde — Field Guide to the Battlefields of SA.
12.30 pm — 1 pm: Craig Higginson — Working as a Novelist and Playwright.
1 pm — 1.30 pm: Beryl Arikum — Pilgrimage.
2.30 pm — 3 pm: Di Smith: You’re Awesome — Living a Fulfilled Life.
3 pm — 3.30 pm: Mike Hardwich — The Rhino and the Rat: Further Memoirs of a Vet.
3.30 pm — 4.15 pm: Tossie van Tonder: My African Heart.
10 am — 10.30 am: Ashwin Desai – The Archi-texture of Durban. A Skapie’s Guide.
10.30 am — 11 am: Darryl David – Interviews with Neville Alexander. The Power of Languages against the Language of Power.
11 am — 11.30 am: Chris Nicholson — Sacred Cows Make the Tastiest Hamburgers.
11.30 am — noon: Barbara Siedle — Breathe the Dust.
2 pm — 2.30 pm: Ian Player — Crisis in Rhino Protection.
2.30 pm — 3 pm: Chris Albertyn — Keeping Time: The Photographs and Cape Town Jazz Recordings of Ian Huntley (1964-1974).
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Congratulations to Neliswa Hlongwane, who has won five books of her choice from this year’s Exclusive Books Homebru collection.
Neliswa chose Clever Blacks, Jesus and Nkandla: The Real Jacob Zuma in His Own Words by Gareth Van Onselen, Lost and Found in Johannesburg by Mark Gevisser, Dear Bullet: Or A Letter to My Shooter by Sixolile Mbalo, Justice: A Personal Account by Edwin Cameron and Oliver Tambo Speaks edited by Adelaide Tambo.
If you missed out this time, keep an eye on Books LIVE as we have a number of competitions up our sleeve for the next few weeks.
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“Afrikaans is een van Suid-Afrika se trotsste veelrassige prestasies.”*
Veronderstel jy het bogenoemde aanhaling voorheen al skrams êrens gehoor. Jy wil dit as ’n verwysing gebruik vir iets wat jy skryf of, sommer, om ’n pot sop laat blyk hoe ver jou kennis strek.
Maar, jy wil nie net weet wié dit gesê het nie, jy wil ook weet wanneer (watter jaar, ten minste) en waar.
Dán is George Claassen, samesteller, se Sêgoed met slaankrag ’n móét vir jou boekery.
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Alert! Exclusive Books has announced the annual Homebru list, celebrating the best of South African fiction and non-fiction.
There are 48 books on the list, including the shortlists for this year’s Sunday Times Alan Paton Award and Fiction Prize, the winners of which were announced last Saturday.
Fiction highlights on the list include Lauren Beukes‘ latest offering, Broken Monsters, Sarah Lotz‘ thriller The Three and Damon Galgut’s Arctic Summer.
Non-fiction fans are also spoilt for choice, with titles including Lost and Found in Johannesburg by Mark Gevisser, Gareth van Onselen’s Clever Blacks, Jesus and Nkandla: The Real Jacob Zuma in His Own Words, Tony Leon’s Opposite Mandela, Justice: A Personal Account by Edwin Cameron and Zelda la Grange’s explosive memoir Good Morning, Mr Mandela, which is already taking the country by storm.
Here’s the complete 2014 Exclusive Books Homebru list. Get reading!
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Uiteindelik het ons vir die eerste keer ’n omvattende, algemene handleiding in Afrikaans wat in sy geheel oor die skryfkuns gaan. Hier is ’n handboek wat hoofsaaklik oor die totstandkoming van ’n teks handel. Dié werk poog om die massa vrae wat in die kollektiewe skrywersgemoed opkom te beantwoord. Die term skrywersgemoed kan gekwalifiseer word. Die aspirantskrywer worstel voortdurend met onsekerhede en selfs die mees ervare skrywer se kreatiwiteit kan hom of haar op ’n dwaalspoor lei. Skryf is inderdaad ’n tasting in die duister. Om die werklikheid in enige genre te representeer, bly kompleks. Nou kom hierdie omvattende werk wat feitlik al die onsekerhede bekwaam aanroer.
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Om ’n nuwe woordeboek in jou hande vas te hou, is soos om by ’n banketmaal langs ’n aanvallige en intelligente etegas aan tafel geplaas word. Die geselskap is prikkelend, verruimend en sommer ook ’n lus vir die oog.
Presies soos ek gevoel het toe ek die nuwe Deel XIV van die Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (WAT) in my gretige hande vasgehou het. Dit voel duursaam en weelderig.
Dié deel, ’n lywige 674 bladsye dik, is uitgedos in ‘n keurige boekomslag met sy kenmerkende warm sjokoladebruin kleur. Die titel op die omslag is in glansgoud versier. Daar is iets ouwêrelds en tydloos aan dié deftige voorkoms.
“Kuns jou hier, kultuur jou daar. Siedaar, 15 jaar!” Dít is die slagspreuk van die US Woordfees 2014, waarvan die program gisteraand by ‘n spoggeleentheid by Devonvale-landgoed bekendgestel is. Kaartjieverkope open vandag en die fees vind volgende jaar van 6 tot 16 Maart plaas.
Prof Dorothea van Zyl, wat ná volgende jaar die tuig as Woordfeesdirekteur sal neerlê, het tydens die geleentheid die gaste herinner aan die heel eerste Woordfees wat in die jaar 2000 gehou is. “Koos Bekker het die naam ‘Nag van Poësie en Passie’ voorgestel, maar Braam de Vries wou hom doodlag en het gewaarsku dat ‘n mens baie versigtig moet wees met studente en daardie twee dotjies op die e!’,” het sy verklap. Die eerste fees het uiteindelik net “Nag van Passie” geheet.
Toesprake deur verteenwoordigers van die feesdonateurs, prof Marianne Visser van die Universiteit Stellenbosch, Japie Gouws van die ATKV, Daniël Kriel van Sanlam, Bun Booyens van Die Burger en Karen Meiring van KykNET, het gevolg. Booyens het gewys op die belangrikheid van woorde by hierdie fees en vroeë Afrikaanse joernaliste geloof vir die rol wat hulle in die skep van nuwe Afrikaanse woorde gespeel het, byvoorbeeld MER wat vir ons die woord “toebroodjie” gegee het. Oor die voortbestaan van Afrikaans het Meiring gesê: “Solank as wat ‘n taal gedemonstreer word, sal dit voortleef.”
Musiekgroepe het tydens die geleentheid vir die gaste ‘n voorsmakie gegee van wat by Woordfees 2014 verwag kan word. Daar was onder meer ‘n optrede deur die Jaloersbokkies, ‘n groep wat onder andere Nedine Blom en Taliep Petersen se twee dogters, Jawaahier en Ashur Petersen, insluit. Kyk ‘n videosnit van hul optrede:
Soos afgelei kan word van die fees se slagspreuk sal Woordfees 2014 towerkuns as tema hê. In pas met dié tema, sal daar onder meer kulkunsvertonings aangebied word. Oudergewoonte sal daar egter ook weer ‘n skrywersprogram, dramafees, kortfilmfees, musiekfees, kunsuitstallings en kuiers om kostafels wees. Enkele hoogtepunte op die skrywersprogram sluit in die huldigingsprofiele vir Corlia Fourie, Dan Sleigh, Engela van Rooyen en Lina Spies.
Hier onder is sommige van die boeke en skrywers wat by die fees bespreek sal word:
eBoek opsies – Laai nou af!
eBoek opsies – Laai nou af!
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