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#AFROYOUNGADULT: a talent-search for Young Adult fiction from Africa!

Are you an aspiring YA-author? The Goethe-Institut wants YOU to submit a short story (between 3000 – 5000 words) for the young adult market (13 – 19 years) in Kiswahili, English or French.

Entries close on November 30, 2018.

Click here for more!

La Bastarda: the Equatorial Guinean novel that defied the censor’s order to shut up

Published in the Sunday Times

By Tiah Beautement

Trifonia Melibea Obono’s La Bastarda has won universal acclaim for its commentary on the harmful nature of genderised societal norms.

 
La Bastarda ****
Trifonia Melibea Obono, translated by Lawrence Schimel, Modjaji, R220

Calling a novel brave has become a cliché; but La Bastarda truly is a work of courage. It’s written by Trifonia Melibea Obono, the first Equatorial Guinean woman writer to be translated into English. Yet Africa’s only Spanish-speaking country banned the book.

“This novel was a scandal in my country,” Obono says, via her book’s translator, Lawrence Schimel. “It was forbidden to discuss its homosexual content in the media. It had a great success in Spain and reached Equatorial Guinea on the rebound. Its success was such that even though I have written four novels, nobody forgets La Bastarda. It’s the book of rebellion, they say.”

The story follows teenager Okomo. Defying her maternal grandmother, Okomo attempts to locate her biological father, not considered her dad in Fang tradition. During her search, she meets her gay uncle, who has been cast out of the community.

Through friends and acquaintances, Okomo finds herself questioning traditions in village society and Fang culture. This leads her to revelations about her own sexuality, taboo in her society.

In one of the story’s most heart-wrenching moments, Okomo discovers that while her culture has a word for gay men, there isn’t one for women. The teen laments: “If you don’t have a name, you’re invisible, and if you’re invisible, you can’t claim any rights.”

Obono explains: “In Okomo’s tradition, women are not people but just property of men. A woman’s sexuality is in the service of her ethnicity, of reproduction. Okomo, who represents womanhood, vindicates the right to be visible, to be an activist, and to enjoy a fundamental right: sexuality.”

The story came at huge personal cost to the writer. “I already lived openly,” Obono says. “But a book like La Bastarda in a closed society pulls you out of the closet on an institutional level. Relatives and friends called my mother to tell them her daughter disobeyed tradition and her place as a woman inside it, writing this filth.”

She continues, “I feel alone as a woman who writes about a marginalised group. I feel alone for not being heteronormative. I feel alone because I have lightish skin and don’t fit into the racial categories of my country: black, white, mulatta. I feel alone for not lightening my skin. I feel alone for not putting on make-up or wearing high heels. I feel alone for not belonging to the masculine gender nor the female: I’m a mix of both.

“The moment comes when you decide to be yourself, without complexes or categories. And you’re happy. I have friendships that don’t abandon me, books, writing – by loving them so much I keep myself sane.” @ms_tiahmarie

Book details

Exclusive Books wins BASA Award for its Pan-African Reading Room

Via Exclusive Books

 
Exclusive Books, The Market Theatre Foundation and The Coloured Cube have been announced as BASA Award winners for the Sponsorship in Kind Award for The Exclusive Books Pan African Reading Room and Pan African Reading Lounge at the Windybrow Arts Centre.

“We are delighted by this recognition of our efforts in the Pan-African literature space,” said Ben Williams, GM: Marketing for Exclusive Books. “This partnership has firmly established the Windybrow Arts Centre as a hub for the advancement of Pan-African literature and has helped bring African stories and literature to life for a wider audience.”

The 21st Annual BASA Awards, held on 16 September at the Victoria Yards, recognise and honour businesses that invest in an inclusive economy through art. Exclusive Books was one of 11 winners announced at the ceremony.

The Windybrow Arts Centre opened the doors on the Exclusive Books Pan-African Reading Lounge for adults and The Exclusive Books Pan-African Reading Room for children on Nelson Mandela Day, 18 July 2017. Over 2000 Pan-African titles are housed in the 121-year old Windybrow Heritage House, courtesy of Exclusive Books.

The Pan-African Reading Initiative, the first of its sort in the world, has also contributed enormously to the success of the advancement of Pan-African literature, Williams adds.

Exclusive Books will continue to add to this initiative, consisting of a “spectacular list of Pan-African titles from around the world”, says Williams. This includes bringing books back into print, supplying Windybrow with 400 Pan-African titles, and an “entire hemisphere” of Pan-African titles which will be added to the soon-to-be-reopened Sandton branch of Exclusive Books, Williams concludes.

The reading rooms have encouraged a reading culture among the more than 120 daily visitors to the Windybrow Arts Centre – most of whom are youths. In addition, the Centre launched a monthly book club programme for children and a series of forums for adults focusing on African authors and on the titles available in the Reading Lounge.

“We warmly congratulate each winner and thank all the finalists for their commitment to supporting and working with creative people,” said BASA Chairman André le Roux.

Heidi Brauer, Chief Marketing and Customer Officer at Hollard, a BASA sponsor, said, “In beautiful harmony with Hollard’s special partnership model, the BASA Awards really do deliver win-win-win.

“Artists benefit through having their work recognised and celebrated; corporates grow their brand and gain exposure to the creative arts; and broader society is enriched through the conversation, challenge and stimulation provided by art that may not otherwise have seen the light of day. Such partnerships enable a better future for us all.”

Deadline for 2018 Short Story Day Africa Prize extended

Via Short Story Day Africa

The deadline for the 2018 Short Story Day Africa Prize anthology, themed ‘Hotel Africa’, has been extended.

Entrants have until October 31st to submit their stories.

Visit their website for more information on the theme and entry details!

Jozi Book Fair is here!

Via Jozi Book Fair

The Jozi Book Fair is celebrating its 10th annual festival this year, making it one of the longest running book festivals in South Africa, and the longest running book festival outside the Western Cape. In partnership with the City of Johannesburg the Festival will run from 30 August – 2 September 2018, at Mary Fitzgerald Square, Newtown.

This festival is a celebration of year-long educational programmes, designed to create readers and writers of the working class. Our programmes are directed towards youth, schools, children and working people. Basically, this is a festival for everyone. This is the only fair where the public hosts events, entrance is free of charge and books are sold at discounted prices. The Festival will have specifically designed entertainment by children and youth for children and youth.

See full programme on website: https://www.jozibookfair.org.za/

The JBF will be opened with the Photography Exhibition, The Cordoned Heart, by Omar Badsha, on 30August, at Museum Africa. First commissioned for the Carnegie Commission on Poverty (1984), this exhibition captures the theme of the JBF, Literature and Working People, and the current context of working people in South Africa.

This year’s theme ‘Literature and Working People’ highlights the literature of the working class, often ignored and disregarded, negating its impact and influence. While the stories that have a lasting literary influence in South Africa (and internationally) are about the working class, ironically, this literature is often not read nor shared by the working class. With this theme, the JBF strives to bridge this gap by mak Festival.

Festival highlights:

Authors with the likes of Lindsey Collen, Jacklyn Cock, Jolyn Phillips, Luli Callinicos, Motsoko Pheko, Farayi Matondo, Oscar Banda, Brian Unmaki, Hertha Nekwaya, Janet Smith and Rabbie Serumula feature on the programme.

Legends, patrons & internationally acclaimed authors: Lindsey Collen, James Mathews, Wally Serote, Diana Ferrus & Ronnie Govender.

International authors: Lindsey Collen (Mauritius), and four worker poets from Sweden: Emil Boss (supermarket worker), Magnus Gustafson (journalist), Jenny Wrangborg (restaurant worker) and Athena Farrokhzad.

Conversations with authors

Lindsey Collen, author of Getting Rid of it, will be in conversation with Searatoa van Driel (director of “Gibson Kent”, “It’s Too Late”), Jolyn Phillips will be in conversation with Nosipho Mdletshe (JBF Coordinator) on her short stories, Tjieng Tjang Tjerries, Jacklyn Cock will be in conversation with Samson Mokoena (Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance) on her book Writing the Ancestral River and the Black Consciousness Reader authors will discuss their book with Janet Smit, Paballo Thekiso, Rabbie Serumula and Masego Panyane.

 Workshops

The festival boasts over 20 skills workshops which include: Writing (short stories, poetry), Photography, Creativity, Silk-Screening t-shirts, Philosophy for youth and Hockey and Soccer.

Book launches include the 3rd edition of Batjha Kaofela: an anthology of ten short stories by JBF’s Tsohang Batjha; women worker-writers will discuss their lives in Our Lives, Our Communities by Gauteng Community Health Workers. Hidden Voices (Jacana): Worker leaders and Writers by Alfred Qabula & Jabu Ndlovu, will be launched together with veteran cultural activists, Ari Sitas and Nise Malange.

Roundtable discussions include: The Future of Worker Literature in SA (Bheki Peterson, Ali Hlongwane, Wally Serote); The Land Question- Elite project or people’s demand? (with Lindsey Collen, Gwen Ngwenya and the EFF) and Workers Party, a political alternative in 2019 national general elections?

The Focus on Women includes, Beyond Policies: feminizing our organisations and our struggles (with Ruth Ntlokotse, NUMSA) and Assessing the #TotalShutDown march against violence on women and children and feminist struggles in SA (with activists). There is a substantial Focus on Labour & Politics: On the Making of the Working Class in SA (with Luli Callinicos and Isabel Hofmeyer); On Neoliberalism, LRA Amendments and worker responses (with Lynford Dor & Zama Mthunzi); on Marx@200 and colour and class in SA (with Adam Habib and Oupa Lehulere), The Fourth Industrial Revolution and implications for working People (with John Appolis) and Asssessing the The Con Court victory and its implications for the future of casual workers in SA (with Ighsaan Schroeder); and the Fractious relationship between unions and social movements (with Zwelinzima Vavi and Virginia Magwaza).

Exciting Exhibitions: Sculptor exhibition – Imbali Yo Mfazi/ The Legend Of Woman by Mazwi Mdima at Workers Museum.

Music: Jozi Book Fair and Fitzroy Ngcukanawill provide music at designated time. Theatre: Inner City Youth will perform an iconic street play, “It’s to late” by Gibson Kente and special tribute to late SA Poet Laureate and JBF Patron Keorapetse Kgositsile; JBF OPEN MIC Competition with prizes to publish your work and tribute performances by James Matthews, Lindsey Collen, Diana Ferrus, Wally Serote and worker poets.

"Storytelling is a powerful communication tool for social cohesion, recording history and development" - a Q&A with Zimbabwean protest poet and playwright, Bhekumusa Moyo

By Carla Lever

Bhekumusa Moyo, Zimbabwean protest poet and playwright

 

What role do you think storytelling – in communities, families or even individually – can have in creating social change?

Storytelling is a powerful communication tool for social cohesion, recording history and development. It can inspire change or incite a people to act on a social issue. Our personal stories are also a source of energy. Each story told has the potential for inspiring the next person. The experiences we go through can be used as a learning tool by those who haven’t experienced those things. I derive my own personal mojo from stories of key pioneers of pan-Africanism.

Tell us a little about your own experience with writing and performing in Zimbabwe.

Writing and performing in Zimbabwe is a life-changing experience. It certainly has its ugly phases – the darkest corners being draconian laws inherited from colonial Rhodesia. The laws that make the lives of critical and protest artists like me hell are the Public Order Security Act and the censorship board. These have curtailed any work which challenges those in power. Minus these challenges of arrest, persecution and banning, though, Zimbabwean audiences are supportive of art that speaks truth to power.

Which of your works are you most proud of having written?

I am proud of 1983-The Dark Years. This is a politically charged play on the Gukurahundi genocide which swept Matabeleland from 1980 through to 1987, leaving a trail of sorrow and deaths numbering around 20 000. The play was banned in 2010 but, with support from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, we managed to stage it in various places. This year, after Mugabe, the play had a week of full houses at Theatre in the Park in Harare. I’m also proud of one of my poems called They Shall All Fall. This poem speaks of how people will dethrone dictators no matter how strong they are. Here’s an extract – “All that flies lands sometime / one by one in no particular order / they shall all fall.”

What language(s) do you use to write and perform in? Do you think choice of language is a political act for artists?

I write in Ndebele and English. Ndebele is my mother language. I will not stray far from it, as it carries rich idioms, proverbs and expressions of my people. Even when I perform, I juggle English and Ndebele. Language is a political act. My English must have deep roots to the imagery of my community so that I don’t struggle. Language, like culture, carries the essence of the peoples’ struggles. Language is the heartbeat of a community and yes, it’s a political tool too for engagement or disengagement.

There are many ways of protesting. Using literature – both written and oral – has a long and powerful tradition in Africa. Who are some of the protest writers who have inspired you?

I am greatly inspired by Athol Fugard, Professor Chinua Achebe, Christopher Mlalazi and the general struggles of my people, especially the women and mothers of my village who always show resilience even in the face of travesty.

Have you ever found it difficult to be a politically active writer in Zimbabwe?

Yes, Zimbabwe has very draconian laws, as I alluded to earlier. The censorship board is the biggest culprit – a club of old men who make it difficult to be politically active as a writer.

Of course, the elections are coming up very soon in Zimbabwe. What role do you think writers – whether they are poets, singers or journalists – play in this important time?

Chinua Achebe says that ‘writers give headaches.’ I feel it is important for artists at this time to inspire debate on the elections and comment strongly on institutions and individuals who can make or break the election. Artists must motivate citizens to vote, inspire peace as well as play the watchdog role and whistleblowers in cases of human rights abuses.

What kinds of opportunities would you like to see for African writers and storytellers in the future?

I am hoping that universities will embrace storytelling as a medium of passing on information. This can be done in formal learning spaces or creating festivals within academic years for African writers to bring their wisdom. I’d also love to see more writing residencies and literature festivals for different language activists. Storytellers must be brought to the table as much as other professionals to educate and speak openly on issues of social change.

Reading and telling stories with your children is a powerful gift to them. It builds knowledge, language, imagination and school success! For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of South African languages, visit: www.nalibali.org.