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Right! That's a wrap of our #ManBooker2014 coverage. Congratulations to Richard Flanagan

Fiction Friday: Excerpt from Steve Biko – The Graphic Novel

nullA comic book featuring Steve Biko, who died 37 years ago in September, has been published as part of the Africa Illustrated series.

The book, which is aimed at children, is the result of a combined effort by the Steve Biko Foundation and comic production company Umlando Wezithombe, who have already produced works on Xhosa prophet Nongqawuse, World War II veteran Job Maseko and the Curse of Mapungubwe.

Steve Biko tells the story of the black consciousness activist’s life, from his birth and first incarceration, to his death in 1977.

View excerpts from the graphic novel below.

Nic Buchanan, creative director at Umlando Wezithombe, told Books LIVE a little about the Biko project.

How did the idea for the Steve Biko graphic novel come about?

The response from most children, when asked about studying history, is a long face and an indication of the overwhelming text books. We wanted to take Steve Biko’s story and put it into an engaging format, one that could reach children of a young age, and so the storytelling and picture combination was perfect.

Can you tell us about the process of translating the life and philosophy of Steve Biko into this form?

To make any comic book is a huge labour of love. We start with researching all material available, then it goes to scriptwriting, storyboarding (where we lay out the balance of visuals and script), illustration, inking (fine line tracing over the illustrations), colouring (on computer, adding all the visual effects), lettering, print preparation and finally printing. There are numerous skills required along the way, and so it’s not just about drawing nice pictures.

How do you think this story will be beneficial to preteen and teenage readers?

The feedback has been amazing. The young readers always want to know why all their study material can’t be in this format. What is probably the most interesting feedback is that it sparks an interest for them to learn more about Steve Biko, so the comic has given a platform for them to investigate deeper.

Why is it important for young people to understand Steve Biko’s legacy?

He contributed so much to this country from such a young age, and young people can learn from him, and grow using his learnings.

If readers take only one thing away from this book, what would you like it to be?

That they have a proud history with role models to light the way.

* * * * *

Excerpt from Steve Biko (Africa Illustrated Book 8) by Books LIVE

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Reads from Americanah: "Dear Non-American Black" (Podcast)

AmericanahAmericanah author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently addressed students at Penn State University, speaking about her experiences as an author and an outsider in America.

One of the students, Sanjana Marikunte, writes in a review of the award-winning novel: “In the novel, our heroine, Ifemelu, comes to America to go to college, leaving her family and friends behind in Nigeria. During her time in this country, she begins to write a blog about race in America from her own unique perspective. Ifemelu proudly calls herself an African, not an African-American. But she writes about being treated by others as an all-encompassing black figure.”

Adichie spoke to WPSU’s Emily Reddy before addressing the auditorium full of students who read her book as a part of the Penn State Reads syllabus, sharing her thoughts on race and what she would want readers to take away from Americanah. She reads an excerpt from Ifemelu’s blog, which starts with the poignant “Dear non-American black”, and tells Reddy about their shared experiences.

Listen to the podcast:

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Malcolm Forbes Reviews Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara

Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the SaharaVerdict: carrot

Africa39 opens with its star turn but in no way does it peak too soon. The Pink Oysters by Shafinaaz Hassim is a thrilling but sordid corpse-and-diamonds caper featuring Afghan émigrés and Somali traders running wild in Johannesburg’s Muslim quarter. Ukamaka Olisakwe’s This Is How I Remember it is a clear-eyed account of a girl’s romantic awakening in Nigeria, which traverses adolescent peer pressure, cruelty and confusion before culminating in deep longing and the deceptive promise of reciprocated love.

Book Details

  • Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara by Various Authors
    EAN: 9781408854679
    Find this book on Kobo!

Kingsley Holgate Scatters his Wife's Ashes in the Maasai Mara, While Travelling from Mombasa to Lake Victoria

Africa: In the Footsteps of the Great ExplorersAndre Bredenkamp wrote an article for The Intrepid Explorer about a trip he joined Kingsley Holgate on. Holgate, author of Africa: In the Footsteps of the Great Explorers, was determined to retrace explorer Joseph Thomson from Mombasa to Lake Victoria in the early 1880s.

In the article, Bredenkamp speaks about traveling the road to from Mombasa. On the way, he and Holgate went to the Maasai Mara to scatter the ashes of Gill “Mashozi” Holgate, Holgate’s wife, who sadly passed away last year.

Read the article:

“Have you ever read the book, The Man-eaters of Tsavo?” asked Kingsley. “Well, it is about the building of the railway line by the British into Africa from the port of Mombasa. The stars of the story are these two lions that ate about 100 workers while they were trying to lay the tracks. It was such a fiasco that they called it the Lunatic Line.

“More importantly, have you ever heard about Joseph Thomson?” he enquired further. I hadn’t.

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Finalists for 2014 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award Announced

The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IVAlert! The Jacana Literary Foundation has revealed the shortlist and finalists for the 2014 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award.

A jury of Johann de Lange, Goodenough Mashego and Ingrid de Kok whittled down 303 entries to a list of 82 poems, which will be published in this year’s anthology, The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IV.

The jury then decided on a shortlist, which was then forwarded to Mongane Wally Serote, who decided on the three finalists.

Finalists for 2014 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award

  • Rochelle Jacobs, for “Something Other”
  • Thabo Jijana, for “Children Watching Old People”
  • Jim Pascual Agustin, for “Illegal, Undocumented”

The winner of the fourth annual Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award will be announced at the launch of the anthology, on Tuesday, 4 November, at a reception at the Goethe-Institut, Johannesburg.

Congratulations to the finalists!

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Press release

The Jacana Literary Foundation is pleased to announce the shortlist and finalists for the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award 2014.

The jury, comprising distinguished poets Johann de Lange, Goodenough Mashego and Ingrid de Kok, selected 82 poems out of the 303 entries received to be published in this year’s anthology. The jury furthermore deliberated on which entries should be shortlisted, and this list was sent to celebrated poet and author Mongane Wally Serote, who decided on a list of three finalists, and eventually, the winner. All judging is done anonymously.

The finalists are:

Rochelle Jacobs, for the poem “Something Other”.

Thabo Jijana, for the poem “Children Watching Old People”.

Jim Pascual Agustin, for the poem “Illegal, Undocumented”

The winner of the Sol Plaatje Poetry Award will be announced at a reception at the Goethe-Institut, Johannesburg, on Tuesday 4 November, by a European Union Delegation representative. The three finalists receive cash prizes, and the anthology, consisting of poems in English, Afrikaans, isiXhosa, Sepedi and Setswana, will be launched the same evening. Next year the award will resume its association with the Poetry Africa festival held annually in Durban, which was sadly interrupted this year.

The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award is supported by the European Union. The annual Award, named after Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje (1876–1932) and now in its fourth year, recognises the life and vision of this highly respected political and social activist. As Plaatje’s works did in his time, these poems reveal the political and social attitudes of our time.

Poets included in the 2014 Sol Plaatje EU Poety Anthology

Jim Pascual Agustin, Kyle Steven Allan, Adewole Armah, Saaleha Idrees Bamjee, Suzan-Jane Kathleen Bell, Ayanda Billie, Fadwah Booley, Sindiswa Busuka, Zethu Cakata, Ntyatyi Christian, Margaret Clough, Christine Coates, Lise Day, Gail Dendy, Abigail George, Sunelle Geyer, Kerry Hammerton, Vernon RL Head, Colleen Higgs, Sandra Hill, Rochelle Jacobs, Thabo Jijana, Justine Joseph, Moses Nzama Khaizen, Gertrude Trudi Makhaya, Katise Mawela, Frank Meintjies, Komiso Mfingo, Andrew Miller, Janine Jocelyn Milne, Jackie Mondi, Nedine Moonsamy, Nick Mulgrew, Eduan Naudé, Pam Newham, Sizakele Nkosi, Lazola Pambo, Thabo Seseane, Francine Simon, Annette Snyckers, Dianne Stewart, Jan Tromp, Susan Woodward, Sithembele Xhengwana.


Interview with Margie Orford: Freedom of Expression Can Never be Seen as a "Nice to Have" Right

Margie Orford

Margie Orford chatted to Books LIVE about her recent appointment to the board of PEN International, the work she is doing as head of SA PEN, and why her fans will have to wait patiently for her next novel.

Orford, a celebrated crime novelist and award-winning journalist, was appointed the head of SA PEN this year, and voted onto the board of PEN International this month. Orford says her work with the international chapter will focus on strengthening ties between PEN Centres from the north and the south, as well as looking at solutions to the worrying trend of threats to freedom of expression.

With much important work to be done, Orford admits she has little time for writing, but does reveal that she is working on two novels, saying: “books are like mistresses – eventually they make you spend the time and attention on them that they need”.

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Are you enjoying your new role as head of SA PEN? Could you tell us what projects have you been involved with so far?

I became president of PEN South Africa in May. It was really an honour as PEN SA’s membership is growing and our projects are expanding. We have three main areas of work – the first is on issues of freedom of expression. This grew out of work around the Secrecy Bill but we keep a close eye on infringements on the rights of journalists to work freely and more broadly in freedom of expression in other African countries. We have worked closely with PEN Zambia and PEN Ethiopia. We partner with Nal’ibali – a wonderful organisation that provides books, libraries, mentors and training for children in a range of South African languages.

PEN is founded on the idea that literature knows no boundaries and that linguistic diversity is crucial to creativity and a free society, so what we do is fund (as much as we can afford) translations of children’s literature in as many South African languages. Literary culture is, in my view, of great value and we also partner with Open Book and the Franschhoek Literary Festival – we have hosted a number of PEN Dialogues and brought some great writers to South Africa. There’s lots to do – check out our website and that of PEN International.

We are focusing our work in the near future on Criminal Defamation and Insult Laws, both sets of legislation that are used to limit freedom of expression in many countries. That will keep us busy.


Congratulations on being voted onto the board of PEN International. Did you expect it?

Thank you! Well, I was nervous – there were five candidates for two places on the board of PEN International. I was nominated by PEN Denmark and PEN Mexico – so it was a real honour to be elected at the PEN International Congress in Bishkek in Krygyzstan. The board is so diverse. (Click here to see the Board of PEN International.)

Have you met your fellow board members yet, or when is your first meeting?

Yes, I know most of them from previous PEN Congresses – these take place annually and I have worked closely with PEN International on a number of projects. My first board meeting was straight after the PEN Congress – very interesting working on strategy for the coming years and looking at ways of dealing with the increasing threats to freedom of expression that have come from mass surveillance (Snowdon blew that out of the water), the rigid legislation against LGBTI people that was pushed through in Russia and is now being passed in a number of ex-Soviet countries and in a number of African countries.

Freedom of expression – when you see how people are silenced and imprisoned – can never be seen as a “nice to have” right. It really is the foundational democratic right – it ensures the right to assembly, to privacy, to live out your life according to one’s own sexual orientation, it is crucial for women’s rights to a public life.

With board members from all over the world, what do you expect your contribution to be, or where do you feel your expertise lies?

I am an organiser and networker – so I think I will focus on doing that. We will be hosting a meeting of six PEN Centres from African countries in December with the Wits School of Journalism – and next year a large meeting of about 20 African PEN Centres. These connections are crucial for developing literary culture and an embedded notion of freedom of expression in the media on the continent. I believe in the strength that comes from working collectively and in building partnerships – so getting PEN Centres from the north and the south to strengthen their ties is crucial. PEN South Africa has worked closely with PEN America, PEN Norway and English PEN. These relationships – both organisationally and the friendships that develop between writers – are of great value.

You and Mohammed Sheriff of Sierra Leone are the only two board members from Africa. Considering the threats to press freedom that we see so frequently in Africa, do you feel you and Sheriff have a disproportionately large role to play for Pen International?

We have worked together before – Mohammed has done amazing work with PEN Sierra Leone – grassroots literacy work and organisation development. I think that we will complement each other well – South Africa is a very different place to work in, but I have worked in the grassroots education sector too and I understand its value. Mohammed also brings the wealth of francophone Africa’s literary heritage to the fore. So South and West – lots to cover – but we will manage. We collaborate with very interesting centres in Africa and are guided by the PEN African Network which is a wonderful network of African centres. Its not easy – resources are scarce and people are busy – but the network is energetic and great to work with.

Are you still finding the time to work on your fiction?

Ha ha! The joke question I guess. Not right now – but it will come – I needed a break. I have been writing like a mad woman for years now and I missed being in the world and busy. So its a good feeling to be doing this. I am going to have to carve out the time but my last daughter finished school this year – so I will have a different kind of time to play with. There are two books – novels – in the pipeline, a bit different to the Clare Hart series, but I am excited about writing something different, and books are like mistresses – eventually they make you spend the time and attention on them that they need …

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