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

Words and images by Thato Rossouw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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


 
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Join Quivertree Publications at a pop-up market in Cape Town - with discounted books

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Braai: Reuben on FireThe Low Carb Solution For DiabeticsThe Great South African CookbookReal Food - Healthy, Happy ChildrenEat Ting
Indigenous Plant PalettesCook BetterStar FishTartsThe Real Meal RevolutionA Life Digested

 
Quivertree Publications will be hosting a pop-up market from 2-3 December 2016 at 147 Main Road, Rondebosch.

There will be a Quivertree Book Shop selling your favourite Quivertree titles at a discount – come and stock up on your Christmas gifts here!

Reuben Riffel, Pete Goffe-Wood and Obie Oberholzer will be around from 3 PM on the Friday afternoon to sign books.

On 3 December, there’s a fun food workshop for children (ages two to six), hosted by experienced clinical dietician Kath Megaw’s Nutripaeds team in the photographic studio. Designed to expose children to sensory experiences, teach them about healthy ingredients, and help them develop fine motor skills, this event costs R120 per child, and prior booking is essential. (Please email thembela@quivertree.co.za or call 021 686 6849.)

But that’s not all, below is a list of stallholders that you can expect to see at the market:

Peta Becker, crochet art
Jackie Knutsen, sojo children’s wear
Dan Wickham, Garagista artisan beer
Janine Davidson, Scarab jewellery
Pete Goffe-Wood, steak rolls
Karen Canning, lis-spa, beauty products and treatment vouchers
Ilse Menck clothing
Nondumiso wine
Ceramics by Louise Gelderblom & Karen Henstra
Skinny laMinx
Amanda and Kathleen from Nutripaeds will host a Clever Cooks children’s food workshop in the photographic studio
Verushka Louw – cakes, biscuits and pastries

Event Details

  • Date: Friday, 2 and Saturday, 3 December 2016
  • Time: 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Venue: Quivertree Publications
    147 Main Road
    Rondebosch
    Cape Town | Map
  • Facebook event: Click here for more

Book Details

2 South African authors win the 2016 Golden Baobab Prizes for African children's books

2016 Golden Baobab Prize winners and shortlist announced

 
Alert! Golden Baobab has announced the winners of the 7th edition of the Golden Baobab Prize.

Established in July 2008, the Golden Baobab Prize is often referred to as the “African Newbery Prize”, and is a prestigious award in the African children’s literature industry. Its aim is to support the development of children’s books by African writers and illustrators.

2016 Golden Baobab Prize winners and shortlist announced

 
The Prize invites entries of unpublished stories and illustrations created by African citizens irrespective of age, race, or country of origin. The Prize is organized by Golden Baobab, a Ghana-based pan-African NGO dedicated to “creating a world filled with wonder and possibilities for children, one African story at a time”.

The organisation’s advisory board includes renowned authors Ama Ata Aidoo and Maya Ajmera.

The Golden Baobab Prize received over 150 stories from 11 African countries this year. Submissions were judged by a jury from diverse backgrounds who brought nearly 100 years of collective experience in children’s literature to the selection of the 2016 winners and finalists.

The winning stories of the 2016 Golden Baobab Prize are:

  • Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books: The Ama-zings! by Lori-Ann Preston (South Africa)
  • Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books: Kita and the Red, Dusty Road by Vennessa Scholtz (South Africa)

The winner of each Golden Baobab Prize receives a cash prize of US$5,000 (about R70,300) and a guaranteed publishing contract.

Those shortlisted were:

2016 Golden Baobab Prize winners and shortlist announced

 
The Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books

  • Maya and the Finish Line by Ayo Oyeku (Nigeria)
  • Lights and Freedom by Khethiwe Mndawe (South Africa)

The Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books

  • A Dark Night for Wishes by Kai Tuomi (South Africa)
  • Mr Cocka-Rocka-Roo by Lori-Ann Preston (South Africa)

Golden Baobab Executive Director Deborah Ahenkorah Osei-Agyekum said:

For the past seven years, The Golden Baobab Prize has focused on delivering a quality annual literature prize that raises awareness about the need for more African literature for children. Now, the Prize is excited to enter a new phase where we will focus heavily on setting up more publishing partnerships and opportunities for our writers to get more African books into the hands of children. For the first time, this year’s winning stories are guaranteed a publishing contract. The longlist also receives publishing services from Golden Baobab that will connect their stories to leading African and international publishers.

Congratulations to the winners – and those shortlisted.

Cover revealed for Marita van der Vyver's new novel to be published early 2017

Marita van der Vyver’s new novel to be published early 2017Marita van der Vyver’s new novel to be published early 2017
Swemlesse vir 'n meerminA Fountain in FranceOlinosters op die dakDie coolste ouma op aardeWinter Food in ProvenceWinterkos in Provence

 
Penguin Random House will be publishing Marita van der Vyver’s 13th novel, You Lost Me, early in 2017 in English and Afrikaans.

The author, who lives in France, will be in South Africa to promote the novel in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria in March and May 2017. Readers will also have the opportunity to see her in Stellenbosch during Woordfees, and at the Franschhoek Literary Festival.

You Lost Me is the story of Willem Prins, a disillusioned South African writer who, after little success, finds himself in Paris to promote an erotic novel he wrote under a pseudonym – to his great embarrassment. It’s here that he meets Jackie, a young South African who works in the city as au pair. The two of them happen to be together on the night that the Paris terror attacks strike.

You Lost Me is contemporary and thrilling; wickedly funny yet poignant. The novel reinforces Van der Vyver’s position as one of the country’s best-loved writers since the publication of her first novel, Entertaining Angels.

 
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Photograph by Robert Hamblin for Vrouekeur

Book details

Read an excerpt from Lake of Memories - the new book in Bontle Senne's Afrocentric fantasy adventure series

Shadow Chasers Book 2: Lake of Memories Cover2Cover Books has shared an excerpt from Bontle Senne’s new book, Shadow Chasers Book 2: Lake of Memories.

The book is the follow-up to Powers of the Knife, and part of the Shadow Chasers series, a contemporary Afrocentric fantasy adventure series.

The book will be launched on Saturday, 26 November at Skoobs Theatre of Books at Montecasino, when Senne will be chatting to Pamela Power.

“I’ve never been one to buy into the ‘Africans don’t want to read’ hype,” Senne said in a recent interview.

“I’m not saying that there isn’t a huge challenge for trade publishers and booksellers in South Africa. There is, of course. But the absence of relevant, engaging, local and accessible literature is something that is improving pretty slowly.”

* * * * *

 
Read an extract from Chapter 3 of the book:

They knock on the door and hear Gogo’s voice telling them to come in. As they enter the candle-lit room, they see that Gogo is already in bed.

“Zithembe, Nomthandazo,” Gogo says with her eyes closed. “I thought you would come.”

“You did?” Nom blurts out.

“Yes. You see, many years ago I was one of the Bhekizizwe, a Shadow Chaser. Just like you. I know why you are here,” she says. “You want Zithembe’s knife. You want to use it to get into the dreamworld, where the Army of Shadows lives, and rescue his mother. You will need to find her knife to do so. But I cannot help you. The Army of Shadows is too dangerous and powerful now.”

“But they have Mama,” Zithembe blurts out. “I have to rescue her, Gogo. She’s been trapped in the dreamworld for years.”

Gogo’s eyes snap open. She stares at Zithembe, her lips pressed tight, before whispering, “Do you think I haven’t thought about rescuing her? Itumeleng is my daughter! I have prayed every night for her.”

“But the war against the Army is bigger than one person or one Shadow Chaser, even if she is my only child,” Gogo continues. “Itumeleng knows this, and if she was here, she would agree with me: you must stay out of this fight, Zithembe.”

Zithembe goes to this grandmother’s side, kneels besides the bed and takes her hand. “Please, Gogo,” he pleads. “Where is my knife?”

Gog pulls her hand away from Zithembe and rolls over, away from him, to face the wall.

“I am an old woman,” she says. “I have forgotten where the knife is. Now leave me. I want to sleep.”

Zithembe stands and steps back, unsure of what to do next. But Nom walks straight towards Gogo.

“That’s it?” Nom says.

“Nom!” Zithembe says, as if he is warning her – or scolding her. He tries to grab her arm to drag her out of the rondavel, but she pulls away from him.

“No, I don’t care about being respectful. This is a war!” Nom says, folding her arms. “I know you know where the knife is, Gogo. Please, you have to tell us!”

“How dare you! Gogo does not take orders from children,” says a voice from the door.

Zithembe and Nom whip around to see Zithembe’s cousin, Rosy, standing in the doorway with both hands on her hips.

“Gogo is right,” says Rosy as she walks into the room. “This is not a game. The Army of Shadows is dangerous, and you two are too young to be in a war with monsters.”

Nom rolls her eyes. “How old are you?’ she asks. “Thirty-five?”

“I’m fifteen. I’m old enough to take Gogo’s knife as my own. I’m old enough to be a real Shadow Chaser. Twelve is too young – you are too young,” Rosy says, kneeling beside Gogo’s bed. The sleeves of her dress are long, but Nom thinks she sees a flash of an angry yellow scar on Rosy’s arm. “You heard what Gogo said,” Rosy continues. “Get out.”

Nom is about to start a real fight, but Zithembe is faster than her this time. He grabs her arm and drags her out of the rondavel.

“You can’t just – ,” Nom begins to argue, but Zithembe puts a hand over her mouth and a finger to his lips. He points towards the back of the rondavel and pulls Nom with him as he sneaks into the shadows. They crouch in the weeds and nettles underneath an open window. Rosy’s voice drifts to them in an urgent whisper.

“… an evil water spirit that calls itself Mami Wata. Gogo, I believe that the Army has sent Mami Wata to tear apart the village in search of the knife.”

There is a pause before Zithembe’s grandmother says, “I wish I could remember where Zithembe’s knife is. If I could remember, I would hide the knife again, somewhere new, somewhere no one could find it. But for now, you must protect the village. And we must keep Zithembe and Nomthandazo safe until they are old enough to fight.”

“Yes, Gogo,” agrees Rosy.

“Go to the beach and attack just before midnight tonight. Your knife will be the light to guide the way and open the door to send this monster back to the dreamworld. Good luck, ngane yam. Be safe,” says Gogo.

 
Related stories:

Book details

Book Launch: Shadow Chasers Book 2: Lake of Memories by Bontle Senne

Shadow Chasers Book 2: Lake of Memories Bring tweenies along to have fun and win prizes with local author Bontle Senne … and meet some things that go bump in the night! The Shadow Chasers series is perfect holiday reading for kids. Lake of Memories is Book 2 of this contemporary Afrocentric fantasy adventure series. It’s every bit as good as the fabulously scary Book 1: Powers of the Knife. 128 pages, with line illustrations.

Event Details

Book Details