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'Scribbling through skylines' - Read 3 poems from Landslide, a new collection by Arthur Sithole

‘Scribbling through skylines’ – Read 3 poems from Landslide, a new collection by Arthur Sithole


LandslideFor today’s Fiction Friday, dip into a new poetry anthology: Landslide by Arthur Sithole.

Landslide was edited by Marike Beyers and is being published by Elohtis Media.

The cover was designed by Gretchen van der Byl, who designed the most recent books by Ivan Vladislavić, Beverly Rycroft and Zakes Mda.

The book will be available from 6 May.
About the book:

This debut anthology catalogues a writer’s attempt in defining and drawing strength from a potent realm of consciousness – somewhat lost in the labyrinth of life; in the many layers and dimensions of past, present and future self.

Sithole’s poems seem to find reconciliation in themselves, merging different images and voices to paint different paradoxes and delights; characterised by painful realisations, beautiful affirmations, and kaleidoscope of new beginnings and endings.

Read an excerpt:


Scribbling through skylines
in partition of words
vowels bent
into currents of light

out of
a celestial alpha
your soul weaves in time

a rock, a river, a tree

out of your mouth
the world unfolds
a love letter

penned out of a heart
unmasked out of dust
the touch of your palm
your soul knitted in mine

high on mountain sighs
into garments of time
the cosmos of your soul
brims into life


The N1 freeway
Binds us in chains
In a congested wait
Six feet above
Our lingering graves

Bends spells and wands
In suits and heels
Brakes and pedals
Swivelling a morning rite

- And I

I keep changing gears
Relentlessly interchange
Fill every lane
Through an idle smile

Rushing a pace
As slow as a snail
As empty as a pulse
Exhaled to Joburg’s air


I am startled by the fading weight
Of a feather floating in heavy space
There is no dent in my spirit
I bear no scars on my face

The war has been real
Its course runs deep
My anguish is over
My destiny healed

Buried in fragmented needs
From a future that couldn’t breathe
Now I can return to be little
Play football on the streets

I can see the sun rising on me
Down Grandma’s house on Second Street
In Pretoria’s lonely CBD
And all the places I’ve not found peace

Book details

Benedict Wallet Vilakazi - the 'Father of Nguni Literature' - honoured with Order of Ikhamanga

The late Zulu poet, novelist and linguist Benedict Wallet Vilakazi will be honoured with the Order of Ikhamanga today.

The National Orders Awards are awarded annually to those who have “played a momentous role towards building a free democratic South Africa and who also have made a significant impact on improving the lives of South Africans in various ways”.

Vilakazi and Marguerite Poland are the two writers who will be receiving the Order of Ikhamanga this year, an award that recognises South African citizens who have excelled in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport.

Wits University Press published Vilakazi’s first book of poems, Inkondlo kaZulu (Zulu Horizons) – the poetry ever published in isiZulu – and a subsequent volume Amal’eZulu, as well as the first Zulu-English Dictionary, which Vilakazi compiled in collaboration with CM Doke.

Find out more, from Wits Press:

Benedict Wallet Vilakazi has been called the “Father of Nguni Literature”. He was born on 6 January, 1906 at Groutville Mission Station near Stanger in KwaZulu-Natal. The poet grew up in the neighbourhood of the mission station and in 1912 entered the primary school at Groutville, remaining there until he reached Standard 4. He continued his schooling at Marianhill, the Roman Catholic Monastery outside Durban, and after reaching standard 6, took a teacher’s training course.

Vilakazi’s gifts and ambitions came to the fore when he attended the Catholic Seminary at Ixopo in KwaZulu-Natal, where he devoted much of his spare time to distance education. He succeeded in matriculating, after which he taught at the Ohlange Institute in Phoenix near Durban. In 1934 he attained a Bachelor of Arts degree in African Studies. At the time, Vilakazi was already known to academics at the University of the Witwatersrand, which was in the process of publishing his first book of poems, Inkondlo kaZulu (tr: Zulu Horizons). This was the first book of poems ever published in isiZulu; it also marked the launch of the newly established Bantu (later: African) Treasury Series (published by Wits University Press), a collection of 20 classic works written between 1935 and the 1987 in African indigenous languages.

Coincidentally, the University was looking for an assistant in its Bantu Studies Department (now the Department of African Languages). At the insistence of CM Doke, at the time Head of Department, Vilakazi was appointed as Language Assistant in 1935. This appointment made him the first black African in the then Union of South Africa to teach at a white university, and it sparked a controversy: treated with suspicion by conservative whites, it was also seen as a “collaborationist appointment” (1) by some in the black political elite.

Vilakazi continued his own studies and, in 1938, was awarded a Master of Arts degree. In 1946 he reached another milestone by becoming the first black African in South Africa to receive a Doctorate in Literature (D Litt.) from Wits for his thesis The Oral and Written Literature in Nguni.

When Vilakazi entered the literary field, there were no published books of plays or poems written in isiZulu, and from 1930 onwards for 10 years, Vilakazi, HIE and RRR Dhlomo dominated the literary scene. Amal’eZulu (Wits University Press), published in 1945, was later recognized as one the best 100 African books of the twentieth century. Vilakazi also published three novels, Noma Nini! (Marianhill Mission Press), Udingiswayo KaJobe (Sheldon Press) and Nje Nempela (Marianhill Mission Press). In collaboration with Doke, he compiled the first Zulu-English Dictionary (Wits University Press). Writing in 1995, Dumisani Ntshangase asserted that Vilakazi and Doke:

produced the first major lexicographical work in an African language and this dictionary even today stands as the most successful and comprehensive project in African Languages lexicography in South Africa. (2)

In his writings, Vilakazi thought of himself as a spokesperson for his people and he identified with the struggles, fears, sacrifices and aspirations of his people. However, because of the bias towards African literature written in English – a bias that dominated academic discourse as well as debates within the resistance movement of the time – “his works have always been put in the periphery of the African intellectual history.” (3)

Vilakazi died suddenly of meningitis at Coronation Hospital at the age of 41 on 26 October, 1947, survived by five children. He was undoubtedly the most outstanding figure in Zulu literature of his time, and his funeral in Marianhill was attended by thousands of people.


1. Dumisani Kruschchev Ntshangase, Between the Lion and the Devil: The Life and Works of BW Vilakazi, 1906-1947. Paper presented for the Institute for Advanced Social Research, University of Witwatersrand 1995. Page 3.
2. Ntshangase 1995, page 2.
3. Ntshangase 1995, page 1.

Presidency to honour Marguerite Poland and Benedict Wallet Vilakazi with Orders of Ikhamanga

Presidency to honour Marguerite Poland and Benedict Wallet Vilakazi with Orders of Ikhamanga

President Jacob Zuma will bestow the 2016 National Orders Awards on a group of distinguished local citizens and foreign nationals this week.

The orders are awarded to those who have “played a momentous role towards building a free democratic South Africa and who also have made a significant impact on improving the lives of South Africans in various ways”.

Author Marguerite Poland and the late poet and novelist Benedict Wallet Vilakazi will be honoured with the Order of Ikhamanga, which recognises South African citizens who have excelled in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport.

Benedict VilakaziBenedict Wallet Vilakazi (6 January 1906 – 26 October 1947) was a distinguished Zulu poet, novelist, and linguist. He wrote the first book of Zulu poems to be published, and in 1946 became the first black South African to receive a PhD. He was also the first African senior lecturer at a “white university”, joining the Department of Bantu Studies at the University of Witwatersrand as a lecturer in 1935. Vilakazi was a prolific writer, publishing his first novel, Nje nempela, in 1933, and his first book of poems, Inkondlo kaZulu, in 1935. He is credited with the establishment of a unique poetic genre, combining traditional Zulu praise-poetry with blank verse. Vilakazi also contributed many articles to scholarly publications and co-authored a Zulu-English Dictionary. Vilakazi Street in Soweto – famous as the place where two Nobel Prize winners, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, once lived – is named after him.

Vilakazi reflected on his impressions of Wits in the poem “Wo, Ngitshele Mntanomlungu” (Tell, White Man’s Son):

Such massive and majestic columns,
Drawing my gaze where, high above me,
Doves are perched whose noisy cooing
Is like the bellowing of bulls.

Thus, as I gaze around in wonder,
I realise beyond all doubt
That I am lost! Yet well I know I came
To serve my own beloved people –
Aware of them always, I hear them cry:
‘”Take up your burden and be our voice!”

Translated by Lulu Friedman, from Clive Chipkin’s Johannesburg Style, architecture and society 1880s-1960s.

The KeeperMarguerite Poland grew up and was educated in the Eastern Cape, and is fluent in Xhosa and isiZulu. She is a graduate of Rhodes and Stellenbosch Universities and the University of KwaZulu-Natal and has a BA in Xhosa and Social Anthropology, an Honours degree in Comparative African Languages and an MA in Zulu Literature. Poland writes for both children and adults, and her landmark 1979 book The Mantis And The Moon is credited with establishing a market for indigenous children’s books in English in South Africa. Her adult novels have won several prestigious awards, and she has also written a number of academic papers and reports. Her most recent novel is The Keeper.

Other notable recipients of National Orders this year include the late journalist and editor Zwelakhe Sisulu (Order of Mapungubwe, gold, Posthumous), the late entrepreneur Marina Nompinti Maponya (Order of the Baobab, gold, Posthumous), Winifred “Winnie” Madikizela-Mandela and Sathyandranath Ragunanan “Mac” Maharaj (both Order of Luthuli, silver).

The ceremony will take place on Thursday, 28 April, at Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria.

Full list of 2016 Order of Ikhamanga recipients:

The Order will be bestowed in Bronze on:

  • Laurika Rauch: For her outstanding contribution in the field of music and raising awareness on political injustices through music. She bravely deployed her artistic talents to highlight the injustices and tyranny of the apartheid rule.

The Order will be bestowed in Silver on:

  • Thomas Hasani Chauke: For his excellent contribution to the development and promotion of Xitsonga traditional music in the country. His prolific song-writing and performances have put Xitsonga music in the forefront.

  • Sylvia “Magogo” Glasser: For her excellent contribution to the field of dance and transference of skills to the young people from all racial backgrounds, fostering social cohesion in the time of apartheid. 

  • Marguerite Poland: For her excellent contribution to the field of indigenous languages, literature and anthropology. Her literary works are taught widely in South African schools.

The order will be bestowed in Gold on:

  • Benedict Wallet Vilakazi (Posthumous): For his exceptional contribution to the field of literature in indigenous languages and the preservation of isiZulu culture. A world famous street in Soweto, where two noble prize winners once resided, bears his name.

  • Professor Rosina Mamokgethi Phakeng: For her excellent contribution in the field of science and representing South Africa on the international stage through her outstanding research work.

Click here for the full list of 2016 National Orders Awards

Book details

Benedict Wallet Vilakazi image courtesy of Ulwazi

Modjaji authors at the 2016 FLF

The 2016 Franschhoek Literary Festival is around the corner. And we’re delighted that a number of new and more established Modjaji authors are taking part. We have three writers who live abroad participating, they are Charlotte Otter (Karkloof Blue) coming from Heidelberg in Germany, Isobel Dixon (Bearings) from London and Eliza Kentridge (Signs for an Exhibition) from Wivenhoe in the UK.

BearingsKarkloof BlueCheck out the programme and book your tickets soon, you don’t want to be disappointed.

Karin Schimke, award-winning poet and books editor (Bare & Breaking) is chairing a number of sessions.
Sindiwe Magona is one of the celebrities of the festival, and will be specially honoured this year. We published her poetry collection, Please Take Photographs. Wendy Woodward, poet and English Literature academic (The Saving Bannister), will be there.

Poet and performer, Khadija Heeger (Beyond the Delivery Room) is also on the programme.

Beverly Rycroft, poet and novelist, is also on the programme (missing).

Jolyn PhillipsTjieng Tjang TjerriesAnd the last Modjaji writer on the programme is Jolyn Phillips, whose wonderful new book, a collection of short stories, which we have heard has made it onto the Exclusive Books’ Homebru promotion, Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and other stories is on a panel on Sunday at 1.00 with Deon Meyer, Rahla Xenopolous, chaired by Darrel Bristow Bovey.

There are two award announcements on the weekend of the Franschhoek Lit Fest. They are both on Saturday evening. The first is the Ingrid Jonker, two of our Ingrid Jonker past winners are on the festival programme, Karin Schimke and Beverly Rycroft. We have a couple of poets who are contenders for this year’s award: Elisa Galgut (The Attribute of Poetry) and Christine Coates (Homegrown).

And for this year’s Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize long list, we have Fiona SnyckersNow Following You. The shortlist of five will be announced on Saturday night during the FLF.

Bare and BreakingBeyond the Delivery RoomMissingBearingsPlease, Take PhotographsSigns for an Exhibition
Karkloof BlueTjieng Tjang Tjerries and other storiesA Saving BannisterThe Attribute of PoetryHomegrownNow Following You

Book details

New from Protea Boekhuis: Pictures at an Exhibition by Philip de Vos, illustrated by Piet Grobler

Pictures at an ExhibitionPrente by 'n uitstallingInspired by an exhibition of sketches by his deceased friend Victor Hartmann, the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky, in 1847, composed a suite for piano in 10 parts.

Pianists still consider this suite as a work of remarkable virtuosity – but it’s Maurice Ravel’s 1922 orchestral setting that really secured its international recognition.

In this remarkable book, Philip de Vos succeeded in transposing Mussorgsky’s music into verse-form, thus offering a new mode of experiencing its classic beauty. Piet Grobler’s timeless sketches seamlessly enhances this arresting transposition. Paging through Pictures at an Exhibition is like slowly walking through an art gallery: moving from one impression to the next.

Also available in Afrikaans, as Prente by ’n uitstalling.

About the author

Philip de Vos is an award-winning author, poet and acclaimed photographer and in 2015 received a KykNET Fiesta Lifetime Achievement award for Music, Literature and the Visual Arts in South Africa. As a child he dreamt of joining the circus as a clown, today the humour in his work makes many a reader smile. He loves animals and bugs and has never even stepped on an ant on purpose. He lives in Green Point, Cape Town.

About the illustrator

Piet Grobler is an award-winning illustrator who tells stories with his paintings and illustrations. He has illustrated more than 80 books and has done illustration work for various magazines and newspapers including Sunday Times, De Kat, Insig, Sarie and Taalgenoot. He is senior lecturer and course leader in Illustration at the University of Worcester in the West-Midlands of England. He lives in Great Malvern, UK.

Book details

'Decolonising the literary landscape' continues at the first annual Rutanang Book Fair in Tlokwe

‘Decolonising the literary landscape’ continues at the first annual Rutanang Book Fair in Tlokwe

Alert! The inaugural Rutanang Book Fair is happening in Tlokwe, North West Province from the 25 to 27 April this year, featuring an exciting bookish line-up of guests and events.

The theme for the Rutanang Book Fair is “Decolonising Literature”, and it coincides with the 100-year anniversary of Sol Plaatje’s revolutionary Native Life in South Africa. Author and Sol Plaatje scholar Sabata-Mpho Mokae will deliver a keynote address in celebration of Plaatje.

NwelezelangaGa ke ModisaTo The Black Women We All KnewNative Life in South AfricaHomegrown

The programme, compiled by Red Dune Projects, features writing masterclasses, motivational talks at schools, poetry recitals and discussions.

Unathi Magubeni, an Eastern Cape-based writer, sangoma and trainee herbalist who left the corporate world in 2009, will be launching his debut novel, Nwelezelanga: The Star Child, on 26 April at Phina’s B&B in Ikageng township.

Long Story Short will be present at the festival, with a special reading by award-winning theatre and film actor Presley Chweneyagae of Sabata-Mpho Mokae’s Setswana novel Ga Ke Modisa, which won an M-Net Literary Awards in 2013.

“We are thrilled to be part of the inaugural Rutanang Book Fair – what Red Dune Projects is doing speaks to the very core of what we do, making our stories accessible to our communities,” Long Story Short producer Kgauhelo Dube says.

“We are also very excited as the talented performer Presley Chweneyagae will be reading the first Setswana story in the Long Story Short series!”

Confirmed participants include:

  • The Tlokwe Heritage Foundation (The History of Tlokwe)
    Award-winning actor Presley Chweneyagae
    Writer Willy Maphosa
    Author Unathi Magubeni
    Poet Kgafela oa Magogodi
    Author Sabata-Mpho Mokae
    Writer Mpho Matsitle (Book launch: Celibacy and Other Cute Little Things)
    Writer and newspaper columnist Pinky Khoabane
    Writer and political commentator Andile Mngxitama
    Tlokwe-based novelist Kholofelo Maenetsha
    Literacy campaigner and Long Story Short producer Kgauhelo Dube
    Creative writer Mbe Mbhele (Book launch: Crazy Father and Other Stories)
    Author Christine Coates

Related stories:

Read more from the Rutanang Book Fair:

Tlokwe leans in on the “decolonising literature” debate at its inaugural Rutanang Book Fair

The South African literature landscape is undergoing an exciting renaissance. There have been spirited debates around “decolonising the literary landscape”, which saw prominent authors and literacy activists such as Zakes Mda, Thando Mgqolozana, Karabo Kgoleng and Eusebius McKaiser leaning in. The general consensus has been that it’s not that black South Africans don’t read – it’s that the publishing value chain has not invested in understanding the reading behaviours of South Africa’s majority.

There’s been a growth in innovative, people-centric reading programmes targeting different age groups, but most of these activities happen primarily in the major cities. Tlokwe-based media and events company Red Dune Projects will introduce Tlokwe’s first book fair called Rutanang Book Fair. Rutanang Book Fair will run from the 25th to the 27th April and will feature an exciting mix of events in different venues throughout Tlokwe – there will be something for everyone! Red Dune Projects has curated a comprehensive programme featuring writing masterclasses, motivational talks in schools, poetry recitals and different discussions featuring some of today’s literary thought-leaders.

“Tlokwe is an academic town. It’s home to the North West University’s main campus and boasts an assortment of other prestigious learning institutions. We are a reading community – the issue is access to bookstores, the social culture of sharing books and interaction with publishers and writers,” explains project coordinator Tseko Nkhane.

The theme for the inaugural Rutanang Book Fair is “Decolonising Literature” and will coincide with the 100 year anniversary of Sol T Plaatje’s revolutionary book, Native Life in South Africa. Author and Sol Plaatje scholar Sabata-Mpho Mokae will deliver a keynote address in celebration of Sol T Plaatje – the politician, the linguist and the writer.

“Our experience of book fairs and festivals has pushed us to think outside the box when we were conceptualising Rutanang Book Fair. This is an event for the people – we engaged with learners, teachers, parents, the hip hop/poetry community, cultural workers, academics and even church leaders to make sure that we reach every sub-culture within Tlokwe,” Tseko emphasises.

Some of the events will take place in places such as taverns, churches and B&Bs in the township. Writer Vuyo Seripe will be reading her latest short story and engaging the audience in a discussion about South African literary landscape in the black community. The organisers are very passionate about growing the love of books within Tlokwe – they believe that in the future, attending a book reading will be as hip as attending a music concert.

The organisers received an overwhelmingly positive response from writers who were interested in launching their books as part of the programme. BlackBird Books’s newest talent Unathi Magubeni will be launching his debut novel Nwelezelanga: The Star Child on 26 April at Phina’s B&B in Ikageng township.

The children’s programme will feature different activities in local schools, libraries and a daily storytelling session hosted by the Potchefstroom Library at the main venue, Madiba Banquet Hall. Jozi-based children’s writer Buhle Ngaba will also hold fun and interactive storytelling workshops based on her experiences leading up to her realisation of her extraordinary non-fairytale children’s book, The Girl Without a Sound.

The Girl Without a Sound was born out of defiance and as a response to the fairytales we were told as little girls. Stories about white princesses with blue eyes, flowing locks of hair and an overwhelming awareness of their beauty. More than that, I want it to be a healing balm for all who read it,” Buhle explains.

The digital storytelling project #longstorySHORT has joined forces with the team and will feature award-winning theatre and film actor Presley Chweneyagae reading from Sabata-Mpho Mokae’s Setswana novel Ga Ke Modisa.

“We are thrilled to be part of the inaugural Rutanang Book Fair – what Red Dune Projects is doing speaks to the very core of what we do – making our stories accessible to our communities. We are very excited, as the a talented performer as Presley Chweneyagae will be reading the first Setswana story in the series!” says producer of #longstorySHORT, Kgauhelo Dube.

Rutanang Book Fair will run from 25 to 27 April, 2016 in various venues around Tlokwe. The main venue for the event is the Madiba Banquet Hall with fringe activities happening at schools, churches, taverns and B&Bs in Ikageng.

The Promosa and Sarafina Libraries will be used for panel discussions and workshops.

The Rutanang Book Fair is funded by the National Department of Arts in partnership with:

  • Sports Arts and Culture for the Tlokwe Municipality

    Culture Arts and Traditional Affairs for the Doctor Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality

    Education and Sports Development for The North West Province

    The Church Sector

Twitter handle: @RutanangTlokwe
Facebook: RutanangBookFair

For event information please contact
Tseko Nkhane
Red Dune Projects

For press interviews please contact
Kgauhelo Dube
Kajeno Media: 0715621858/

Book details