International Writers Festival – Durban: 9 to 13 March 2010
The written word will envelop Durban as writers from around South Africa and Africa arrive in Durban for a stimulating week of books, ideas and talk at the 13th Time of the Writer International Writers Festival (9-13 March). The festival, which is hosted by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu- Natal), will feature a diverse gathering of novelists, short story writers, humour writers and political commentators. Within a precarious funding climate the Department of Arts and Culture has provided valued core support to make the production of this year’s Time of the Writer possible and thereby help sustain this important platform which brings literature into the public domain. Time of the Writer will also host a tribute evening to the life, creativity and activism of the late Dennis Brutus as the culmination of a full-day colloquium organised by the Centre for Civil Society (UKZN).
The writers at the festival include Nigerian Uwem Akpan, whose brilliantly-crafted and nuanced debut collection of stories, Say Youre One of Them, won last years Commonwealth Prize for Literature Best First Book Award. Akpans collection was also selected late last year by Oprah Winfreys Book Club, a prized honour in the publishing world. Joining him in the panel discussion, Why I Write What I Write, will be the Durban-born Imraan Coovadia. Coovadia has established himself over three provoking and intelligent novels, as one of the leading contemporary South African writers. Zakes Mda, a true giant of the South African literary landscape, makes a welcome return to the festival, having just published Black Diamond, which The Weekender called: a defiantly revealing novel about contemporary South Africa…sane and insane, evocative and hilarious… The prolific Mda is the author of South African classics such as The Whale Caller, The Madonna of Excelsior, The Heart of Redness and Ways of Dying amongst others.
The award-winning playwright, journalist and acts activist Mike van Graan, author of plays such Bafana Republic amongst numerous others, will deliver the festivals Opening Night Keynote Address, entitled The State of the Arts. Durban is represented by Sally-Ann Murray, a well-established and prize-winning poet, whose debut novel Small Moving Parts was published last year. Constructed with an astonishing sense of place and detail it is a powerful book that adds a new texture to Durbans ever-expanding literary narrative. Fellow Durbanite Elana Bregin is a versatile author whose work spans youth fiction to genre-bending biography. Her latest novel Shivas Dance has been excellently received.
Thando Mgqolozana hails from the Eastern Cape and his sensitive debut novel A Man Who is Not a Man tells of the trauma a young Xhosa man experiences after his initiation circumcision goes wrong.
William Gumede is one of South Africas most prominent public intellectuals and was the author of the best-selling Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC and more recently The Poverty of Ideas (with Leslie Dikeni). Gumede will be in conversation with Andile Mngxitama, a Black Consciousness thinker, organiser and columnist. Mngxitama co-edited Biko Lives! Contesting the Legacies of Steve Biko and is the publisher of New Frank Talk, a journal of critical essays on the black condition. The latest issue of the journal will be launched at the festival. Other launches include Anton Krueger’s debut novel Sunnyside Sal (Deep South) on Friday 12 March and Andy Mason and John Curtis Dont Joke! The Year in Cartoons (Jacana Media) on Saturday 13 March. Mason and Curtis, along with several other Durban cartoonists will also conduct the workshop Dont Joke! The Changing Face of South African Political Cartooning at the BAT Centres Mission Control on Saturday 13 March at 13h30. The workshop forms part of a trio organised by the fest at the BAT on the day, the other two encompassing creative writing and children’s writing.
Whats So Funny About Africa? is the title of the enticing panel that will see Sihle Khumalo and Ndumiso Ngcobo, two of South Africa’s top humourists in discussion. Khumalo humorous travelogues Dark Continent, My Black Arse and Heart of Africa have marked him as a witty and astute observer. Ngcobo is a writer and satirist of razor-sharp wit, whose books Some of My Best Friends Are White and Is It Coz I’m Black? contain some of the most irreverent writing currently in South African bookstores.
On Thursday March 11, the festival, in partnership with the Centre for Civil Society (UKZN) ( http://www.ukzn.ac.za/ccs ) , will present a Dennis Brutus Tribute Evening (17:30 21.00pm), while the CCS itself will present A Dennis Brutus Poetry and Protest Colloquium (09h30-17h00) at Howard College Theatre (UKZN). The colloquium will explore aspects of Brutus political and literary legacy in the robust, self-critical style he would have welcomed, with an emphasis on how his life might offer pointers to our own futures. The Dennis Brutus Tribute Evening at the Sneddon is divided into two sections the first (17h30 19h00) Dennis Brutus: Life, Literature, Politics And Mandates To Us All features panelists such as Ashwin Desai, Fatima Meer, Trevor Ngwane, Eunice Sahle and internationally renowned sports writer David Zirin. The second section (19h30 21h00) is a Harold Wolpe/Dennis Brutus Memorial Lecture entitled Fighting Global Apartheid by Yash Tandon, the Ugandan political activist, professor, author and public intellectual.
Apart from Uwem Akpan, Africa is further represented by Léonora Miano, a Cameroonian-French author who has written three acclaimed and prize-winning novels and Aher Arop Bol, whose debut, The Lost Boy, about the authors escape from the Sudan is an epic quest for survival, education, family, and meaning.
Readings, discussions and book launches will take place nightly at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. A broad range of day activities in the form of seminars, workshops, school visits, and a prison writing programme, are formulated to promote a culture of reading, writing and creative expression. The Hon. Ms. Lulu Xingwana, the Minister of Arts and Culture will attend the festival and handover the prizes for the Schools Writing Competition. The competition, which accepts entries in English, Zulu, and Afrikaans, has, over the years, proved to be one of the central development components of the festival.
Time of the Writer’s extensive programme of activities and culturally diverse line-up of writers promise to deliver a dynamic literary platform for dialogue and exchange on wide-ranging themes and offers a rare opportunity to gain insight into the many facets that inform the art of writing.
Except for Thursday, 11 March which is free, tickets are R25 for the evening sessions, R10 for students, and can be purchased through Computicket or at the door one hour before the event. Workshops and seminars are free.