Time of the Writer festival

2008-02-27 00:00

Eighteen writers from ten countries touch down in Durban for the 11th Time of the Writer International Writers’ Festival, which takes place from March 25 to 30 and is hosted by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

Apart from Australian journalist John Pilger, the festival features an exclusively South African and African presence with a diverse gathering of novelists, short-story writers, investigative journalists, publishers and political commentators.

Among these are writer, poet, painter and essayist, Breyten Breytenbach, who was instrumental in initiating the festival 11 years ago and who will deliver the festival’s keynote address on the opening night, Tuesday, March 25.

The world-acclaimed investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger (Australia) brings this year’s festival to a close with a Sunday evening discussion with Mail & Guardian editor Ferial Haffajee and UKZN academic and writer Patrick Bond. Presented as a Centre for Civil Society Harold Wolpe lecture entitled Truth, Propaganda and Power, the evening is prefaced with a sneak peak at Pilger’s new film The War on Democracy and will end with an audience Q&A session. Pilger will receive an honorary doctorate from Rhodes University in Grahamstown on March 28. A festival of documentaries by Pilger, with post-screening discussions facilitated by the Centre for Civil Society, begins on March 3.

Other South African voices include Mbulelo Mzamane, described by Nelson Mandela as a “visionary leader, [and] one of South Africa’s greatest intellectuals”; Angelina Sithebe, author of Holy Hill; and Kopano Matlwa, winner of the EU Literary Award for 2006/07, whose debut novel, Coconut, is part of a new wave of post-apartheid fiction.

Joining her is Jo-Anne Richards, author of The Innocence of Roast Chicken, who launches her fourth novel, My Brother’s Book, during the festival, as does Michael Green who launches his new novel For the Sake of Silence, a work of historical fiction which examines with impressive insight the Trappist endeavour in 19th-century South Africa.

Africa is well represented at the festival with a particularly strong Kenyan and Zimbabwean presence. The Kenyan poet, Shailja Patel will present a special Kenyan Bulletin, which will articulate the current crisis facing her country. Other Kenyans who will be in Durban include author Dayo Forster, and Kenyan publisher, writer, and scholar Henry Chakava, the only publisher to give a voice to the works of Ngugi wa Thiong’o in the seventies and eighties.

From Zimbabwe comes editor and publisher Irene Staunton, whose Weaver Press has developed an award-winning catalogue of Zimbabwean fiction and non-fiction. She is joined by fellow Zimbabwean Charles Mungoshi, known for his novels and short stories.

Other writers include Ananda Devi (Mauritius), Emmanuel Dongala (Congo) and Simao Kikamba (Angola), whose debut novel Going Home won the Herman Charles Bosman award for English fiction in 2006.

Add to this the “Writers Parliament — Notes Towards a Cultural Policy for Durban” session on Friday, March 28 and a Youth Roadshow where festival writers will engage with pupils and interested members of the public.

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 workshops, a day-long forum on publishing issues, and a prison writing programme, are formulated to promote a culture of reading, writing and creative expression.

Tickets: R25 for evening sessions, R10 for students. Purchase at Computicket or at the door one hour before the event. Workshops and seminars are free. Visit www.cca.ukzn.ac.za for biographies and photos of participants. Contact the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts for more information on 031 260 2506 or e-mail cca@ukzn.ac.za

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