Festival has literature written all over it

2017-05-24 06:00

The growth in the 2017 Vrystaat Literature Festival is testimony to the vibrancy of this blossoming writers’ oasis in the heart of South Africa.

The festival will reach an even wider audience with more than 60 presentations scheduled in the week from 17 to 22 July in Bloemfontein.

The theme for this year is “Homecoming”.

Prof. Francis Petersen, vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State (UFS), says: “The Vrystaat Literature Festival is one of the brightest literary platforms on the South African cultural calendar. In just one year, it has cemented its place in the hearts of thousands of South Africans and international writers. The UFS is proud to have been the founding sponsor of the festival, and even prouder that we can support it in the long-term.”

Annalize Dedekind, chairperson of the Vrystaat Arts Festival, adds: “We are very excited about the 2017 Vry­staat Literature Festival. After its successful maiden voyage in 2016, it now boasts a list of international writers from amongst others Romania, Iran, Kenya, the Netherlands and Zambia, in addition to the big names of the South African literary world. You cannot afford to miss any of these discussions.”

Writers such as Braam de Vries, Daniel Hugo, Ace Moloi, Alfred Schaffer, Niq Mhlongo, Willem Anker and many more will kickstart discussions on what the highly charged notion of “Homecoming” means in our current political climate.

Ruda Landman, well-known television presenter and journalist, will also be part of the festival, beginning each day with discussions of current affairs. This includes an in-depth interview with Helen Zille about her political career and recent challenges, a talk with Bill Nasson and Hennie van Vuuren about what we should learn from history, a contemplation about the preservation of our fragile democracy with Richard Pithouse, Niren Telsi and Ralph Mathekga, as well as an interview with Thandeka Gqubule about her autobiography on the former public protector, Thuli Madonsela.

Through the Homage to Heroes series, the contributions of writers we cannot afford to forget are celebra-ted, including Thomas Mfolo, Adam Small, Jans Rautenbach and Dot Serfontein.

After the great success of the first Sol Plaatje memorial lecture, Antjie Krog, recently honoured with another Hertzog Prize, will present the second annual lecture, introduced by Prof. Francis Peter­sen.

During gripping panel discussions, various trends in literature will be considered.

In the session “Crime novels – where do we stand?” writers such as Mike Nicol, Martin Steyn and Bettina Wyngaard, consider how the crime genre developed after 1994 in South Africa.

Michael le Cordeur and Wannie Carstens are in conversation, along with other contributors to their book Ons kom van vêr, about the neglected brown voice in Afrikaans; and non-fiction writers Antony Altbeker, Paul McNally and Ace Moloi, in “Nothing but the truth?”, talk about how “reality” is documented.

In “Who writes on whose behalf?”, the ethical implications of the documentation of the living spheres of communities outside of the writer’s frame of reference is consi-dered.

This year’s festival again offers a range of opportunities for upcoming writers and poets to hone their skills.

Henning Pieterse and Francois Smith, both of the UFS’s Department of Afrikaans, Dutch, German and French, will present intensive workshops on the writing of poetry and prose respectively. There will also be workshops for performance poets, as well as the launch of the book Hallo Hekel!, which will be presented in conjunction with a crocheting workshop.

Crossword enthusiasts can brace themselves for the second national Crossword Tournament following last year’s surprise festival hit, presented in conjunction with RSG and XWord.

Popular culinary writers are also part of the programme and festivalgoers can look forward to the session with Riana Scheepers, Leonie Scholtz and Marietjie Koekemoer, “Smeul: drie vroue, een kombuis”. These writers prepare traditional food with a twist, while Koelsoem Kamalie and Flori Schrikker share mouth-watering recipes from their latest book, Soettand.

This year poets, writers and musicians also join together to create new sounds and performance experiences for audiences. In “Klawer, kwatryn & konkas”, celebrated poet Gilbert Gibson takes a seat at the piano and musician Riku Lattï and his team interweave Afrikaans and Sotho music, while the Iranian-Dutch writer Sander Terphuis lets loose with his famous break dance. Alfred Schaffer, Toast Coetzer, Danie Marais, Ihette Jacobs, Tinus van Staden, Hennie van Coller and Adél Steyn perform some of their poems.

Upcoming poets could walk away with generous prizes during the Naked Poetry Slam, where the best slam poet will be chosen. Bibi Slippers, Eugene Marais prize winner for poetry in 2017, will recite some of her work, in addition to Andries Bezuidenhout, Mbongeni Nomkhonwana, Anele Kose, Ashley Makue, Chisenga Fundanga and Tessa Muller.

During these sessions, poetry will be interwoven with dynamic Afro-futuristic sounds to create a unique South African experience.

In addition to Terphuis, the following international writers will be part of the Literature Festival this year: Christine Otten (Netherlands), Rob van der Veer (Netherlands), Joseph Boyden (Canada), Mira Fetichu (Romania), and Zukiswa Wanner (Kenia), Leshie Lovesong (Botswana) and Chisenga Dumisani Fundanga (Zambia).

The sessions are presented at the ATKV-Boeke-Oase (Centenary Complex on the UFS Campus), the National Afrikaans Literary Museum and Research Centre (Naln), as well as UFS Filmstudio.

The complete programme is available at www.vrystaatkunstefees.co.za or can be downloaded from http://bit.ly/VSKunstefees2017

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