Festival revives writer’s legacy

2018-07-11 06:00
From the left are Corneli van den Berg (coordinator of the literature festival of the Vrystaat Arts Festival), Emily Selebano-Qoopane (widow of Flaxman Qoopane) and Dr Ricardo Peach (director of the Vrystaat Arts Festival), in front of the Qoopane Literary Gallery at his house. Photo: Teboho Setena

From the left are Corneli van den Berg (coordinator of the literature festival of the Vrystaat Arts Festival), Emily Selebano-Qoopane (widow of Flaxman Qoopane) and Dr Ricardo Peach (director of the Vrystaat Arts Festival), in front of the Qoopane Literary Gallery at his house. Photo: Teboho Setena

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Celebrated Free State writer Moalosi Jacob “Flaxman” Qoopane may be gone, but he is not forgotten.

His life story, the story of his legacy in the field of arts and journalism, as well as his immense contribution, will be relived at the literature festival as part of the 2018 Vrystaat Festival.

The festival is already in full swing. Having started on Sunday (08/07) this annual event will close on a high note on Saturday (14/07).

Paying homage to the well-travelled writer and literary activist Qoopane, a special event in the festival’s Celebrating Heroes series will be staged in the auditorium at the National Afrikaans Literary Museum (Naln) in Bloemfontein on Thursday (12/07) at 14:00. Entry costs R25 per person.

The Celebrating Heroes series featured at this year’s festival is co-staged by the University of the Free State (UFS) and Media24.

The tribute to Qoopane includes Pule Lechesa’s exploration of Qoopane’s journalistic legacy and a reading by Charmaine Mwerbi and other fanatics who had the privilege to work with the guru writer. It will also see a presentation in an audio-visual exhibition that focuses on the Qoopane Literary Gallery.

Corneli van den Berg, coordinator of the literature festival of the Vrystaat Arts Festival, said the tribute to Qoopane follows discussions with the Sotho Literary Mu­seum and National Afrikaans Literary Museum on celebra­ting heroes.

“Ntate Flaxman is a perfect example of a literary hero to be celebrated in the community of Mangaung and the Free State. We saw it fitting to include him in the series and celebrate him as a hero. It is an opportunity we could not miss,” said Van den Berg.

Dr Ricardo Peach, director of the Vrystaat Arts Festival, said he envisaged a celebration of Qoopane would go a long way in the advancement of literacy through a series of his work.

“We are very honoured to have ntate Flaxman’s story as part of the literature festival. The festival is a Afrikaans language festival, but also gives English and Sotho literature and culture a platform,” said Peach.

“We are developing new ways to promote and advance the development of creative writing, and all people across Africa.”

Qoopane died on 22 November 2017. His work is not only represented through his books, but also a monument in the Qoopane Literary Gallery, built from corrugated iron sheets.

The gallery is still intact in the backyard of his house in Hillside View, Bloemfontein.

On the wall of the gallery Qoopane pasted some of the writings he had produced over the years for a range of publications.

The gallery is a reminder to his widow, Emily Selebano-Qoopane, and his family of the man who was forced into exile and survived hardship on foreign land.

He returned home in the early 1990’s to cultivate a culture of reading through his creative writings and he ultimately came to be known as, “the father of literature and arts” in Mangaung.

“I will remember Flaxman for many things, but mostly for the love for reading. There was no single day we would go to bed not reading, even a single paper. We would even wake up at 03:00 and have something to read,” said Selebano-Qoopane.

“He encouraged me to read, and the impact of that remains with me, because reading is a part of me – after work and even in the early morning around 03:30.”

The books Qoopane published include Adventures in Journalism, A Poet Abroad, Memoirs of a Cultural Activist, Reneiloe-Mpho’s story, Macufe 2001, City of Roses and Literary Icons, Scintillating Stars from the Vibrant Soil and Gilbert Modise: The Man and the Myth.

Other authors honoured in the Celebrating Heroes series include C.J. Langenhoven (who wrote the Afrikaans poem “The Call of South Africa”), Dalene Matthee (best known for her four forest novels), Dan Sleigh and Hermann Giliomee (two giants of South African literature who both celebrate their 80th birthday this year) and J.R.R. Tolkien (who was born in 1892 in Bloemfontein and created the epic The Lord of the Rings).

  • For information go to www.vrystaatkunstefees.co.za.
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