Celebrate Pan-African writers with Es’kia Mphahlele and the Market Theatre

Es’kia Mphahlele takes centre stage at the Market Theatre.
Es’kia Mphahlele takes centre stage at the Market Theatre.

Cutting-edge stories that have an authentic African artistic voice and that are inclusive of the rich tapestry of African diversity.

This is what’s on offer as the Market Theatre Foundation celebrates Pan-African Writer’s week.

The event, held annually in November, was launched in Ghana in 1992 with the formation of the Pan-African Writers Association.

The annual week-long event enjoys Ghana’s full diplomatic status.

“With the popularity of the Exclusive Books Pan-African Reading Room at the Windybrow Arts Centre it makes absolutely good sense for the Market Theatre Foundation to join the rest of the continent to raise awareness about Pan-African literature”, said Ismail Mahomed, chief executive of the Market Theatre Foundation.

“The Windybrow Arts Centre will present three events reaching out to primary school, high school and adult audiences”, he added.

In partnership with Unisa’s College for Humanities, Professor Puleng Segalo, head of the college and the Market Theatre Foundation’s artistic director James Ngcobo will discuss the underlying themes of urban migration as featured in Es’kia Mphahlele’s short story, The Suitcase, at the Market Square auditorium at 6pm on Friday.

The discussion will be followed by a performance of The Suitcase at the John Kani Theatre.

Ngcobo’s production of The Suitcase adapted and directed from Mphahlele’s story is currently showing at the Market Theatre.

As a writer, Mphahlele brought his own experiences in and outside South Africa to bear on his short stories, fiction, autobiography and history, developing the concept of African humanism.

He skilfully evoked the black experience under apartheid in Down Second Avenue (1959).

It recounted his struggle to get an education and the setbacks he experienced in his teaching career.

He also wrote two autobiographies, more than 30 short stories, two verse plays and many poems.

He received numerous international awards.

In 1969, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature, and in 1984, he was awarded the Order of the Palm by the French government for his contribution to French Language and Culture.

He was the recipient of the 1998 World Economic Forum Crystal Award for Outstanding Service to the Arts and Education.

In 1998, former President Nelson Mandela awarded Mphahlele the Order of the Southern Cross, then the highest recognition granted by the South African government (equivalent today to the Order of Mapungubwe).

Michelle Nkamankeng, who is one of the 10 youngest published writers in the world and the youngest in Africa will launch the Windybrow Arts Centre’s fortnightly book club at 3pm on Monday.

Meeting fortnightly in the Exclusive Books Pan-African Reading Room, Nkamankeng will encourage young readers to focus on a different book and author from the continent.

“Michelle Nkamankeng is a superb role model to encourage her own generation to grow a culture of reading.

"Her passion for reading and promoting a culture for reading makes her an ideal ambassador for the reading room for children,” said Mahomed.

Nkamankeng published her first book, titled Waiting for the Waves, at the age of seven.

In partnership with Blackboard Africa, the Windybrow Arts Centre will host a luncheon on Saturday for aspirant high school playwrights to discuss South African theatre.

Blackboard Africa will focus on some of the early works of Walter Chakela, in particular his popular productions of Bessie Head’s Maru.

“Blackboard Africa could not have chosen a more ideal person on whom to shine the spotlight.

"Walter Chakela was the first African director to be appointed at the former Windybrow Theatre when it was still under the Performing Arts Council of Transvaal.

"He is also being honoured this year by the Pan African Writer’s Association in Ghana,” said Mahomed.

To join in on any of the conversations planned by the Market Theatre Foundation to celebrate Pan-African Writer’s Week please reserve your seats with Nomalanga Nkosi nomalangan@markettheatre.co.za.

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