Mandla Langa and Barbara Masekela will be among the luminaries at the Time of the Writer festival

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Time of the Writer Festival.
Time of the Writer Festival.

On 14 March, the 25th edition of the Centre for Creative Arts and the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Time of the Writer festival will kick off. 

Its theme this year – the third year running in which it will be virtual – is Beyond Words: Memory, Imagination, Conscience. The official opening, presented from the Luthuli Museum, will be conducted by Dr Nokuthula Mazibuko Msimang, who will give the keynote address (from 15:00). Msimang is a writer, academic, producer and broadcaster. 

The Luthuli Museum is an apt location from which to broadcast the festival, because ANC leader Chief Albert Luthuli is a key inspiration of this year’s theme. This year is the 60th anniversary of his autobiography, Let My People Go, a key text of the struggle against apartheid. The organisers said: "The festival will also critically reflect and engage with its participants to discuss whether Luthuli’s vision for a better South Africa has been served or been betrayed."

The featured author of the festival this year is one of South Africa’s leading writers, Mandla Langa, whose most recent novel, The Lost Language of the Soul, was published to acclaim last year. He won the 2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for his novel The Lost Colours of the Chameleon. Langa will be in conversation with Siphiwo Mahala on 15 March at 13:00

Time of the Writer Festival
The official opening, presented from the Luthuli Museum, will be conducted by Dr Nokuthula Mazibuko Msimang, who will give the keynote address from 15:00. (Image: Time of the Writer Festival)

The festival programme is organised around various slots. The breakfast hour (09:00) "gets into the heartbeat of the isiZulu language", and the "brunch hour" (11:00) focuses on creative writing and skills training – presented in partnership with the Wits Writing Centre. Lunch (13:00) features interviews with leading South African writers, and the "prime evening slot" (19:00) is dedicated to those who have written about state capture. 

Among the sessions is one titled Sexuality and Politics: Re-aligning the relationship (14 March, 17:00). Journalist and gender activist Tracey Saunders will moderate a discussion on how gender and sexuality influence every aspect of our lives. Partcipants include Nigerian writer Buki Papillon, author of An Ordinary Wonder,about an intersex twin; theatre-maker Uvile Ximba; and Sara Matchett and Alex Halligey, co-editors of Collaborative Collaborations: Celebrating 21 Years of the Mothertongue Project, about working with diverse artists in South Africa. 

Another session, Legends of South African Cultural Heritage (15 March, 15:00), is led by journalist and cultural historian Sam Mathe, author of the recently published Kippie to Kippies and Beyond, which covers four generations of South African musicians, and was described as a "colossal achievement". Mathe talks about culutral heritage with Barbara Masekela, Mara Louw and Des Lindberg – "cultural legends" who are also the authors of autobiographies. 

On Monday 21 March, the Festival will present a special programme to mark Unesco’s International Poetry Day and Human Rights Day in South Africa. During the festival the organisers will announce an annual "literature champion", honouring an individual or organisation "at the coalface of broadening access to books".

Click here for the full programme of the Time of the Writer.

The festival will be live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube.

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