Zukiswa Wanner on raising the writer’s voice

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Zukiswa Wanner was the keynote speaker at the 24th Time of the Writer Festival.
Zukiswa Wanner was the keynote speaker at the 24th Time of the Writer Festival.

In this 24th year of the Time of the Writer Festival, as we face a global pandemic for the second year, it seemed important that as I looked at the larger festival theme, “The Writer: Witness, Canary in the Mine or Testifier”, I focused too on the writer’s voice in a political, social and artistically conscious world.

I focus on this because it’s the world we live in. For what is writing, without politics or society, and how meaningful is it if not executed artistically?Many readers in South Africa, and some on the continent, are familiar with Niq Mhlongo’s Dog Eat Dog and Thando Mgqolozana’s Unimportance. In the two novels, Dingz in Dog Eat Dog and Zizi in Unimportance, find themselves fighting an education system set up to make it near impossible for poor students to attain higher education.

Many would say Mhlongo and Mgqolozana were canaries in the mine, foreseeing the doom, or revolution — depending on which side of power you sit on — that was to come in our universities. But I, a black child in this country, on this continent, knew when I read them what they were talking about, knew people who had experienced the same, and so to me, they had written from their past experience of being students and were testifying. 

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