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WORDFEST AT NAF (article first published : 2005-05-22)

Wordfest offers eight days jam-packed with over 100 activities for lovers of reading and writing during the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

Wordfest is an independent, multi-lingual festival of reading and writing that takes place during the festival at Eden Grove (just off Somerset Street) in Grahamstown from July 1 to 8.

In one building, festival goers can enjoy book launches, performances and readings by South African authors, then take a break in the Readers' and Writers' Restaurant before attending workshops and exhibitions, with the opportunity to stock up on good South African reads in the bookshop. Apart from the restaurant and bookshop, everything on offer is free of charge.

In addition to a developmental emphasis, the national festival of literature also celebrates languages. It boasts a multi-lingual programme, including Sotho, Tswana, Pedi, Afrikaans and Xhosa, and creates an opportunity for writers to stimulate the often declining readership of their vernacular.

This year speakers of note include Max du Preez, Mike van Graan, Matthew Lester, Carmel Ricard, Luli Callinicos and Sarah Johnson. Book launches include Olive Schreiner and Douglas Livingstone.

In addition to hosting established writers, Wordfest also gives young and aspiring writers a platform to display their talents. Every evening Open Mike will provide a microphone and curious audiences; the rest is up to the word-artists.

Every year the festival's very own newspaper, Wordstock, is packed with book reviews, in-depth interviews with authors and word-linked news, and appears as a daily supplement to Cue, the newspaper of the National Arts Festival.

As an outreach project of Rhodes University, Wordfest was first held in 1999, and has gradually grown over the years despite a tight budget. This year the programme offers a greater variety of activities thanks to generous funding from the National Lottery Development Trust Fund.

In addition to the national focus, up to 200 delegates from the Eastern Cape also attend for the first three days, bringing with them extraordinary intensity and diversity as they celebrate home-grown genres like elegies, exhortations, hymns, clan-praises, parables and fables. Their culture-specific contribution makes it quite clear that there is and can be no one animal called South African literature.

For more information e-mail Wordfest at wordfest@ru.ac.za




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