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WORDFEST 2005 (article first published : 2005-06-28)

Wordfest 2005, the multi-lingual literary component of the National Arts Festival, provides lovers of the word-arts with over 100 free activities under one roof during the National Arts Festival. On offer are book-launches, lectures and panel-discussions that feature prominent South African writers who get to the heart of what's significant in South Africa today.

Audiences will have the rare opportunity to put questions to authors such as William Gumede, biographer of the controversial Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC, and currently the best seller of non-fiction in South Africa. Carmel Rickard, one of the foremost authorities on the South African legal system, will also make an appearance to talk about the current threats to the independence of the judiciary.

Editor of the Mail & Guardian Ferial Haffajee, will address audiences on the threat to, and importance of, media freedom in South Africa. She will share the podium with Martin Welz, the founder and editor of the investigative magazine, Noseweek.

Also on the programme are Max Du Preez and Xolela Mangcu on what's happening to personal identities in South Africa, and Mike Van Graan on his controversial play about BEE. Peter Mtuze and DBZ Ntuli will talk about translating Mandela, and Mxolisi Hulana about scripting Generations in IsiXhosa. Book launches include Tom Eaton, Lebo Motshoga, Rayda Jacobs, Gus Ferguson, Jane Taylor, Hazel Crampton, Cathal Lagan, Jeff Opland, Brian Gaybba, Christopher Heywood, Troy Blacklaws, Roger Worrall, Peter Fox, Sue Wood and others. On offer is poetry by Shabbir Banoobhai, Sarah Johnson, Jethro Louw, Timbila Poets and more.

Minister Pallo Jordan of the Department of Arts and Culture will launch the Ten Years of Democracy Publications series.

The jubilant Isivivane Street Parade will mark the opening of Wordfest. It extends the African custom which sees passers-by toss a stone onto a small pile to mark their passage. Only this time the passage is a festive parade, and readers and writers, publishers, journalists, officials, educationalists, librarians - any one in fact who loves words and the word-arts - can bring a poem, story or book to put on the Isivivane cairn.

Anybody who is interested is invited to join in, and distinctive clothing such as traditional or academic dress is encouraged. And bring a poem, story or book to put on the Isivivane cairn; these mementoes will be archived, while some will be published.

The parade is scheduled for July 3 and the meeting place is at the arch in Somerset Street at 09h00. The procession will be escorted by traffic police half way down High Street, then turn back to proceed to Eden Grove, the Wordfest venue where the Isivivane ceremony will take place outside.

Writers and readers can meet in the restaurant, and a book shop will offer the opportunity to stock up on good South African reads. Those raring to have their say cna try Open Mike and the Wordfest Free Speech Stand. Or hone their skills at the creative writing workshops each morning.

Wordfest also has a daily newspaper. WordStock is a daily four-page supplement to the festival newspaper Cue, and festinoes will find it crammed with book-reviews and interviews in addition to the Wordfest programme.

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.

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.

This year Wordfest runs from July 1 to 8. For more information, contact wordfest@ru.ac.za




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