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9th TIME OF THE WRITER (article first published : 2006-03-4)

The 9th Time of the Writer international festival of writers takes place in Durban from March 20 to 25. This established event on the South African cultural calendar showcases innovative national, African and international literary talent within an extensive week-long programme of activities. Diversity of the written word is a notable feature of the festival with participants ranging from novelists and journalists to cartoonists presenting their views for dialogue and debate in the public arena.

Amidst a powerful South African contingent, the award-winning cartoonist Zapiro makes a unique contribution to the festival, linking graphic art to narrative structures and contributing a cartoonist’s perspective on the highly topical subject of Freedom of Expression versus Social Responsibility. Zapiro will also conduct a graphic art workshop at the Ekhaya Centre in KwaMashu and an exhibition of select cartoons will be on view at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre during the festival.

From KwaZulu-Natal, prolific IsiZulu writers Nakanjani Sibiya and OEHM Nxumalo, as well as the highly respected Marguerite Poland and Ingrid Winterbach, display the strength of writing from the region. The festival also includes popular Durban actor and playwright John van de Ruit whose book Spud rocketed to the top of book sales in South Africa in recent weeks.

Other South Africans on the programme are 2005 winner of the inaugural European Union Literary Prize, Ishtiyaq Shukri, Marita van der Vyver, whose curriculum-prescribed novels have earned her a strong reputation in this country, as well as exciting writers Eric Miyeni and Kagiso Lesego Molope. Miyeni is also well known as an actor. Joining this line-up is formidable writer, poet and activist Dennis Brutus, speaking on writing and world affairs.

The line-up of African writers includes acclaimed Nigerian writer and poet, Chris Abani, prolific Angolan writer José Eduardo Agualusa, Caine prize winner Brian Chikwava (Zimbabwe) Patrice Nganang (Cameroon) and Monica Arac de Nyeko (Uganda). Morrocan-born Abdelkader Benali, now resident in the Netherlands, Bernardine Evaristo (United Kingdom), Amitav Ghosh (India), Ayu Utami (Indonesia) and outspoken political commentator, Eliot Weinberger from the USA give further global reach to the festivals’ interactions.

In commemoration of the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Eliot Weinberger will read from his work entitled What I heard about Iraq, a series of statements that critically challenge the prevailing propaganda surrounding the war in Iraq. The reading of Weinberger’s text will take place on March 20 in about 15 countries around the world, as part of a programme of activities entitled the Third Anniversary of the Political Lie. The festival is privileged to have Weinberger himself present the reading on the eve of Human Rights Day in South Africa.

Of special interest this year is the conference organised by the Centre for African Literary Studies titled The Changing Face of African Literature. The conference has attracted leading scholars in the field of African literature, reflecting on the critical changes taking place in writing from the continent in recent decades. The conference runs from March 21 to 23 on the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and includes participation by festival participants.

Book launches feature strongly at the festival this year, with ten new titles being released. Of these, six titles are being launched by newly established Random House imprint, Umuzi. Of particular interest is the novel The Song of the Atman by renowned writer and playwright, Ronnie Govender. The book was short-listed for the European Union Literary Prize in 2005 and has been acclaimed by Arts and Culture minister, Pallo Jordan as a ‘tapestry admirably woven with words’.

Leading researcher and University of KwaZulu-Natal academic Professor Michael Chapman’s new book Art Talk, Politics Talk will also be launched at the festival. It is an endeavour as to how to talk about art in a politically demanding milieu. Sure to be popular with South African readers is O’ Mandingo! The Only Black at the Dinner Table, a debut work from festival participant, Eric Miyeni.

Readings, discussions and book launches will take place nightly at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. A broad range of day activities in the form of school-visits, workshops, a publishing forum, an educators’ forum and a prison writing programme, are formulated to promote a culture of reading, writing and creative expression.

With this wide-ranging programme of activities and culturally diverse line-up of writers, Time of the Writer 2006 is set to deliver an exceptional platform for dialogue and exchange on wide-ranging subjects from gender and social issues to political affairs, offering insights into the motivations and processes that inform the complex art of writing.

Tickets R20 for the evening sessions (R10 students) and can be purchased through Computicket or at the door one hour before the event. Workshops and seminars are free. Visit www.cca.ukzn.ac.za for biographies and photos of participants and the full programme of activities, or contact the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts for more information on 031 260 2506 or e-mail cca@ukzn.ac.za

The Time of the Writer festival 2006 is supported by The National Lottery Distribution Fund, Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development, Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (HIVOS), French Institute of South Africa, Royal Netherlands Embassy, British Council, Ethekwini Municipality, City of Durban, Pro Helvetia Arts Council of Switzerland, Pan MacMillan, Centre for African Literary Studies, Adams Campus Books; Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre and the University of KwaZulu-Natal.




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