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TIME OF THE WRITER (article first published : 2001-03-15)

The fourth international writers' festival, Time of the Writer, organised by the University of Natal's Centre for Creative Arts in association with the French Institute of South Africa, will take place at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from March 26 to 31.

Some 15 writers representing 11 different countries will give readings, presentations, on-stage interviews and discussions during the evenings at the Sneddon complemented by seminars and workshops at other venues during the day. The strong emphasis on African countries creates an interesting synergy with the African Renaissance Conference, which is taking place in Durban around the same time.

The festival is sub-titled Migrating Words which reflects the cultural diversity of participants and the interactive exchanges expected during the week-long event. The event features many top international and local personalities.

Buchi Emecheta, London-based Nigerian writer, is the prodigious author of novels, children's books and short stories. Particularly known one of the pre-eminent writers on feminist issues in African culture, her work forms part of course-work at various tertiary institutions. Alexader Kanengoni (Zimbabwe) was involved in the liberation war in the 70’s and his writing focuses on post-independence adaptation. After a spell in the Ministry of Education and Culture, he became the current head of research services at Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.

Mongo Beti was born in Cameroon but left in 1951 to live in France. He is known for his critical views of colonisation and its effects on traditional African societies. He wrote Buying up Cameroon, autopsy of a decolonisation, the publication of which was forbidden in France until 1976. He has written several novels since. Today he has returned to his homeland, heads the Black People's Library and still writes on Africa and Cameroon. Lecturer in ecology and acknowledged as the Mozambican writer with the most books translated and published overseas, Mia Couto maintains a wide collaboration with newspapers, radio and television chains in and out of the country. His latest David Philip book, Under the Frangipani Tree will be launched during the festival.

One of the most respected writers in the Netherlands and co-founder of the avant-garde magazine Barbarber which caused a furore in the 60’s, J Bernlef has written numerous novels, short stories, poems, plays and essays. His big-selling novel Out of Mind describing the decline in an aging man with Alzheimer's disease has since gone on to be hugely popular even amongst practitioners in the field of neuroscience and Alzheimer's care. His work has resulted in numerous awards and his latest novel Boy is already climbing the charts in Europe.

Dany Laferierre, is a journalist and television writer born in Haiti, lived in Canada and currently resides in Miami. His first novel How to Make Love to a Negro made a major impact on the literary scene in Quebec. It became a best-seller translated into several languages and adapted for a movie - the book dealt with Montreal and sexuality. His other works include Eroshima, An Aroma of Coffee and Dining with the Dictator. Novelist and poet Ernest Pépin (Guadeloupe) is a former lecturer in literature, with several works published in French and in Creole. A politician as well as a man of letters, he is presently Chargé des Affaires culturelles at the General Council Office in Guadeloupe, where he lives.

Michele Rakotoson (Madagascar) is split between her native island and France, where she is presently living after being forced to leave her country in 1983 for political reasons. A journalist and a writer of novels and plays, she works for Radio-France International, is involved in several writing workshops in Madagascar, and promotes various local cultural and humanitarian associations. Swiss writer Hansjorg Schertenleb lives in Ireland and works as a freelance writer and translator. He has received many prizes for his work and his latest novel De Namenlosen (The Nameless Ones) has an overall sinister, macabre tone as the obsessions and aims of a weird religious sect are at the heart of the book.

Time of the Writer also features well-known South African personalities. Among them is Achmat Dangor, a well-known cultural and political activist. Currently CEO of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, he has lectured South African literature and creative writing at City College's Harlem Campus College in New York. He has written five works of fiction and poetry. His new novel Bitter Fruit is due to be published by Kwela later this year.

Durban-based Ronnie Govender, is one of South Africa's most established playwrights and respected theatre personalities. Noted for his successful plays such as The Lahnee's Pleasure and At the Edge, Govender has made a significant contribution to local literature by capturing the stories that came out of the controversial Cato Manor area in the Collection of Cato Manor Stories. This won a Commonwealth Writers' Prize for the African region. Born in KwaMashu, Mandla Langa is a political activist who went into exile in 1976. In 1980 he won the Drum story contest and in 1991 became the first South African to be awarded the Arts Council of Great Britain Bursary for creative writing. The latest of his numerous works is The Memory of Stone.

EKM Dido, one of a family of 12 children from the Transkei, began her career as a nurse and now devotes her time to writing and community projects and is a consultant in matters related to nursing and the ethos and professional practice of nursing. One of the exciting new crop of South African writers, she has three published works. Zoe Wicomb, currently teaching in the Department of English Studies at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland, won international readership and wide critical acclaim with her book You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town. Her multi-layered latest novel David's Story, to have its South African launch during the festival, has been lauded as a herald of the new South African literature by people such as JM Coetzee.

Ticket prices for the evening sessions at the Sneddon Theatre are R15 and bookings can be made at Computicket or at the theatre from 18h00 on the day.

The Centre for Creative Arts has organised the Migrating Words series of writing workshops in conjunction with the KZN Department of Education and Culture, which will take place in Ulundi, Ladysmith and Port Shepstone prior to the festival period. During the week long festival, writers will be available to visit schools in and around Durban to read and discuss their work. To further promote the culture of reading and writing, a short story competition for high school pupils has also been organised. The schools-visiting programme is expected to reach around 5,000 scholars.More details from Clare Hull on (031) 260 2506.




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