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TIME OF THE WRITER 2005 (article first published : 2005-04-4)

The 8th Time of the Writer International Festival of Writers will take place from April 4 to 9, bringing together an impressive array of writers from Africa and around the world.

A highlight of this year’s festival is the Andre Brink 70th Birthday Special, which will feature the renowned South African writer in a retrospective account of his work. The South African line-up is boosted by the acclaimed Cape Town writer Rayda Jacobs as well as literary stalwart Chris Van Wyk.

For the first time the festival presents indigenous language writers James Mafela, Ncamisile Makhambeni, Sisana Mdluli David Matusa, DBZ Ntuli, Gladman Ngubo and Ncedile Saule in a celebration of the diversity of South African voices. Another exciting aspect of the festival is the inclusion of emerging young voices such as Niq Mhlongo, Martin Koboekae and Henrietta Rose-Innes who will certainly infuse the festival with their energy and vision.

Among the participants at this year’s festival is Nawal El Saadawi, the acclaimed Egyptian writer and activist. A leading light in the literary world, and recognised worldwide for her uncompromising stance on human rights and the rights of women in particular, El Saadawi recently declared her intentions to run for the presidency in Egypt. The move has sparked intense public debate and interest.

One of the central threads of the festival will be writing from the global diaspora, examining the complexities that arise from negotiating issues of identity and nationality. Many of the writers participating in the festival share this characteristic. Kossi Komla-Ebri, a Togolese now living in Italy for 30 years addresses this dichotomy as does MG Vassanji, born in Kenya of Indian descent and now living in Canada.

Highly respected Zanzibar writer and critic Abdulrazak Gurnah is UK-based, while Iranian Siba Shakib whose writings on Afghanistan have captured much attention, currently resides in Germany. Adding to this line-up are Manuel Rui Monteiro from Angola, from Zimbabwe, the established Charles Mungoshi, and Tanella Boni from Ivory Coast, who will bring an interesting perspective from her war-torn country.

Hot on the world literary scene are young British writer Hari Kunzru whose latest novel about the global implications of a computer virus opened up new territories in literary fiction; the much talked-about Sami Tchak from Togo, and the provocative Bessora (Gabon/Switzerland).

In addition to the evening readings and discussions, which take place at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, the festival also includes a programme of daily activities at various tertiary institutions, community centres, museums, schools and other venues, including a series of prison workshops.

In bringing together a selection of top writers into the public arena, this increasingly popular festival aims to promote a vigorous culture of reading and writing in South Africa. The festival will also host award presentations of three new literary prizes – the Ronnie Govender Award for fiction, and the Gcina Mhlophe prize for best short-story, generously sponsored by The Sparkport Group of Pharmacies, and the European Union Book Award for best South African unpublished novel. EU award winner, Ishtiyaq Shukri, will be present to receive first copies of his winning work, The Silent Minaret.

Organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (UKZN) the principal funders of the Time of the Writer festival are the National Lottery Distribution Fund, Hivos, Prince Claus Fund, French Institute of South Africa, National Arts Council, Pro Helvetia Arts Council of Switzerland, Consulate of Italy, and the City of Durban.

Tickets R20 for the evening sessions at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre (R10 students and pensioners) purchased through Computicket or at the door an hour before the show. Workshops and seminars are free. Participant biographies and the full programme of festival events can be viewed on www.cca.ukzn.ac.za

Further information from the Centre for Creative Arts, University of KwaZulu Natal on 031 260 2506 or e-mail cca@ukzn.ac.za




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