TIME OF THE WRITER TURNS

Time of the Writer, one of the coun­try’s more pro­gres­sive book fes­ti­vals – play­ing out in town­ships, schools, ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions and in town – is hav­ing a big birth­day. We pre­view next week’s events and chat to two of the fea­tured star writ­ers on the p

CityPress - - Voices -

WCharl Blig­naut talks with Zakes Mda e are run­ning in­ter­views with you and Lidudu­ma­lin­gani. You’ve met, of course, but what ad­vice do you give young, black writ­ers like him about the book fes­ti­val cir­cuit?

Un­for­tu­nately, I have not met Lidudu­ma­lin­gani. I like his name, though. Full of thun­der­ous po­etry. As lyri­cal as his story, Mem­o­ries We Lost. But I have no ad­vice to give to young, black writ­ers like him about the book fes­ti­val cir­cuit. He will pick and choose which to at­tend or not ac­cord­ing to his own ide­o­log­i­cal mind-set. I have had good and bad ex­pe­ri­ences at book events. There are fa­mous book events I will never go back to be­cause of pre­vi­ous bad ex­pe­ri­ence there. But there are oth­ers I visit ev­ery year. One of those is the Jozi Book Fair be­cause it is a pro­gres­sive event run by a pro­gres­sive or­gan­i­sa­tion. It is grass roots in its ori­en­ta­tion, the ma­jor­ity of its au­di­ences be­ing town­ship and in­ner-city kids. It is a mar­ket­place of ideas and of books, mostly by self-pub­lished writ­ers. It is there­fore shunned by main­stream pub­lish­ers and hardly cov­ered by the main­stream me­dia. It’s been like that for years, ac­tu­ally from its very in­cep­tion, long be­fore it was fash­ion­able to talk of de­colonised book events. What is your ex­pe­ri­ence of Time of the Writer? Last year it de­cided to undo the for­mula and go to the peo­ple more?

I have had won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ences at Time of the Writer. It is one book event that is in­clu­sive. On the last three oc­ca­sions I was there, my events were held at Um­lazi and KwaMashu in ad­di­tion to the cam­pus ones. You seem to be back home quite a lot. What are the things you’re see­ing change or get stuck, lit­er­ary or other­wise?

I am back home al­most ev­ery month be­cause I am no longer teach­ing at the univer­sity. I now de­vote all my time to cre­at­ing art. I am en­cour­aged by the wealth of in­no­va­tive ideas in the art scene in South Africa. I al­ways make it a point to visit young artists when I am in Johannesburg, for I am in­spired by them. I even en­gage in col­lab­o­ra­tions with them, for in­stance, work­ing on joint paint­ings with such young tal­ents as Khehla Chep­ape Mak­gato. Please could you tell us WTF! you’re do­ing to cope with the gov­ern­ing party.

For­tu­nately, Athens – where my fam­ily has lived for 35 years – is an is­land of lib­er­al­ism in a sea of white na­tion­al­ism that is Trump’s Amer­ica. So, we only hear of and see his buf­foon­ery on tele­vi­sion like the rest of the world. Trump is merely part of a world­wide trend. You might have no­ticed that a lot of so-called Western democ­ra­cies have dras­ti­cally drifted to the right and have be­come na­tion­al­is­tic and con­ser­va­tive. We see #Brexit in the UK and the rise of white na­tion­al­ism and xeno­pho­bia in each Euro­pean coun­try and in Aus­tralia.

South Africa has not been left out in that trend. The ANC has been taken over by its con­ser­va­tive wing, with strong eth­nic­cha­u­vin­is­tic and nar­row na­tion­al­is­tic traits. There­fore xeno­pho­bia has taken root, and in many com­mu­ni­ties it is led by young peo­ple in ANC re­galia. Hence also the at­tempt by gov­ern­ment min­is­ters to pla­cate th­ese xeno­pho­bic ten­den­cies in­stead of con­demn­ing them out­right. So you see, South Africa is part of that trend that has given birth to Trump in the US.

But like all trends, it will pass. Trump and Zuma will be his­tory, though they will leave their stench for gen­er­a­tions to come.

I’m re­ally cu­ri­ous to know what you’re work­ing on, pub­lish­ing or paint­ing?

I am cur­rently paint­ing the Wash­board Se­ries, which are col­laged nar­ra­tive paint­ings on gen­der and do­mes­tic ten­sions – all fea­tur­ing the wash­board. I am also cur­rently work­ing on a movie script on Hugh Masekela and Fa­ther Trevor Hud­dle­ston, ti­tled War­rior Monk and the Horn­man. I’m writ­ing a novel ti­tled The Zu­lus of New York. But I am also en­gaged in a pub­lish­ing ven­ture for chil­dren with my son, Neo Mda, who is a graphic artist and an­i­ma­tor. We pub­lished our first fan­tasy set in a vol­cano, which we are now pro­duc­ing as a fea­ture an­i­ma­tion movie, pro­duced by Zola Maseko and di­rected by me.

PHOTO: KEVIN PETERSEN

TRUTH TO POWER Cel­e­brated nov­el­ist Zakes Mda is never scared to speak his mind

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