A strong Grahamstown connection
Grahamstown has once again stamped its position as one of the major players and a literary place of note. At the media launch of the inaugural Abantu Book Festival in Soweto on Wednesday, the Grahamstown connection was the strongest and most visible through the presence of a number of writers, linked especially to Rhodes University and the National English Literary Museum (Nelm) collection.
Lesego Rampolokeng, Vangi Gantsho, Malaika wa Azania, Professor Pamela Maseko, Simphiwo Mahala and Andrew Martin were some of those who were among a number of writers from all over South Africa and Africa. Elinor Sisulu, who runs Puku isiXhosa Storytelling Festival in Grahamstown every year in February and Gcina Mhlophe who has recently been awarded an honourary doctorate by Rhodes University, also featured in the beautifully designed black and gold programme.
The Abantu Book Festival ran from 8 to 10 December at the Eyethu Lifestyle Centre during the day, and the Soweto Theatre in the evenings. It was curated by award-winning author of Sweet Medicine, Panashe Chigumadzi.
The festival, initiated by outstanding author Thando Mgqolozana, is a dream come true, going back to 2003. Fed-up with begging to be integrated, Mgqolozana is a festival “for people by the people”.
“What makes me angry?” Mgqolozana questioned himself. “It is people who want to access our books, like our Makhulus (grandparents), but are unable to.”
Mgqolozana maintains that inability to access is not by accident, but by design. He also quizzes the African literature section in libraries, in an African country.
“Why? We should not be having these. These remind us of the homeland system,” concludes Mgqolozana who has never been afraid to speak out.
Mgqolozana thanked the number of partners who have been courageous enough to believe in him, Chigumadzi and the Abantu Book Festival team that such a festival could be successfully hosted in the township.
The partners include Mandla Tshabalala who graciously opened his Eyethu Lifestyle Centre to be used as a host venue, Trace Africa, Kaya FM has been running podcasts, the Soweto Theatre, the Department of Arts and Culture, and African Flavour Books who displayed and sold books of all the authors in the programme. http://www.abantubookfestival.co.za