Decolonising the Book: Join the discourse

I’ve been writing about the upcoming Time of the Writer festival quite a bit recently – it’s because I think a very important discussion is going to be taking place during this 5-day gathering of many stakeholders in South African literature.

The key focus is decolonising South African literature not only from a writing perspective, but also in terms of editing, publishing, translation, marketing, bookselling and the promotion of literature in South Africa.



The Centre for Creative Arts (UKZN) has just announced its programme for the 19th Time of the Writer festival which begins on March 14 and ends March 19. So, if you want to be a part of this important dialogue, take note of the dates, times and topics and make your way to the various venues across the city. The festival promises to be a “week of stimulating literary dialogue and exchange of ideas”, with 10 South African and African writers participating.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, this year’s festival has broken with tradition – it’s aimed at taking discourse to the people, the readers.

Time of the Writer has partnered with various organisations, including the eThekwini Municipality Libraries department. The involvement of this department will facilitate the community engagement programme by hosting Conversations that Matter in public libraries.


Conversations that Matter will take place during the day and begin at 11am. These are roundtable discussions, led by experts in various fields of literature.

  • Tuesday, March 15Conversations That Matter: The Book & Knowledge Production – KwaMashu Library
    Writers Niq Mhlongo, Panashe Chigamudzi, TO Molefe, Percy Zvomuya, Nakanjani Sibiya and poet Mputlane wa Bofelo expose the landmines that await writers who challenge literary traditions and their inherent exclusion of certain voices.
  • Wednesday, March 16Conversations That Matter: The Book & GateKeepers – Ohlange Library
    Has the South African literary landscape shifted to accommodate previously poorly documented and valued contributions? Which attitudes delay decolonising access? To open the discussion are Professor Sihawu Ngubane, Thabiso Mahlape, Kholeka Mabeta, Duduzile Mabaso, Mandla Matyumza and Siphiwo Mahala.
  • Thursday, March 17 Conversations That Matter: The Book & Readership –UmKhumbane Hall – Cato Manor
    This discussion is aimed at exploring questions on readership often posed to booksellers, librarians and festival organisers. So expect to hear from Cedric Sissing (Adams Books), Benjamin Trisk (Exclusive Books), Fortescue Helepi (African Flavour Books), Sinenhlanhla Buthelezi (Goethe Library), Tebogo Mzizi (eThekwini Municipality Libraries), Mignon Hardie (FunDza Literacy Trust), Frankie Murrey (Open Book Festival), Dr Maria Van Driel (Jozi Book Fair) and Jennifer Platt (Sunday Times). Issues like the challenges of pricing, public expectationsand the historical misconceptions on reading cultures in South Africa will be explored.
  • Friday, March 18 Conversations That Matter: The Book & Language – uMlazi Library
    This is an important discussion that will be led by academics and cultural producers who are dedicated to the preservation and promotion of marginalised languages.
    This conversation will be initiated by Eric Ngcobo, Dr Mpho Monareng, Dr Gugu Mazibuko, Dr Pamella Maseko, Professor Nobuhle Hlongwa and Wangui Wa Goro.
  • Saturday, March 19 Conversations That Matter: The Book & Intersectionality –Qashane Library
    As a result of recent shifts in the quality of contributions produced outside the academy, the topic of Intersectionality has relocated academics and social commentators alike. The youth are proving to be the aorta of the argument and keeping pulse with contemporary readings on Intersectionality demands the voices of those who bravely tackle this pertinent and inflammatory subject. To open the discussion are Eusebuis McKaiser, Milisuthando Bongela, Nakhane Toure, Lindokuhle Nkosi, Mputlane Wa Bofelo, Mbali Matandela and Zethu Matebeni.

The events are free to anyone with a library or student card. And should you wish to sign up for a library card before the event, officials will be o hand to assist you in doing so. Bring along a valid ID document and proof of residence.

If you don’t have a library or student card, you can still attend for a nominal fee of R20.


Evening events will entail readings and discussions and start at 7pm. Here audiences will be free to engage with writers on the creative and technical processes that affect their writing.

  • Tuesday, March 15 The Madness of History – eKhaya Multi Arts Centre in KwaMashu
    Ashwin Desai and Mishka Hoosen will have a conversation on the importance of retrospective meditations on self, historical figures and the family.
  • Wednesday, March 16 Why Must a Black Writer Write About Blackness? – Ohlange High School
    Panashe Chigamudzi and Eusebius McKaiser will share their experiences as writers who write without curiosity’s gaze.
Niq Mhlongo

Niq Mhlongo

  • Thursday, March 17 They Write What They Like – Umkhumbane Hall, Cato Manor
    Crossing the borders from short stories to novellas to poetry to essays, writer Niq Mhlongo gives insight into his unique take on the world across genres and mediums.
  • Friday, March 18 Tuning In… – uMlazi Cinema
    Writing for listeners is an art that requires its own stage. Christa Biyela and Mandla Ndlovu, two audio drama maestros, open their lyrical vaults and with it the history and depth of the Zulu audio drama.
  • Saturday, March 19 – The Alchemy of Fiction – Clermont Hall
    How pliable is truth? In this panel, musician turned author Nakhane Touré and Nikhil Singh discuss the roles fantasy, biography and imagination play in the erection of the worlds they create.

For more details about this years’ Time of the Writer, visit the website or call 031 260 2506.

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About Meneesha

Online and books editor by day, mum even while I sleep, individual all the time. I live in the beautiful city of Durban - the unpolished gem in South Africa. If I didn't have a family, I'd be that crazy cat lady your mum probably warned you not to feed! Blogging is where I share, vent, rant, laugh and generally be myself. Join the ride!


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