Longlist of the SSDA Prize for short fiction announced

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The 2018 Short Story Day Africa longlist:

  • ‘The Satans Inside My Jimmy’ by Harriet Anena (Uganda)
  • ‘The Jollof Cook-off’ by Nkiacha Atemnkeng (Cameroon)
  • ‘The Last Resident’ by Jayne Bauling (South Africa)
  • ‘Mr Thompson’ by Noel Cheruto (Kenya)
  • ‘The Layover’ by Anna Degenaar (South Africa)
  • ‘A Miracle In Valhalla’ by Nnamdi Fred (Nigeria)
  • ‘Of Birds and Bees’ by Davina Kawuma (Uganda)
  • ‘Maintenance Check’ by Alinafe Malonje (Malawi)
  • ‘Why Don’t You Live in the North?’ by Wamuwi Mbao (South Africa)
  • ‘Slow Road to the Winburg Hotel’ by Paul Morris (South Africa)
  • ‘The Snore Monitor’ by Chido Muchemwa (Zimbabwe)
  • ‘Outside Riad Dahab’ by Chourouq Nasri (Morocco)
  • ‘Broken English’ by Adorah Nworah (Nigeria)
  • ‘Queens’ Children’s Little Feet’ by Godwin Oghenero Estella (Nigeria)
  • ‘Door of No Return’ by Natasha Omokhodion-Banda (Zambia)
  • ‘An Abundance of Lies’ by Faith Oneya (Kenya)
  • ‘The Match’ by Troy Onyango (Kenya)
  • ‘Supping at the Fountain of Lethe’ by Bryony Rheam (Zimbabwe)
  • ‘Happy City Hotel’ by Adam El Shalakany (Egypt)
  • ‘The Space(s) Between Us’ by Lester Walbrugh (South Africa)
  • ‘Shithole’ by Michael Yee (South Africa)

Congratulations to all Writers!

Dear Readers, You are in for a treat! For more info about the prize see: Short Story Day Africa. To read more about the longlist, head over to the Joburg Review of Books.

ON THE MINES at the Norval Foundation

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I joined the Norval Foundation as a member after my second visit to the art museum. It has become one of my favourite places to go to, for art, coffee or a G&T with a view – the bar overlooks the artistically and botanically lush museum gardens.

btrOne of the current exhibitions is very close to my heart: “On the Mines” by David Goldblatt.

“Shown for the first time in its entirety, On the Mines: David Goldblatt is the last exhibition that the photographer personally helped conceptualise before his death in 2018. Goldblatt is revealed as the great chronicler and documenter of South Africa: the quiet observer of how the country, its peoples, its institutions and landscape have been inscribed by politics and power.”

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The photographs on display were partly published in 1973, in a book by the same title as the exhibition. The book included an essay by Nadine Gordimer, one of the countless texts I read when writing my PhD.

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I cannot help but wonder whether I would be here today, living and writing in Cape Town, if it hadn’t been for Gordimer’s extraordinary work. Her writing – its beauty, probing wisdom – was my entry point to South Africa’s literature and then to the country. I will be forever grateful for the introduction. It was because Gordimer agreed to an interview that I visited South Africa for the first time fifteen years ago. The rest is history.

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It is difficult to believe that she is no longer among us, but her work lives on, a great consolation. I hardly knew her, but the few hours spent in her company and the many years spent thinking and writing about her work make me miss her, a lot…

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Three other stunning exhibitions can be seen at the Norval Foundation right now: the work of Yinka Shonibare and Ibrahim Mahama – thought-provoking and enthralling.

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And then a collection of nudes from the Sanlam Art Collection. Not to be missed.

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You Make Me Possible reviewed on LitNet

btr“Biography lovers may despair that the internet is making it improbable that biographers will still discover old, forgotten letters in dusty attics, revealing juicy secrets about celebrities. It still remains a problem when writers discard electronic records of their correspondence, but this book proves that emails can be every bit as romantic as old-fashioned letters, and all the more immediate.”

— Elkarien Fourie

Read the entire review here: LitNet.

Review: Nasty Women Talk back – Feminist Essays on the Global Women’s Marches, edited by Joy Watson and Amanda Gouws

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Most of us despair, but publishers around the world are probably laughing all the way to the bank because of Donald Trump. The president of the United States might not be good for anything else, but he is certainly great for the book business. I can no longer count the titles I have come across recently, written in reaction to the innumerable atrocities – in words and deeds – committed by the man.

Nasty Women Talk Back: Feminist Essays on the Global Women’s Marches, published in South Africa but with contributions by women from around the world, is a collection documenting diverse responses to Trump’s campaign, his election, and the ensuing Women Marches organised in protest to Trump’s presidency.

In the introduction to the book, the editors talk about a period of “deep mourning” many of us have been experiencing since November 2016. It is not to be underestimated. Having Trump in power has not only exposed numerous vulnerabilities we experience in our everyday, but also reversed progress already gained in areas of gender rights and equality.

The twenty-five essays and three poems included in Nasty Women Talk Back are an attempt “to put pen to paper and show fervour for ongoing feminist activism”. Reading the individual pieces, I also felt inspired. Ranging from academic comments to deeply personal stories, all the essays are illustrated. The texts and images refer to the striking signs participants of the Women Marches carried during the protests.

“My arms are tired from holding this sign since the 1960s”, reads one of the signs, but as Rebecca Davis points out: “We may be tired, but we cannot afford to shut up.” Books like Nasty Women Talk Back allow us to counter the violence of silencing and to find solidarity in a common cause.

Nasty Women Talk Back: Feminist Essays on the Global Women’s Marches

Edited by Joy Watson & Amanda Gouws

Imbali Academic Publishers, 2018

Review first published in the Cape Times on 22 February 2019.

CREATIVE WRITING MENTORSHIP OPPORTUNITY WITH KAREN JENNINGS

Karen JenningsKaren Jennings is a South African, married to a Brazilian, and in September of 2015, due to various circumstances, they were compelled to move from South Africa to Brazil. It has been a challenging and difficult time for Karen. Perhaps most difficult has been feeling removed from the country of her birth, a place that she loves and had hoped always to be part of. This year she started to look at her life and consider how she could realistically be involved in the future of her country, in even the smallest of ways, at the distance and without the benefit of any sort of income to assist her. She was inspired by the organisers of Short Story Day Africa and Writivism who work incredibly hard to bring opportunities to African writers. With this in mind, she has decided to offer a mentorship/writing course to an aspiring writer for a period of 12 weeks, starting on 1 April 2019.

For more details click here: CREATIVE WRITING MENTORSHIP OPPORTUNITY WITH KAREN JENNINGS

And here are two of my reviews of Karen Jennings’s work:

Travels with My Father – An Autobiographical Novel by Karen Jennings

Space Inhabited by Echoes by Karen Jennings

If you are an aspiring writer, please apply. This is a rare opportunity to work with someone who is passionate about what we do and who truly cares.

 

Richard III at Maynardville

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Literature in motion; an art form difficult to resist. I could never imagine being on stage, but I love sitting in the audience, suspending my disbelief, living and breathing the action unfolding before my eyes.

Theatre.

I prefer sitting in the first row. Small venues are my favourite. Done well, it is pure magic. It transforms.

I go regularly, often twice or thrice to see the same performance – to relive the wonder. I study the texts at home. Not many enjoy reading plays; I delight in them.

A while back, I wrote one. It even won an award. The prize money bought me a gorgeous, wine-red quilt. Last night, I was tempted to take it with me to Maynardville to the opening of Richard III, with Alan Committie in the main role. But the action-packed play and a Shiraz in the interval kept me all cosy and warm.

‘Why, I can smile, and murder while I smile…’

And he does. Smile, murder, seduce. Vanquish. Fall. The vicious circles of power.

The open-air theatre is the perfect setting for the play, the southeaster a willing contributor with uncanny timing. Tall trees haunt the stage. The simple props and the understated elegance of the costume design enhance the superb performances of the entire cast.

Cassandra Mapanda as Queen Elizabeth stood out for me. A true royal presence on stage. But nobody and nothing disappointed.

Shakespeare has never been easy for me. And Richard III was new despite my education and love for the theatre. Yet I never felt lost. As one head after another is impaled and hearts are conquered and torn apart, we are transported into the distant past that has a lot to teach us about our own times, our greed and disenchantment.

I will see it again before the run is over.

Richard III is on until 9 March; Wednesday to Saturday, at 8.15pm. Don’t miss it!

 

Announcing: The Philida Literary Award

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Today is the fourth anniversary of André Brink’s death. As we – his readers and loved ones – remember André, I would like to share the news that from next year on there will be a literary award given in André’s honour. The award will be named after a historical figure, the slave woman Philida van de Caab who entered the archival records because of laying an official complaint against her masters, Francois and Cornelius Brink, distant relatives of André’s. She became the protagonist of André’s last published novel, Philida (2012). André’s rendition of her courage and resilience continues to inspire me – and many others – as a woman and a writer.

As I wrote in the Note on my latest publication, You Make Me Possible: The Love Letter of Karina M. Szczurek and André Brink (Protea Book House, 2018), with André’s encouragement and support I was able to acknowledge the fact that I was a writer and that this would be forever my way of being in the world. He was an inspiration to many other writers and he was always generous with his time and expertise in furthering the literary careers of others. It is therefore my wish to establish The Philida Literary Award with the royalties from You Make Me Possible.

The Philida Literary Award will be awarded to a writer mid-career for an oeuvre of between three to five books of any genre. The idea behind the recognition is to acknowledge an author with a consistent record of publishing works of excellence and to encourage them further in their pursuit of a literary career. The award ceremony will take place annually on the anniversary of André’s death, 6 February, starting with the fifth anniversary in 2020. Thus, locally, it will be the first literary award given every year.

Four other judges who are immersed in the local literary community will join me each year in choosing a worthy winner. Each winner will be given an award certificate and an amount of money that will be at first determined by the royalties, and in future on funding which is in the process of being secured.

Picture above: Fragment from the cover illustration of Philida by Joe McLaren.

Thank you to Rachel Zadok, the founder of Short Story Day Africa, for inspiring the ideas behind the criteria of the award.

Review: Somewhere in Between by Niki Malherbe

Somewhere in BetweenHow to be a feminist? What does it mean to be a good parent, especially a good mother? What is success? What is justice and how does it relate to ethics? How can reading and writing help with the answers to these, and other, vital questions? Somewhere in Between is Niki Malherbe’s attempt at resolving some of these conundrums in the context of her own life. She dedicates her book “To all women who try hard to get the balance right and all the men who do too”.

Malherbe is also the author of From Courtrooms to Cupcakes. In Somewhere in Between, she continues the themes of her debut, trying to reconcile her private and professional aspirations. Her background is in law. She is a wife and a mother of four. Writing is her enduring passion. She is an avid reader, and it is the writers who intrigue her, along with her family’s experiences, that fuel her literary pursuits. Somewhere in Between is part diary, part memoir, part essay; throughout, Malherbe comments on the authors she turns to when seeking guidance or comfort. Writing a book is like having a relative in jail, she says: “You don’t want to admit it but it’s very tricky to hide.”

Oscar Pistorius is no relation to the author, but she is writing at the time of his trial. As she watches the proceedings, she approaches the case not only through the lens of her legal training and feminism, but also from the perspective of a mother.

Malherbe tries to narrow and unpick the ambiguities she encounters on her path. Like most of us, she has her blind spots: occasionally dismissing her own writing as “frivolous” and her thinking as “trivial” – whereas she wants to and should be taken seriously; or, probably unconsciously, using terminology that undermines her feminist perspective; and often leaving the women who, willingly or not, never become mothers out of her considerations. However, to her credit, she does not settle for any easy, sloppy answer. And, many of the conflicts she describes remain unresolved, despite her attempt to tackle them head-on. For some, only approximations are possible; there simply are no straightforward solutions.

There were moments in the book where I wished Malherbe had dared more, especially when the narrative becomes self-reflective, but what she already reveals – especially her doubts, anxiety and envy – is extremely courageous and her pursuit of truth and understanding deserves not only applause but close examination. Somewhere in Between opens up many conversations we could all profit from taking further. Along with Mary Pipher, Malherbe believes that: “Using words, writers have the opportunity to bring justice and make their own mark on the world.” That is the incalculable power of storytelling and we can do much worse than endeavour to make sense of the world and find what gives meaning to our existence.

Somewhere in Between

by Niki Malherbe

2018

Review first published in the Cape Times on 1 February 2019.

Review: These Bones Will Rise Again by Panashe Chigumadzi

these bones will rise againIn November 2017, the “coup that was not a coup” in Zimbabwe held the world’s attention as the seemingly impossible became reality: after decades of rule, Robert Mugabe was ousted from power. These Bones Will Rise Again by Zimbabwean-born journalist and novelist, Panashe Chigumadzi, is an incisive exploration of these events and the author’s personal response to the historical moment as it unfolds as well as the past that shaped it: “The struggles over history are complex, because the present continuously slips into the past, marking history as always ambivalent, incomplete, a work in progress.”

Chigumadzi interrogates the way we remember. She is acutely aware of language and storytelling as a way of preserving memory and belonging. “In search of those answers, I must lower my eyes from the heights of Big Men who have created a history that does not know little people, let alone little women, except as cannon fodder”, she writes and decides to listen closely to what the bones of her female ancestors have to tell and teach her about her own life and that of an entire nation.

Reading other black women, she confronts “the unflinching stories of our mothers and grandmothers and aunts and sisters” and wonders for the first time “what did it mean for a black woman to be in my grandmother’s time?” She interviews the women in her family who are still alive and mourns the ones who had passed away too soon. Those who “refused their place in time” are returned to history.

Growing up between Zimbabwe and South Africa offers Chigumadzi a fascinating perspective. I am writing this review during the social media shutdown in Zimbabwe. It is voices like Chigumadzi’s that guide us through times of uncertainty. These Bones Will Rise Again is an inspiration.

These Bones Will Rise Again

by Panashe Chigumadzi

Jacana, 2018

Review first published in the Cape Times on 25 January 2019.

Review: Vintage Love and Other Essays by Jolyon Nuttall

vintage loveA few years ago, after the death of his wife, Jolyon Nuttall joined his daughter and her family during a work visit at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the United States. There, in a bookshop, he rediscovered the essay as a literary form and specifically fell under the spell of George Orwell’s essayistic endeavours. A newspaper man through and through, Nuttall has made a life out of words, as a journalist and a media manager. Retired now, he decided to turn to “episodes in my life that stand out in memory” and explore his past through the medium of the essay.

The resulting collection, Vintage Love and Other Essays, elegantly published in a hardcover edition by Jacana, tells a few key episodes in a rich life of growing up during the turbulent time in South Africa’s more recent history, of travel and intellectual exchange, of managing some of the most influential local media, and of trying to pick up the pieces after a great loss. As a literary scholar, I found Nuttall’s recollections of the two famous writers, Alan Paton and Lewis Nkosi, particularly intriguing.

“Writing these essays has helped enormously to reintegrate myself into my life as a whole from childhood through adulthood towards old age”, says Nuttall. The experience filled him “at times with a headiness that is light-hearted.” Vintage Love captures the essence of a life well lived and exude a calm that is rare in South African life writing.

Vintage Love and Other Essays

by Jolyon Nuttall

Jacana, 2018

Review first published in the Cape Times on 25 January 2019.