Time for literary trip to Durban

Edward Tsumele

Edward Tsumele

Durban sometimes pulls surprises out of its hat when it comes to cultural matters.

This is evident in the genesis of what has become the foremost literary festival in the country, the Time of the Writer.

So, if you consider yourself a literary vulture, make a date with Durban from March 19 to 24 when the yearly festival hits town.

This year 18 writers from 10 countries led by one of Africa's most celebrated writers, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, make literary presentations.

The festival, organised by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, is celebrating its 10th year. As usual a stimulating environment of creativity will permeate the space as literary giants engage each other, holding what promises to be a robust literary discourse.

A highlight of the festival is a Human Rights Day programme featuring a reading of assassinated Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya's work and an interview with respected South African author Miriam Tlali, pictured.

One-time Staffrider columnist, Tlali was the first black woman writer to publish an English novel, Muriel at Metropolitan, in South Africa. Her 1980 novel on the Soweto uprisings, Amandla, was banned.

Thiong'o, whose first novel in almost two decades - Wizard of the Crow - launches at the festival, will make a presentation on writing in indigenous languages.

Politkovskaya's reports on Chechnya, read by John Matshikiza, form part of a coordinated global effort to highlight free speech.

Time of the Writer's commitment to local writers ensures an impressive gathering of contemporary South African voices, including 2006 Caine Prize winner, Mary Watson. Watson, whose winning story Jungfrau was taken from her moving debut collection Moss, is one of a crop of young South African writers reshaping the country's literary landscape.

Others include Imraan Coovadia; Fred Khumalo, editor and columnist at the Sunday Times, who penned two Bitches' Brew in 2005 and Touch My Blood last year; Zukiswa Wanner who wrote The Madams; Tom Eaton, a popular columnist of biting wit for the Mail & Guardian; Michael Chapman; Ronnie Govender; Zimbabwean Tsitsi Dangarembga, author of the seminal Nervous Conditions; Aminata Sow Fall from Senegal; Doreen Baingana Chika Unigwe of Nigeria and Belgium; Vamba Sherif of Liberia and the Netherlands; author of three novels Tom Lanoye, a prolific and multi-talented Belgian; and Oscar Hemer, a Swedish novelist.

Readings, discussions and book launches take place nightly at the university's Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre. The impressive schedule of launches also includes TheBook of Not by Dangarembga; Undressing Durban by Rob Pattman, Sultan Khan, and Faith Ka-Manzi; Inter-play:A Collection of Plays by Govender, and Hot Type by Bongani Madondo.

The good news is R25 secures you a seat for the evening sessions. If you are a student you only pay R10. Workshops are free.