Nominees for literary fest

Victor Mecoamere

Victor Mecoamere

The City of Johannesburg and Sowetan celebrate the fourth anniversary of the Joburg Literary Festival at the Bassline in Newtown, Johannesburg, today.

The nation-building partners will bestow kudos on several creative aspirants who in 2008 rose to the challenge to display their short story and poetry writing skills.

Submissions were based on the theme, "Traditions I hold Dear", inspired by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe's novel, Things Fall Apart.

Tsakane Shiburi, the city's regional manager for programmes and projects, said this week: "We are excited that the theme of the writing competition was inspired by the father of African literature, Chinua Achebe's book Things Fall Apart, because we joined the world in celebrating the 50th anniversary of this iconic African literary classic in 2008."

In 2007, the theme was, "Pride in Yourself".It was inspired by the life and philosophy of the black consciousness movement icon Steve Biko.

The nominees who have been selected in the categories of short story and poetry in the age groups 13-15, 16-19, and 20-25, are Themba Tshabalala, Sbusiso Zinhle Nkosi, Charity Mkone, Mpho Mphafi, Martina Boshoff, Confidence Seleme, Bonga Vincent Matu, Charlotte Hillebrand, Olivea Fiorotto, Ramuhulu Phuluso, Promise Ngomane, Rhulani Chauke and Yandisa Keboletse Winnie Mtimde.

The festival, which coincides with the National Library Week, was inaugurated in 2006 and has been graced by literary giants, including Mbulelo Mzamane, Miriam Tlali, Nadine Gordimer, Lindokuhle Dlamini and Don Mattera.

Shiburi said that in 2007, the Johannesburg Library and information services department introduced the African Literary Development Programme, which includes a writing competition, workshops as well as an inter-cultural exchange programme.

"Communities, especially the youth, should be encouraged to read, learn, talk and write about our literary icons and heroes as well as to develop their own skills in the art of writing."

Participants are encouraged to use public libraries as a resource. Young people who do not have libraries at their schools and homes have the best place at which illiteracy and a-literacy can be kept at bay.

Indeed, South Africa is facing a huge illiteracy and a-literacy challenge. Illiteracy is the inability to read and write a simple sentence in any language, while a-literacy refers to having the ability to read, but choosing not to do so. This aversion to read begins at an early age. Both illiteracy and a-literacy should not be taken lightly. Illiteracy is a tragedy because people who cannot read and write are disrobed of their dignity, exposing them to exploitation and and leaving them to be devoured in many ways, by bigger social, economical and political demons.