Time of the Writer 2018 continued to dazzle residents of Durban, South Africa on Wednesday, March 14, 2018. The writers who featured in venues around the city on this day were Kafula Mwila, Lesego Rampolokeng, Luka Mwango, Unathi Slasha, Mohale Mashigo, and Jennipher Zulu.
It was a Wednesday to remember for Durban residents as writers from the Time of the Writer festival made their way to different venues. One of these venues was the Westville Library where two panels that had been witnessed in the previous evening were repeated to an audience of learners as well as residents of the Westville area.
The two panels replicated were the “Can Traditions Be Challenged” featuring Unathi Slasha and Jennipher Zulu moderated by James Murua and “The Art of Keeping Secrets” featuring Ayobami Adebayo and Mohale Mashigo moderated by Shubnum Khan. The two panels had a younger audience in the main which meant that they had an “inspiring the youth” kind of vibe going for them. The youngsters seemed to be enthused by the writers who had been put in front of them that morning.
The evening is where the really good stuff happens and this Wednesday delivered and disappointed in equal measure. The disappointment came in the first panel of the evening which was to be “Literature as a healing process” moderated by Priya Narismulu featuring Kafula Mwila and Grizelda Grootboom. The latter of the writers had to drop out of the panel at the last minute for reasons that weren’t made clear to this blogger. That meant that the stage would be shared by the moderator Narismulu who is a lecturer at the University of Kwazulu-Natal and Zambian Kafula Mwila.
Mwila was the most accomplished of the three Zambians who had come to South Africa and it was evident when she read from her short story collection Kafula’s Essentials: A Short Story Collection. When she read, the moderator turned to the audience and said; “any questions?” The thing is that it is usually traditional for the moderator to ask a few questions to the panellists to warm them up before we the audience chip in. Now we have this one panellist before us with half an hour to kill. It was not ideal. Bizarrely, our moderator would keep asking us if we had any questions to ask about the book by Grizelda Grootboom who had missed the panel. Why would anyone want to ask about someone who is not on stage surely? This was the worst moderation we had seen at this festival yet.
The best was to be witnessed in the second session as University of Johannesburg lecturer Danyela Demir introduced her panellists Lesego Rampolokeng and Luka Mwango with “Letters From the Dust.” The two read from their works of fiction with Rampolokeng reading from his novel Bird-Monk Seding while Mwango read from Perdition. The two writers are both very good readers with Mwango the younger writer enthralling us with the tale of the man thinking he is getting laid but getting dead instead.
The panel discussion started and the University of Johannesburg lecturer took the writers through their paces with pointed questions and the two giving their opinions. It was a text book case of moderation that we were witnessing and the writers responded in kind. The elder statesman that was Rampolokeng brought his insights into the writing environment that he had operated in over the last few decades in a uniquely acerbic and charming manner.