Niq Mhlongo is not the co-curator for the Soweto Literary Festival 2016 as earlier announced.
The Soweto Literary Festival announced itself on the social media platforms with a splash in June. The press release of the event, with Darryl David as its founder, had quotes from a large number of people you have heard of like Thando Mgqolozana, Ben Williams, Zukiswa Wanner, Eusebius McKaiser, and many more. The impression given by the post was that the festival was set to be a huge contribution to the project of decolonising literature in South Africa. Or bringing together the South African literary community to tell stories of surviving apartheid and singing kumbaya.
The most curious part of the announcement was that Niq Mhlongo, famous Soweto born South African who has written Dog Eat Dog, After Tears and Way Back Home (our review), was announced as the festival curator. Well it looks like this will not be happening as the author went onto his Facebook account and announced that he was not associated with the festival in any way. His message in full read;
To everyone. There has been a rumor that I’m co-curating Soweto Literary Festival. It is not true. This is to let you all know that I’m not in any way associate with the project. And yes, I heard and know about it. But I’m not in any way part of the project. Thank you.
The festival organiser Darryl David quickly went on the defensive, understandably I suspect, to defend his festival in a badly written rebuttal. Here is his response in full below;
I would like to set the record staight. Niq agreed to co curate the festival. I dont go around announcing such things before asking people. It seems from these exchanges peer pressure got to Niq. It is now left up to people to decide who wants to take part. My invitation to you Thando still stands. Fred Khumalo. please advise on the matter of the pig. Darryl David. And Niq please do not call me a liar on such platforms. If you got cold feet thats one thing. But I have all the correspondence between yourself and me. If you no longer want to be a part of the festival i accept your stance. But dont go around saying the first you heard from Soweto Festival was from Litnet article . You and I have been in touch since start of your Getaway trip. Who gave me Freds contact details. Who gave me a wish list of writers to invite. To now claim you dont even know what co curate means is unfair. And if Afrikaners had to tell me my festival was unwelcome I would call them racists. If all of you in this correspondence speak of my proposed festival in Soweto like this then you too are racists. I mean you dont even know me. You just are against this festival because an Indian is bringing it to Soweto. Darryl.
This response was a bit weird for us who have been following the African literary scene as we always assumed that the best way to go about disagreements would have been to quietly talk between themselves and sort it out. No need to bring out the big guns and talk about racism and all that. Something interesting for real journalists looking for clicks and eyeballs to investigate perhaps?
It’s not all doom and gloom for you who wants to attend the festival happening on the 19th to the 21st of August 2016, , at the Soweto Theatre. While no one is sure who will eventually pitch up on the days, you can at least get to see Lerato Tshabalala who is famous for her magnum opus, The Way I see It.
Enjoy people of Soweto. Enjoy.