The Time of the Writer 2018 kicked off with a musical performance and the introduction of the featured writers at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre in Durban, South Africa on the evening of March 12, 2018.
The Time of the Writer is a trailblazing literary festival that has been housed on the East coast of South Africa for over two decades. The festival, now in its 21st year, has hosted writers like Leila Aboulela, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ama Ata Aidoo, Sefi Atta, Kofi Awoonor, Shimmer Chinodya, Zukiswa Wanner, Ntone Edjabe, Nurrudin Farah, Helon Habila, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Chejerai Hove, Jamal Mahjoub, Ahmadou Kourouma, Zakes Mda, Thando Mgqolozana, and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor. The roster of the writers who have featured at this festival are a who’s who of African writing. You can read some of our previous reports on this festival here.
It was a time for the next generation of writers to show their mettle on the stage at the Elizabeth Sneddon theatre as the Time of the Writer 2018 rolled into Durban city. It was a special time as this year it would be happening at the time when the coastal town was in its run as the UNESCO city of literature for 2018.
The evening, hosted by acting Centre for Creative Arts director Chipo Zhou, kicked off with the musical stylings of Mphendulelwa Mkhize who strummed his guitar to kick off what looked like it was going to be a lovely evening. This would be followed by speeches from University of Kwazulu Natal’s Prof Mutula and Durban city representative Tebogo Mzizi welcoming all to the university and Durban.
The writers who would be featuring at the festival, excluding Alain Mabanckou who would not be coming and Ayobami Adebayo who would be landing on the morrow, made their way to the stage and introduced themselves over a four minute period.
The Zambian writer started writing in 1996 then abandoned the craft only to get self-published in 2009. Apart from the writing, she is the founder of the Southern Writers Bureau an initiative to bring writers from Zambia together.
Also from Zambia, the writer started in the teaching profession instructing high school students. She has since left the profession but continues to mentor the next generation of young writers from her native land.
The legendary South African poet’s introduction was a poem which titillated the audience.
The South African academic started her speech on her meeting Ken Themba who instructed her to write starting with the first line, “I do not just menstruate, I also think.” She went on to work while in exile in the US and in Lusaka, Zambia starting the ANC women’s writer’s projects. Her current project is a tome to OR Tambo whose centenary is currently being celebrated.
The Zambian writer described how Chinua Achebe influenced the way he thought about books and reading. His presentation would then veer off in a more philosophical direction as he quoted thinkers like Aristotle.
The US writer was here on the strength of his memoire Buck. He remembered a visit to a museum in the morning and then recited his poem Two Sets of Notes which spoke about how one needed to write notes that one needed to pass and another set to record how life really was.
The South African writer of highly acclaimed The Yearning described her journey of reading as a child and segueing into reading The Colour Purple, writing “Sweet Valley High Smut” as a high school student to reading Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions and then onto her current writing. That includes writing for children like with South African comic Superhero Kwezi.
The Irish born, South African writer and academic would be speaking about the political economy and he spoke about the battles between White Monopoly Capital on one side and the Zuptas (Zuma + Guptas) on the other. He would introduce us to the “city of rebels” that is Durban and some of those who were fighting to do their bit for the majority.
Moahlili who grew up in the Eastern Cape of her native South Africa spoke about why she wanted to write so that young men and women like her niece wouldn’t have to be “rescued by a prince.”
Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh is a South African political commentator, scholar and musician. The Oxford PhD student and rapper has worked on a unique project of essays and accompanying album and would go on to quote from both of them.
South African writer Themba Qwabe has written over 100 publications and the language that he primarily writes in is isiZulu. He wondered why someone who writers in English was called and African writer but he who wrote in his language was called an “isiZulu writer.”
South African Unathi Slasher from Port Elizabeth is the gentleman who wrote Jah Hills. He asked that we stop writing using the Western models and use the ones that had been pioneered by forebears like Amos Tutuola, Taban Lo Liyong, and Dambudzo Marechera. His speech looked to have been fuelled by a drink or two.
The Barbados born Nigerian South African writer of Bom Boy and The Woman Next Door would state that when one wanted to “change the narrative” like the festival headline then one needed to identify the dominant one.
The author of three novels who lives in Durban and manages an early intervention centre for autistic children was excited to be at the festival yet again.
The evening would then end writers mingling with readers at the Adams Book stand outside of the theatre halls. We were officially started with the festival.