The Jozi Book Fair has always been a progressive kind of literary event – one aimed at education, literacy and black writing. Some eight years since it was first held, it is, in its own way, part of the future as book festivals attempt to decolonise and new events sprout in townships.
Hosted by Khanya College and Wits University, the 150 events at the sometimes slightly shambolic fair are free and open to all, with a strong focus on children and schools. The programme embraces all forms of storytelling, including theatre, film, art, photography, music, blogging and spoken word, united under the 2016 theme, Youth Rising.
There is so much on offer that it takes a brave books editor to pick the best. You really should head over to their website and make sure I haven’t missed anything, but here’s what I’ll be trying to get to next weekend:
There are 15 new books being launched, many self-published and some in African languages, at the fair this year. Don’t miss the launch of Batjha Kaofela: Youth Rising. It’s an anthology of short stories from 10 teenage authors from township schools throughout the country. (Saturday, September 3, at 10am, Wits University.)
Numerous guests of the fair will be chatting about their work or broader social issues. Zakes Mda, Kemang wa Lehulere, Vollenhoven, Mbe Mbhele and James Matthews are just a few of them. Look out for Youth, Women and Mental Health, a conversation that includes journalist, film maker and author Sylvia Vollenhoven, and novelist and musician Carol Mashigo, who is published as Mohale Mashigo and sings as Black Porcelain. (Sunday, September 4, at 1pm, Wits University.)
PANELS AND ROUND TABLES
Opening up several debates, guests of the fair will appear on numerous panels and moderated round tables. Several iconic elders will be getting together to discuss the legacy of 1976, youth leaders will unpack #FeesMustFall and there will be a discussion on late literary legend Lauretta Ngcobo, but the panel I’m most looking forward to is titled Decolonisation, Art and Artists in South Africa Today. Novelist Carol Mashigo, artist Kemang wa Lehulere and film maker Nadine Cloete will be talking with everyone’s favourite literary uncle, Zakes Mda, who is one of the most prominent patrons of the fair. (Sunday, September 4, at noon, Wits University.)
There are 20 skills empowerment workshops on everything from meditation to photography using cellphones.
Diarise the session on how to self-publish with Eunice Rakhale-Molefe and Fatuma Abdullah. (Sunday, September 4, at 10am, Wits University.)
THEATRE AND PERFORMANCE
There will be 20 poets reading live, numerous plays (check out Shiwelele about #FeesMustFall and The Creature about street kids), musicals and this gem: Stalwart James Matthews, poet laureate Keorapetse Kgositsile and Khoisan storyteller Diana Ferrus will be performing works live, followed by an open microphone. (Saturday, September 3, at 2pm, Wits University.)
Live jazz sessions include the Bokani Dyer Trio, the Babes Ndamase Quartet, Yonela Mnana, MomentozSA and my personal pick, master drummer and composer Tumi Mogorosi. (Sunday, September 4, at 2pm, Wits University.)
The potent and fascinating documentary Action Kommandant, directed by Nadine Cloete, gets my pick.
It’s about the killing of Umkhonto weSizwe guerrilla Ashley Kriel. (Thursday, September 1, at 5.30pm, Wits University.)
- Jozi Book Fair is on from September 1 to 4 at various venues at Wits University in Joburg. Entrance is free. For a full list of events, venues and times visi jozibookfair.org.za