The Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) within the College of Humanities hosted a virtual opening of the 25th edition of the Time of the Writer Festival. Co-curator Ms Siphindile Hlongwa welcomed more than 300 viewers to the opening that was presented from the Luthuli Museum in Groutville, KwaZulu-Natal.
Said Hlongwa, ‘Chief Albert Luthuli was not only an activist for social change but also a fervent writer. As we mark the 60th anniversary of his autobiography, the power and intensity of his writing inspire the 25th anniversary of the festival to go beyond words and explore how memory, imagination and conscience is stirred by our novelists, poets, writers and other wordsmiths.’
Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize acknowledged the important role played by the creative and literary arts in the fight against injustice. ‘We applaud the courage, genius and creativity of our writers who speak the truth with no fear or favour,’ he said.
In his address CCA Director Dr Ismail Mahomed reflected on the partnership established with the Lviv International Literary Festival in Ukraine and how artists come together during times of solidarity. ‘Our writers become word bearers of truth about our world. Several sessions of our festival speak truth about our South African democracy. We have also deepened our efforts to grow the isiZulu language programme across all our festivals.’
Speaking to this year’s festival and theme, featured writer Mr Mandla Langa commented, ‘This festival happens at a very crucial time for the people of our country. There is much turbulence and writers should aim to create an oasis. I am also happy to see many young writers in the programme; they hold the lamp and will take us to the future.’
Acclaimed writer, researcher and writing fellow at the University of Pretoria’s Future Africa Institute, Dr Nokuthula Mazibuko Msimang presented an inspiring keynote speech in which she reflected on how Luthuli’s autobiography Let My People Go can inspire people and how the book has influenced other writers. She critically reflected on the past, analysed current contexts and offered inspiring insights for the future.
‘Historical narratives in the form of life stories like Let My People Go and historical novels have illuminated the role of African literature in Memory, Imagination and Conscience that resonates today because we still live in a world where inequalities along gender, race, cultural and sexual orientation persist. These books offer a critical historical lens from which to write and imagine hopeful futures, beyond wars and displacement,’ said Msimang.
She noted that the digital revolution has given many more people access to books and festivals. ‘Books have helped us survive the pandemic. More people are staying home and reading. These are indeed exciting times for the African novel. Women writers are being recognised, and the Time of the Writer has curated a programme where 70 percent of participants are women. The programme is diverse and dynamic. It is especially pleasing to witness the work of female historical novelists who continue to write women into history and insist on the value of diverse voices.’
In closing, Msimang said, ‘I would like to congratulate the authors who participated in this Time of the Writer in a rich exchange of ideas and visions. The programme’s bold inclusion of women’s voices and the authors of children’s books deserves our loud and appreciative applause.’