Soweto-born novelist Mr Niq Mhlongo has completed a stint as the first Artist-in-Residency at UKZN’s School of Arts.
Mhlongo’s time at UKZN was made possible through the Andrew Mellon Foundation partnership and its subsequent Artist-in-Residency project which aims to recruit, support and collaborate with emerging and experienced artists from across South Africa and Africa. It also hopes to strengthen relations between academics and community-based artists, and between the University and cultural institutions in Durban and the rest of South Africa.
Mhlongo said his time at UKZN had been a learning curve and a great journey during which he managed to curate one of the biggest literary festivals in Africa, Time of the Writer, with the help of the Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) staff.
‘They were with me from the conceptualisation process until implementation. I sincerely thank them for sharing their experiences with me,’ said Mhlongo. ‘I hoped for a conducive environment in which to write my novel, and I’m happy to say it was provided. My novel is now at an advanced stage.’
During his sojourn at UKZN, Mhlongo facilitated writing workshops with the aim of sharing his writing experiences with aspiring writers and encouraging them to write and get published. ‘We aim to get at least 15 publishable stories from the workshops written in both IsiZulu and English,’ he said.
Together with CCA representatives, Mhlongo visited Westville Prison where he gave a talk that dovetailed into discussions on writing and publishing. Mhlongo, who spoke to inmates who had started their own book club in prison, was joined by fellow scribe Ms Nozizwe Cynthia Jele of The One’s with purpose and Happiness is a four letter word fame.
‘I think inmates gained from our visit. They wanted to know about how to start writing, how to do a book review, what the difference is between having a publisher and self-publishing, among other issues. Some of them had manuscripts that they read to us and we gave feedback. It was a wonderful experience,’ said Mhlongo.
The next Artists-in-Residency will be African music and dance artist Mr Mbuso Khoza and Mr Fana Shabalala who will take up Dance, Drama and Performance Studies residency positions.
Words: Melissa Mungroo
Photograph: Val Adamson