The 21st Time of the Writer Festival (12 – 17 March), organised by UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) within the College of Humanities had a successful opening night at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.
The opening night featured 16 African writers who gathered for a thought-provoking week of literary dialogue, exchange of ideas and interesting discussions under this year’s theme of Changing the Narrative.
Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities Professor Stephen Mutula said, ‘The Festival follows the recent inauguration of Durban as Africa’s first and only UNESCO City of Literature! This is not only an honour to the people of Durban and South Africa but to the rest of the African continent.’
He stated that the Festival also comes at an opportune time when South Africa and the world is holding the Nelson Mandela Centennial celebrations, adding that Mandela recognised the importance of promoting African culture and literature around the world.
‘Through this Festival UKZN contributes to the promotion of African-led globalisation by bringing together 16 of the most influential African writers to critically engage in dialogue, cultural exchange and in changing the narrative,’ said Mutula.
While eThekwini Municipality representative Ms Tebogo Mzizi added, ‘We will continue to support the CCA at UKZN. We are proud of the Festival. Libraries are the heart of communities and with this powerful group of authors, we can engage and inspire communities to change the narrative and tell our African stories.’
Speaking on opening night, children’s author and Festival participant Ms Refiloe Moahloli said she always wanted to be a writer and was excited to be part of Time of the Writer. ‘I am thrilled to be a part of this amazing festival. I see this as a platform to engage on the issue of gender equality, especially at a young age for children and through books created for them. I want to make a difference and use my books to do so.’
Moahloli also encouraged the audience to support local writers and to cultivate a love for reading and writing from an early age. ‘We need to tell our stories,’ she said.
Offering advice to emerging writers, Mr Luka Mwango, a poet and author, said, ‘Stuff doesn’t happen to a writer, stuff happens for a writer. Every obstacle, challenge or setback is simply fuel and material you can use in your work. As a writer, obsess over subtexts. It’s your staple. Once you hone that skill very few people will be able to put down your book once they get a hold of it.’
‘I can’t guarantee you will win awards, make money or that people will even like your work, but your stories will be read to the finish. And in this chaotic fast paced world where no one has the time or the attention span, nothing brings joy to a writer more than people finishing your book.’
The festival’s activity-rich week saw audiences engage with the writers on the creative and technical processes and perspectives which shape their writing. In addition to nightly showcases, there were daily activities including book launches, seminars and workshops to promote a culture of reading, writing and creative expression.
The day programme consisted of sessions hosted in four community libraries (Austerville, Westville, Chesterville Extension and Tongaat). ‘This speaks to UKZN’s goal of impactful community engagement by connecting with and committing ourselves to the communities, we serve in a manner that adds value and earns their respect, admiration and trust,’ said Mutula.
Words: Melissa Mungroo
Photographs: Charles Dlamini