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New South African literature festival offers something for everyone
2016-03-23

The University of the Free State (UFS) in partnership with the Vrystaat Arts Festival is proud to present the first literature festival in central South Africa from 11-16 July in Bloemfontein. Afrikaans books and writers will feature prominently, in addition to other indigenous languages such as Sotho and Zulu. Several authors will be celebrating literature in English.

Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the University of the Free State Professor Jonathan Jansen says:  ‘The aim of the festival, part of the bigger Vrystaat Arts Festival, is to strengthen a culture of reading, not just in the Free State but nationally. The festival will market books as well as embrace new developments in the field of writing. I am incredibly excited about this inaugural event, which the university will support in the long-term.’

The theme of this year’s literature festival is ‘Our Africa’ and promises to provide all booklovers and readers tantalizing food for thought. Some of the authors attending the festival include, amongst others, the Hertzog-prize winner Adam Small, celebrating his 80th birthday as well as the release of his latest drama. Another legendary writer, dramaturge and actor, John Kani, will be speaking at the festival about his most recent theatre productions. The ever popular Marita van der Vyver will be visiting the festival from France, and the highly acclaimed writer Zakes Mda, will be flying in from the United States to deliver the inaugural Sol Plaatje Lecture. Mda, also a visual artist, will have some of his works on display.

Other international guests include Chika Unigwe, originally from Nigeria, who rose to fame in Belgium, and was described by South African writer Zukiswa Wanner as one of the five most renowned writers from Africa. Also attending will be Iranian writer Kader Abdolah, whose novels have been translated into more than 21 languages. Abdolah, a political refugee who escaped from Iran to the Netherlands in the 1980s, went on to establish himself as one of the most prominent Dutch novelists. Wilfried N’Sondé, originally from the Congo, who now lives in France, will also be a festival guest.
 
Theo Kemp, Coordinator of the Literature Festival says: ‘It is critical for us that robust debates on current affairs takes place as part of the festival. Festival participants will be able to engage with a range of authors on topical and sometimes sensitive issues. We welcome this debate – it is rare to have a platform where we can argue passionately yet respectfully about the future of our country in an international context.’

Critical topics covered include themes such as the state of Africa’s economies (with analyst and writer Victor Kgomoeswana); the relevance of the Anglo-Boer War in contemporary society (with Albert Blake and Johan Kruger); philosopher Achille Mbembe talking with Kevin Bloom and Richard Poplak about the changing face of Africa; and the political analysts Susan Booysen and John Matisonn examining the South African landscape in a post-municipal election environment.

Theuns Eloff, previous Rector of the University of Potchefstroom, whose new book What now, South Africa is launched this year, will partake in discussions around current affairs. So to Melanie Verwoerd and Sonwabiso Ngcowa aim to explore the phenomenon of the so-called ‘born frees’ in their book 21 at 21: The Coming of Age of A Nation.

Climate change and its impact on the Free State’s environment is another critical topic covered by Bob and Mary Schole with their book launch of Climate Change: Briefings from Southern Africa.

Festival goers can also look forward to a poetry café, where music and poetry will be mixed; informal visits with writers around food and story telling; as well as word and music productions where popular travel writers such as Johan Bakkes, Dana Snyman, Erns Grundling and Pienkes du Plessis will be present.

Writers will also be involved in a range of panel discussions – including on the ethics of writing biographies (Lindie Koorts and Mark Gevisser); alternative narratives of South Africa in the eighties (Ivan Vladislavic and Johann Roussouw); and discussions with writers such as Hans du Plessis, Bernard Odendaal, Hanlie Retief, Rudie van Rensburg and Irma Joubert.

Workshops will also feature in the programme with writers such as Francois Smith and Henning Pieterse, associated with the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch at the UFS, offering short courses on creative writing; while Johann Roussouw from the Department of Philosophy at the UFS will present a series of talks on the books of Karel Schoeman.

The final festival programme will be launched on 28 April 2016.

The Vrystaat Literature Festival was initiated by the University of the Free State in partnership with the Vrystaat Arts Festival. Project sponsors include Media24, ATKV, Vlaamse Letterenfonds, Institut Francais, Nederlandse Letterfonds, Van Rensburg Pataloe and the Flemish Embassy.
 

For further enquiries contact:

Theo Kemp
theo.kemp@volksblad.com
+27(0)83 462 9613
www.vrystaatartsfestival.co.za

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