I have deliberately left this long weekend’s edition to today as I wanted to capture the proceedings from the Human Rights Festival taking place in South Africa as I believe many spent their weekends reading books as they didn’t travel for holiday. Do remember for me books are the cheapest mode of transport to fly you around the world in one day without the inconvenience of leaving your home. So technically, everyone who read a book or two over this long weekend has traversed the world.
And so it was with the many people who visited the two-day book fair of which I was afforded the privilege by the Constitution Hill to curate, catering for both children and adult sessions, as part of the three day Human Rights Festival. We used the event to provide a platform to give access to over 20 independent book publishers, authors published by the mainstream publishers as well as independent publishers, and self published authors who came engage in live discussions, exhibition and sales of their books.
But before I give feedback from the two day discussion sessions, let me quote the “Foreword”, verbatim, that I wrote in 2000 for a timeless book, “An African Alphabet”, written and illustrated by Frank Horley, which was also exhibited during the Con Hill book fair. It goes as follows:
“Perhaps I must start by stating that I feel this is the work of neither an artist nor an author – rather it is more than this. It is a thoughtful creation constructed by a humble person I know and call a friend, a contribution to the movement to assert Afrika as the cradle of civilisation. This is not just a book, it is a great story with 26 sub-plots – the great story of Afrika!
“This is a collection of the 26 letters of the alphabet, each of which is a sub-plot, a building block, of all the words which tell a story about the life and times of this great continent. It celebrates the Ubuntu of our people – their unparalleled generosity, insatiable quest for camaraderie, their revolutionary ire against poverty, illiteracy and disease.
“This book celebrates the diversity of the Afrikan heritage, its art and culture, and asserts Afrika as the mother of a culture of literacy. It tells the story that has never been told before or that others chose not to tell. Or perhaps it is the story that others chose not to hear. Whereas some have abused the alphabet by building only a story of war and strife, of colonial conquest, warlords, military juntas, and, yes, the gnawing of teeth on this continent, this Afrikan alphabet tells of new life.
“This book is the story of the rebirth of Afrika. It challenges the Afrikan renaissance as a philosophical project of Afrikan people, to liberate from the chains of neo-colonialism such words as happiness, joy, abundance, wealth, freedom and development. It adds them to the vocabulary of the Afrikan dictionary. The poetic narratives contained herein are picturesque. The illustrations are engaging. The images of the letters of the alphabet are mind-blowing. This book is a living testimony that the alphabet is not only food for the mind, but for the soul too! It sounds the death knell for Afro-pessimism. It is the story of the a-z of Afrika!”
This book eloquently captures the essence of what the book fair was all about. And on highlight, perhaps we could have even called it: “An African Alphabet Book Fair”. It is a riveting book which is even more relevant today as we begin to rewrite the narrative on Africa. For me as a pan African brand architect, it is definitely contributing to the brand positioning of Africa as we embark on an integration project which makes us the world’s largest regional economic community constituted by 55 countries with a population of 1.27 billion consumers and a combined GDP of over $3,6 trillion.
So back to the proceedings over the past two days, the overarching theme that emerged for me was knowledge productión and identity in which the authors were de/constructing issues of race, from an “outside-in-inside-out” perspectives premised on epistemologies on dialectics, pan Africanism, black consciousness and feminism. This was eloquently, and accessibly so, delivered by Dr Leslie Dikeni (giving a scholarly perspective with references from some of his books, including “The Poverty of Ideas: The Retreat of Intellectuals the New Democracies”); Jaki Seroke (an organic intellectual, as described by Antonio Gramsci, imparting deep “knowledge gained from the streets”, as he puts it, in his book, “Zwelethu: Our Land”). Jaki’s “streets” was a metaphor for the national liberation struggle – he was active in cultural struggles and the underground cells of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), leading to his imprisonment on Robben Island where he learned from the elders).
The two authors were joined by Abdul Mogale (“Warriors, Kings, and Queens of Africa”); and yours truly (“Sounds and Fury: The Chronicles of Healing”), joining pan African publishing disruptor, Rose Ssali (publisher of, among others, Titus Mafolo’s trilogy, “African Odyssey, Volumes I-III”) who tackled the “othering of the other” into the philosophical mix by alluding to issues affecting African immigrants in South Africa; Nompumelelo Runji (“How I Took Back My Power”) and Tshidi Monkoe (“Prison Love”) on gender mainstreaming; Stan Montsho and Unati Mgandela (“Imiphumela yobulumko – Maungo a Botlhale”) tackling multilingualism; and yours truly, “Sound and Fury: The Chronicles of Healing”) on mainstreaming issues affecting people with disabilities.
This overarching theme was further unpacked in the children’s sessions by prolific writer and journalist Sandile Memela (“Malume’s Painting – Reliving the 16 June Legacy” and “Zenzele: Young Gifted & Free”); seasoned broadcaster Thabiso Sikwane (“Modimo o a go rata” – “God loves you”); educator and award-winning author, Karen Hurt (“179 Jabulani Street”); Stan Montsho (“Lonely by the window”); yours truly, through “Thulani’s Magic Water” and two cartoon strips, “Thulani’s Magic Taxi Ride” and “The Magic Tipsy Ride” (my collaboration with artist, Mogorosi Motshumi). Thabiso Sikwane joined both the children’s and adult sessions.
Child authors were a marvel to see in action from their camaraderie – devoid of any ego issues that bedevils the arts – to collaborating in running the programme as a collective. Although they also dealt with the issue of the dialectics of culture (especially multiple identities in the context of a non-racial democratic dispensation that encourages environmental friendliness and respect for animal rights), they dealt with the scourge that troubles our schools right now: bullying. The three young authors were Buhle Mthethwa (“Big Fat Naughty Cat”); Sibahle Madliwa (“Piki in Fegypt”) and Siyavuya Mabece’s militance in her book, “Enough! Stop bullying!”
Before signing off, let me once again thank the SABC’s Thobela FM’s award-winning Nkgadimeng Kekena who hosting me on her show. I also thank her producer Aubrey Pheeha. As we do every week, we tackle issues affecting Africa and this week we unpacked the illicit outflow of capital from Africa which has been estimated by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to be over US$88,6 billion every year. For those interested in my recent one-hour interview, accompanied by UNISA’s Dr Mashapa Malobane, on climate smart agriculture hosted by Dr Nimrod Mbele on his Chai FM show, “Beyond Governance”, please click here.
the continent over Enjoy what remains of the long weekend.
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