A stellar literary programme is set to ignite Johannesburg’s Constitution Hill with lively, relevant and riveting topical discussions at this year’s South African Book Fair, taking place from 6 – 8 September 2019.
The just-released programme reflects the Fair’s position as the country’s most inclusive and diverse literary event, and features close to 100 authors across nearly 40-panel discussions and sessions. Alongside this is a dedicated – and jam-packed – schools programme (on September 6 th ) as well as a vibrant marketplace showcasing all aspects of the book industry. This year sees the addition of an Illustrator’s Exhibition within the Oval Atrium in the Women’s Jail featuring the work of five book illustrators while the Fair’s signature Poetry Café and African Philosophy Café will host compelling and topical performances and discussions. Families also have lots to choose from including performances and storytelling for little ones in the Magic Tent and a children’s programme running in the Special Events Space. A variety of food and drink, easy public transport and parking access, and a host of on-site activations make the South African Book Fair an essential outing for a diversity of visitors.
“The South African Book Fair is dedicated to locating books and reading in the everyday lives of South Africans,” says Elitha van der Sandt, CEO of the South African Book Development Council (SABDC). “The importance of stimulating reading for leisure cannot be underestimated, especially following Stats SA’s recent survey which revealed the alarming statistic that nearly 50 percent of South Africa’s children have never read a book with a parent or guardian. Flowing from this, the South African Book Fair aims to reintroduce and reconnect the country’s book industry, writers and illustrators as important elements in the development of a lifelong reading habit. We are confident that our 2019 event is our strongest yet and will play a significant role in bringing books and reading into the lives of South Africans from all walks of life.” This year, visitors will be hard-pressed to choose from a programme that features leading movers and shakers, prominent thought leaders and sessions dealing with some of the most pressing social, economic, and political issues facing South Africa. The line-up of writers includes Jonny Steinberg, Masande Ntshanga and Fred Khumalo (Writing to Fulfil a Quest), Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, Rekgotsofetse Chikane and Hlumelo Biko (Democracy & Delusion), Sarah Ladipo Manyika and Remy Ngamije (Love Without Borders, also with Fred Khumalo), Wandile Ngcaweni, Sarah Mokwebo, Adam Habib and Rekgotsofetse Chikane (Rebels, Rage and Revolution) and Pieter-Louis Myburgh, author of Gangster State.
Among the session highlights is Life Reclaimed that sees Letshego Zulu, widow of racing driver Gugu Zulu, who lost his life scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, Gabi Lowe, author of Get Me To 21, and social activist, Ndileka Mandela share their inspirational stories of survival, catharsis and transcendence. Another all-women panel leads a session titled Dismantling the Patriarchy, hosted by feisty feminist book club Confembulate. It features feminist writers Kelly-Eve Koopman (creator of Coloured Mentality), Keletso Mopai and Makanaka Mavengere-Munsaka getting under the skin with their true and fictional challenges to tradition and stereotypes.
Sports aficionados will not want to miss the Saturday session Vuvuzela Dawn, during which sports journalists, Luke Alfred and Andy Capostagno, and all-rounder Jeremy Daniel, will talk to Wild Coast FM DJ and sports lover Jeff Moloi about the unifying power of sport and how it has shaped our nation. On the same day Vagabond – Travels in Mzansi and Beyond features the ever-hilarious Sihle Khumalo, author of Rainbow Nation My Zulu Arse, and journalist and continental drifter Lerato Mogoathle (who has been called South Africa’s answer to Elizabeth Gilbert). They will give insight into breaking new boundaries in African travel writing with their honest and insightful accounts of exploring our country and continent.
In a session titled Multilingualism in South Africa on Saturday, language activists and educational pioneers Gcina Mhlope, Xolisa Guzula and Zanele Ndlovu will explore multilingualism as an answer to Mzansi’s literacy deficit. The Sunday session, Faith & Freedom, sees Reverends Frank Chikane and Peter Storey recounting their roles in the struggle for freedom during and after Apartheid, and discussing how religion can serve as a moral compass in times of political upheaval.
Black Tax and its Discontents is a highlight of Sunday’s literary programme. It features Niq Mhlongo (recent winner of the Media24 Herman Charles Bosman Prize for Fiction), superstar writer Dudu Busani Dube and publisher-at-large Phehello Mofokeng looking at how history keeps a whole generation in debt. Another unmissable session is Sex, Lies & The Bare Naked Truth when the queens of all things sultry and salacious, Eva Mazza, Dudu Busani Dube and Jackie Phamotse, will gather for hot discussion of their erotic writing. More light-hearted discussion comes with My Dad has a Helicopter, which offers a satirical look at the rainbow nation through the eyes of travel writer Sihle Khumalo and comedian Lesego Thlabi (better known as Coconut Kelz).
As part of South African Book Fair’s strong focus on Africa, Professor Kojo Yankah, an ex-member of Ghana’s parliament and celebrated writer and journalist, will launch his book about J.J. Rawlings, Ghana’s longest-serving Head of State. In the session Beyond Party Politics, Professor Yanhak will examine corruption and democracy in the broader context of governance beyond party politics. Another African-focused session is Nigerian-British author and Professor of Literature at San Francisco University, Sarah Ladipo Manyika (best known for her novel Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun) re-releasing her iconic work In Dependence.
Highly acclaimed Swedish writer and journalist, Elisabeth Åsbrink, visits South Africa courtesy of the Swedish embassy. Her historical book 1947: When Now Begins examines the complicated and interesting ways the events of that year affected the world as we know it today – and has been singled out internationally as essential reading for non-fiction devotees. Åsbrink’s session takes place on Sunday.
The popular African Philosophy Café returns on Saturday and provides an opportunity for visitors to experience the concept of lekgotla – a time of pondering and discussion – that infuses Constitution Hill. This year, Prof. Adekeye Adebajo will convene some of the greatest intellectual minds of the region to pay tribute to the icons of our age, as featured in his carefully curated selection of essays, The Pan African Pantheon. Among these is Dr. Bongani Ngqulunga, winner of the 2018 Alan Paton award for non-fiction for his book, The Man Who Founded the ANC: A Biography of Pixley ka Isaka Seme. Nomsa Mwamuka, Prof. John Lamola and Maureen Isaacson will also feature in this important event.
Among the many different South African Book Fair activations is Dance of the Dung Beetle, a hugely popular show based on scientist Marcus Lunn and writer Helen Lunn’s fascinating book of the same name, while Find Your Art Heroes is a journey of discovery for youngsters, hosted by Dr. Cobi Labuschagne. Running over all three days in the Oval Atrium of the Women’s Jail is an Illustrator’s Exhibition featuring comic book illustrators Loyiso Mkhize, Clyde Beech and Nathi Ngubane and others, and there will also be several performances, in different indigenous languages, of children’s favourite, The Gruffalo.
This year the Fair features a number of high-profile workshops, including Write Your Story, a half-day writing workshop facilitated by publisher and author, Melinda Ferguson (September 7 th ) and a short Zulu crash-course by Melusi Tshabalala (September 8 th ). A strong focus on food includes a live cooking demonstration by Mogau Seshoene (The Lazy Makoti’s Birthday Bash).
Once again telling #OURSTORIES and inspiring a reading revolution, the 2019 South African Book Fair is an unmissable showcase of the power of books and reading to nurture positive growth and transformation in South Africa. “Constitution Hill’s dynamic composition shapes a powerful new setting for us, and we are greatly looking forward to this year’s event,” concludes van der Sandt.