Nine things you have to know from the annual Time of the Writer Festival which just wrapped up in Durban.
This year’s theme for the Time of The Writer (TOW) literary festival was ‘Decolonising the Book’ and on the opening evening, on March 14, Thando Mgqolozana, the fiery author who quit the “white” literary system at Franschoek in May last year sparking a nation-wide conversation about ‘Decolonising SA literature,’ was there to deliver the keynote address.
For the next 5 days, writers, artists and media owners, in a number of necessary taut and complex conversations, delved into the theme searching for answers.
Here are 9 of the top takeaways from the festival.
1. There needs to be a promotion of access to knowledge and education
Books are expensive and education even more so. New, affordable, pricing will need to be discussed with the big book sellers, publishers and printers in order to make books more accessible.
2. Writing in African languages for the African reader needs to be developed
The need to develop a literature that is written in South Africa’s 9 other official languages will help overcome the barriers built by the English language, as well as Afrikaans, with regards to access to literature.
3. Hierarchies of knowledge have to be flattened so as to make knowledge sources more accessible
Knowledge production should be a focal point of communities at large through co-operative engagement among community members in informal ways that have always been the bedrock of historical African knowledge dissemination.
4. A culture of reading for leisure at school level must be promoted in schools and community libraries
There is an urgency to cultivate the culture of leisure reading among young people, parallel to reward-based reading that is enforced through textbook class work. This will grow the love for books among young people from an early age.
5. Community libraries need to be centers of learning for the community
Communities want their local libraries to not only be places where people do their homework but spaces of critical engagement with books and literature. Active, curious library staff is required to achieve this.
6. The supply of African lit titles on bookshelves in commercial bookshops must meet the overwhelming demand
People want to read stories that reflect them and their history.
7. South Africa needs to develop a local printing industry to affect lower prices
Majority of South African books are printed overseas and to make them cheaper the South African publishing industry will need to create a local printing industry.
8. There’s a huge demand for books that focus on children’s stories
Children’s stories are, by far, the easiest to print and the most in demand, according to Dr Maria Van Driel of the Jozi Book Fair.
9. The entire value chain from printing to publishing, to where one might buy a book, needs to be decolonised.
At the end of the day, the entire value delivery system – from publishing houses to bookshops and printing will need to be transformed in order to permit the person on the street access to South Africa’s literary industry.