Students showcase their “Fine Lines”

The School of Literature, Language and Media (SLLM) hosted the Fine Lines Festival at Wits University today. The festival was used to showcase, celebrate and discuss feminist aspects of African literature, as well as launch Writing What We Like, a new student publication.

The School of Literature, Language and Media (SLLM) hosted the Fine Lines Festival at the South West Engineering building on Wits University’s East campus today. The festival was used to showcase, celebrate and discuss African literature, as well as to launch Writing what we like, a new student-produced literary publication.

The festival began with a career fair which brought together students and “members in African literary spaces”, among the Writer’s Guild of South Africa and the Wits Centre for Diversity Studies.

Cuan Humphries, secretary of the SLLM student council, said the fair was held to give students an idea about the “professional organisations”, they can get involved with to showcase their creative work.

Fine Lines focused on feminist aspects of African literature this year with a packed line-up of female poets and literary thinkers. Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, a Wits Creative Writing lecturer, and the 2014 Commonwealth Poet, opened the event which also saw SLLM students share items of poetry highlighting their personal experiences as females in South Africa.

“African literature at this institution has not found the kind of expression and platform that it needs,” said Otsile Seakeco, deputy chairperson of SLLM. “The way the university is structured deviates from giving attention to and recognising the arts of Africans,” he added.

Humphries said the purpose of the event was “making space for Africa, in a space where African literature is not celebrated”.

He added that the “biggest draw card is the Q&A with the Feminist Stokvel”, happening this evening.

“The Feminist Stokvel is a group of vibrant women who speak on black women issues,” said Mpho Masuku, deputy secretary of the SLLM student council.

The Stokvel includes Witsies such as the 2015 Ruth First fellow, Panashe Chigumadzi, Pontsho Pilane and Nova Masango, among others.

He added that the student publication, Writing what we like, which showcases the creative work of students in the SLLM, will be handed out to those in attendance this evening.

“The aim with this, is for students to find expression through literature and decolonising literary spaces within the university,” Humphries said.

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Students! Read between the lines

This week, the first student-run literary festival gave Witsies the opportunity to meet and engage with literary icons from around South Africa.

The Fine Lines festival at Wits, which was organised by the student council members of the School of Literature, Language and Media (SLLM) “is good news” for literary culture in South Africa. Poet Chris Mann emphasised this point and was also positive that this idea was “coming from students”.

Organisers Priyankha Thakur, Saul Musker and Nelisa Ngcobo said the Fine Lines literary festival aimed to “encourage students and upcoming writers to engage with literary experts” they would not usually have the opportunity to connect with.

Thakur said they hope to “create more interest among students in South African literature” through the festival.

“We wanted to create conversation between students and experts,” said Musker.

Wits English professor Michael Titlestad, who has spent 30 years working in education, thinks people should be encouraged to read genres they enjoy.

“If you really want to understand your own society, you need to read about [it] because that is how you learn.”

“It’s important that students are encouraged to read whatever they like,” he said. “The sense of a high literary culture or the need for people to read things that are improving their intellect, their life and ethics is highly naive. We should simply encourage people to pursue their interests.”

World-renowned author Ivan Vladislavic told Wits Vuvuzela: “It’s hard to get students to engage with fiction and even harder to do so with South African fiction.”

With an estimated 14% of South Africans being active readers of fiction, the Department of Arts and Culture has expressed concern about literary culture amongst young people.

“It’s difficult for South African work to become visible. There is so much competition in literature from everywhere else. Students must keep themselves informed about what is out there,” Vladislavic said.

“If you really want to understand your own society, you need to read about [it] because that is how you learn.”

Writer Steven Boykey Sidley encouraged students to join online South African book clubs like The Good Book Appreciation Society to become familiar with and informed about South African authors, genres and literature.

Former books editor of the Sunday Independent, Maureen Isaacson, said events like the Fine Lines literary festival should become “common practice” among student communities.

“Why can we not have more dialogue, argument and discussion? We need to have events that are less arranged, because we can see that experts are willing to come in and share ideas about their books outside of book launches and festivals. It’s one of the best way to encourage reading.”

The festival, which ends today, coincides with National Book Week, which is still taking place around the country until September 8th.

 

Student run literary festival kicks off at Wits

POETRY READ: World renowned poet Peter Horn reads an extract of one his poems to a captivated audience. Photo: Zelmarie Goosen

POETRY READ: World-renowned poet Peter Horn reads an extract of one his poems. Photo: Zelmarie Goosen

The opening of the first ever student run literary festival kicked off at Wits today with a panel on the social life of poetry.

The Fine Lines literary festival was envisioned and organised by the student council members of the School of Literature, Language and Media (SLLM).

Students Priyankha Thakur, Saul Musker and Nelisa Ngcobo put the festival together to “create conversation” between students and experts.

Thakur told Wits Vuvuzela that they realised there was “a deficit in opportunity for events in our school”. They wanted “to create a place where students and upcoming authors could interact with experts” which they would not usually have the chance to connect with.

“It started off as this absurd idea while we were sitting on the floor outside an office in Senate House. We still can’t believe it came together.”

Musker said, “The festival is an open space in an intimate setting for interaction to take place.”

“We were a bit nervous initially but the staff within the SLLM were so helpful and willing to give us contacts. The poets and authors were so open to the idea of a student festival, it was really positive.”

World-renowned South African poets Koeropetse Kgositsile, Chris Mann and Peter Horn opened the festival with poetry readings in different forms which even included a lyrical poem sung by Mann.

Mann said, “The fact that this festival is coming from students is good news.”

Following the poetry readings a discussion about the life of poetry in the world was presented.

“There are poems for different times and moments. There is one poetry but hundreds of different types,” said Horn.

Kgositsile told the audience that “one has to get inside a poem to see how it connects with the outside world”.

The festival will be running until Friday, September 5th. Students can expect to see authors and poets like Antony Altbeker, Ivan Vladislavic, Mandla Langa, Shireen Hassim and the Botsotso Poetry group.

 

Appeal for students to help families of striking Marikana workers

Supporters of the Marikana miners arrive for the lecture. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

Students are encouraged to donate food items to the striking miners of Marikana and their families.  Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

Approximately 70 000 workers from platinum mines in the North West and Limpopo provinces remain on strike in the effort to secure a basic salary of R12 500.

And while the strike enters its 16th week, the families of the miners are looking to welfare organisations and donors from across the country for food they can no longer afford.

In an effort to help those affected, the Marikana Support Committee and the Wits Sociology department have brought the initiative to Wits University to allow staff and students to make a contribution.

Prof Noor Nieftagodien, who is involved in the Marikana Support Committee, says the  situation is becoming “increasingly desperate”, especially in terms of a “worsening humanitarian crisis.”

Student support

Nieftagoden says the response at Wits has been “very slow” but students who are aware of the campaign have been “very enthusiastic.”

At present, Wits has only collected R3000 and two food parcels. Nieftagodien hopes that the Student Representative Council (SRC) and student organisations will begin to mobilise support this week and that students will help raise awareness about the situation.

He says that the main aim of this initiative is “to make a humanitarian intervention” and provide food and other basic necessities. The project was initiated by two Masters students from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the Marikana Support Committee. Last week UJ delivered approximately 90 food parcels to the area and is set to make a second delivery this week.

The 70 000 striking workers provide support to approximately 150 000 to 200 000 people. “We cannot allow poor people to go hungry, especially not in the year that we celebrate 20 years of democracy,” said Nieftagodien.

Do donate

Students are encouraged to donate what they can (food, clothes or monetary) and donations can be sent to Ingrid Chunilal or Sedzani Malada in the Wits Sociology department.

Alternatively, the School of Literature, Language and Media Studies has arranged for students to drop off food and/or clothing parcels in Room SH3159 on Friday, May 23, between 8am and 1pm.

SLLM announces sexual harassment committee

The School of Literature, Languages and Media (SLLM) have announced that a sexual harassment committee has been constituted in order to address concerns, and facilitate a discussion, about sexual harassment among students in the School.

This announcement comes in the wake of allegations against one of the School’s senior lecturers, Dr Last Moyo.

The Wits Vuvuzela last week broke the story of the allegations against Dr Moyo, which he strongly denies. According to the Head of the School, Dr Libby Meintjes, the committee consists of Prof Pumla Gqola (Pumla.gqola@wits.ac.za), Dr Colette Gordon (Colette.gordon@wits.ac.za), Dr Mehita Iqani  (Mehita.iqani@wits.ac.za) and Prof Tommaso Milani (Tommaso.milani@wits.ac.za).

Dr Meintjes has encouraged students to approach the committee who will be able to assist students with concerns around sexual harassment and will even assist in approaching the CCDU’s sexual harassment officer, Maria Wanyane. According to Dr Meintjes, members of the committee, “will be able to provide a safe space for students to articulate any concerns.”

Read the official statement from SLLM:

“The School of Literature, Language and Media would like to assure students and staff of the University that it has a policy of zero tolerance with regard to sexual harassment. The School has constituted a Sexual Harassment Committee. This Committee will be calling all students in the School to a meeting to discuss sexual harassment generally: what it is, how to cope with it and what processes are in place to assist students subjected to it. A person familiar with procedures in cases of suspected sexual harassment will be present at the meeting to clarify procedures and answer queries.

The Committee has also been briefed to meet with the Media students as a separate group. Dr Last Moyo has called for a formal investigation into the allegations, and, out of concern for the School’s reputation, has stepped aside as Head of Department and as Assistant Dean of Internationalisation and Partnerships until the findings of the investigation are made known.
The School will always remain centrally concerned with the safety, well-being and professional treatment of its students and staff.”