Readers will come home at Open Book Festival

01 September 2023 - 14:33 By Martin Slabbert
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The Open Book Festival returns to Cape Town on September 8.
The Open Book Festival returns to Cape Town on September 8.
Image: Supplied

The 2023 edition of the Open Book Festival (OBF) kicks off next week.

Hosted again at The Homecoming Centre (HCC) in the Cape Town CBD from September 8 to 10, it is a gathering that lovers of books and meaningful conversations simply cannot miss.

“We have spent the last few months reading some of the best literature that has come out of this country and the continent this year to prepare for the conversations for this year’s gathering. We’ve worked to ensure there is something for everyone and are delighted to be bringing some new ideas to this year’s festival,” said convenor Frankie Murrey.

The festival follows the same format as last year, with several panel discussions taking place in each time slot. These will, for the most part, take place in HCC venues, with a small number of sessions happening in other spaces, including the Book Lounge.

Between the discussions, members of the public will have the opportunity to interact directly with the authors, and get to know some of the people exhibiting at the Marketplace. This public area is where all book sales and signings take place.

In addition to the discussions that form the backbone of the festival, young readers can look forward to several story-time sessions. Lovers of poetry have much to look forward to, with poets included in different events.

Murrey said while the festival is never themed, the programme always includes events that explore challenges faced by women, the LGBTQIA+ community and those who seek to identify potential solutions to issues stemming from patriarchy.

Highlights of the programme include:  

  • Extraordinary Lives: Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis, Sindiwe Magona and Patric Tariq Mellet speak to Firdose Moonda about overcoming the horrendous impact of apartheid.
  • African Cities as Text | Desiring Urbanity in African Literature: Farai Mudzingwa, Wisani Mushwana and Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah speak to Mapule Mohulatsi about African cities as spaces of reinvention and desire. Brought to you by the African Literary Cities Project.
  • The Banality of Violence: Nechama Brodie, Caryn Dolley and Morabo Morojele explore the normalisation of pervasive violence in the company of Erin Bates.
  • The future of publishing: In the context of a drastically weaker rand, load-shedding woes  and concerns about representation, Mervyn Sloman talks to Eugene Ashton (JB), Mbali Sikakana (NB) and Karina Szczurek (Karavan) about their thoughts and plans.
  • Queering the Page: Wisani Mushwana, SJ Naudé and Pieter Odendaal speak to Branden Grant about queerness and masculinity.
  • Constructed Identities: Lynsey Ebony Chutel, Thandiwe Ntshinga and Pieter Odendaal speak to Nadia Sanger about the roots of racial identity in South Africa.
  • African Cities as Text | Cape Town City Stories: Caryn Dolley, Patric Tariq Mellet and Chase Rhys speak to Barbara Boswell about writing the memories and (sub)cultures of Cape Town. Brought to you by the African Literary Cities Project.
  • Queerness and Cape Town: Zoey Black, Maneo Mohale and Manila von Teez explore Cape Town's "queer capital" claims in the company of Lwando Scott.

“Our focus last year was on writers based in South Africa and this time around we are broadening that to include African writers. We’re always excited about the debut writers we can add to the programme, and this year is no different. Audiences have some powerful voices to meet at OBF 2023,” said Murrey.

The Open Book Festival has been in existence since 2011. The Fugard Theatre, as it was known then, later to be renamed the HCC, has always been the hub for the event. The pandemic forced organisers to reformat the event into two podcast series editions, but there was a return to a live, in-person format in 2022.

“We have a strong history of curating events that allow robust conversation to take place exploring some of the challenges we face as South African and global citizens. We are also invested in building a love of books, reading, and storytelling among all.

“We believe through our stories we better understand and empathise with each other and festivals such as Open Book are of fundamental and ongoing importance,” she said.

OBF 2023 is presented in association with the department of sports, arts and culture, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the City of Cape Town, NB Publishers, Jonathan Ball Publishers, Pan Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Stellenbosch University English department, Africa Centre for Cities, NRF SARChI Chair in African Feminist Imagination at Nelson Mandela University, The Electric, 16 on Lerotholi, Letterhead and Hear My Voice.

A limited number of complimentary tickets have been made available for students and anyone else who may experience price as a barrier to entry.

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