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Open Book Festival returns with new podcast series

Open Book Festival's new podcast series starts on November 8 with ‘Conversations with Mohale’ featuring Mohale Mashigo in conversation with Shana Fife, Pumla Gqola and Siphokazi Jonas about women in lockdown

28 October 2021 - 14:17 By Christine Skinner
Open Book Festival's new podcast series starts on November 8.
Open Book Festival's new podcast series starts on November 8.
Image: Supplied

Open Book Festival returns with an eight part podcast series celebrating just some of the works of literature to come out of SA this year. The series will run from November 8-24.

As was the case in 2020, planning the festival in 2021 came with a set of shifting goalposts, and so the decision was made to err on the side of caution and stay in the virtual space.

Vasti Calitz, festival organiser says, ‘Over the years, Open Book has evolved into a space that was inclusive and exciting, and which allowed for difficult conversations to take place safely. That face to face platform can’t be replaced, but the podcast series allows listeners to engage with the books and ideas in their own time and free of charge.’

All the participants in the 2021 festival are either South African or SA-based, a deliberate choice made by the festival team. Given the impact the pandemic has had on writers’ abilities to promote their new books and to drive sales, it felt important that all efforts be focused on the local literary landscape. Copies of all the books will be available for sale through the Book Lounge.

The participants this year include Mia Aderne, Efemia Chela, Shana Fife, Madeleine Fullard, Damon Galgut, Pumla Gqola, Robert Hamblin, Gretchen Haley, Siphokazi Jonas, Joanne Joseph, Ashraf Kagee, Bongani Kona, Mandla Langa, Qarnita Loxton, Naledi Mashishi, Mohale Mashigo, Tshidiso Moletsane, Nick Mulgrew, Thenjiwe Mswane, Tiffany Mugo, Mphuthumi Ntabeni, Futhi Ntshingila, Yewande Omotoso, and Uvile Ximba. The facilitators of the conversations include Catherine Boulle, Africa Melane, Mohale Mashigo, Chase Rhys, and Koketso Sachane.

The series will kick off with ‘Conversations with Mohale’, an annual conversation at the Open Book Festival that will be familiar to festivalgoers. Mashigo will be in conversation with Shana Fife, Pumla Gqola and Siphokazi Jonas about women in lockdown.

For the rest of the series, listeners can expect to hear the writers engage on themes that include queerness, grief, gender-based violence, love and so much more. This is a series you won’t want to miss. The podcast series is made possible by the generous support of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, as well as the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture.

Open Book Podcast trailer:

Participant biographies:

Mia Arderne is a Cape Town-based writer with bylines in New FrameMail & GuardianThe Vrye Weekblad, CosmopolitanMarie ClaireVISI, GQCity Press and more. Her writing explores the politics of gender, race, identity, sexuality and mental health. Her debut novel, Mermaid Fillet, published by Kwela (NB Publishers) in 2020, has been longlisted for the Sunday Times-CNA Literary Awards.

Catherine Boulle is an audio maker, writer and researcher living in Cape Town, with a Masters in English Literature from the University of Oxford. She joined the Institute for Creative Arts in 2015 and is responsible for driving the Institute’s research output — including co-editing Acts of Transgression with Jay Pather, as well as a forthcoming book about public art in SA, Restless Infections, and creating The ICA Podcast.

Efemia Chela was born in Zambia but grew up in England, Ghana, Botswana and SA, graduating with a BA in French, Politics and Classical Civilisations from Rhodes University. She was shortlisted for the Caine Prize (2014) for her short story, Chicken. She recently co-edited Migrations, the 2016 Short Story Day Africa collection and she is a contributing editor to the Johannesburg Review of Books. Her short stories have been published in Short.Sharp.StoriesBrittle Paper and most recently in As You Like It, the 2018 Gerald Kraak Award anthology.

Shana Fife is a work-from-home mother of three who runs a very successful blog. She has a BA in Live Performance, Music and Film from Afda Film School and a Certificate in Journalism from City Varsity. She does content production for various businesses. She is a 2019 fellow of the Jakes Gerwel Foundation and NB Publishers’ mentorship programme. Ougat: From a Hoe into a Housewife and Then Some, published in 2021, is her first book.

Madeleine Fullard is the head of the Missing Persons Task Team (MPTT) in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), mandated to trace the fate and whereabouts of those who disappeared in political circumstances between 1960 and 1994, and to recover their remains where possible. Madeleine previously served as a researcher in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and was part of the team that wrote the TRC’s final report. She trained as an historian.

Damon Galgut is a novelist whose work has been published in twenty languages. He has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times, most recently for The Promise, and is a past winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for the Africa region. His novel Arctic Summer was awarded the Sunday Times Fiction Prize, and two films were made of his book The Quarry. He lives and works in Cape Town.

Professor Pumla Gqola holds a Doctor of Philosophy (magna cum laude) in Post-Colonial Studies from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München in Germany and is a full professor in Literature, with specific focus on African feminism, African literature, Race, Class and Gender, and Histories of Slavery. She has authored several books, including the winner of the 2016 Sunday Times Award, Rape: a South African Nightmare. Her most recent book, The Female Fear Factory was published in 2021. In 2019, she was appointed to the DHET Ministerial Task Team to advice on matters relating to sexual harassment and gender-based violence (GBV) in public universities in SA.  She has served as dean of research at the University of Fort Hare, a former HOD of African Literature Department at Wits University and full-time professor of African Literature.

Robert Hamblin is an artist, father and a gender activist born in Johannesburg. He lives and works in Cape Town. Hamblin’s paintings and photographic works have been exhibited in SA and internationally. The artist has received critical acclaim for his work that contribute to debates around body politics in a post-apartheid-regime era. Hamblin's work is concerned with issues of queer masculinity as a transgender person. He transioned from a queer female in apartheid era SA to a transgender male after the fall of the apartheid government. His perspectives of coming into white maleness in such a critical time is visited in his work.

Gretchen Haley writes novels and short stories. She has also written social commentaries and performed them at businesses, community radio stations and schools. She has co-written and acted in industrial theatre plays in the forum theatre style for business institutes and wellness organisations. She lives in Johannesburg with her husband and three children.

Siphokazi Jonas is a poet, playwright, performer, and producer. She holds an MA in English Literature as well as an undergraduate degree in Drama and English. As writer and performer, she has produced four one-woman poetry shows in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Her most recent stage production #wearedyinghere was performed at Artscape Theatre and Joburg Theatre to positive reception. The production was adapted into a short film and has screened at numerous international film festivals. Jonas has been a featured act at numerous poetry sessions and festivals around the country. She is a storyteller and ordinary lives fuel her work in poetry and in the theatre. Her experience of growing up in Komani, in the Eastern Cape, during the transition years of SA’s democracy, has an ongoing influence on the stories which she tells. Her work engages questions of faith, identity, gender-based violence, cultural and linguistic alienation, black women in rural spaces, and the politics of the everyday lives.

Joanne Joseph is an established SA media personality and best-selling author, with over 20 years of experience. She has hosted prominent radio and television shows for major broadcasters, including the SABC and Primedia House. Her book Drug Muled sold over 10,000 copies. Children of Sugarcane is Joseph’s first work of fiction.

Ashraf Kagee is a psychologist, academic and writer. He studied in SA and the US and is now Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Stellenbosch University. His first novel, Khalil’s Journey, won the EU Literary Award in 2012 and the SA Literary Award in 2013. By the Fading Light is his second novel.

Bongani Kona is a writer, editor and co-curator of the Archive of Forgetfulness project. His work has appeared in a variety of places including ChimurengaSafe House: Explorations in Creative NonfictionThe Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other StoriesThe Baffler and BBC Radio 4. He was awarded the Ruth First Fellowship in 2019 and shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2016. Most recently, he has edited Our Ghosts were once People (2021).

Ashanti Kunene is a social justice activist, poet, decolonial dialogue facilitator, published writer and the founder of Learning 2 Unlearn. She holds a BA (Hons) International Studies cum laude from Stellenbosch University, where she was a prominent student leader during the 2015/2016 #FeesMustFall student movement. It was during this time that the idea for Learning 2 Unlearn as a social justice focused online learning platform was born. Learning to unlearn is an ongoing journey. In doing this work of writing and curating social justice focused short courses, she seeks to help people (and herself) live braver, more authentic lives in a crazy world.

Mandla Langa comes from KwaMashu, Durban. He went into exile in 1976 and has lived in Botswana, Mozambique, Angola, Hungary, Zambia and the UK. He holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of the Witwatersrand. A recipient of honorary doctorates from the universities of Fort Hare and Wits respectively, Langa sits on various boards such as MultiChoice’s Phuthuma Nathi and Datapost and is a trustee of Media Monitoring Africa. In 1980 he won the Drum story contest for ‘The Dead Men Who Lost Their Bones’ and in 1991 he was awarded the Arts Council of Great Britain Bursary for creative writing, the first for a South African. Langa’s published works include Tenderness of Blood (1987), A Rainbow on a Paper Sky (1989), The Naked Song and Other Stories (1997), The Memory of Stones (2000), the award-winning The Lost Colours of the Chameleon (2008) and the best-selling The Texture of Shadows (2014). His most recent book is Lost Language of the Soul, published this year.

Qarnita Loxton was born in Cape Town in 1974. She studied law at UCT, graduating in 1997, and worked as an attorney predominantly in the financial services industry. More recently she has trained and worked as an executive coach. Her first novel, Being Kari was published in 2017, followed by Being Lily in 2018, and most recently, Being Dianne which hit shelves earlier in 2021.

Naledi Mashishi is a researcher and author based in Johannesburg. She holds journalism degrees from Rhodes University and the University of the Witwatersrand. In 2019 she was the recipient of the Casa Lorde Writer’s Residency hosted by Blackbird Books and Eunice Ngogodo Own Voices Initiative. In 2021 she published her debut novel, Invisible Strings.

Mohale Mashigo is the pen name of Carol Mashigo, also known by her stage name, Black Porcelain. She is a radio moderator, storyteller, award-winning singer and songwriter. The Yearning was her debut novel and she has since adapted Beyond the River from the original film version for the youth market and has joined the writing team behind Kwezi. Her first collection of short stories, Intruders, was published in 2018. She is a contributor to Black Tax and one of the creative team behind Where’s Lulu.

Africa Melane’s wide-ranging interests and relentless curiosity stand him in good stead to host Early Breakast on 702 and CapeTalk, a show that ranges from international headlines to local issues. An accountant by training, Melane has spent a decade in broadcasting, both on and off-air. He is open-minded, compassionate and committed to making a difference.

Tshidiso Moletsane submitted his manuscript to his publisher in 2016. At the time he had most of his notes to complete his book on his phone, but then he was hijacked and shot (don’t worry, he’s fine). His phone was in the car and he had to start over (he did). He lives in Gauteng, splitting his time between Soweto and Weltevreden Park. Junx is his first novel. 

Nick Mulgrew was born in Durban in 1990. He is the author of four books, the most recent of which is A Hibiscus Coast (2021). Currently he lives in Edinburgh and is a PhD candidate at the University of Dundee. He is also the person behind poetry press uHlanga.

Thenjiwe Mswane holds a masters in anthropology. She is now doing a PhD with SWOP (Society, Work and Politics Institute) at Wits University. Mswane is an experienced gender researcher, and a retired queer activist. All Gomorrahs are the Same is her debut novel.

Tiffany Kagure Mugo is co-founder and curator of HOLAA!, a Pan Africanist hub that tackles issues surrounding African female sexuality. She is a contributor to various online platforms, writing on sex, sexuality and politics. She is also a media consultant specialising in sociopolitical and human rights. She is the author of Quirky Quick Guide to Having Great Sex and the co-editor of Touch.

Mphuthumi Ntabeni is a SA author who lives in Cape Town. His debut novel, The Broken River Tent, won the University of Johannesburg Debut Novel Prize 2019. Ntabeni was also one of six writers from the African continent included in the collection of short stories, Africa Fresh! New Voices From The First Continent that was published in the US. He has worked with the Rhodes University drama department to stage two plays which he wrote about the life and times of the Xhosa chiefs, Maqoma and his half-brother Sandile, that were featured on the SA National Arts Festival. He is trained in the economics of built environment, reads history and literature as something more than a hobby. He’s particularly passionate about the SA frontier history and the wars of land dispossession. His most recent novel, The Wanderers, was published in 2021.

Futhi Ntshingila is a writer from Pietermaritzburg. The author of Shameless and Do Not Go Gentle, her work centres on women and marginalised communities. Her third novel They Got to You Too focuses on the recalling of apartheid days in the time of the Covid-19 lockdown. Ntshingila holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution. She lives and works in Pretoria.

Yewande Omotoso was born in Barbados. She grew up in Nigeria and moved to SA in 1992. Omotoso trained as an architect. After completing a master's degree in Creative Writing, her debut novel Bom Boy was published in 2011 by Modjaji Books and in the US and Canada in 2019 by Catalyst Press. It won the 2012 SA Literary Award for First-Time Published Author, was shortlisted for the 2012 Sunday Times Fiction Prize in SA as well as the M-Net Literary Awards 2012. Omotoso was shortlisted for the 2013 Etisalat Prize for Literature and a winner of the Africa Centre’s Artists in Residency Programme in 2014. Her second novel, The Woman Next Door, was shortlisted for the 2017 University of Johannesburg Prize for SA Literature, the Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize and the 2018 International DUBLIN Literary Award. It was longlisted for the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and was finalist in 2018 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Fiction. It was published by Chatto & Windus in 2016, and by Picador in the US, Ullstein in Germany and De Geus in Holland in 2017 and by 66th and 2nd in Italy in 2018. It was published by Zoe Editions in France in 2019 and by Munhakdongne Publishing Group in Korean in 2020. Her new novel An Unusual Grief will be published by Cassava Republic Press in 2021. Omotoso lives in Johannesburg.

Chase Rhys is a 30-year-old novelist, scriptwriter and playwright from Ocean View. He studied drama at the University of Cape Town. Rhys’ debut play, Kinnes, was the inaugural winner of the Adam and Rosalie Small Prize in 2017. He adapted the play to a novella, published by Kwela in 2018. The novella Kinnes was awarded a 2019 KykNET-Rapport Prize in the film category. Rhys has also contributed short stories to the anthologies Die nuwe Afrikaanse prosaboek and They Called Me Queer.

Uvile Memory Samkelisiwe Ximba is a creative producer who completed her Bachelor of Arts Joint Honours in Politics and International Relations and Dramatic Arts in 2019. She is an intern at Sonke Gender Justice and has been selected as an ASSITEJ SA ‘In The Works’ 2020 playwright. Ximba is the co-founder of Thamba Creatives, a multi-media production company premised on creating narratives for and by black women and believes in interdisciplinary praxis. When it comes to her creativity, her stance is, “Why wait?” In a past life, she may have been a cat.

Article provided by Christine Skinner, publicist: Open Book Festival