/ 11 August 2009

Tale of two weekends …

What a difference seven days make. Here is a tale of two weekends, with two widely divergent aims and outcomes. The first saw the publishing mainstream gather last weekend to see In a Different Time by Peter Harris take the Alan Paton Award for non-fiction and The Rowing Lesson by Anne Landsman the Sunday Times Fiction Prize.

This past weekend saw a gathering of small-scale publishers devoted to social justice agendas, of neglected and lesser-known writers, and of readers interested in a culture of reading beyond the conventional. They will all meet at the Jozi Book Fair at Museum Africa in Newtown, Johannesburg, on August 8 and 9.

The event took place under the aegis of Khanya College’s yearly Winter School, with Botsotso Publishing as the educational institution’s partner. The fair offers a haven and a platform for small publishers of progressive and alternative inclinations, the writers they publish and the readers who savour their fare. On the programme were launches, interviews and conversations with authors and publishers, as well as readings and signings by authors.

Among the new books launched, three were from Botsotso: two collections of theatre works by Gha-Makhulu Diniso, Kuyanuka and Other Plays, Ikasi and Other Plays and Comeback (subtitled Poems in Conversation), containing works by Paul Mason and the late Peter Esterhuysen (among other things, a scriptwriter for Soul City and Yizo Yizo).

From the new Paper Bag Publishing came its launch title, Ain’t Yo Bitch by Bongiwe Jabulile Ngwenya, billed as “a hard-hitting novel about an emerging lesbian hip-hop performer, Tebogo, and her relationships with her male band and female groupies. It explores the violence and prejudices that young women and gays face, especially if they dare to be different.”