M&G’s Litfest takes flight, honouring Sol Plaatje on his 140th anniversary

The seventh annual M&G Literary Festival, popularly known as the Litfest, will take place at Sci-Bono in Newtown, Johannesburg, on October 8 and 9. It aims to talk about what we write and to grow a writing culture in South Africa.

There is a significant nod to South African literary history in the Litfest marking the 140th anniversary of the birth of Sol T Plaatje, novelist, poet, translator, chronicler and founder member of what is now the ANC.

In conjunction with the Jacana Literary Foundation and the European Union, the Mail & Guardian will present the sixth annual Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award and Anthology. Since it began in 2011, the project has been funded by the EU and administered by the Jacana Literary Foundation.

Three shortlisted poets, selected from the longlist, will be invited to attend the Litfest, where the Plaatje winner will be announced, cash prizes awarded and the anthology of poems, published by Jacana, launched. The prizegiving and launch will take place on October 9, the 140th anniversary of Plaatje’s birth.

It will be preceded by a Word N Sound slam poetry session and the three shortlisted Plaatje finalists will perform their poetry.


The two-day festival will also feature reading sessions in which writers will read their unpublished work for discussion (what Friday editor Milisuthando Bongela says “can be billed as our Harlem Renaissance moment”), an after-party and the traditional Litfest panel discussions, robust examinations of life and literary life in South Africa.

Sessions at Litfest

  • Mythologies: Tales we tell ourselves about South Africa, nationalism and nationhood
  • Reporters without frontiers: Journalists and the Marikana story
  • Sol Plaatje at 140
  • Publishing black writers: Editors and publishers in our literary landscape
  • “Just get a boyfriend”: Racial identity discourse in South Africa
  • Writing white: Where are today’s Gordimers, Coetzees and Fugards?
  • Newtown Renaissance: Writers read unpublished work

Tickets
Tickets are R50 a session, with half-price discounts for students and pensioners (R25 a ticket). Tickets will be on sale at the venue on the day.

At Sci-Bono, the Litfest will take place in adjacent 150-seater rooms. The Bookdealers chain will have books by Litfest authors and other writers on sale outside the festival venues.

Sci-Bono offers age-group guided tours for children, so Litfest patrons can bring their families along and leave children under safe adult supervision. There is extensive parking and a coffee shop on the ground floor that serves light meals (burgers, chips and toasted sandwiches).

The Litfest after-party will take place at Madibuseng, 6 Verwey Street, Troyeville, from 2pm on Sunday October 9.

The rooftop at Madibuseng offers views of Jo’burg in every direction. Just south of Ellis Park rugby stadium — a few blocks away — Madibuseng is on the third floor of the trendy King Kong building, with the Visual Arts Network of South Africa on the floor below. Its bar, natural light and big-city sensibility make Madibuseng a good space to end the 2016 Litfest.


Poetry semifinalists chosen

The longlist for the sixth annual Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award and Anthology has been announced.

The project is funded by the European Union and administered by the Jacana Literary Foundation, in partnership with the M&G Literary Festival.

Thabiso “Afurakan” Mohare (adjudication of poetry in English), Goodenough Mashego (adjudication of poetry in indigenous languages) and Pieter Odendaal (adjudication of poetry in Afrikaans) compiled the longlist.

Professor Mongane Wally Serote, as chair of the panel, will select the top three poems.

The work submitted is judged blind, and the longlist will be published in volume six of the anthology.

A shortlist of three poets selected from the longlist will be announced on September 23. They will be invited to attend the M&G Literary Festival, where the winner will be announced and cash prizes awarded for first, second and third place.

The judges have sought poems that reveal the political and social attitudes of our time and reflect the complex, nuanced and uncomfortable truths of life in South Africa.

All established, esteemed poets themselves, they each bring a unique perspective — Mohare and Odendaal the relevance and brilliance of the lively spoken word and slam poetry scene in Johannesburg and Cape Town respectively, Mashego the skill of a multilingual, multitalented wordsmith, and Serote an unrivalled literary sensibility. — M&G reporter

For the full longlist go to mg.co.za/longlist

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Darryl Accone
Darryl Accone has been in journalism for the best part of four decades. He is also a Fellow of the Salzburg Seminar and the International Writers Workshop of Hong Kong Baptist University and the author of ‘All Under Heaven: The Story of a Chinese Family in South Africa’ and ‘Euripides Must Die’.
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