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Durban International Book Fair debuts in Africa’s Unesco city of literature

Durban International Book Fair. Picture: Instagram

Durban International Book Fair. Picture: Instagram

Published Jul 21, 2022

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The Durban International Book Fair (DIBF 2022) will see authors, publishers, promoters, distributors and book lovers unite for seven days of literature, culture, creative learning and networking.

The inaugural book fair is set to take place at Sibaya Casino & Entertainment Kingdom, from August 1-7.

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Under the theme “Unlocked & Unleashed,” the fair pays homage to the many local and international storytellers for keeping the “word alive” during the global Covid-19 pandemic.

DIBF 2022 is hosted by the Durban Book Fair, which is a non-profit organisation established as a civil society initiative in support place of Africa’s only Unesco city of literature.

It was launched in July 2018 to commemorate the birth anniversary of Nobel Laureate, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and to promote reading among children and the youth.

The Durban Book Fair has since convened monthly book fairs at Mitchell Park, Durban townships and online. Hundreds of local authors have used the fair’s platform to launch or promote their books.

DIBF 2022 boasts a stellar line-up of leading writers, musicians and artists and is designed as a global marketplace for readers, creatives, authors, academicians, literacy NGOs, language promoters and publishers.

Three local authors, Joanne Joseph, Bhekisisa Mncube and Niq Mhlongo, chatted to IOL Lifestyle about the new works they will be showcasing at the fair.

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Joanne Joseph (Children of Sugarcane)

Joanne Joseph. Picture: Supplied

“’Children of Sugarcane’ is a historical fiction novel that talks specifically about the issue of Indian indenture in South Africa in the 19th century,” explains Joseph.

“And it tells the story, very specifically from the perspective of a teen girl who was escaping an arranged marriage in India, and came to South Africa because she thought that perhaps there would be more hope in the colony of Natal, to make something of herself rather than become someone's wife in India.”

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Her latest book explores themes of colonialism, gender-based violence and issues of human rights.

“In terms of the themes that I’m touching on, it starts with the theme (of) colonisation, that is the backdrop to the story, right?

“And it's really important because it is asking what happened during the period of colonisation. When we think of decolonisation, it helps us think in more specific ways of what happened to our ancestors.

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“I'm looking at this from a feminist perspective, which has not really happened with a lot of literature on South African indenture, there's a small canon of it.

“So it's asking questions about how women were caught up in some traumatic periods of history and how they specifically have seen history through their eyes, and how they process the events.

“And then I'm looking at gender-based violence, which we know stretches back a long time in history, and was certainly a feature of Indian indenture in South Africa and other parts of the world. But (as) a theme, I think it's very relevant today still, and I'm looking at intergenerational trauma.

“So these are some of the themes that arise when you analyse the book, how does trauma travel through generations of colonised people, into the people we are today?

“And how do we deal with that issue of intergenerational trauma? So the book touches on themes like racism, misogyny, sexism, patriarchy, classism, and intersectionality.

Joseph says these themes are still as relevant today as they were centuries ago.

“I’m hoping that people reading a historical novel will find themselves slightly removed from our modern-day reality. But that distance will allow them to ask questions about the society in which we currently live, and how we need to work towards overcoming some of these difficulties that still persist in the present day,” she added.

‘Children of Sugarcane’ was internationally released in May.

Bhekisisa Mncube (The Ramaphosa Chronicles)

Bhekisisa Mncube. Picture: Supplied

Mncube will be launching his new book titled ‘The Ramaphosa Chronicles’. In this deeply personal reflection, through the letter-writing literacy device to President Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa for almost two years, Mncube comes alive as one of the rising political satirists of our times.

Mncube prides himself on having a knack for hard-hitting political analysis delivered with solemn and humorous voices. What with calling the president spineless?

“The format of the book is a series of open letters, that were published over a period of 26 months. So every week, for 26 months, I wrote an open letter to President Ramaphosa. In the letters, I will be talking about things that affect the politics of our country. So the President would write a letter to the nation, I will either respond to his letter or write about the things that should have been in that letter to the nation. There is an intergenerational conversation between a youngster in his late 40s and someone who is close to 70 (and is) also a head of state,” said Mncube.

“After 26 months of writing to the President weekly, I am yet to receive a response, let alone an acknowledgement of my labour of love. To say I am pissed is an understatement. I want my day with Thuma Mina.

“I have taken abuse on social media, being referred to as the Thuma Mina poodle, if not the ANC hater-in-chief, all for nothing because the president won’t be bothered to give me an audience. I am gatvol.”

“The material is made by politicians for me. I simply raise the mirror and say look at yourself, what you are saying does not make sense. What this country needs are governors who will put the nation ahead of the pot bellies of their friends and family,” added Mncube.

Niq Mhlongo (For You I’d Steal a Goat)

Niq Mhlongo. Picture: Alet Pretorius

German-based South African author Niq Mhlongo flew into the country, especially for this inaugural book fair. He will be showcasing his latest book ‘For You, I’d Steal a Goat’ - a collection of short stories that address issues of displacement, culture and same-sex marriages.

“I'll be going to Durban for the second time to showcase the book. We recently launched at Ike's Books, Florida Road. It was a sold-out event. So that gives me an idea that Durban is hungry for literature. People in Durnan have been supporting my work since 2004 when I released my first book ‘Dog Eat Dog’,” said Mhlongo.

“In the book, we have a story that the story of displacement, when families were forcefully moved from their homes in Sophiatown to Soweto in the 1960s.

“We also have a story that is centred around this theme of Covid-19, set in Berlin. It tackles issues of tradition and modernity.

“Another story is based on same-sex marriage and culture, where tradition or culture restricts us from being who we are, sexually.”

Mhlongo’s works have been translated into several languages, including Burmese, French, Dutch, Flemish, German, Spanish, and Italian.

The Durban International Book Fair takes place at Sibaya Casino & Entertainment Kingdom (1 - 5 August) and at Pick n Pay Hyper Durban North (6-7 August).

For more information on the fair and to view the full programme visit www.durbanbookfair.co.za. Entrance is Free.

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