THE POWER OF WORDS: Sarah Bitten and Chibundu Onuzo, below. Authors will soon be gathering to talk about how writers are recording history.
THE POWER OF WORDS: Sarah Bitten and Chibundu Onuzo, below. Authors will soon be gathering to talk about how writers are recording history.
Chibundu Onuzo
Chibundu Onuzo

THE 17th annual Time of The Writer: International Festival of Writers starts on Monday in Durban.

The week-long event is hosted by The Centre for Creative Arts (at the University of KwaZulu-Natal), under the theme Freeing Our Imagination.

Festival project manager Tiny Mungwe said 20 novelists, authors and storytellers from countries, including India, Kenya, Nigeria, Botswana, Togo, and Guinea would be attending. The festival runs from March 17 to 22 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

The theme is in solidarity with Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina’s call for Africans to use their creativity to imagine and create a continent free of the existential burdens of colonialism.

“We are a festival that is about ideas, especially with our focus on issues that are currently pertinent in Africa. We feel Binyavanga was brave enough to speak up in solidarity with other Africans who are being oppressed in parts of Africa and whose lives and freedoms are in danger because of whom they choose to love. We think that is a brave stand to make and we feel this is the kind of the stand the literary world should support.

“The other part of the theme is the focus on videos you’ll see on Binyavanga’s YouTube channel: a series of six videos that interrogate thinking and the way Africans are affected by the effects of colonialism. It challenges Africans to be more creative and free in expressing themselves and living out their reality,” said Mungwe.

A host of events, including panel discussions around different themes, but all under the umbrella theme of commemorating 20 years of democracy in South Africa, have been arranged.

“There is a range of things happening in Africa, across the world and in the country, and the themes change to address these. The focus on young voices in India, for example, is based on our need to grow strong relations in every sphere of public life in terms of trade and artistic relations.

“Mzanzi Women’s Voices interrogates the contribution of women to the economy and politics, but also to culture and literature.

“Within 20 years of democracy, aspects of the festival will be reflecting on how writers are recording history and writing and interpreting events that are happen- ing in South Africa… the story- telling theme, under Gcina Mhlophe, will be focusing on the storytelling tradition in South Africa and Africa as a basis for literature in Africa. On the closing day we’ll have the SA Humour panel, also in keeping with commemorating 20 years of democ- racy. Here we wanted to interrogate how, as South Africans, we are going about laughing at ourselves, as a way of sort of finding the light side to the very complex country that we are,” Mungwe said, explaining some of the themes the festival will address.

“We are a young democracy but I think we are relatively functional, especially in terms of how our writers in South Africa, Africa and the world are linking with South African reading audiences,” she said.

The opening night will be dedicated to the late great South African thinker, academic and prolific writer, Professor Mbulelo Mzamane (The Children of Soweto, The Children of the Diaspora and Other Stories of Exile and Where There Is No Vision the People Will Perish), who passed away on February 15.

In addition to the nightly panel discussions at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, there are a number of seminars and workshops, school visits and book launches set to take place. For the full programme visit


• Tickets are R25 for the evening sessions, R10 for students, and can be purchased through Computicket or at the door one hour before the event. Workshops and seminars are free. For more info call 031 260 2506.