Media24 Books awards slammed over 'shocking' lack of diversity
Cape Town - Media24 Books has been slammed for a lack of diversity after awarding all six of its 2020 awards to white authors.
The winners of the annual Media24 Book Awards included six white males and one white female, while of the 18 judges only two were black.
The awards, worth more than R200 000, consist of six prizes given to books published by Media24.
According to the Johannesburg Review of Books, an article they published on the 2020 award winners “drew a strong reaction on social media, with many condemning the fact that all the winners, as well as the majority of the shortlisted authors and judging panels, were white”.
Among the authors who criticised Media24 Books was Fred Khumalo, who was quoted by JBR as saying: “Without taking anything away from the books that won, the composition of the judging panels speaks volumes. Given this insularity – the panels show a remarkable lack of melanin – it is not surprising that the results do not show an appreciation of the abundance of talent in this country, talent in all its multicultural and gender diversity. Not a single Black African judge!”
While author Niq Mhlongo told the JBR: “It’s not only shocking but it’s also embarrassing. It looks like a platform for particular authors. A platform for friends. There is an undertone of patriarchy, and undertone of racism, of a status quo that does not want to change. There is no democracy in it. It looks as if only white people should be judging literature, as if they are the custodians of taste.”
On Sunday poet and author Athol Williams wrote the following Facebook post: "I would encourage him to continue working hard at the craft he has begun to practice." Feedback received from Kwela Books (Media24) in 2020. See, we are always "emerging," we never arrive. I have over 100 poems in literary journals and countless literary festivals in 10 countries and 6 literary awards but I must "continue working hard" at what I have "begun to practice." How long must we deal with this sh!t"
Following the outcry, the managing director of Media24 Books Eloise Wessels acknowledged the lack of diversity.
“We acknowledge that the lack of diversity in the judging panels of the Media24 Literary Prizes is unacceptable. We take the feedback and criticism from our fellow citizens and the literary community to heart and we will actively address the issues to avoid a repeat of this oversight in future.
“We strongly condemn any form of discrimination and remain committed to promoting a workplace and a society that is inclusive and diverse. We made a mistake for which we sincerely apologise and are committed to setting it right in future.”IOL