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Book Festival Takes Authors Home


The Free State Literature Festival brought diverse faces together to celebrate the beauty of Free State and South Africa’s literary works, from books to poetry to plays.

Local, national and international authors shared their wisdom with the audience who had paid a mere R20 per session.

Invited authors included Western Cape Premier Helen Zille – who had a lot to deal with, especially in light of frivolous tweets about colonialism – Niq Mhlongo of After Tears, Zukiswa Wanner of Maid in SA, The Street’s Paul McNally and many more.

On 19 July 2017 a group of authors participated in a roundtable discussion on the topic of homecoming, asking, “What does it mean to be at home?” and, “Are we ever at home?”

Romanian-turned-Dutch writer Mira Feticu exclaimed, “Home is overrated.” She argued, like most authors on the panel, that home is a place a person creates for themselves. Taking a kind swipe at the Festival organisers, Niq Mhlongo said that he didn’t feel much at home because for the first time in his writing life, a book festival didn’t have wine for authors.

Before the audience could warm itself up to the topic, the conversation changed and became about language, its politics and its necessity. Once again, Feticu remarked, “Language is overrated,” adding that although she was born Romanian, she writes in Dutch.

At the right time, the audience was invited to contribute to the discussion and engage the authors.

Bloemfontein-based publication, Courant, reports that according to the director of the programme, Theo Kemp, the idea of the book festival started three years ago with former University of the Free State rector and vice-chancellor Professor Jonathan Jansen, targeting only Afrikaans-speaking audience. However, there are plans to include other languages.

Says Theo: “We started with Afrikaans because the book programme was always mainly in Afrikaans, but the idea is to bring other languages in.”

A big element of the Festival was the Sol Plaatje Memorial Lecture, which was delivered in a packed hall by celebrated poet and writer Antjie Krog. Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje was a journalist, writer and freedom fighter. He was the first secretary general of the then South African Native National Congress (SANNC), now African National Congress (ANC).

Photo credits: VryFess

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