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Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Night of the playwrights: John Kani chats to Craig Higginson, Harry Kalmer and Neil Coppen at Love Books

Night of the playwrights: John Kani chats to Craig Higginson, Harry Kalmer and Neil Coppen at Love Books
Nothing But the TruthMissingThree PlaysDie Bram Fischer WalsTin Bucket Drum


Wits University Press and Love Books have the pleasure of inviting you to join four award-winning playwrights to celebrate their plays published with Wits University Press.

John Kani, author of much-loved plays Nothing But the Truth and Missing, will be in conversation with Craig Higginson (Three Plays), Harry Kalmer (Die Bram Fischer Wals and The Bram Fischer Waltz), and Neil Coppen (Tin Bucket Drum).

Don’t miss it!

Event Details

  • Date: Tuesday, 08 November 2016
  • Time: 6:00 PM for 6:30 PM
  • Venue: Love Books
    The Bamboo Lifestyle Centre
    53 Rustenburg Road
    Johannesburg | Map
  • Guest Speaker: John Kani
  • Refreshments: Come and join us for a glass of wine
  • RSVP:

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2016 Mail & Guardian Literary Festival celebrates the life and work of Sol Plaatje

Lover of His PeopleSol Plaatje's Native Life in South AfricaSol PlaatjeThree PlaysThe Spirit of Marikana

The seventh annual Mail & Guardian Literary Festival will take place on 8 and 9 October in Newtown, Johannesburg at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre.

The festival will mark the 140th anniversary of the birth of Sol Plaatje, novelist, poet, translator, chronicler and founder member of what is now the African National Congress (9 October, 1876).

Find the full programme and all info about the venue and tickets below.

Event Details

Have a look at the programme:



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Benedict Wallet Vilakazi – the ‘Father of Nguni Literature’ – honoured with Order of Ikhamanga

The late Zulu poet, novelist and linguist Benedict Wallet Vilakazi will be honoured with the Order of Ikhamanga today.

The National Orders Awards are awarded annually to those who have “played a momentous role towards building a free democratic South Africa and who also have made a significant impact on improving the lives of South Africans in various ways”.

Vilakazi and Marguerite Poland are the two writers who will be receiving the Order of Ikhamanga this year, an award that recognises South African citizens who have excelled in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport.

Wits University Press published Vilakazi’s first book of poems, Inkondlo kaZulu (Zulu Horizons) – the poetry ever published in isiZulu – and a subsequent volume Amal’eZulu, as well as the first Zulu-English Dictionary, which Vilakazi compiled in collaboration with CM Doke.

Find out more, from Wits Press:

Benedict Wallet Vilakazi has been called the “Father of Nguni Literature”. He was born on 6 January, 1906 at Groutville Mission Station near Stanger in KwaZulu-Natal. The poet grew up in the neighbourhood of the mission station and in 1912 entered the primary school at Groutville, remaining there until he reached Standard 4. He continued his schooling at Marianhill, the Roman Catholic Monastery outside Durban, and after reaching standard 6, took a teacher’s training course.

Vilakazi’s gifts and ambitions came to the fore when he attended the Catholic Seminary at Ixopo in KwaZulu-Natal, where he devoted much of his spare time to distance education. He succeeded in matriculating, after which he taught at the Ohlange Institute in Phoenix near Durban. In 1934 he attained a Bachelor of Arts degree in African Studies. At the time, Vilakazi was already known to academics at the University of the Witwatersrand, which was in the process of publishing his first book of poems, Inkondlo kaZulu (tr: Zulu Horizons). This was the first book of poems ever published in isiZulu; it also marked the launch of the newly established Bantu (later: African) Treasury Series (published by Wits University Press), a collection of 20 classic works written between 1935 and the 1987 in African indigenous languages.

Coincidentally, the University was looking for an assistant in its Bantu Studies Department (now the Department of African Languages). At the insistence of CM Doke, at the time Head of Department, Vilakazi was appointed as Language Assistant in 1935. This appointment made him the first black African in the then Union of South Africa to teach at a white university, and it sparked a controversy: treated with suspicion by conservative whites, it was also seen as a “collaborationist appointment” (1) by some in the black political elite.

Vilakazi continued his own studies and, in 1938, was awarded a Master of Arts degree. In 1946 he reached another milestone by becoming the first black African in South Africa to receive a Doctorate in Literature (D Litt.) from Wits for his thesis The Oral and Written Literature in Nguni.

When Vilakazi entered the literary field, there were no published books of plays or poems written in isiZulu, and from 1930 onwards for 10 years, Vilakazi, HIE and RRR Dhlomo dominated the literary scene. Amal’eZulu (Wits University Press), published in 1945, was later recognized as one the best 100 African books of the twentieth century. Vilakazi also published three novels, Noma Nini! (Marianhill Mission Press), Udingiswayo KaJobe (Sheldon Press) and Nje Nempela (Marianhill Mission Press). In collaboration with Doke, he compiled the first Zulu-English Dictionary (Wits University Press). Writing in 1995, Dumisani Ntshangase asserted that Vilakazi and Doke:

produced the first major lexicographical work in an African language and this dictionary even today stands as the most successful and comprehensive project in African Languages lexicography in South Africa. (2)

In his writings, Vilakazi thought of himself as a spokesperson for his people and he identified with the struggles, fears, sacrifices and aspirations of his people. However, because of the bias towards African literature written in English – a bias that dominated academic discourse as well as debates within the resistance movement of the time – “his works have always been put in the periphery of the African intellectual history.” (3)

Vilakazi died suddenly of meningitis at Coronation Hospital at the age of 41 on 26 October, 1947, survived by five children. He was undoubtedly the most outstanding figure in Zulu literature of his time, and his funeral in Marianhill was attended by thousands of people.


1. Dumisani Kruschchev Ntshangase, Between the Lion and the Devil: The Life and Works of BW Vilakazi, 1906-1947. Paper presented for the Institute for Advanced Social Research, University of Witwatersrand 1995. Page 3.
2. Ntshangase 1995, page 2.
3. Ntshangase 1995, page 1.

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Freedom’s ambiguities explored in Missing, a play by John Kani with an introduction by Njabulo Ndebele

MissingThe text of John Kani’s latest play Missing, with an introduction by Njabulo Ndebele, is now available from Wits Press:

Missing is the story of Robert Khalipa, an ANC Cadre living in exile, who is very senior in the Organisation but is left out of the negotiations and almost forgotten in Sweden. Robert has a wealthy Swedish wife, Anna, and they have a daughter who is a practising doctor in a hospital in Stockholm. There is also Robert’s protégé Peter Tshabalala, junior in the Organisation, yet he gets the call to return to South African to join the democratic government.

What follows is a story of conspiracies, lies, backstabbing and disappointments. Robert and his family are faced with the challenges of a South Africa that has changed radically from the one he remembers from more than 30 years ago. The government, in his opinion, does not seem to uphold the principles enshrined in the Freedom Charter. There is also conflict within his own family. Robert wants to stay in South Africa, while his wife and daughter want to go back to Sweden. Their love is tested to breaking point and difficult decisions have to be made by every individual.

As with Kani’s very successful and often-performed previous play, Nothing but the Truth, the ambiguities of freedom and of personal commitment are explored in this play.

Missing, an intense reflection on home and exile, comes at a particularly important moment in the evolution of the relationship between public and individual sensibility.

- Njabulo S Ndebele, academic, literary scholar and writer

John Kani’s Missing is a powerful post-apartheid paradox. The leadership issues we face are no longer about black or white … they are a kaleidoscope of bright, compelling and confronting colours which challenge our very identity as a nation. Through this evocative play we are enabled to confront our own stories of personal commitment and political pragmatism in that moment when Robert Khalipa says “We fought for Freedom and we got Democracy”.

- Melanie Burke, Common Purpose South Africa

About the author

John Kani is a South African actor, director and playwright. He co-wrote Sizwe Banzi is Dead and The Island, with Athol Fugard and Winston Ntshona, in the early 1970s. Nothing but the Truth (2002) was his debut as sole playwright and was first performed in the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. Nothing but the Truth is published by Wits University Press (2002) and has been prescribed for many years for Grade 12 learners.

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Anthony Akerman’s Somewhere on the Border Wins 2014 Thomas Pringle Award

Somewhere on the BorderThe English Academy of South Africa’s 2014 Thomas Pringle Award for Best Short Story/Play has been awarded to Anthony Akerman, the author of Somewhere on the Border, published in 2012.

Ivan Vladislavić described the book as “chillingly brutal and grimly humorous all at once” and said: “Somewhere on the Border detonates in the present like a long-dormant mine. Since its first staging in the early 80s, Akerman’s play has lost none of its explosive power.”

Wits University Press’ publisher Veronica Klipp said that she was delighted by the news of the award.

Adjudicators Karen Batley and Glenda Holcroft noted that this Somewhere on the Border a harrowing, dark reminder of the South African Border War, which is possibly more disturbing years later than at its original performances. They said that we re-live the trauma of those [dreadful apartheid] years because “our memories [are] forcibly stirred from where we had conveniently buried them”.

The adjudicators described the play’s action and language as “violent and realistic” and said that the characters were “convincing” because “they are drawn from experience”.

The prizegiving ceremony will take place at the Institute for African Renaissance Studies in Pretoria on Tuesday, 28 April, 2015.

Presentation of the awards will be followed by a Commemorative Lecture for the late Nadine Gordimer, 1991 Nobel Laureate and English Academy of South Africa patron. The lecture entitled “The Fiction of Nadine Gordimer: An Historical Presentiment” will be delivered by the University of the Witwatersrand‘s Professor Michael Titlestad.

The English Academy awards are sponsored by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and administered by the English Academy of Southern Africa. They are awarded biennially.

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John Kani Compares his New Play Missing to Nothing But the Truth

Nothing But the TruthJohn Kani, actor, playwright and author, says the same DNA runs through both Nothing But the Truth and his new play, Missing.

Missing focuses on how Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 affected those ANC members living in exile in Europe.

Kani says his most recent play looks at the dynamic between politics – “conspiracy, intrigue and betrayal by his own comrades” and a family having to return to an unfamiliar “home”.

Is it a companion piece to Nothing But The Truth, in the sense that you told the story of return from those left behind. Now you are telling the story from the point of view of the returnees.

No, but there is a DNA thread … you right, he [Robert in >Missing like Sipho in Nothing But the Truth] is also looking at his age, his daughter is going to get married, there is a custom we need to do as Xhosas … Mrs Thabo Mbeki, after seeing the play [Nothing But the Truth], said to me: “John, not all of us were like Themba in exile. Some of us struggled and suffered, especially us women who stayed in these one-roomed flats, never with your husband. I’d love to tell you that story one day” …

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Video: Nuruddin Farah Shares His Memories of Chinua Achebe

The Disorder of ThingsSomalian author Nuruddin Farah was one of the writers invited to share their memories of Chinua Achebe, who passed away in March, for a celebration of Achebe’s life at Bard College in New York.

Farah described Achebe as a great person, saying that he was fun to be with and that they laughed a lot when they were together. “He was a very kind man,” he said, “almost like a teacher to me, or to anyone younger than he. He was a repository of wisdom.”

He recalls one occasion when he stayed with Achebe in Nigeria for seven days. They would wake up in the morning and talk until nighttime. “I learnt a great deal from him”:

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Zakes Mda Muses on the Inspiration Behind Our Lady of Benoni

Our Lady of BenoniAuthor and playwright Zakes Mda was interviewed in City Press, where he spoke about the inspiration for his play Our Lady of Benoni.

We are outside a guesthouse in Melville with a large lawn in the back yard and a pool.

The acclaimed writer, dressed in cap and braces, and the admiring journalist are sitting on comfortable chairs on the lawn in the afternoon winter sun.

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Win: Three Book Hamper by Zakes Mda Including Our Lady of Benoni

Our Lady of BenoniAnd the Girls in their Sunday DressesFools, Bells and the Habit of EatingWits University Press is giving away a signed book hamper by Zakes Mda including Our Lady of Benoni, And the Girls in their Sunday Dresses and Fools, Bells and the Habit of Eating.

To stand a chance of winning, go to the Wits University Press Facebook page and send the answer to the question below to their inbox:

How did Zakes Mda get into Beekeeping?

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Launch of Zakes Mda’s Our Lady of Benoni at Wits Art Museum

Launch invite - Our Lady of Benoni by Zakes Mda

Our Lady of BenoniWits University Press invites you to the launch of Our Lady of Benoni, a new play by Zakes Mda.

The acclaimed playwright will be in conversation with Sarah Roberts, Skye Chair of Dramatic Arts, at Wits Art Museum on 26 July at 5:30 for 6:00 PM. The museum will be open to guests after the launch.

See you there!

Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 26 July 2012
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: Wits Art Museum,
    University Corner,
    Corner Bertha and Jorissen streets,
    Braamfontein, Johannesburg | Map
  • Guest Speaker: Sarah Roberts
  • RSVP:, 011 7178 700

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