This article by Open Book Festival director Mervyn Sloman originally appeared in the Cape Times, Tuesday, August 15, 2017.
The secrets to writing and imagining cities into fiction will be shared by award-winning international authors at the Open Book Festival next month.
Hosted by the Book Lounge and the Fugard Theatre, with events also taking place at the A4 Arts Foundation, District Six Homecoming Centre and Central Library Cape Town, the Open Book Festival will take place from September 6-10.
The festival presents more than 100 events including panel discussions, workshops, masterclasses, readings and performances, designed to inspire, stimulate and entertain audiences.
Chibundu Onuzo, 26, whose prize-winning first novel was The Spider King’s Daughter and most recent fiction is Welcome to Lagos, grew up in Lagos and calls it the megacity to end all megacities. In The Guardian, she writes that life, death, comedy, tragedy, joy and sorrow are all heightened in megacities.
She will be talking with Fiston Mwanza Mujila, author of the highly acclaimed Tram 83, who was born and raised in the DRC and now lives in Graz, Austria, where he teaches African literature.
Mujila said in an interview that, while his novel takes place in a fictional city that often evokes Kinshasa, he did not specify a particular city setting because he wanted the book to represent a form of exploitation and neocolonialism that happens throughout Africa.
Also in the conversation will be movie screenwriter and novelist Elan Mastai, who wrote the screenplay for the Canadian romantic comedy What If (also known as The F Word), which played in more than 30 countries.
He told The Guardian newspaper that screenwriting is like playing football or wrestling, while writing a novel is more like going for a swim, where you feel as though you’re effortlessly gliding, but you can also drown.
Mastai, Mujila and Onuzo will be talking to short-story writer Luso Mnthali on September 8 from 2-3pm at the District Six Homecoming Centre.
There is a series of four events focusing on access to land curated by the University of the Western Cape’s Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (Plaas), and audiences can look forward to a similar segment of programming themed around cities curated by the African Centre for Cities.
Also chatting about “writing cities” will be researcher, writer and artist Kim Gurney and journalist Nechama Brodie on September 6, from 12-1pm at the A4 Arts Foundation.
Gurney, author of August House is Dead, Long Live August House!, writes for Cityscapes, a magazine project of the UCT-based African Centre for Cities. Brodie heads the research and training division of fact-checking agency Africa Check. Her magical thriller set in Johannesburg is set to be published early next year.
New urban worlds will be discussed by American science-fiction and fantasy writer Ken Liu and African Centre for Cities director Edgar Pieterse at the Homecoming Centre on September 8 from 4-5pm.
As consulting editor of Cityscapes, Prof Pieterse is interested in policy discourses and interventions to make the African city more just, open and accessible.
Justice and land is an issue promising lively debate at the festival. Among land-focused events which address restitution and expropriation is a discussion on urban land reform hosted by Plaas.
A highlight will be listening to Prof Ben Cousins, whose most recent co-edited book is Land Divided, Land Restored, and who looks at land as a social, economic and natural resource in South Africa.
The 2017 programme is now available at www.openbookfestival.co.za. Visit the individual author pages on the website for a list of the events in which they are participating.
The seventh Open Book Festival will take place from September 6-10 at The Fugard Theatre, District Six Homecoming Centre, A4 Arts Foundation, PH Centre, Central Library Cape Town, Elsie’s River Library, Kuyasa Library and The Book Lounge from 10am to 9pm each day. For further information visit www.openbookfestival.co.za
Tickets to events range from R45 to R100. Day passes (which provide one access ticket to six events a day) are R150 and festival passes (five day passes with one ticket access to six events a day) cost R600. There are also a number of free events, but tickets must still be booked for these events to secure a place.
Bookings are through Webtickets.
The Open Book Festival is made possible thanks to the support of its sponsors and partners: Leopard’s Leap, The Fugard Theatre, The District Six Museum , Snapplify, Open Society Foundation, Kingdom of the Netherlands, City of Cape Town, Townhouse Hotel, Penguin Random House, NB Publishers, Jonathan Ball Publishers, Pan Macmillan Publishers, The French Institute of South Africa, The Canada Council for the Arts, African Centre for Cities, Plaas, Norla, the Embassy of Finland, the Embassy of Sweden, Dutch Foundation for Literature, Pen SA, the Confucius Institute and the Goethe-Institut.
Now in its seventh year, the Open Book Festival has established itself as one of South Africa’s most innovative and leading book festivals. It is committed to creating a platform to celebrate South African writers, as well as hosting top international authors.
The festival aims to instil an interest in and love of reading among young attendees, while the programme of more than 100 events over five days is designed to resonate with the festival-goers long after the event.
The programme includes talks by international authors and South African writers, poetry, a comics marketplace, panel discussions, book launches, outreach reading initiatives, youth programmes and writer sports.
The festival has been recognised internationally and was shortlisted twice for the London Book Fair Excellence Awards in the category of Literary Festivals. In 2016, Open Book hosted nearly 10 000 visitors at the 125 events with 251 local and international authors.
The Open Book School Library Project continues at St Mary’s Primary School where seven “Open Boxes” have so far been placed. The Grade 7 class will receive their Open Box later in the year.
To extend the reach of the Open Book Mentoring Project, a two-day skill-sharing workshop was run with a number of Cape Town librarians to enable them to run writing programmes in their own spaces.
The organisers look forward to repeating this process with a different focus later this year.