Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

UKZN Press

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

The Art of Life in South Africa is very much about how people lived in conversation (and limited by) their perception of the possible” – read the JRB interview with Daniel Magaziner

From 1952 to 1981, South Africa’s apartheid government ran a school for the training of African art teachers at Indaleni, in what is today KwaZulu-Natal.

The Art of Life in South Africa is about the students, teachers, art, ideas, and politics that led to the school’s founding, and which circulated during the years of its existence at a remote former mission station.

It is a story of creativity, beauty, and community in twentieth-century South Africa.
Daniel Magaziner radically reframes apartheid-era South African history. Against the dominant narrative of apartheid oppression and black resistance, this book focuses instead on a small group’s efforts to fashion more fulfilling lives through the ironic medium of an apartheid-era school. Lushly illustrated with almost 100 images, this book gives us fully formed lives and remarkable insights into life under segregation and apartheid.

Daniel Magaziner is associate professor of history at Yale University. He is the author of The Law and the Prophets: Black Consciousness in South Africa, 1968–1977.

‘A richly suggestive and moving contribution to South African intellectual history.’
— Achille Mbembe, author of Critique of Black Reason

‘This book is as important for students of global modernism as it is for scholars of South African art, history, and politics.’
— Tamar Garb, author of Figures and Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography

‘A profoundly human story of the institutional and social constraints under which African artists operated and the different ways they sought to produce beauty in the midst of oppression.’
— Frederick Cooper, author of Africa in the World: Capitalism, Empire, Nation-State

‘A meditation on what happens if we examine a past that is shaped by broader historical forces (in this case apartheid) but that cannot be reduced to them.’
— Clifton Crais, coeditor of The South Africa Reader: History, Culture, Politics

Daniel recently was in South Africa for the launch of The Art of Life in South Africa, during which he was interviewed by Johannesburg Review of Books editor, Jennifer Malec:

The JRB: The Art of Life in South Africa centres mainly on Ndaleni, an apartheid-era, government-funded art teacher training school outside Richmond in the Natal Midlands that has been all but forgotten. How did you come across this story?

Daniel Magaziner: Like most students of South African history, I had never heard of Ndaleni before I began to do this research. I was attempting to research the intellectual history of black artists during the twentieth century and was spending many hours in the basement of the Johannesburg Art Gallery getting frustrated because the voices and opinions of white reviewers were drowning up whatever artists’ voices I could access. I was reading a short biography of an artist named Dan Rakgoathe and learned that he had corresponded with someone named ‘L Peirson’. There were generous excerpts from his letters, which led me to think that these files might be a useful source, so I tracked them down at the Campbell Collections in Durban. Long story short, it turned out that L Peirson was the head teacher at the Ndaleni art school, where Rakgoathe had studied during the early 1960s, and that the Campbell Collections held the entire archive of the school, in a cabinet locked since the early 1980s. The Rakgoathe correspondence file was voluminous and it was only one among many similarly voluminous files.

The JRB: Why do you think Ndaleni has been neglected in South African art history?

Daniel Magaziner: I think there are many reasons why the school has been neglected in art history; I’ll highlight two. The first is that it was not in the strictest sense an art school and art history, both in South Africa and elsewhere, is a very elitist discipline that typically focuses on those artists who were trained and identified as such at the expense of those cultural producers who come from a different tradition and practice. Ndaleni was a teacher training institution, first and foremost; the students were to be art teachers, not artists. To this we can add the second element: it was a government school, run by and for the purposes of Bantu Education. This reality is at odds with the conventional wisdom on South African art, which has long been interested in the intersection between artists and resistance and certainly not interested in exploring the co-production of South African art and separate development. I surveyed art historical texts about black South African art from the 1960s through the present and this process of forgetting was quite apparent. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Ndaleni was well known both to people interested in South African art, both locals and internationals, before it was gradually effaced as other black artists with more ‘conventional’ training and politics rose to prominence. The end result of this was made quite clear in Wits University Press’s recent multi-volume collection, Visual Century, where the Ndaleni school earns a only a paragraph.

The JRB: Your first book, The Law and the Prophets, focused on Black Consciousness and the student and resistance movements of 1970s South Africa, when politics was seen as a ‘way of being’ and was a dominant force in the world of art specifically. In The Art of Life in South Africa, the picture is subtly different. Could you talk a little bit about that difference?

Daniel Magaziner: Like many Americans of my generation, I was first exposed to South African history through the lens of the struggle against apartheid. Steve Biko and Black Consciousness were a tremendous intellectual and political inspiration for me personally and I was fortunate to spend many years studying and writing about the movements and its times. But even as I continue to be fascinated and inspired by its politics, I have also begun to recognise that Biko and his comrades were exceptional (as revolutionaries often are) and not necessarily representative of a more widespread intellectual experience under apartheid. More common than those who ‘were’ against the system were those who strove to live along the grain of what the system allowed; this was true in South Africa and it remains true around the world, where the majority of human beings struggle to find meaning and self-definition within the realm of the possible, rather than by probing beyond current realities (as Biko had once done). The Art of Life in South Africa is very much about how people lived in conversation (and limited by) their perception of the possible, something I strive to get at by considering subjects such as the material limitations of art production, for example, as well as the ethical compromises that training at a government institution and teaching in Bantu Education entailed. My argument is a classically historicist one—the beauty and worth such historical subjects produced must be seen in the light of context in order to be assessed and understood.

Continue reading their interview here.

Book details

» read article

Afrikaans is one of the fastest growing languages in South Africa: Linguist Kerry Jones explains

Ju|’hoan Children’s Picture DictionaryKerry Jones, co-author of the award-winning Ju|’hoan Children’s Picture Dictionary, spoke to News24 recently, dispelling the notion that Afrikaans is an endangered language.

When asked, “Would you consider Afrikaans an endangered language?”, Jones has a firm answer at the ready:

Absolutely not. Absolutely not. If you look at the national census data you will will see that Afrikaans is one of the fastest growing languages in South Africa. It is one of our youngest, it’s around 300 years old, but it is one of the fastest growing languages. Not only as a mother tongue, but as an additional language. People are speaking Afrikaans as a lingua franca; it is used as a second, third and fourth language; it’s a language of employment; it’s a language of education; it’s also a language of media and literacy.

So it is by no stretch of the imagination disappearing and it spreads well beyond our borders. There are even large Afrikaans-speaking communities in Argentina and New Zeeland, so it’s definitely not only a South African flavour.

Jones, a linguistics specialist from African Tongue Professional Linguistic Consultancy, which specialises in minority African languages – especially Khoe and San – is currently working on a PHD in intergenerational language transfer. Watch the interview to see how she became interested in this topic and how she came to write Ju|’hoan Children’s Picture Dictionary:

YouTube Preview Image


Related links:


Book details

» read article

Good Stories and Great Dreams: Gcina Mhlophe Describes Her Hopes for Young South Africans (Video)

Umcelo Nezindaba Zase-AfrikaUmcelo Neentsomi Zase-AfrikaStories of AfricaHave You Seen Zandile?
Love ChildOur Story MagicHi Zoleka!Haai Zoleka!

Gcina Mhlophe, actress and storyteller, was recently interviewed by Jennifer Sanasie for News 24.

Mhlophe, who had just given a talk to a group of young people, told Sanasie about how “honoured and humbled” she is to hear about how her work has affected and inspired her audience, and says she is “so excited to see and hear what young people are doing in South Africa today”.

She goes on to speak about the importance of young people being allowed to express their dreams, disappointments and good stories.

Watch the video:

YouTube Preview Image

Book details

» read article

“Literature Everywhere Needs Writers that are Paid” – Nthikeng Mohlele

Rusty BellSmall ThingsNthikeng Mohlele recently chatted to Africa39 about the books and authors who have influenced him personally and professionally, his recent artistic projects and the challenges facing writers.

“I think literature everywhere needs writers that are paid, prizes worth winning, greater cross pollination between world cultures and civilisations through translations and preservation,” the author of Rusty Bell and Small Things says.

“Why should great books be out of print—yet no drug dealer runs out of cocaine and heroin or whatnot?”

Read the article:

What are the main challenges you see facing artists, writers, and literary culture in your country and region? How are you ameliorating these difficulties? What specific things would you like to see done in order to address these challenges?

I suppose the overarching limitation in South Africa is the fact that people don’t buy fiction like they do non fiction. Second, as a developing country in a devolving region, it is to be expected that there are more pressing things to people’s time and resources than chasing books—an unfortunate tragedy. Writers should be paid as well as well paid DJs—for instance.

Also read:


Book details

» read article

Antjie Krog’s Poetic Capital gives Her “A Certain Kind of Power” – Anthea Garman (Podcast)

Antjie Krog and the Post-Apartheid Public SphereAnthea Garman, Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University, recently spoke to Corina van der Spoel about her book, Antjie Krog and the Post-Apartheid Public Sphere: Speaking Poetry to Power.

Garman says the first time she encountered Antjie Krog was at a workshop set up for journalists on how to cover the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. At the time she was at odds with her news editor who didn’t think that the TRC was that important, while Garman viewed it as a watershed moment in our history.

When Country of My Skull was released, Garman interviewed Krog for the Rhodes Journalism Review and was struck by Krog’s freedom to ask questions that journalists were often unable to ask. “She was posing questions with a great deal of panache and authority.”

How was she able to do this? Garman, who’d never studied Krog at school, started to read all the media coverage of Krog since she was a 17-year-old poet in Kroonstad and was astounded by her long-established, extraordinary relationship with journalism, long before she became a producer of media.

“The media attention that she’s garnered over all those years of being a poet had actually given her a certain kind of capital, a certain kind of power.”

This power enables her to say things that create discomfort. Reflecting on Krog’s keynote speech at the 2015 Sunday Times Literary Awards, Garman says: “She is brave enough to say inappropriate things.”

Another factor that motivated the study was the question of who is allowed to speak in the current race debate. “How does an Afrikaans white woman of this particular age keep on speaking and keep on speaking and keep on speaking and people keep on paying attention?”

Garman discovered that Country of My Skull is a prescribed text on the post-apartheid space in history classrooms around the world: “She speaks for us as South Africans on a world stage.”

Listen to the podcast:

Related links:


Book details

» read article

Nthikeng Mohlele Lists His Influences, from Rihanna to Jonathan Franzen, for Traveling Marla’s Book Club

Rusty BellNthikeng Mohlele’s latest novel Rusty Bell was featured in Traveling Marla’s Book Club in August, and in the accompanying Q&A the author fielded questions from readers from all over the United States.

Traveling Marla’s Book Club, created by Marla Sink Druzgal, focuses on African literature:

Each book is a unique story, told in a fresh, original voice, giving some insight on life in the places I’m traveling and living. Each book represents a piece of culture, history, or slice of life from a different part of the world.

Druzgal says she chose Rusty Bell because “I knew would challenge even the most avid readers to push through one of the most unreliable narrators I’ve ever read, and wow did they come up with some strong questions”.

Jessica Kinnison asked Mohlele about his influences, and the author’s answer indicates an impressive reading (and listening) list:

Clinton K the cat reminded me of Haruki Murakami’s story Kafka on the Shore, Michael’s relationship to Dr West reminded me of Tom Robbins’ novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and nearly every Woody Allen movie, and Columbus’ death by laughter reminds me of a stunt Gabriel Garcia Marquez might pull. What artists do you consider to be a part of your “tribe” as an author?

Mohlele: My fiction has, stylistically, a musical nature – emanating from poetry – rhythm, rhyme, metaphors. Naturally, recording artists plays an important role in my set tone and where I improvise with narrative and theme selections. So: Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Ali Farka Toure, Salif Keita – and guess what, Rihanna too! But literature is also very much a cerebral occupation, bolted to the ground by many genres and sub genres – in other words, the mode of thinking and framing of ideas. Here, “kindred spirits” would include Wole Soyinka (who is a brilliant all rounder), Albert Camus for is masterful in tackling existentialism and the absurd, among other preoccupations, JM Coetzee for bone clean prose and word economy, Shakespeare for metaphor, Rainer Maria Rilke for the emotive and the profound, Javier Marias for narrative mapping and sentence complexity without loss of clarity, Dambudzo Marechera for pathos, Zadie Smith for humour, Jonathan Franzen for family dynamics, Milan Kundera for interpretative speculations, the Holy Bible for distilling the profane, and Zukiswa Wanner for the unexpected, Thando Mgqolozana for memorable characters, and George Orwell for narrative details. Artists I enjoy are many and varied and, evolve all the time. They include, musically; for instance, pianists, vocalists, drummers and guitarists: Jimmy Cobb, Larry Page, Jimmy Dludlu, Angus of ACDC, Jill Scott, Simphiwe Dana, and Sibongile Khumalo, amongst many others.

Book details

» read article

Progressive Pan-Africanism and Karl Marx, the Non-Marxist: An Interview with Issa Shivji

UbuntuIssa Shivji, leftist scholar of postcolonialism and contributor to Ubuntu: Curating the Archive edited by Leonhard Praeg and Siphokazi Magadla, was recently interviewed by Sabatho Nyamsenda for Pambazuka News.

In the interview Shivji, who is a well-respected public academic based in Dar es Salaam, speaks about his life in the academy, with its fluctuating trends and heated ideological debates.

Nyamsenda asks Shivji about his opinion of Mwalimu Nyerere because Shivji had the Professorial Chair in Pan-African Studies named after the earlier Pan-Africanist. Shivji explains that although he identifies himself as a Marxist and Nyerere does not, he considers it a great honour “to keep Nyerere’s legacy alive”.

Read the interview:

IS: Nyerere was a radical nationalist. He was a progressive Pan-Africanist and broadly anti-imperialist. To be sure, his anti-imperialism was not grounded in radical political economy, as was Nkrumah’s. Yet, his pro-people stance was consistent; his anti-imperialist position supportable and his nationalism progressive.

In comparison to the neo-liberal political class that succeeded him, and mindful of the havoc that this class has created in our society, woe unto any progressive, even a Marxist, who wouldn’t want to recall Nyerere’s legacy and deploy it as an ideological resource in the struggle against the current rapacious phase of capitalism.

Nyerere was not a Marxist and he didn’t disguise himself as one. Marx himself when confronted with vulgar Marxism exclaimed: “I am not a Marxist!” As a head of state, it is true he came out against struggles from below. But does that mean that a progressive person should not celebrate Nyerere’s progressive legacy and draw lessons from its contradictory character? My friend, a Marxist is not a purist; s/he is political!

Book details

» read article

How to Defamiliarise Fact to Cast it as Fiction: An Interview with Nthikeng Mohlele (Podcast)

Rusty BellNthikeng Mohlele, author of Rusty Bell, was recently interviewed by Nancy Richards on SAfm.

In the interview, Richards asks Mohlele about his Literary Crossroads talk with Helon Habila and The Brilliant Novel Opening Lines Facebook Page that he operates.

Mohlele starts off by speaking about how the facts of reality are “rewritten, recalibrated and realigned and given shades on unfamiliarity” in literature. All novels are based on some sort of reality, but Mohlele tries hard to avoid autobiographical work; he prefers “observation in social spaces.”

The interview with Mohlele starts at 24:17 of the podcast:

Book details

» read article

Steven Friedman on Racism: South Africa Dropped the Ball in 1994 (Podcast)

Race, Class and PowerSteven Friedman, author of Race, Class and Power: Harold Wolpe and the Radical Critique of Apartheid and senior analyst at the Centre for the Study of Democracy, was interviewed by Xolani Gwala for Talk Radio 702 about the prevalence of race rows at present.

In the interview, Friedman comments on the recent spate of racist incidents on social media, and says he believes South Africa dropped the ball in 1994. The country overcame an enormous hurdle with the first democratic election, he says, but there is still a long way to go. He believes that racism has a great cost in economic and political spheres.

Read the article:

Speaking to Xolani on 702 about the recent racially charged incidents such as Zelda la Grange’s twitter rant and the reaction that followed, Political Analyst, Steven Friedman said that the ‘rise’ in race related cases is not a rise at all but rather he has a hunch that the racially charged events have been happening all along.

Listen to the podcast:


Book details

» read article

Christopher Ballantine and Goolam Vahed Reflect on the Prestigious UKZN Book Prize

Marabi NightsChatsworthChristopher Ballantine and Goolam Vahed recently spoke to Melissa Mungroo about being awarded the 2012/13 University of KwaZulu-Natal Book Prizes recently.

Ballantine said his book, Marabi Nights: Jazz, ‘Race’ and Society, which is prescribed by music departments at universities in South Africa, the United Kingdom and America, helps people “to become aware of the history and the social meanings of marabi-jazz”.

Vahed co-edited Chatsworth: The Making of a South African Township with Ashwin Desai, which includes essays by over 20 contributors. “This took a lot of hard work, including logistical and communication problems. The end result is a book that we are all proud of,” Vahed said.

Read the article:

Academics Professor Christopher Ballantine of the School of Arts: Music and Professor Goolam Vahed of the School of Social Sciences, each received the coveted 2012/13 UKZN Press Book Prize for books they have had published.

Ballantine’s book is titled: Marabi Nights – Jazz, ‘Race’ and Society in Early Apartheid South Africa, while Vahed’s is titled: The Making of a South African Township.

Ballantine won the prize under Category A: Academic Book, and Vahed under Category B: Edited Book award. Both books were published by UKZN Press.

‘The UKZN Book Prize is a prestigious honour for our authors,’ said Ms Adele Branch of UKZN Press. ‘The number of submissions is huge, especially as there are a lot of academics who publish books via overseas or other local publishers or through departments and other avenues.

Book details

» read article