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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

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:

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“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?”

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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”.

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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!

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Nthikeng Mohlele: I Do Not See Colour When I Create Characters

Rusty BellNthikeng Mohlele chatted to Nancy Richards on SAfm Literature about his newly released third novel, Rusty Bell.

The lead character of Rusty Bell is a lawyer, Michael, who despite his vocation is a philosophical figure. Mohlele says the influence there came from the French existentialist Albert Camus.

“Camus does that very well,” Mohlele says, “in writing about characters that reflect society to itself, in not playing to the norms of what would be expected of a person, or persons, or a group in similar circumstances.”

On his writing process, Mohlele says he believes very strongly that writers have a responsibility not to allow research to stifle their creativity.

“I’m fortunate in that I happen, for some reason – or at least I’ve got an illusion that I’m a very perceptive person, so I listen very intently or I observe things very closely, and I try as much as I can not to over-research my books, because I do not want to waste time reproducing research.

“You need a certain level of research, obviously, so that you’ve got well-drawn characters, and that the central impetus of the story rings true – because I’m not a lawyer, for one, and there are things that normally, as an artist, you wouldn’t be exposed to on a daily basis. But you have a duty as a creative person, from a literary point of view, to make sure that the research does not overwhelm the creative spark and your responsibilities as a writer.”

A discussion of character led Mohlele to outline his stance on the issue of writing across race or culture. He says he based the character of Columbus on a good friend of his, although his friend is black and the character happens to have blue eyes and curly hair: “that is immaterial to me; I do not see colour when I create things”.

“You hear, peripherally, debates saying ‘can white writers really convincingly write black characters?’, and vice versa; black writers, white characters,” Mohlele says. “I think it’s a dumb argument, it’s a false argument. People go through similar things. They might not have similar cultural registers, or interpretations, because each group of people or individuals have got their own peculiarities in how they relate to life, in their immediate circumstances, or how they respond to pressures that are coming from outside of their person as human beings.”

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Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho Explains the Impetus Behind his Debut Novel The Violent Gestures of Life

The Violent Gestures of LifeTshifhiwa Given Mukwevho says his debut novel, The Violent Gestures of Life, is an attempt to create dialogue between the youth, their parents and the government.

The Violent Gestures of Life is Mukwevho’s debut novel, following his short story collection, A Traumatic Revenge, which was published in 2011.

In an interview with Zoutnet, Mukwevho says he was interested in family relationships, as well as the reasons that the youth in South Africa turn to crime.

According to Mukwevho, the content of his novel was articulated around his personal experiences. “I had the rough draft and title of this book in mind while I was still doing time at the Kutama Sinthumule Correctional Centre,” he said. “I am deeply obligated to the National Arts Council of South Africa (NAC) who funded the manuscript development and writer’s residency, which enabled me to complete this book,” added Mukwevho.

He said he was living the kind of life that compelled his pen to write for social responsibility. He believes in the contemporary youth who do not merely sit down and let things happen for them. “We make things happen. We need healing in different areas of our lives, particularly when it comes to crime. Prisons are filled to capacity with young lives,” he said.

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