By: Elesi Azumah
Anchored in the heart of the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal; The Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre was the set location for the 21st Times of the Writer session for literature lovers and “woke” individuals willing to share their knowledge of written word and engage in an open conversation on the 16th of March 2018.
By 7:00pm, the first session called, “Shaping the emerging minds” was represented by an amazing cast of seasoned female authors such as Refiloe Moahloli and Veteran Lindiwe Mabuza whilst facilitated by the phenomenally outspoken Author/ Activist Dr. Gcina Mhlophe who all managed to give an insightful outlook into the “world of a writer”.
With the auditorium almost filled to capacity, Mabuza read from one of her children’s story books titled, Mbindi with Gogo. With the audience listening attentively to every unuttered syllable like children in a school hall, in retrospect one could easily resonate behind the books most highlighted message which is on ‘transformation’ despite the main character being a young girl. “The characters Mbindi and Gogo looked at transformation in thought with what we are doing in our lives and what we share with our young minds,” she explained.
On her personal involvements towards the festival and encouraging the youth on reading more books, Dr Gcina Mhlophe said, “It is extremely powerful to see the number of people that have graced the stage for the past twenty one years. I have attended several of these Times of the Writers festivals even when I’m not on stage and so happen to be part of the audience. I support those who are on stage and have always made it my business to do so,” she said.
“We need to get used to the spirit of honouring positive news rather than looking at what was wrong, what didn’t go right and who said what was ugly. It’s always such small things people pick up and say ‘Ey umshado kade ungamuhle’ (the wedding was not pleasant) and there just wasn’t enough dessert but these people are in love, these people are committing to one another, the families supported them, the weather agreed, the music was phenomenal.
“There was so much to be said and here on this stage and with so much perils of wisdom from people of different age groups, people from different backgrounds, different nationalities speaking in one voice saying we celebrate the word,” says Mhlophe.
When questioned on the importance behind educating the youth on reading more books Mhlophe said: “Books are expensive but there are second-hand books and there are people out there always willing to borrow you a book. A borrowed book is no less important than a book you have bought with your own money and by the way you can make choices.
“There are people who prefer spending their lives only buying handbags and high heels when they can invest in a book and there are men who prefer to sponsor their girlfriends or to feed their habits but in the end, life is all about making choices so is buying a book”.
Despite being the youngest female on the panel, Moahloli carried a lot of wisdom beyond her years and shared the beauty behind being a children’s author. “I use my niece as a case study before I send in my work to editors because I know she will be brutally honest and that’s the beauty behind writing for children. Being able to witness the enjoyment on their faces once reading a story to them is priceless,” she said.
Writing enthusiasts and keen audience members were offered knowledge beyond their means with the opportunity of having the floor open and the ability to evoke emotions behind each question asked towards the panel.
The Times of the Writer certainly is a grooming platform for all those passionate about the beauty of literature and the art behind it, attendees left with more than they had bargained for which is the power of words.