Don't miss the Wordfest, for lovers of reading and writing
Wordfest offers eight days jam-packed with over 100 activities for lovers of reading and writing during the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. Like the Arts Festival, Wordfest will run from 1 to 8 July this year.
In one building, festival-goers can enjoy book launches, performances and readings by South African authors, then take a break in the Readers' and Writers' Restaurant before attending workshops and exhibitions, with the opportunity to stock up on good South African reads in the bookshop. Apart from purchases at the restaurant and bookshop, everything on offer is free of charge.
In addition to a developmental emphasis, the national festival of literature also celebrates languages. It boasts a multilingual programme, including Sotho, Tswana, Pedi, Afrikaans and Xhosa, and creates an opportunity for writers to stimulate the often declining readership of their vernaculars.
As an outreach project of Rhodes University, Wordfest was first held in 1999, and has gradually grown over the years, despite a tight budget. This year the programme offers a greater variety of activities thanks to generous funding from the National Lottery Development Trust Fund.
This year speakers of note include Max du Preez, Mike van Graan, Matthew Lester, Carmel Ricard, Luli Callinicos and Sarah Johnson. Book launches include Olive Schreiner and Douglas Livingstone.
In addition to hosting established writers, Wordfest also gives young and aspiring writers a platform to display their talents. Every evening Open Mike will provide a microphone and curious audiences; the rest is up to the word-artists.
Every year the festival's very own newspaper, Wordstock, is packed with book reviews, in-depth interviews with authors and word-linked news, and appears as a daily supplement to Cue, the newspaper of the National Arts Festival.
In addition to the national focus, up to 200 Xhosa word-artists from the Eastern Cape will gather for the first three days at Wordfest, bringing with them extraordinary intensity and diversity as they celebrate home-grown genres like elegies, exhortations, hymns, clan-praises, parables and fables. Their passion and intensity has to be experienced to be believed, and their culture-specific contribution makes it quite clear that there is and can be no one animal called "South African literature".
As part of Wordfest's multilingual programme, writers have the opportunity
to stimulate the often declining readership of their vernacular. As Mark Twain
rightfully noted, "the man who doesn't read good books has no advantage
over the man who can't read them."
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