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Young - 35 and under - writers*, publishers and editors on South African life, and on writing, publishing, performing and reading

(*will include scriptwriters, copywriters, oral poets etc)

10 Years of Democracy

Celebrating South African creativity
Stimulating cultural debate

Sponsored by the Arts and Culture Trust
Tafelberg, Human & Rousseau and Kwela Books,
Absa Bank

Offered, organised and hosted by LitNet
Facilitated by News24
Featured on M-Web
In association with the School of Languages and the Centre for Creative Writing,
University of Cape Town;
The Nelson Mandela Chair, University of the Western Cape;
The Centre for the Book, Cape Town,
African Sun Media, University of Stellenbosch

This conference will run during October and November 2004. The confirmed sponsors are: The Arts and Culture Trust; Tafelberg, Human & Rousseau and Kwela Books; and ABSA.

Socio-cultural background

South African languages and literatures often operate in separate spheres. Critics, teachers, readers and writers from the respective languages write, read and teach within their particular systems. Often writers, critics or readers from a particular language meet to discuss cultural issues, but mostly to the exclusion of authors in other languages. The need for an inclusive writers’ conference, drawing together the best young talents from all South Africa’s official languages, has often been touted. The web offers a cost effective way of celebrating culture and stimulating vigorous debate. Moreover, conference proceedings are open to interested parties worldwide, and not limited to the brick and mortar confines of a conference hall in the real world.

Conference background

In 2000, LitNet offered an online writers’ conference in association with the Department of Southern African Languages and Literatures at the University of Cape Town and the Illwimi Centre at the University of the Western Cape.

Amongst the 44 authors participating, were literary greats such as Antjie Krog, Achmat Dangor, Elsa Joubert and Breyten Breytenbach. The conference ran over eight weeks and drew a high of two hundred and seventy seven thousand page withdrawals per month from all over the world.

Authors submitted contributions on six topics, which were published on the Web, and readers responded in LitNet’s online letters column. South Africa’s online bookshop,, offered a book exhibition in the conference’s virtual foyer, where the authors’ books were on sale, and the lively online debates spilled over into the regular media, such as television, paper press and radio.

The conference proceedings were published in book form as Briewe deur die lug (Editor: Etienne van Heerden) by Tafelberg publishers, Cape Town - a book which received excellent critical acclaim in press reviews.

Cover: Briewe deur die lug (“ Letters through the Air” )

The 2000 organising committee consisted of Professors Jakes Gerwel, Nelson Mandela Professor at the Universities of Cape Town and the Western Cape, Etienne van Heerden (Hofmeyr Professor, School of Languages and Literatures, University of Cape Town and Executive editor of LitNet) who chaired the committee, and Dr Christa van Louw, at the time Director of the Illwimi Centre at the University of the Western Cape.

Although writers from other languages participated in the conference, the activity was mainly in Afrikaans.

A new conference

LitNet hopes to offer a similar conference in 2004, but this time round in celebration of all South Africa’s writers, thus celebrating all of South African literature and language diversity.

The conference will be limited to participants under 35 years of age - the voice of the new generation will be heard!

The principal language of the conference will be English, although participation in other languages will be actively encouraged.

Writers invited to participate, will include authors from the African languages (which include Afrikaans), as well as writers working in English.

South African writers living in South Africa or elsewhere will be included.

Publishers, academics and prominent critics will be invited to participate.

African Sun Media has proposed to publish the conference proceedings in book and digital form if the manuscript meets their standards.

The organising committee will consist of Etienne van Heerden (chair), Jakes Gerwel, Henrietta Rose-Innes and K. Sello Duiker.

The conference administrators will be Nèlleke de Jager, publisher at NB publishers and LitNet’s Sharon Meyering.

The approached hosts, associates and organisers

M-Web (

M-Web is South Africa’s leading online service provider, with a dial-up member base of almost 250 000, representing a greater user base of over one million unique visitors per month.

News24 (

News24 is South Africa’s largest online news service, with daily traffic of over 14.2 million pages delivered to more than 770 000 unique users on an average monthly basis.

LitNet (, or

LitNet is South Africa’s largest multilingual online cultural journal for new writing and debate. LitNet enjoys portal status on M-Web and is a partner site of News24. In February 2004 LitNet had 35 000 unique users, and more than 411 000 LitNet pages were downloaded by readers.

School of Languages and Literatures, University of Cape Town

The School of Languages hosts the Sections African Languages, Afrikaans and Netherlandic Studies, French, Italian, German, etc.

African Sun Media

African Sun Media is the university publisher of the University of Stellenbosch.

The Nelson Mandela Chair, University of the Western Cape

The occupant of this prestigious chair is Professor Jakes Gerwel, onetime cabinet secretary to the Mandela cabinet, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape and currently Chancellor of Rhodes University and director of the Mandela Trust.

Members of the organising committee

Etienne van Heerden
Jakes Gerwel
Henrietta Rose-Innes
K. Sello Duiker

Etienne van Heerden is Hofmeyr Professor in the School of Languages, University of Cape Town. He is founder-editor of LitNet and an internationally known novelist whose work is published in eleven languages.

Jakes Gerwel is Nelson Mandela Professor of the University of the Western Cape and Chancellor of Rhodes University.

Henrietta Rose-Innes’s debut novel, Shark’s Egg, was nominated for the 2001 M-Net Book Prize, and a second novel is due for publication in September. She also writes scripts for TV and film, and works as freelance book editor.

K. Sello Duiker is one of the leading new voices in South Africa. His first novel, Thirteen Cents, was awarded the 2001 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best First Book, Africa Region. His second novel, The Quiet Violence of Dreams, was awarded the 2001 Herman Charles Bosman Prize for English Literature.


The organising committee approaches sponsors and obtains sponsorships.

The organising committee instructs the conference administrators, who identifies writers, critics, academics or publishers who could be invited to participate.

In consultation with the organising committee, writers, publishers, academics, literary critics and researchers, a list of topics is drawn up by the conference administrators.

45 of South Africa's most prominent young figures in the field of writing, publishing and reading are invited to each participate by writing an essay on one of the topics.

Essays may not exceed 2500 words. If a given contributor writes in a language other than English, his or her essay will be translated into English by a member of the translation panel. The translations will be monitored by the authors. The essay will then be published in the original language alongside its English translation in the conference's virtual seminar room. LitNet aims to engage authors who work in Xhosa, Afrikaans, Sotho, and other languages, and hopes that a substantial portion of the participating authors will be writing in the indigenous languages, although their papers or essays will also be published in English.



The topics are as follows:

* Week 1 - My memory
Snapshots, trauma, dissociation, inheritance, history
* Week 2 - My place
On xenophobia, location, ideology, culture, immigration, emigration, naming, Europe vs Africa vs Asia vs etc.
* Week 3 - My generation
On heritage, linguistics, guilt, identity, prospects, typicalities, culture
* Week 4 - My body
On sexuality, erotics, disease, aging, privacy, piercing, abuse
* Week 5 and 6 - My voice
Publishing (educational/general trade); (self vs trade publishers), rewards of publishing, mediums, genre (paper/oral/digital), audience (e.g. bookselling), exposure (media), literary magazines, grassroot publications, educating writing (creative writing courses), beyond post-colonialism, new nationalism, new media, role of the editor


Sponsors will enjoy extensive branding in the online conference room (ie on LitNet’s conference pages), on LitNet’s home page, in LitNet’s weekly newsletter, in media releases, as well as in the proposed book, if published.

Financial arrangements

All monies will be handled by Media24 Head Office Financial Officer, Wilmien van der Westhuyzen. Sponsor’s contributions will be paid directly to Media24, and payments will be made from the conference account by Media24.

At the end of proceedings, a written report, which will include financial figures, will be submitted to the sponsors.

Read more about the proceedings of the Young Voices Writers' conference

The Young Voices Writers' Conference has opened, click here to attend

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