Neo Mda, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Mohale Mashigo, Zakes Mda, and Siphokazi Jonas

Abantu Book Festival 2017 is here!

After a year of pining away remembering the good times, South African literary scene enthusiasts are now excited as the Abantu Book Festival kicks off today.

The Abantu Book Festival landed with a whoosh that has never been seen before last year. South Africa has been hosting literary festivals since freedom came in 1994 but this was something else with Africans converging on Soweto in Johannesburg.

This festival, the first with Africans as the centre, would impress even those who consider themselves battle hardened attenders of these types of events across the continent. This blogger would espy displays of emotion not common at literary events on the rock. At the chilling area, festival guests would suddenly go into joyful song and dance making you think that perhaps you were an extra in an episode of US TV show Glee. Emotionally charged panels had both audience and panellists actively engage and leave everything on the floor, even tears, to the elevation of all in the room all without the white gaze. The sense of relief witnessed, it is reported, was one that had never been seen on South African soil in a generation.

So the journey begins again for the Abantu Book Festival as the second edition has rolled into Soweto. All the artists have already checked into the Soweto Hotel and other places ready to perform another festival with and for the people. It all kicks off tonight with an event at the Soweto Theatre’s red theatre hosted by poet Lebo Mashile, remarks by Thando Mgqolozana, and a poetry performance by Mthunzikazi Mbungwana. There will be a keynote address by Tsitsi Dangarembga fondly remembered as the author Nervous Conditions who already did a literary crossroads event with Achmat Dangor a couple of nights ago at the Goethe Johannesburg.

The next few days will see book events, fill screenings, panels as well as events for kids.

Abantu Book Festival 2017 staff and volunteers promise you an amazing time.
Abantu Book Festival 2017 staff and volunteers promise you an amazing time.

Book launches

It’s a literary festival so expect book launches at this gig. Zakes Mda’s Justify the Enemy will be launching on the morrow moderated by Phemelo Motene at the Eyethu Lifestyle Centre. Also launching will be Florence Masebe’s The Heart Knows at the Soweto Theatre with in the evening. On Sunday morning The Blessed Girl by Angela Makholwa will be launching at the Eyethu Lifestyle Centre.


As you can expect from this kind of event there will be panels discussing topics that matter to those who attend. Artists to feature on the three days will be from all over the continent and include Zakes Mda, Neo Maditla, Sisonke Msimang, Ayobami Adebayo, Shubnum Khan, Grace Musila, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Sihle Khumalo, Nthikeng Mohlele, and many more. Here is a full list of the panels that you will be seeing over the festival period.


  • It’s Me, Marah featuring Marah Louw. Moderator: Masechaba Mtolo
  • Beauty of the Heart: The Life and Times of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke featuring Zubeida Jaffer. Moderator: Athambile Masola
  • The Invisible Hands: Women of Marikana featuring Asanda Benya. Moderator: Zethu Matebeni
  • Gabeba Baderoon, Mthunzikazi Mbungwana, Siphokazi Jonas. Moderator: Nova Masango
  • Lekgotla: Black Media Worker featuring Neo Maditla & Sisonke Msimang. Moderator: Busi Dlamini.
  • English Departments and African Literatures: A Marriage of Inconvenience featuring Grace Musila & Victoria Collis-Buthelezi. Moderator: Dania Mupotsa.


Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
  • Mining the Archives of Our Lives featuring Shubnum Khan & Sifiso Mzobe. Moderator: Sihle Mthembu.
  • ‘Medicine is my wife and writing my mistress; I love them both’ featuring Kopano Matlwa. Moderator: Malebo Sephodi
  • The Next Chapter of African Literature featuring Ayobami Adebayo, Shubnum Khan. Moderator: Zukiswa Wanner
  • The Art of Editing featuring Phakama Mbonambi & Grace Musila. Moderator: TO Molefe
  • Khwezi Featuring: Mmatshilo Motsei & Redi Tlhabi. Moderator: Lebo Mashile.
  • Not the Youth League featuring Sindiwe Magona & Keorapetse Kgositsile. Moderator: Mandla Langa.
  • Selling Books While Black featuring Nokuthula Helepi & Kays Mnguni. Moderator: Kojo Baffoe.
  • Queer Africa featuring Jennifer Shinta Ayebazibwe, Zukolwenkosi Zikalala. Moderator: Zethu Matebeni.
  • Triumphs and Paradoxes of a Writing Life featuring Mandla Langa & Nthikeng Mohlele
  • Almost Sleeping My Way to Timbuktu featuring Sihle Khumalo. Moderator: Masechaba Mtolo.


  • The Professional Dabbler featuring Zakes Mda. Moderator: Nokuthula Msimang.

In conversation with…

Then there is a series of events where artists are engaged one on one about their work by one respected moderated. Many of these events will be happening at the Soweto Theatre and you want to check availability before booking your R20 ticket. The full list of the “In Conversation …” events are

  • Pumla Dineo Gqola in conversation with Tsitsi Dangarembga.
  • Malebo Sephodi in conversation with Mohale Mashigo.
  • Neo Maditla in conversation with Nadia Davids Tickets.
  • Zamandlovu Ndlovu in conversation with Ayobami Adebayo.
  • A Conversation with Sindiwe Magona.
  • Sisonke Msimang in conversation with Pumla Dineo Gqola.


There will be screenings at this festival as well with five films being shown to audience. The movies are U P R I S E!, Winnie, Hidden Histories – Bullhoek Massacre, Ceasefire Ntate! and This Land.


Adults aren’t the only ones who get to enjoy the Abantu Book Festival experience. There will be a kids zone during the day where kids can enjoy many activities both formal and informal. It all begins on the Friday with a drumming & musical introduction to the Abantu Book Festival children’s programme by Gcina Mhlophe.

The youngsters over the next few days will then enjoy an art workshop by illustrator, Khehla Chepape Magatu, and storytelling by Zanele Ndlovu and Stacey Fru. Also to be enjoyed will be a performance by Lorato Trok, a reading by Sindiwe Magona and Zakes Mda, storytelling by Xoliswa Guzula and music by Mpho Molikeng. There will also be a performance by Nomsa Mdlalose and Zintsomi Storytellers.

With these events we will see if Abantu Book Festival’s sophomore event will follow the legendary Sister Act, The Godfather and Stars Wars route or it will fizzle out. With the vibe we are getting online at the moment, we bet it’s going to be the former.

For the full Abantu Book Festival 2017 program please click here.


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