Abantu Festival 2016:  festival programme promises fireworks

The Abantu Festival 2016 is set to happen in a variety of venues in Soweto, South Africa from December 8 – 10th 2016. The team running what promises to be an epic literary gathering has unveiled the official programme.

With Ake Festival 2016 now in our rearview mirror, the next stop on the African literary calendar is the Abantu Festival which will be hosted in South Africa. Unlike in its Nigerian sibling, Abantu doesn’t have a festival headliner but has opted for a large number of artists as its many selling points.

Throughout the festival there will be film screenings as well as performances of poetry and music by some of the most respected artists in South Africa. There will be also be The Writing Masterclass conducted by Angela Makholwa & Phillippa Yaa de Villiers. The events will happen over two venues; by day the Eyethu Lifestyle Centre and at the Soweto Theatre by evening.

The backbone of any literary festival is the authors churning out the work that we all love to read and they will be there in droves in 23 panels covering three days supported by poets, musicians, media personalities, bloggers and many more. Many are South African but they come from all over the continent. Here are the events you can look forward to from 8-10 December in Soweto, South Africa.

Thursday December 8th

Abantu Opening Ceremony featuring Lebo MashileFilm

The films featured this day begin with Sbonelo written by Mthokozisi Lembete and directed by Ntombizodwa Magagula. In the movie Sbonelo and Thabo, two young men sharing a passion for soccer are happy in the knowledge that their closeted love affair is their secret to bear until Sbonelo’s mother decides it’s time to find him a girlfriend and her, a future daughter-in-law.

Panels – Eyethu Lifestyle Centre.

Dikgang Moseneke former Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa (Abantu Festival guys roll with real players wena) will feature at an event called Land and Liberation which you know is a big thing for all of us. Then there is Writing and Rioting Black Women in the time of fallism with Dikeledi Deekay Sibanda, Mbali Matandela, Sandy Ndelu, and Simamkele Dlakavu.

The one I am looking forward to is Eusebius McKaiser and Pumla Dineo Gqola who will be in conversation on writing and their personal journeys. If someone held a gun to my head and insist that I attend only one of the whole festival’s events this would be a serious contender; awesome panelists there.

Official Opening Ceremony

The official opening ceremony of the events will be hosted at the Soweto Theatre and will be hosted by Lebo Mashile straight from killing it at the Ake Festival in Abeokuta, Nigeria. The event will include a poetry performance by Koleka Putuma and a keynote address by South African freedom fighter, activist, actor, storyteller, poet, playwright, director and author Gcina Mhlophe. This event will come with a fee of R20; all that awesome can’t be had for free my people.

Friday December 9th


The day’s film will be Street Somashishini written by Siphamandla Ngcobo and directed by Mapula Sibanda. In the movie, Zodwa, a single mother and street vendor, struggles to pay her son’s university fees as she battles corrupt police officers and loan sharks.

Panels – Eyethu Lifestyle Centre

This day will have a panel called Zanendaba moderated by Zukiswa Wanner featuring the speaking talents of children book writers Bontle Senne, Gcina Mhlope, and Xolisa Guzula. There will also be a panel called Writing Today moderated by Lindokuhle Nkosi featuring Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, Malaika Wa Azania, and Unathi Magubeni. Also on the programme will be the Lebo Mashile moderated “The Poetic Ethic” featuring Koleka Putuma

There is also a panel moderated by Nozizwe Jele called Cut! Our Stories on Stage and Screen featuring Bheki Peterson, Duduzile Zamantungwa Mabaso, and Florence Masebe. Also on happening that time is the Fred Khumalo run Some of My Best Friends panel featuring Angela Makholwa, Ndumiso Ngcobo, Sihle Khumalo, Siphiwo Mahala & Zukiswa Wanner. This one looks like quite a tasty one.

Another cool panel happening is NoViolet Bulawayo with the panel Ghetto is Our First Love featuring Fred Khumalo, Niq Mhlongo, and Thandiswa Mazwai. Then there is the Pumla Dineo Gqola run panel The Quiet Violence of the Nation featuring Eusebius McKaiser, Khosi Xaba, and Thato Magano.

Evening – Soweto Theatre

In the evening the party moves to the Soweto Theatre where the will be a musical performance of an unnamed performer as of writing this post. Then we go back to panel model with Natalia Molebatsi moderating Barbara Boswell, Khosi Xaba & Pumla Dineo Gqola on Women of Letters: Ellen Kuzwayo, Lauretta Ncgobo, Noni Jabavu, Miriam Tlali & Phyllis Ntantala. Also that the same venue will be Redi Tlhabi hosting Khaya Dlanga & Malaika Wa Azania to an event called The Days of Our Lives. Both event will be at the modest price of R20.

Saturday December 10th, 2016

Film – Eyethu Lifestyle Centre

This day will have more films starting with Leaving Our Mark a film written and directed by Ntuthuko Z. Qwabe. The film follows Mark, a young graffiti artist is forced to choose between his passion for street art and his controlling policeman fathers dream for him. Also screening on the day will be Let Me Be writer and director by Davashni Rajoo about Rekha Ramnath, a young school girl in conflict with some of the values of her over protective parents embarks on a journey to discover who she is and find a sense of belonging wherever that may be.

Another film for the day will be The Things We Harbour written and directed by Nom’Ay Matola about two brothers, estranged for many years are forced to confront a traumatic past when they reconnect to arrange their mother’s funeral.

Panels – Eyethu Lifestyle Centre

The days panels include Florence Masebe moderating Pam Maseko, Sabatha-mpho Mokae, Siphiwo Mahala, Unathi Kondile  for Lost in Translation. Redi Tlhabi moderates James Murua, Khadija Patel, Siphiwe Mpye & Thabiso Mahlape on a panel entitled Creating Platforms for Our Stories. Also in the morning will be Zukiswa Wanner moderating Hawa Jande Golakai, Rehana Rossouw & Yewande Omotoso on the panel, One Day We’ll Write About These Places.

Another panel will be Kind of Blue: Jazz Beyond its Musical Form featuring Percy Mabandu, Thandiswa Mazwai and moderated by Bongani Madondo. Also with the performance in mind, Natalia Molebatsi will host The Poetic Ethic (II) featuring performers: Lebo Mashile, Mak Manaka & Vangi Gantsho.

Then Chika Unigwe will be hosting here for first pane at the event called Writing Stories Across and Within Genres with Koleka Putuma, Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, Bongani Madondo & Rehana Rossouw as her discussants. Also moderating will be Elinor Sisulu called Literary Legends – Our Journeys featuring Don Mattera & Mongane Wally Serote. Kenyans will remember Serote as the gentleman who attended the Storymoja Festival in 2013 that was so dramatic.

Evening – Soweto Theatre

The evening will have a session featuring Panashe Chigumadzi and Unathi Kondile called Native Life in 2016. Also on stage will be Ndumiso Ngcobo moderating the final Literary Crossroads of the year in Johannesburg. This event will feature NoViolet Bulawayo & Chika Unigwe.






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