African Women Writers’ Symposium at Joburg Theatre


The third African Women Writers’ Symposium, presented by Arts Alive and the Department of Arts and Culture, will take place at Joburg Theatre from September 17 to 19. All sessions are FREE but bookings are essential.
The theme ‘Looking back, looking forward: Heritage, Turmoil and Transformation – Asserting African Women In The World’ promises to explore some of the border breaking questions around writing in Africa with a keynote address at the opening plenary session at 6 pm on Thursday, September 17, by American author Sapphire, who will unpack positional topics around the role of the art and being an African woman in the world.

Sapphire is well-known for her bestselling novel Push, which was adapted for Academy Award winning film Precious. A special screening of the movie followed by a rare Q&A with author of the book, Sapphire and Khosi Zwane Siguqa (Drum Magazine editor) has been scheduled for September 19 at 2 pm.

The plenary session on Friday, September 18  at 6 pm is titled The Drum is a Woman, Celebrating the Life’s work of Jayne Cortez. It features friends and familial speakers including her husband Mel Edwards (USA), son Dernado Coleman (USA), and close friends Linton Kwesi Johnson (UK) and Keorapetsi Kgositsile (SA).

This is an unmissable event as African Women Poets Sapphire, Natalia Molebatsi (SA), Myesha Jenkins (US/SA), Kadija Sessay (UK/Sierra Leone) and various others including Afro Latino writers/poets, John Murillo (USA), will give poetic tributes to Cortez and her work.

Writing history, writing fiction – interconnections and elisions takes centre stage at 10.30 am on Saturday, September 19 as the truth around fiction is interrogated by speakers: Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Kenya), Molara Wood (Nigeria) and Rehana Rossouw (SA), chaired by CA Davids (SA).

Followed by the second session of the day at 1 pm, Between violence and peace – narrating the conditions of Africans in the world, which will be chaired by Nomboniso Gasa (SA) and features speakers, Mmatshilo Motsei (SA), Kadija Sessay (UK/Sierra Leone) and Zukiswa Wanner (SA/Kenya).

At 2.30 pm the theme shift towards Choosing poetry, choosing hope – Asserting the voice of poetry and its transformative power in our lives facilitated by John Murillo including Barbara Schreiner (SA) Myesha Jenkins (USA/SA) and Khosi Xaba (SA) as speakers.

The last session of the day sees a special evening plenary session titled Inaugural Nadine Gordimer: In Memorium Lecture: On Literature and Freedom at 7 pm presented by award-winning author Aminatta Forna (Scotland/Sierra Leone)

Those wanting more in depth time with writers and poets can also attend the master class workshops happening in various venues throughout the week. Snacks and drinks will be provided throughout the Women Writer’s Symposium.

To book email and for more information visit or like the Facebook pages: Joburg Arts Alive International Festival and African Women Writers Network or follow the event on Twitter: @Arts_Alive

The Joburg Theatre Complex is at Loveday Street,Braamfontein, Johannesburg

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