African women writers gather at Joburg Theatre



The 2016 Arts Alive Festival and the Department of Arts and Culture are hosting the 4th International African Women Writers’ Symposium, with master classes and workshops, panel discussions, poetry and music performances from September 15 to 17.

The theme for this year is Witness, Memory and Telling the Untold Story. As we commemorate 60 years of the march of 20 000 women against the apartheid government and its pass laws and towards their emancipation, this symposium will also look at the challenges facing African women on the continent step by step and globally and women’s endurance and resilience in asserting themselves and their own identity.

Writers involved in issues of #BlackLivesMatter and who speak on global issues of war and peace, migration and displacement of people, love and healing will gather in Johannesburg to share their insights.

Acclaimed novelist, Gillian Slovo, will be doing the 2nd Nadine Gordimer: in memoriam lecture, in honour of South Africa’s only woman Nobel Literary Laureate who passed away in 2014.

The writing of fiction, poetry and other forms of writing will be showcased together with workshops for emerging writers.

The gathering is inspired by the words of Nobel Literary Laureate, Toni Morrison, who said that “My world did not shrink because I was a black female writer. It only got bigger.” With women writers from Africa and its Diaspora, the gathering hopes to empower and to excite the audience with a new consciousness and is both a festival of ideas as well as a celebration of African writing.

The programme is as follows:

Friday, September 16 from  5.45pm – 7.30pm, The Fringe, Joburg Theatre: 

  • Gillian Slovo (UK/SA novelist and playwright) and the author of many works, notably her acclaimed memoir Every Secret Thing, that tells the story of her activist parents, Ruth First and Joe Slovo. She will deliver the keynote address at the 2nd in Memoriam lecture for Nobel Laurette, Nadine Gordimer.
  • This evening will also celebrate poets and prose writers from all over world including Mak Manaka, Slam Poetry champion Aja Monet (US), Cristina Farrah (Italy/Somalia), Diana Ferrus (SA), Mamle Kabu (Ghana), Vangi Gantsho and many others. The music will be led by Steve Dyer and feature guest singers, Nothende, Msaki and Masike (Zimbabwe).

Saturday, September 17 at the and various venues at the Joburg Theatre from 10am to 6pm.

  • Panel discussions: 10am-5pm – There are 5 panel discussions planned for the day featuring African Women Writers from across the Diaspora. Syreeta McFadden (US), writer photographer and professor of English at Borough of Manhattan Community College in NYC, has work that deals extensively with gender, politics, race and culture. She writes extensively on #Black lives Matter. Ubah Cristina Ali Farrah (Somalia/Italy) is a poet, novelist, playwright and oral performer, who won the Lingua Madre National Literary Prize. Mamle Kabu (Ghana) is a prose writer who was the second Ghanaian to be a finalist for the Caine Prize. Aja Monet (US) is the youngest individual to win the sought after Nuyorican Poet’s Café Grand Slam. Vangi Gantsho (SA), is an acclaimed poet and graduate of the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute.
  • Nomboniso Gasa, the intellectual and activist, will pay tribute to Phyllis Ntantala-Jordan (1920-2016) on Saturday 17th. Phyllis Ntantala-Jordan was a writer of note and a woman of intellect. She was free-thinking, unflinching and a feminist and a woman who could see ahead of her times.
  • The Phyllis Ntantala-Jordan Tribute will take place from 3pm-4.30pm at, Joburg Theatre. This will be followed by the Three Peace Poetry Session from 5pm-5.40pm with Barbara Schreiner, Frank Meintjies and Lisa Combrinck.

Workshops will be taking place from 15-17 September. Details are on the Facebook: Arts Alive International Festival, and FB: African Women Writers’ Network.

Bookings are essential but entrance is free; please contact Vincentia 011 373 7526 or email or

Visit for more information about the festival.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s