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Thirty leading South African authors to take part in inaugural KZN book festival

Leading South African authors – including Angela Makholwa, Joanne Joseph and Nathi Olifant – will be taking part in the inaugural iLembe Book Festival, which takes place in Kwa-Zulu Natal next month under the theme Our Time, Our Stories, Our Voices.

The not-to-be-missed literary event takes place at the Luthuli Museum in Groutville, KwaDukuza, part of the iLembe District Municipality, from Thursday, February 1, to Saturday, February 3.

The festival will bring together a cross-section of more than 30 South African authors in 15 sessions and includes a poetry slam and a full children’s programme. The main book festival on Saturday, February 3, has a content-rich programme that is packed with insightful conversations and talks, lively debates and one-on-one author sessions.

The line-up includes discussions on the art of mining the past for hidden treasures for writing inspiration, how would-be authors can get their books published, the rise of local book adaptations to television and film, popularity of crime fiction, how to pen a memoir and Ubuciko Nokulondolozwa Kolimi (Art is the Preservation of Language). There will be one-on-one sessions with Kwa-Zulu Natal authors Nelly Page, Nathi Olifant and Thenjiwe Msane.

Angela Makholwa burst onto the literary scene in 2007 to both public and critical acclaim with her debut thriller Red Ink, one of the first crime fictions by a black author in South Africa. The book – which is set in Johannesburg – has been adapted into a screenplay and will be streaming on Showmax from February this year. This was followed by The 30th Candle which has also been adapted into a Netflix screenplay. Makholwa’s latest book, The Reed Dance Stalker, is a sequel to Red Ink and was published in October last year. Her other novels include Blessed Girl which was shortlisted for the UK’s Comedy Women in Print Prize. The book was also shortlisted for the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences’ Literary Awards.

Joanne Joseph is a broadcaster and media personality who has written a number of books including Drug Muled: Sixteen Years in a Thai Prison and Children of the Sugarcane, a novel set against the backdrop of 19th century India and the British-owned sugarcane plantations of Natal.

Durban-based Nathi Olifant is a former crime and political journalist who worked for various newspapers including The Sunday Times, Independent Media and The Witness. He has 17 years of journalism experience. His debut novel Blood, Blades and Bullets – Anatomy of a Glebelands Hitman won the 2021 The Book Behind Awards for Best English Novel: Male. The Fugitives – Glebelands Hitmen is his second novel. The final book in the trilogy, Assassins Endgame, will be released this year. 

The iLembe Book Festival is a collective effort by local authors including Commonwealth Writers’ Prize winner Nozizwe Cynthia Jele, the acclaimed Hlomu series author and journalist Dudu Busani-Dube, and Scarred writer Ayanda Xaba, who are all part of this year’s organising committee.

The iLembe Book Festival will incorporate the following:

  • Creative Writing Workshops taking place on Friday, February 2, aimed at upskilling local aspiring authors.
  • Visits to local primary and secondary schools to drop-off books and encourage young people to read and write. These will take place on Thursday, February 1.
  • Main book festival taking place on Saturday, February 3. (Full programme below.)
  • Book sales: The festival will offer a platform to independent local booksellers to sell books at the event at discounted prices. In addition, the festival will have a special book stall for local self-published authors to allow them space to showcase their writing.
  • Food, arts and craft vendors will be available on site on Saturday, February 3.

The iLembe Book Festival is made possible through the funding from the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSAC), Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme (PESP) and National Arts Council (NAC) and the partnership with the Luthuli Museum.

Stay updated by connecting with iLembe Book Festival on:

TimeAuditorium2nd Floor VenueAuthor TentKiddies Tent
09h00 – 10h00Opening
10h00 – 10h45  Mining The Past For Hidden Treasures   Authors Zikhona Valela (Now You Know How Mapetla Died), Joanne Joseph (Children of the Sugarcane), Nokuthula Mazibuko Msimang (Daughters of Nandi), Aman Singh Maharaj (A Dalliance with Destiny) share their methods of researching and documenting history with Sibongile Machika. Ubuciko Nokulondolozwa Kolimi   Ababhali nabathandi bolumi lwesintu oNtokozo Ndlovu (Siyafunda), Mandla KanoZulu, Malindi Dlamini (Uzosala Wedwa), Simangaliso Ntshangase (Ngithweseni Nginje) badingida ukubaluleka kokulondolozwa kolimi namasiko.      Outlwile Tsipane in conversation with acclaimed local author  Nelly Page Magwaza (Dear Khethelo, The Beloved MaShenge, Sabatha The Begetter)Storytime with Zandile Ndhlovu (Zandi’s Song)  
10h45 – 11h00    
11h00 – 11h45  Coming Out To Self   What does it mean to be and to write queer in South Africa in 2024? The Cheeky Natives talk to Welcome Mandla Lishivha (Boy On The Run), Siya Khumalo (You Have To Be Gay To Know God), and Sthandiwe Langa (Unlabelled)Dream Big, Black Child   A tv and film producer. An ocean diver. A photographer. A historian. Tiny Mungwe joins  Zandile Ndhlovu (Zandi’s Song), Rofhiwa Maneta (A Man, A Fire, A Corpse), Zikhona Valela (Now You Know How Mapetla Died) as they discuss their career journeys.  Outlwile Tsipane in conversation with author and researcher Thenjiwe Msane (All Gomorrahs Are The Same, Uyasabeka – Children’s Book)Storytime with Zanele Ndlovu (Umakhweyana)  
11h45 – 12h00    
12h00 – 12h45  A Seat At The Table
Occupying spaces and breaking stereotypes. Lorraine Sithole talks to Sthandiwe Langa (Unlabelled), Sihle Khumalo (Milk The Beloved Country), Tessa Dooms  (Coloured: How Classification Became Culture).
Tortured Souls   The Cheeky Natives in conversation with Thenjiwe Msane (All Gomorrah’s Are The Same), Nelly Page (Dear Khethelo), Kirsten Miller (The Hum of the Sun), Aman Singh Maharaj (A Dalliance with Destiny) on writing ‘troubled’ characters.Sibongile Machika in conversation with the award-winning author Nathi Olifant Blood, Blades and Bullets – Anatomy of a Glebelands Hitman, The Fugitives, Assassins Endgame – soon to be published)Storytime with Mbali Mavundla (Kids on the Road)  
12h45 – 13h30LUNCH MUSIC ITEM
13h30 – 14h15  Memoir: The Art of Revealing the Personal   Dr Siphiwo Mahala discusses the art of writing memoirs and asks the question: at what point does one’s life story become one for the books? With authorsRofhiwa Maneta (A Man, A Fire, A Corpse), Welcome Mandla Lishivha (Boy On The Run),  Nokuthula Mazibuko Msimang (Dolly Rathebe Queen of African Jazz, Blues & Mbaqanga – soon to be published).What is Love?   Lorraine Sithole discusses the concept of modern love in modern times with Sthandiwe Langa (Unlabelled), Pumza Shabangu (Strumlet), Malindi Dlamini (Uzosala Wedwa).    Let The Poets Slam 12 Poets Battle It Out For The Top Spot        Pick a Book and Read Arts and Craft Play  
14h15 – 14h30  
14h30 – 14h45  Page to Screen   The South African tv and film industry is finally catching up to the adaptation trend. Tiny Mungwe explores the inner workings of these mediums and the general state of the industry with Angela Makholwa (Red Ink, The 30th Candle), Mandla KanoZulu (uMkhokha Creator)So You Want to Publish a Book?
Siphiwo Mahala
will be in  conversation with Pumza Shabangu (The Unspoken Truth), Sibongile Machika (Jonathan Ball Publishers), Kirsten Miller (All That Is Left, The Hum of the Sun) to unpack the ins and outs of publishing and share tips on getting your manuscript ready for publishing.
15h15 – 15h30  
15h30 – 16h15  Mzansi at 30: The State of the Nation   A rollercoaster ride spanning three decades. Joanne Joseph (Children of the Sugarcane), Sihle Khumalo (Milk The Beloved Country), Tessa Dooms(Coloured) reflect on the major turning points of our democracy and future of South Africa beyond the 2024 elections.  Murder Room: The Art of Crime Fiction   The Cheeky Natives in conversation with Angela Makholwa (The Reed Dance Stalker), Ayanda Xaba (DAMNED), Nathi Olifant (The Fugitives) on the popularity of crime fiction and the books that got them hooked into the genre.
16h15 – 16h30 
16h30 – 17h00Vote of Thanks


The organisers of next year’s iLembe Book Festival are:

Ayanda Xaba

Ayanda Xaba is an award-winning self-published author from Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, who is passionate about her family, women empowerment, and travelling. When she’s not creating stories, she is an avid reader who likes binging on horror and psychological thrillers. Her goal is to unapologetically tell stories of African women and be the voice of the voiceless.

Dudu Busani-Dube

Dudu Busani-Dube is an author and journalist who has become known for her fictional romance novels, The Hlomu Series, which comprise of Hlomu the Wife, Zandile The Resolute, Naledi His Love, Iqunga, Mess and The End. She wrote the novelisation of the 2018 film Zulu Wedding. She was also a contributor in two anthologies, Black Tax: Burden or Ubuntu published by Jonathan Ball in 2019 and The Lockdown Collection published by Melinda Ferguson Books in 2020. Busani-Dube’s books come directly from the experience of being a black woman in South Africa.

Nozizwe Cynthia Jele

Nozizwe Cynthia Jele is the author of two novels. Happiness is a Four-Letter Word (2010) won the Best First Book category (Africa region) in the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2011 and the 2011 M-Net Literary Award in the Film Category. The book was adapted into a film with the same title and released at the South African box office in 2016. The Ones with Purpose (2018) was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Literary Awards Barry Ronge Fiction Prize 2019 and long listed for the International Dublin Literary Prize 2020.

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