Numerous book festivals across South Africa are considered an upmarket elite concept because of entrance and session costs, says academic and literary enthusiast Zaheera Jina, who holds a PhD in mathematics education. But not Jozi’s Books and Blogs Festival, an annual event in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg.
Jina founded the event in 2016 after co-editing the short story collection, Riding the Samoosa Express: Personal Narratives of Marriage and Beyond. It was then that she was introduced to writers and publishers, so she decided to bring everyone together under the festival.
“My vision was to get literary personnel down to ground level, to get them to engage with the young and old from our smaller non-white communities; to break walls, build relationships and make reading and writing a reachable goal for all.”
From strength to strength
Jina recalls the inaugural festival managed to open doors for other literary festivals in areas that were formerly classified as non-white communities – Soweto, she says, subsequently launched and hosted two literary festivals.
Writer and photographer Saaleha Idrees Bamjee has been part of the festival since its inception: as a panel participant, a session facilitator and an event photographer. She enjoys the variety on offer at the book festival, a mix of traditional and independently published writers from diverse genres, as well as people doing interesting things in the digital space.
“There also seems to be an emphasis on community and I love that the festival often showcases talent that flies under the radar,” Bamjee says.
This year, she will host an informal poetry workshop. Bamjee hopes the writing exercises will lead to memorable completed pieces.
As the name suggests, the festival embraces consuming the written word in digital formats.
Freelance writer and blogger Melissa Javan will be part of a panel discussion entitled All Things Social Media, which aims to educate attendees on using social media platforms as a business opportunity and becoming more visible to potential clients.
Javan also looks forward to networking with like-minded peers. As an aspiring novelist, she says, she’ll get to meet publishers and authors and have the opportunity to engage with them in person.
The culture of reading
Reading, says the South African Book Development Council (SABDC), is a powerful tool against inequality and poverty. “When children read for pleasure, this has a greater effect on their educational achievement than their family’s socio-economic status.” Yet, according to the SABDC, 58% of South African households do not have a single leisure book in their homes.
Jina believes children lack the inspiration to read and learn. Through the book festival, she says she is inspired by meeting leading people in various professions and she wants this magic to reach others too. “Being inspired to write will promote reading.”
Bamjee says book festivals tend to take reading off the page and make literature more accessible, especially for children.
#SABDCDidYouKnow Having as few as 20 books in the home has a significant impact on propelling a child towards higher levels of education.#OURSTORIES #SABF2018 #NBW2018 #BUYABOOK #READABOOK #SHAREABOOK #SABOOKCOUNCIL #SABDC @GovernmentZA @DBE_SA @TeacherOrgZa pic.twitter.com/DgiSOr2esX
— NationalBookWeek (@NBW_SA) July 2, 2018
Date: 29 July 2018, starting at 10am
Venue: SBSM Independent School, 24 Salvia Street, Lenasia
Entrance fee: R10
For more information about the Jozi’s Books and Blogs Festival, click here.
Click on the images from the previous festivals for a larger view.
Images: Saaleha Idrees Bamjee