Preview: Our 10 Abantu Book Fest ’18 highlights

We understand. It’s hard to decide which talks, film screenings or workshops to attend when the programme of a highly esteemed literary festival is as salivating as the thought of starting a new book series – one that’s at least 10 parts long at that! That’s why we’ve picked some of our highlights from the new Abantu programme to help you get the most out of it.


Some people have religious pilgrimages, others ashrams, some umsamo, and still others mountains, where they go for spiritual revival. “For some of us” – to loosely quote poet Lebo Mashile at the opening night of last year’s festival – “Abantu is like church.” We say “amen” by urging you to book your annual leave for 6 and 7 December to avoid missing any of the exciting events happening in Soweto during the first two days of the festival – on Thursday and Friday.

The best part? All the events happening during the day over the course of the four-day festival are free – you only need to purchase tickets for the evening talks. These are our 10 highlights.

Lebo Mashile, pictured here at a Black Excellence Discussion with John Kani earlier this year, will bring her warmth and charisma to the 2018 Abantu Book Festival opening night.

Opening night

When: Thursday, 6 December at 6pm.
Why: The wise, hilarious and thoughtful Lebo Mashile will be the host once again; the rousing Zuko Collective will be taking the people to church with their conscious music; and the keynote address will be made by the illustrious writer, feminist scholar and publisher at Cassava Republic, Bibi Bakare-Yusuf.

A creative workshop with Fred Khumalo and Kagiso Lesego Molope

When: Friday, 7 December at 10am.
Why: People pay good money to learn at the feet of the likes of journalist and author of inspired satirical, political and historical-fiction-writing Khumalo and prolific author Molope, whose first novel, This Book Betrays My Brother, won the English Academy of Southern Africa’s Percy Fitzpatrick prize for youth literature. This is an opportunity not to be missed!

Poetry performance

When: Friday, 7 December at 11.30am.
Why: We’ll be snapping our fingers all the way through the uplifting poetry of Mxolisi Mtshali, Busisiwe Mahlangu, Efe Paul Azino, Jolyn Phillips and Diana Ferrus.

Professor Pumla Dineo Gqola will be in conversation with author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at the 2018 Abantu Book Festival

Pumla Dineo Gqola in conversation with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

When: Friday, 7 December at 1pm.
Why: Professor Gqola is one of the most incisive thinkers, writers and speakers of our time. Ngozi Adichie has influenced women across the world with her writing, foregrounding relatable as well as emotionally and intellectually courageous black women protagonists.

Honouring poet and struggle stalwart Kearapetse Kgositsile

When: Saturday, 8 December at 4pm.
Why: Academic and children’s book author Lebohang Masango will be in conversation with Uhuru Phalafala to salute the late literary heavyweight and struggle icon who was South Africa’s National Poet Laureate in 2006.

The attendance of Sue Nyathi, author of Gold Diggers (Pan MacMillan), at the 2018 Abantu Book Festival has been confirmed.

Talking borders

When: Sunday, 9 December at 10am.
Why: Cultural critic and literary studies academic Wamui Mbao will be in conversation with acclaimed writers Sue Nyathi and Ijangolet S Ogwang about what brings as together – as abantu – drawing on perspectives from their rich writings.

This Mournable Body book launch

When: Sunday, 9 December at 10am.
Why: Few book have been as eagerly awaited as this work: the story of Tambudzai, Nervous Conditions’ protagonist, as she finds her place in the world in her adult years. The fact that Tsitsi Dangarembga will be launching This Mournable Body at Abantu – in conversation with Mashile – has us almost leaping with excitement.

Sihle Mthembu is the co-author of ‘Born to Kwaito’ (BlackBird Books).

How kwaito influenced a generation

When: Sunday, 9 December at 10am.
Why: The recently released Born to Kwaito: Reflections on the Kwaito Generation, reminding us of kwaito’s strong influence across the country’s cultural spectrum and honouring the genre’s pioneers, has been extremely well received. And with Penny Lebyane – a popular culture icon herself – moderating the talk with co-authors Esinako Ndabeni and Sihle Mthembu, the discussion is sure to be compelling.

Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi at the Cape Town book launch of his new book, ‘The Land is Ours’, earlier this year.

The Land is Ours

When: Sunday, 9 December at 10am.
Why: Check out our Q&A with Advocate Ngcukaitobiabout his book on the critical role played by the black legal thinkers of this country in paving the way for a strong human rights culture. His mind is impressive, his writing skills formidable, and his research on this book – which received wide acclaim when it came out this year – sets the (ahem!) bar high for many a writer.

READ MORE: The Land is Ours: Tembeka Ngcukaitobi in his own words

16 June 2005. Cape Town. South African screen writer, author, musician and author of children’s books Gcina Mhlope shows her book “Robben Island” to a group of children: Jemiel Morta (10), Natasha Sipamla (8), Ncedisa Kelni (13), Amanda Ndika (9) and Bulelwa Booi (12).

Kids’ Zone

When: Saturday and Sunday (check programmefor times)
Why: Kids can look forward to a smorgasbord of enriching experiences – including playing indigenous games like imilolozelo – and performances by the iconic Gcina Mhlophe. Cos’ cos’ yaphela!

PS: There’s a lot more happening at Abantu – click hereto see the full programme.

P.P.S. A glossary of terms:

Umsamo is a place in people’s home where they communicate with ancestors.

Cos’ cos’ yaphela means “this is where the story ends”. It’s the equivalent of “… and they all lived happily ever after”.