Black people seldom have spaces to be unapologetically black, but Abantu Book Festival is one of the few spaces that has allowed us to enjoy our blackness and indulge in black literature by black African authors without any interruptions. Do not be fooled into thinking that black people don’t read, because we do, we enjoy it and we are even teaching our children to not only read but to love it. The first week of December saw Eyethu Lifestyle Centre in Mofolo, Soweto and Soweto Theater filled with Black African authors as well as the black people who read their books meet to have panel discussions on issues that affect us. The book festival was a safe space were we cried together, laughed together and danced together.
Writers from different parts of Africa gave a few insights into their books as well as engaged in general discussions about different issues that affect us. What stood out for me is how the majority of discussions were on abuse, patriarchy and women as keeper of secrets. In a discussion with Marah Louw she talked about the cycle of abuse from her mother( who is actually her grandmother) , her sister (who is her real mother) and herself, the abuse they suffered at the hands of men they loved. Finding out that her sister was actually her mother and how nobody in her family was willing to tell her the truth. Family keeping secrets about a child’s biological parents is such a problem all over and it is damaging. In a separate discussion about Khwezi, Mmatshilo Motsei emphasized on the dangers of women keeping secrets when their kids and other women are raped by family members so as to not “disgrace” the family. Everyone who attended the discussion is in agreement that we need to stop protecting abusers and rapists in our families. Our mothers are huge supporters of patriarchy because that is all they know from their mothers and their mothers and they have protected patriarchy as way to survive in the world that has always been unfair to women and the change can only be brought by women of our generation who have already started to make great strides in dismantling patriarchy bit by bit.
Our African cultures from 500 years ago are not the same cultures that we have today because culture evolves and as we go on every day we create our own African identity. I love the way we are loving our black African selves without apologizing, rocking our hair in its natural state, celebrating our cultures as well as the cultures of our fellow Africans.
Abantu Book Festival in its greatness also exposed the challenges for the black media worker when it comes to the compensation and managing the creative and business aspect of their trade. There is a need to established media institution that will enforce the fair treatment, fair compensation of media workers. Those institutions need to make media work for blacks sustainable.
I cannot wait wait for the 3rd annual Abantu Book Festival in 2018 because the festival is a great initiative and I am pretty sure that it will grow bigger and better, I am proud of the work that Thando Mgqolozana and his team have done for us. AMANDLA ABANTU BOOK FEST! AMANDLA
All images from Abantu Book Festival