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CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS FOR AWARDS AND PRIZES 2024

 

All entries must be submitted by the 30 April 2024

please contact the administrative Officer  Karin Basel –  should you wish to submit an entry for any of the awards and prizes listed below.

englishacademy@societies.wits.ac.za

THE ENGLISH ACADEMY OF SOUTHERN AFRICA 2024 OLIVE SCHREINER PRIZE FOR PROSE

The English Academy of South Africa is pleased to announce a call for submissions for the 2024 Olive Schreiner Prize for Prose. Please consult the rules below and be sure to submit entries by 30 April 2024.

Rules, information, and guidelines 

  • The prize is called the English Academy of Southern Africa 2024 Olive Schreiner Prize for Prose.
  • The Olive Schreiner Prize for Prose is awarded for original literary work in English including novels, short stories, descriptive sketches, essays or other forms of prose where the ‘creative’ element carries more weight than purely factual or informative content.
  • The English Academy of Southern Africa 2024 Olive Schreiner Prize for Prose is awarded for literary work published in 2021, 2022 or 2023.
  • The author must be a citizen of a southern African country.
  • The work must have been published in southern Africa.
  • The Prize is expressly intended as encouragement for a writer who has produced work of great promise but cannot yet be regarded as an established novelist or short story writer.
  • The Prize may not be awarded to the same person more than twice.
  • The Prize may not be awarded posthumously or retrospectively.
  • 3 copies of the book will need to be sent to the EASA admin officer.

THE ENGLISH ACADEMY OF SOUTHERN AFRICA 2024 Thomas Pringle Award for Best Academic Article in Periodicals

The English Academy of South Africa is pleased to announce a call for submissions for the 2024 Thomas Pringle Award for Academic Articles (published in 2022-23). Please consult the rules below and be sure to submit entries by 30 April 2024.

Rules, information, and guidelines

  • The award is called the English Academy of Southern Africa Thomas Pringle Award for Best Academic Article
  • Eligibility: Only articles published in Southern African periodicals/journals in 2022-2023 are eligible for submission.
  • Only work written in English will be considered.
  • No writer may be awarded the prize more than twice.
  • The Prize may not be awarded posthumously or retrospectively.

Submission:

Only a digital or scanned copy of the story – as published – will be considered. No ‘proof’ or ‘draft’ Word/PDF versions will be accepted.

    • Specify the following: name of author, title of work, title of periodical, issue number, and page range.
    • Please email submissions to the admin officer  Karin Basel englishacademy@societies.wits.ac.za

THE ENGLISH ACADEMY OF SOUTHERN AFRICA 2024 Thomas Pringle Award for Best Short Story in Periodicals

The English Academy of South Africa is pleased to announce a call for submissions for the 2024 Thomas Pringle Award (short stories published in 2022-23). Please consult the rules below and be sure to submit entries by 30 April 2024.

Rules, information, and guidelines

  • The award is called the English Academy of Southern Africa Thomas Pringle Award for Best Short Story.
  • Eligibility:
  • Only stories published in Southern African periodicals/journals/magazines in 2022-2023 are eligible for submission.
  • Only work written in English will be considered.
  • Stories may not exceed 10 000 words.
  • No writer may be awarded the prize more than twice.
  • The Prize may not be awarded posthumously or retrospectively.
  • Submission:
    • Only a digital or scanned copy of the story – as published – will be considered. No ‘proof’ or ‘draft’ Word/PDF versions will be accepted.
    • Specify the following: name of author, title of work, title of periodical, issue number, and page range.
    • Please email submissions to Karin Basel englishacademy@societies.wits.ac.za

THE ENGLISH ACADEMY OF SOUTHERN AFRICA 2024 PERCY
FITZPATRICK PRIZE FOR YOUTH LITERATURE


The English Academy of South Africa is pleased to announce a call for submissions for the 2024 Percy FitzPatric Prize for Youth Literature. Please consult the rules below and be sure to submit entries by 30 April 2024.

The prize was established by the South African Institute for Librarianship and Information Science and is administered by the English Academy of Southern Africa.


Rules, information, and guidelines
• It is awarded for an original literary work in English; published in southern
Africa; and written by a person domiciled in southern Africa at the time of
publication.
• The work must be a work of fiction designed to interest children between
10 and 14 years of age.
• To be eligible for the 2024 prize, the work must have been published in 2022 or 2023.
• A translation of a work originally written in another language may be
considered provided that the work has been translated into English by the
original author. In this case, the year the translated work was published
(and not the date the original work was published) will determine the
work’s eligibility for the prize – (published in 2022 and 2023).
• The Prize is expressly intended as encouragement for a writer who has
produced work of great promise but cannot yet be regarded as an
established novelist or short story writer.
• The Prize may not be awarded to the same person more than twice.
• The Prize may not be awarded posthumously or retrospectively.

If you are interested in submitting entries please contact the admin officer

 

 

EASA International Conference 2023

7-8 December 2023, University of the Free State (Bloemfontein)

Ways of Reading: Literature and Literacy

To speak of literature and literacy in a single breath is perhaps to take for granted a linear relationship: any appreciation of the former requires proficiency in the latter. Of course, such proficiency is itself unstable and shifting, subject not only to different formative contexts and approaches but also to material and technological changes. Nor is literacy a value-neutral term: while it denotes at its most basic level the ability to read and write, a more nuanced understanding recognizes literacy’s capacity to confer value and shape aesthetic judgement. Already implicit in such an understanding is the mutually reinforcing relation between literature and literacy: the cognitive skillset which enables us to read is constantly being modified by what we read and by the material forms that our reading takes. On the one hand, the entanglement of literature and literacy is a cultural issue: it asks, for instance, how particular writers, or movements, or literary-critical approaches shape our reading habits, our ways of seeing. On the other hand, the same entanglement draws out questions about social justice, access to education, and material affordances.

Programme 

Day 1 (7 December)

07:30 – 08:00              Arrival & registration.

08:00 – 08:15              Welcome address.

08:15 – 9:15                Keynote lecture: David Attwell, ‘A Ventriloquial Literature: the Art of “Throwing the Voice” in the South African Canon’

                                                                                    ***Tea***

9:30 – 10:50                Session 1 (Chair: Owen Seda)

  • Victor Houliston, ‘The Cardinal Virtues of Reading’
  • Mark Espin, ‘A Renewed Time for Reading’
  • Michael Boyd, ‘Hope in the Hodge-Podge: The Promise of the Road in Ben Okri’s The Famished Road

11:00 – 12:20              Session 2 (Chair: Helene Strauss)

  • Lesibana Rafapa, ‘Multiple Levels of Literacy in Kopano Matlwa’s Literature: the case of Evening Primrose
  • David Robinson, ‘Beta than Greta (?) Ecocriticism and Education in the English Class’
  • Jesse Arsenault, ‘Reading Unruly Animalities: Anti-Anthropocentric Literacies and the Archive’
  • 12:20 – 13:00              Lunch

13:00 – 14:20              Session 3 (Chair: Laura Zander)

  • Susan Akinkurolere, ‘Towards an Improvement in the Academic Literacy for University Students in Botswana: Examining Students Engagement with Technology-Support Tools?’
  • Christopher Koekemoer, ‘Teaching with Technology: Using WhatsApp for Assessment in English Literary Studies for Primary School Teacher Education’
  • Idette Noomé, ‘The Smartphone in the Room: Addressing Allusion’

***Tea***

14:30 – 15:50              Session 4 (Chair: Oyewumi Agunbiade)

  • Agnes Ndlovu and Nonhlanhla Dlamini, ‘Contemporary Polygamy and its Concomitants in Nyathi’s The Polygamist
  • Isaac Ndlovu, ‘Contested Literacies and Troubling Literatures in Mukwahepo: Woman Soldier Mother as Told to Ellen Ndeshi Namhila
    • Oyewumi Olatoye Agunbiade & Enongene Mirabeau Sone, ‘Indigenous Literacy against Modern Intrigues: an Example of Femi Osofisan’s Love’s Unlike Lading
    • Owen Seda, ‘Dariroas Transgressive Space of Alterity in Dambudzo Marechera’s Drama’
    • Kundai Fingson & Kudzayi Ngara, ‘Ritual Mothering: Interrogating syncretic aspects of Indigenous Narratives as depicted in Imbolo Mbue’s How Beautiful We Were (2021)Mariza Brooks, ‘The Role of Suicide Narratives in Normalising Conversations about Suicide: Literature as a Catalyst for Social Change’
      • Laura Zander, ‘“Reading, Writing, Righting?” Literature, Human Rights Education, and the Learning of Social Justice’
        • Beverley Cornelius & Jean Rossmann, ‘Conviviality, Critical Friends, and Decolonisation: Reflexive Self-Study for the Transformation of Two English Studies Courses’
          • Anthony Essien, ‘When Proficiency in Language Does Not Suffice in Teaching for Meaning-making in Multilingual Mathematics Classrooms’
          • Robert Maungedzo, ‘Is It Still the Same Old Question? A Case Study on South African Literature in English and the Curriculum for Grades 10 to 12’
          • Elani Boshoff & Colleen du Plessis, ‘“Beneficial but Bombastic”: Exploring Education Students’ English Reading Attitudes and Habitsbali Mahlaku & Nonhlanhla Dlamini, ‘Re-reading Marriage, Culture and Gender Roles in Peace Adzo Medie’s His Only Wife’rthur Rose, ‘Between Shame Competency and Shame Literacy’Naomi Nkealah, ‘African Feminist (Il)literacy in South African Higher Education’

             

            16:00 – 17:20              Session 5 (Chair: Idette Noomé)

        • 17:30 – 18:30              Drinks reception in the UFS Centenary Complex

          Day 2 (8 December)

          07:30 – 7:50                Arrival & coffee.

          07:50 – 8:50                Keynote lecture: Karen Jennings, ‘Stacking the Stones: Creating, Understanding, and Sharing’

        • 09:00 – 10:20              Session 6 (Chair: Victor Houliston)

      •                                                                                     ***Tea***                                   

        10:30 – 11:50              Session 7 (Chair: Naomi Nkealah)

        • Lesibana Rafapa & Freddy Mahori, ‘Language and Discourses of Consumerism in Angela Makholwa’s Narratives’
        • Gabriel Kosiso Okonkwo, ‘Who do MEN Say we Are?: Interrogating Patriarchal Heteronormative Literacy in Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo’s Children of the Eagle
        • Rosemary Gray, ‘A Reading of The Last Gift of the Master Artists: Ben Okri’s Fire that Burns and Heals’

         

        11:50 – 12:30              Lunch

        12:30 – 13:50              Session 8 (Chair: Rick de Villiers)

      • Deirdre Byrne, ‘Reading as a Multimodal and Multicultural Act

                                                                                          ***Tea***

       14:00 – 15:20              Session 9 (Chair: Iri Manase)

  •         15:30 – 16:20              Session 10 (Chair: Arthur Rose)

    • Cheryl Stobie, ‘Honouring Relics: The First Paragraph of Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu’s The Theory of Flight
    • Ileana Dimitriu, ‘Migration and Search for Meaning in JM Coetzee’s ‘Jesus’ Novels’

     

    16:20-16:40                Closing: Rick de Villiers 

    18:30                          Dinner at the UFS Centenary Complex

 

Recent  Functions

Percy Baneshik lecture and an Award function on 27 July 2023

The English Academy in conjunction with the University of the Western Cape hosted the

Percy Baneshik lecture and an Award function on 27 July 2023 at 5pm. There was tremendous interest in the function and 80 guests attended.

The dean of the Faculty of Education, Prof R Govender, welcomed the audience and noted the long association between the English Academy and UWC, especially the work of Prof Stanley Ridge and Rajendra Chetty who served as Presidents of the Academy. Dr Barbara Basel, the Vice President of the Western Cape region, did the introduction to the function and provided an overview of the programme. The 2022 Olive Schreiner Poetry Prize was awarded to Jacques Coetzee for his volume of poetry, An illuminated Darkness. Rosemary Gray read the citation for the award on behalf of the adjudication panel. Jacques’ response was both moving and inspiring, given the fact that he is a visually impaired poet.  The 2022 Percy FitzPatrick Prize for Youth Literature was awarded jointly to Penny Lorimer for Luntu Masiza Tells the Truth and Sally Partridge for  Sea Star Summer. Darryl David, a member of the adjudication panel,  read the citation for the award. Both the winners were present and their responses were enjoyable and they shared interesting information on their books.

The 2023 Percy Baneshik lecture was presented by Rajendra Chetty. Barbara Basel introduced Rajendra and narrated a brief history of the work of the executive committee in Cape Town when Stan Ridge and Rajendra served as presidents of the Academy. The title of the lecture was ‘Fatima Meer: Choosing to be defiant’. The presentation was based on Rajendra’s recently published visual biography on academic activist, Fatima Meer. He noted that Meer’s activism is anfractuous given the many roles she played in South African society resulting in writings that are replete with intricate turnings: she was an artist, sociologist, writer, prisoner, Mandela’s biographer and human rights campaigner. She used a range of generic forms to articulate her ideas – playwriting, opera, painting, photography, and memoir. The lecture was very well received. Prof David Attwell was respondent to the lecture and narrated his experiences during the 1970s and 80s at the then University of Natal.

The Fellowship of the English Academy of Southern Africa award was presented to Rajendra Chetty for his contribution to the English Academy for over a decade and to English studies in general. Rosemary Gray read the citation and presented the award. Sindiwe Magona, the Patron of the Academy, brough a short message to the function. Riaan Oppelt from the University of Stellenbosch passed the vote of thanks and conveyed the gratitude of the Academy to the audience, the award winners, the Percy Baneshik Trust,  and colleagues from the English Academy and the University of the Western Cape who assisted to make the function a success.  The grand reception included a sit-down dinner and music provided by Riaan Oppelt and his band.

Citation for An Illuminated Darkness   Poems by Jacques Coetzee

In a deeply engaging, assured and lyrical voice, Jacques Coetzee illuminates a life lived in darkness and yet everywhere alight with sensory perception, music, and human understanding. Original, moving and often wryly humorous, these memorable poems are the product of grief and struggle but, above all, love.

Jacques Coetzee’s poetry inspires an adjustment and reformulation of perception, dispelling illusions while celebrating the liberating immediacy of lived experience. Tempered by lyrical cadence, at once both sensual and transcendent, the poems affirm a passionate desire to look ‘past dawn for one more taste/of this incorrigible life’. An inner equipoise is always present, mingling compassionate humour with manifest uncertainty; adding undertones of loss and despair to an unflinching narrative of acceptance; and always returning to the inalienable proximity – the miraculous influence – of the poetic imagination.

Adjudication team:  Finuala Dowling & Ivan Rabinowitz (coordinators), David Lloyd

Response from Jacques Coetzee

Ladies and gentlemen, members of the academy, lovers of books, it is ironic that I am receiving this award tonight for doing things with words. Because it isn’t easy to express in words how honoured I feel that An Illuminated Darkness should be recognised in this way. Every poet, every artist wants their work to have a life of its own, independent of its messy creation. And tonight I feel as if my anthology, such as it is, stands on its own feet.

I have been involved in poetry communities, both in person and more recently on Zoom, for many years now. And I can tell you that the greatest challenge for any poet is simply to keep writing, knowing how difficult it is to launch an anthology into the world. It requires unusual leaps of faith.

And so to keep going, regardless of what the outcome might be, is the only way to go. But the truth is that all writers, all artists of any kind, need to be seen and recognised, even if only by a handful of friends, if they are to complete their work and find an audience for it. That is why what you are doing here today is so valuable. It has made it possible for me to feel myself a member of the same community as some of my local poet heroes: Oswald Mtshali and Tatamkulu Afrika, Rustum Kozain and Finuala Dowling.

In spite of the effort I must have put into them, I already feel distant from many of the poems in this collection. They often feel like the work of another person, written by another man. No doubt this is partly a defence mechanism on my part. I have to believe, somehow, that it’s possible to have new experiences and find new things to say. And so I am grateful that the poems are here tonight, to bear witness and assure me that I really was that man. That I can still find my way back to him somehow.

So I am going to close with a short poem, actually the earliest poem in the collection and the first I liked enough to dream that I might be able to call myself a poet one day. Each time I read it I find, to my surprise, that I recognise the voice of the messed-up young man who wrote it as my own.

 

Thank you for witnessing my work, and finding something of worth and value in it. It means the world.

MOSTLY WATER

“We’re mostly water, not solid at all.”

That’s what the travelling man said to me,

lifting his full glass absent-mindedly.

 

“If you want to stay true to what you are,

keep changing: fixed opinions are the devil’s food.”

I turned to answer him, but he had gone:

 

shifting shapes, no doubt, without a pause.

Stumbling outside, into a pouring rain,

I felt my bones dissolve, and I was home.

 

Citation for Percy Fitzpatrick Prize 2022

There were three novels that stood out. All three are not only well-written and -crafted, but also explore current issues as part of the lived experience of the protagonists and are very distinctly youth centred. All three are engrossing and embody hope.

The panel found it difficult to choose only one of them. In the end, we unanimously decided to award the prize jointly to Luntu Masiza Tells the Truth by Penny Lorimer (Tafelberg) and Sea Star Summer by Sally Partridge (Human & Rousseau).

Penny Lorimer deftly uses a series of emails written by the protagonist to allow the narrative to unfold. The scenario is that Mr Bali, a teacher at Walter Sisulu High School, has set Luntu Masiza a holiday task. Each email submission is a modern variation of a soliloquy, as Mr Bali’s answers are never given. Readers become privileged observers of Luntu Masiza’s reflection on past and present experiences and his personal growth and engagement with very real questions and challenges for teenagers growing up in underprivileged circumstances in contemporary South Africa. An interesting twist is that Luntu deliberately chooses to write in the third person.  That makes it possible for him to explore his experiences and reflect on them and his attitudes at the time (and as he writes about them) in more complex ways than would have been possible in an entirely first-person narrative.

The pace of the novel is initially slow, but this strengthens the credibility of the account. Luntu’s initial awkwardness and lack of enthusiasm for the task gradually give way to enthusiastic engagement, and we view the conflicting forces of naiveté, rebelliousness and immaturity shift into more mature insight into Luntu’s role as a teenager growing towards young manhood. At the same time, Penny Lorimer powerfully evokes Mr Bali in the frequent references Luntu makes to his teacher’s classroom practice, his life philosophy and his deep concern for the children he teaches. This character is very finely drawn.

Another feature of the book is that the mix of immaturity and sophistication in Luntu’s voice is credibly sustained. Some of the writing reveals the self-consciousness of a teenager who is still finding his way; at times he is overconfident and even crass to hide his confusion as he negotiates a space between rebellion and responsibility:

 Luntu decided to throw a spanner in the works and a cat among the pigeons and a roadblock into the traffic. To tell the truth, he was still simmering under his lid about everything that had happened to him: Mr Bali’s attitude, his sliding school marks, his decreased reputation from no debating or SLC, and the whole episode with Tanya. He also wanted to show loyalty to his friend Andisane. So he raised his hand and suggested to Mr Bali that maybe Andisane did not have the money to buy a regulation beanie but it was winter and he had a cold and needed to keep his head warm.

The surprise ending, which is entirely credible, takes Luntu to a new level of maturity and independence.

Sally Partridge’s  novel Sea Star Summer has a very different setting – the affluent world of Jeffreys Bay. The protagonist, Naomi, is the highly intelligent, only child of well-heeled parents. She is a complete outsider at St Anne’s, which she refers to as “school and all its horrors – the cliques and hierarchies and the constant battle to be seen but to stay hidden at the same time” (p. 4). On the trip to the family’s holiday home, she is filled with dread that she will have just as miserable a time in Jeffreys Bay as she has at school. Most of her luggage consists of books to ensure that she will be able to ignore any other teenagers and escape attention. Her self-doubt and self-loathing are deftly captured in her description of herself in a mirror at a service station:

In the too-bright petrol station bathroom mirror, my pale skin looks green and my freckles resemble a rash caused by some incurable disease. No one looks twice at my baggy pyjama bottoms and hoodie. If I saw someone with this many freckles, I would also overlook their wardrobe. Even my hands are freckled. (p. 3)

The holiday turns out very differently from what she expects. Not only does she win the admiration two boys, but she also makes a close female friend.

Naomi is enchanted by Elize’s freedom and capacity for enjoyment from the first moment she sees her:

 There’s only one person out there, a dark-haired girl about my own age, kicking her feet through the incoming tide. The way she’s laughing and shrieking, clearly in a world of her own, makes it look like she’s having a great time. I envy her lack of inhibition. If it was me, I’d be worried who’s watching. (p. 8)

The book is a sensitive evocation of the wonder, the excitement and the intense emotion that make up first love. Sally Partridge subtly conveys the inevitable complications and competing relationships that Naomi finds confusing and bewildering. By the end of the novel, as the finely nuanced ending suggests, she has not only made discoveries about herself and what makes her happy, but she is ready to rejoice in who she is.

Response from Penny Lorimer

I have a quote here from Maya Angelou, who describes perfectly how I experience the process of writing.

“When I’m writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that. But I’m also trying for the language. I’m trying to see how it can really sound. I really love language. I love it for what it does for us, how it allows us to explain the pain and the glory, the nuances and the delicacies of our existence.”

In Luntu Masiza Tells the Truth the language enabled me to explore and present the values of honesty and integrity in relationships through the words of a teenage boy. What a magical instrument it is!

It is a real honour to have my book recognised and rewarded by The English Academy of Southern Africa this evening. Thank you all very much.

Response from Sally Partridge

We live in a time where hard fought freedoms are under threat. Our identities and what makes us unique are being debated by politicians and outlawed, as we see overseas and in some countries closer to home. 

If you open a newspaper or browse the headlines online it’s frightening to see what’s happening, even today. One bright light amongst this darkness is books. Publishers have been steadfast in their defense of our freedoms. Walk into any bookstore and go to the teen section. You’ll see everyone represented and celebrated. You’ll find books written to help young people navigate these struggling times and find strength in themselves. I want to acknowledge my publisher for being a defender of these freedoms and a friend and ally to the LGBTQ community. I also want to thank you for allowing me to add my voice to the narrative.

Some pictures from the event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The EASA Invites Dramatic Poetry performance and prize giving at Northwards on 3 June 2023

After a long break the English Academy was delight to hold a function at Northwards.  As always Dr Neil Viljoen was a wonderful host.  He took the guests for a tour of the beautiful building offering many fascinating facts into the people who lived in the house.

Professor Owen Seda President of the English Academy, served as director of ceremonies and welcomed, guests and prize winners.   There were three awards presented the Thomas Pringle Award for best educational article 2021 presented to Associate Professor Laura Dison and Dr Jean Moore; the Thomas Pringle Award for a short story in a journal 2022 presented to Professor David Medalie and The Gwen Knowles-Williams Bursary 2023 presented to Phiwe-Inhlanhla Zungu.  Both the citations and responses from the winners offered very interesting insights into the world of literature and English Education, leaving the audience with the knowledge that there are still many people out there that find joy in the way words can be used to communicate and uplift the world. 

There was a sense of like minded people coming together to share what they felt was of value and this was then reaffirmed by the poetry presentation of Zena Johns and Dr Raphael d’Abdon introduced by Professor Josephine Alexander.  Two of our members also promoted their latest books Chants, Dreams and other Grammars of Love by Professor Josephine Alexander and Hunger for the Light by Professor Rosemary Gray.  It was a memorable morning spend celebrating the power of language.

Citation for the Thomas Pringle Article Education Article focusing on English in education

Moore, J., & Dison, L. (2019). Creating conditions for working collaboratively in discipline-based writing centres at a south african university. Per Linguam : A Journal of Language Learning = Per Linguam : Tydskrif Vir Taalaanleer35(1), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.5785/35-1-851

South Africa is still plagued by the legacy of colonial and apartheid education. The merit of this study is in its  critique of  the deficit approach to literacy development – viewing it as incompatible  with a transformative agenda in education. The authors astutely point out that students’ academic literacy practices frequently do not prepare them for, or articulate with, the ways of thinking and practising within their chosen academic disciplines. Lillis and Scott’s (2007) notion of transformative writing spaces  is used to engage critically with disciplinary culture, norms and practices  to develop a  theoretically sound and pragmatic approach of great utility to student writing practices across the genres. Additionally, this study  posits  explicit collaborative  pedagogy in the teaching of writing through the use of discipline embedded writing centres in ways that are empowering to students. The panel is of the unanimous opinion that this study merits the Thomas Pringle Award in English Education.

Prof Ayub Sheik ( University of Kwazulu-Natal), Dr Nicolas Nyika ( University of Kwazulu-Natal), Dr Marcelle Mentor ( University of Columbia), Dr Sifiso Sibanda ( North-West University)

Some thoughts on transformative writing spaces:

Good morning, everyone. We would like to thank the English Academy of Southern Africa, and particularly everyone involved in hosting and organising today, and those who adjudicated the Thomas Pringle awards. We are honoured to have been chosen for this award, and to be here today.

As you know from the introduction, I am Professor Laura Dison, and in our article, I reflect on the work of the writing centre at the Wits School of Education. My colleague, Dr Jean Moore, reflects on her work at the Wits School of Law writing centre. We work in different disciplines but came together to write this article because we share a common understanding of what is needed to create a transformative writing space; a rigorous yet reflective space where education and law students don’t just develop ‘writing skills’ but develop their scholarly and writer identities. We were particularly pleased to be acknowledged by this award, as this is not just another scholarly article; it distils our deeply held beliefs about writing and writing development. We are grateful that something about it resonates with readers.

In our article, we explore some of the principles we believe contribute to a transformative writing space in Higher Education, which we will outline, briefly, today. Firstly, we focus on dialogue about disciplinary writing practices. Implicit here is challenging deficit assumptions about students and rejecting the remedial approach to writing development at universities. We work with all students in a cohort, so that writing is positioned as a journey for everyone, rather than a skill lacking in some.

Second, collaboration with disciplinary experts, or collaborative pedagogy, is central: our work with writing happens within a discipline, and within specific courses. The role of our writing centres is to deepen students’ critical and reflective engagement with course concepts through reading and writing activities. Together with disciplinary experts, we make visible the implicit ways of reading and writing in the discipline. We have seen how this allows students to develop a stronger sense of self and place in the academy. 

Thirdly, connection and social cohesion is important. Here, Achille Mbembe’s notion of a ‘pedagogy of presence’ (2017) is important. We attempt to create an inclusive non-judgemental space – physical and curricular – where students can participate and be heard as they work their way through learning and critiquing the conventions and codes of academic writing. Our peer writing mentors play an important role here.

Finally, reflection is a strategy that is deliberately and consistently used. Both students and peer writing consultants are encouraged to engage in ongoing reflection on their writing strengths and difficulties. These reflections provide feedback to staff – both literacy and disciplinary specialists – about the writing assignment’s challenges, limitations, or opportunities for learning.

Of course, since we wrote the article, we have all experienced the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. All of us are grappling with the unintended consequences of Covid in a range of ways. In Higher Education, there were strong calls to develop a ‘resilient pedagogy’ during lockdown – generally conceived as an approach to teaching that is flexible and adaptable, regardless of mode, with the ability to sustain learning experiences despite disruptive circumstances or conditions.

2022 Thomas Pringle Award for Best Short Story

 Awarded to David Medalie for the short story, “Hero”, published in English Studies in Africa (2021).

Medalie’s short story, “Hero”, is a wary but tender exploration of care, independence, and the troubled notion of heroism. Set against the backdrop of South Africa’s COVID lockdown, it tells the story of Eileen – an 83 year-old woman – and her strong but stubborn daughter, Vanessa.

Their relationship is a strained one, as their forced cohabitation soon makes clear. What informs this strain are feelings of regret and self-recrimination, at least on the part of Eileen. Proud to witness her disabled daughter’s independence, her heart nevertheless ‘splinter[s] anew every day’ when she thinks back on her misinformed decision to take Thalidomide during her pregnancy many years ago. But Vanessa – logical and matter-of-fact – believes her mother’s ‘guilt has no validity’, given that the drug’s deforming effects were not yet known.

Their cagey discussion of the subject is prompted by a photo of Dr Frances Oldham Kelsey – the scientist responsible for Thalidomide’s banning in America. In Vanessa’s eyes, she is a hero because of her independence and bravery, for ‘not being swayed by anyone’. By contrast, Eileen pictures a hero as someone who serves the greater good, ‘the weaver of an intricate tapestry of consensus’. If they diverge on this and other points, they agree that ‘hero’ is not a term to be used lightly.

Although Medalie addresses emotively charged concepts, his handling of them is without sentimentality. By focalising the characters’ cohabitation through Eileen, the reader is often left in the dark as to Vanessa’s thoughts and feelings. She is a figure who remains aloof throughout – both in Eileen’s observations and also in the clipped and often testy bits of dialogue which Medalie is so adept at rendering.

Though belonging to a particular moment, “Hero” is expansive in its range. With sensitivity and scepticism, it broaches questions of care, shame and resilience. And in prose that is by turns wry, poignant, and humorous, Medalie hopefully if tentatively suggests that individual triumph can emerge out of social crisis.  

Judges: Prof. Andries Wessels (UP), Mrs Hanta Henning (UFS), Dr Rick de Villiers (UFS)

Response from David Medalie

Prof. Seda, members of the English Academy, fellow award-winners and honoured guests,

I wish to thank the English Academy for awarding the Thomas Pringle Award to me for my short story, ‘Hero’, and the judges for selecting it. This is the second time one of my short stories has been chosen for this prestigious award and I am keenly aware of how fortunate I am to have my writing recognised in this way.

Thank you also, Dr de Villiers, for the warmly appreciative comments about the story in your citation.  

The publication history of ‘Hero’ is interesting. The editors of English Studies in Africa, a scholarly journal based at Wits, decided to devote a double issue to reflections on the Covid-19 pandemic. They also opened it up to creative work. Along with scholarly articles they published short stories (including mine), poetry and artworks. So successful was the journal edition that it was subsequently published in the UK by Routledge as a book, entitled The Plague Years: Reflecting on Pandemics. Including creative work in scholarly journals seems to me to be a wise move and something which should happen more often. I wish to take this opportunity to thank the editors, Prof. Michael Titlestad, Prof. Grace Musila and Dr Karl van Wyk, for welcoming creative submissions and for bringing such an exciting publication to light.   

Against the background of the pandemic, my story explores a number of issues, including what may be deemed to constitute heroism and in what contexts. Linked to that is a related question: who should be famous and what ought to receive public attention? The story suggests that there is an increasing tendency to celebrate nonentities who promote themselves vigorously rather than genuinely noteworthy and beneficial contributions to society made by people who do not seek fame or publicity. Dr Frances Oldham Kelsey is held up as an example of the latter. Ever since I found out about Dr Kelsey and what she achieved, almost singlehandedly, I was struck by the fact that so few people had heard of her.

If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to read two short extracts from ‘Hero’ which relate to this. Early in the story the narrator ponders the question of what constitutes heroism nowadays:

The concept of heroism has been so diluted that it’s hard to say what it means. It seems to be an offshoot of fame. And fame has become a very odd creature. People are famous now simply for being famous. You don’t have to do anything. You announce yourself. You acquire followers. You become a household name. Before long you’re a legend; you’re a hero. Millions buy the clothes and cosmetics and perfume you endorse, mouth the same hand-me-down opinions. You become stinking rich. They try to keep up with you.[i]

Later Dr Kelsey’s history is given:

Dr Frances Oldham Kelsey, a physician and scientist whose name would forever be linked to the history of teratogens – drugs that cause birth defects – received the President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service from President Kennedy in August 1962. Decades later, in June 2015, shortly before her death at the age of 101, Canada, the country of her birth, conferred on her the Order of Canada. From the early 1960s onwards the word ‘heroine’ began to attach itself to her. Morton Mintz, writing in 1962 in the Washington Post, called her the ‘heroine’ of the Food and Drug Administration, who kept a ‘bad drug’ off the market, adding that Dr Kelsey ‘prevented…the birth of hundreds or indeed thousands of armless and legless children.’

      Despite considerable pressure from the manufacturer, Richardson-Merrell, Dr Kelsey refused to authorise the use of Kevadon, the trade name for Thalidomide. It was approved in Canada and more than twenty other countries, but never in the US. As a result, fewer than twenty Thalidomide children were born in the United States, while thousands were born elsewhere.

      …What moves [Eileen] more than anything is a comment made by a Canadian Thalidomide victim, who, when Dr Kelsey received the Order of Canada, said, ‘To us, she was always our heroine, even if what she did was in another country.’

      always our heroine, even if what she did was in another country

      She did not save me, the woman was saying, yet I honour her.[ii]

Participating as I am in this gathering where good writing and fine scholarship are rewarded, I find my thoughts turning to a not dissimilar dynamic in the context of language. Just as crass self-promotion by people with no apparent talent or ability has become acceptable, so too has the degradation of language – and the two, of course, are linked. Never in the history of humankind has language been so debased; never has its currency had so little value. Never have anti-intellectualism, mindless sloganeering and trite, derivative formulations been so widespread or so corrosively dangerous to thought and creativity. At our university – and we are certainly not alone in this – we waste vast amounts of time combatting plagiarism and being obliged to respond to indignant plagiarists who cannot even understand why there is anything wrong with what they have done. And now, in the latest horror that has been visited upon us, we have to contend with non-human entities which are capable of spewing out essays on any topic.  

George Orwell lamented as long ago as 1946 in his influential essay ‘Politics and the English Language’ that ‘the English language is in a bad way’ and that, ‘Orthodoxy, of whatever colour, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style’[iii]. The malady he diagnosed then has grown so much worse than he could ever have imagined that his prophecies, astute as they were, fall short of describing what is happening now.

Orwell’s perspicacity was extraordinary. He saw more clearly than most, for instance, the connection between feeble thinking and enervated language, as this much-quoted extract from the essay emphasises:

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. [iv]

Proposing a solution to a crisis that is as frightening as it is depressing lies far beyond my abilities. But it seems to me that a meaningful intervention, if not a solution, may be found in cultivating language which is vigilant always in resisting jargon and trendiness; which seeks to accrue and proliferate meanings rather than flatten difference.      One of the best accounts of this and of what words can and should do that I have ever read is in Joseph Conrad’s Preface to The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, published in 1897. The Preface is famous; it is also enigmatic and hauntingly beautiful. I return to it again and again. In the excerpt that follows Conrad talks about language:

…it is only through complete, unswerving devotion to the perfect blending of form and substance; it is only through an unremitting never-discouraged care for the shape and ring of sentences that an approach can be made to plasticity, to colour, and that the light of magic suggestiveness may be brought to play for an evanescent instant over the commonplace surface of words: of the old, old words, worn thin, defaced by ages of careless usage.[v]

More than a century and a quarter later, the ‘old, old words’ have worn much thinner and are more grievously ‘defaced by ages of careless usage’. Conrad’s call for a revivification of language reaches us where we are now with a greater urgency; it grows more poignant as the years pass. The battle to be fought seems daunting, the dystopian linguistic reality all-encompassing. Opposing the complacent cacophony of the age with countervailing words of a different order seems, consequently, to be nothing less than an act of heroism.

[i] David Medalie. 2021. ‘Hero’. English Studies in Africa. Vol. 64, no. 1-2. 146-151.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] George Orwell. ‘Politics and the English Language’. https://www.orwellfoundation.com/the-orwell-foundation/orwell/essays-and-other-works/politics-and-the-english-language/ Accessed 1 June 2023

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Joseph Conrad. Preface to The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/17731/17731-h/17731-h.htm Accessed 1 June 2023

Citation for the English Academy Gwen Knowles-Williams Bursary Award 2023

Winner: Phiwe-inhlanhla Zungu

Affiliation: School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand

Ms Phiwe-inhlanhla Zungu (Student No 472585) is registered for a PhD in Education in the Division of Languages, Literacies and Literatures in the Wits School of Education. We find Phiwe a most deserving recipient of this award because of her excellent academic record and her dedication as a teacher of the Foundation Phase. Phiwe has been teaching for over 9 years across all grades, from Foundation Phase to Senior Phase. She obtained her Master of Education degree in 2019 from Wits, with a distinction for her research report which investigated how teachers’ beliefs and attitudes towards gender influenced the way they taught Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart to Grade 10 learners in Johannesburg South high schools. The quality of Phiwe’s writing, the deep insights she was able to extrapolate from her data, and the profound clarity with which she expressed her arguments all impressed her examiners who wrote favourably about her research. After a short break from academia, Phiwe returned in 2021 to start her PhD in English Education. Her current research project centers on capacitating English teachers to apply African feminist pedagogies in their teaching of African literary texts. The design of an action research means that Phiwe is directly making an impact on teacher development through her project. The project holds great potential for changing the way African literature is taught in high schools in Johannesburg. Ultimately, it hopes to contribute to the transformative processes of the current South African basic education system that is in dire need of innovative pedagogies. We present Phiwe as a worthy recipient of the Gwen Knowles-Williams bursary award because: she has demonstrated academic excellence throughout her studies; she is a practicing teacher of English with a goal to improve her professional development; she has advanced significantly in her career, from a Social Sciences teacher to a departmental head for Foundation Phase; and she is determined to pursue academic excellence in her current PhD studies to be able to make a positive impact in the training of in-service teachers of English. 

Response for the Gwen Knowles-Williams Bursary

Good morning ladies, gentlemen and honoured guests. My journey at the University of the Witwatersrand began in the year 2010. When the time came for me to choose the subject I’d major in, the choice was simple. It had to be English. For as far back as I can remember, my head was always buried in a book. Some of my earliest memories are of me reading Pocahontas, Tarzan and Snow White with my mom and my sisters. By the time I was in grade 5, I was binge reading Harry Potter and Goosebumps. When I entered the wonderful doors of the Education library, it opened up a whole new world for me. I discovered authors such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Chinua Achebe and Zakes Mda. I choose to teach English because I wanted to inspire learners to love to read.

I have been teaching in the same Primary school for the last 9 years. I’ve spent the majority of those years teaching Grade 2. The best part of teaching English in the Foundation Phase is watching learners progress in their learning. Often, some learners come into Grade 2 and they do not know how to read or write yet. There is much pleasure and all manner of warm feelings when that one little girl or boy finally gets there. When I became a Departmental Head for the Foundation Phase in 2019, I was extremely happy because it gave me the opportunity to teach the teachers I manage some of what I have learned from my studies. It has been a learning curve and a wholesome journey.

At my first graduation, as I was sitting in the Great Hall, I looked down and noticed that some of the graduates were wearing red gowns and graduation caps. I became very interested in them because I had wanted to wear a graduation cap so badly and I was very disappointed that we didn’t get to wear one. After asking one of the ushers, I discovered that they were PhD students. At that very moment, I decided that I would get a PhD. So when people ask me why I am pursing a Doctorate of Philosophy in Education, I tell them it’s for self-development. I tell them that its because I am passionate about all things educational, feminist and African. I tell them its because I want to make a positive contribution to my school and to the academic world, no matter how small. I tell them all these things, but the truth is, I really just want to wear that red gown and a graduation cap!

I would like to thank my family and my partner for being with me here today. I appreciate the love and support you guys have given me since day one. You always understand when I can’t make it to certain things because I have deadlines. For that, I am grateful. In her absence, a heartfelt thank you to my supervisor Dr Naomi Nkealah. I would not have gotten this far without her input. She is ever kind with her constructive feedback and I have thoroughly enjoyed having her as a supervisor. Lastly, but certainly not least, a sincere thank you to the English Academy of Southern Africa. This award means a great deal to me. I feel honoured and grateful. Thank you for helping me achieve my long-term goal. It will truly make a world of difference and ease some of the stress that comes with studying. Please continue to do great work.

Thank you.

 

 CALLS FOR SUBMISSIONS FOR AWARDS 2023

 

THE ENGLISH ACADEMY OF SOUTHERN AFRICA

2023 OLIVE SCHREINER PRIZE FOR DRAMA

  •  The prize is called the English Academy of Southern Africa 2023 Olive Schreiner Prize for Drama.
  • The Olive Schreiner Prize for Drama is awarded for original dramatic work written in English. No translations will be accepted, even in cases where the author has translated his or her own work. Bilingual or semi-bilingual works may be eligible provided the work is primarily and predominantly in English.
  • The English Academy of Southern Africa 2023 Olive Schreiner Prize for Drama is awarded for literary work published in the three (3) years preceding the year in which the prize is awarded, therefore Therefore, the 2023 prize considers plays published or performed in 2020, 2021 or 2022.
  • The playwright must be a citizen of a southern African country.
  • The work must have been published and /or performed in southern Africa.
  • The Prize is expressly intended as encouragement for a playwright who has produced work of great promise, but cannot be regarded as an established writer. (We are trying to encourage new playwrights)
  • The Prize may not be awarded to the same person more than twice.
  • The Prize may not be awarded posthumously or retrospectively.
  • Queries should be addressed to the Administrative Officer, Karin Basel: englishacademy@societies.wits.ac.za 

 

THE ENGLISH ACADEMY OF SOUTHERN AFRICA

The 2023 Thomas Pringle Award for Poetry

  • The Thomas Pringle Award for Poetry in Periodicals is awarded biennially by the English Academy of Southern Africa
  • This year the award is called the 2023 Thomas Pringle Award for Poetry in Periodicals.
  • The award is considered in alternate (odd-numbered years) and considers poetry published in periodicals in the two (2) years preceding the year in which the award is made. Poetry published in periodicals in 2021 and 2022 is eligible for the 2023 award.
  • Only poetry in periodicals that are published in southern Africa are eligible for the award.
  • No one may receive the award more than twice.
  • Submit a copy of the poem  with proof of the journal that it was published in to englishacademy@societies.wits.ac.za
  • Queries should be addressed to Karin Basel: englishacademy@societies.wits.ac.za

 

The 2023 Thomas Pringle Award for

Articles on English in education and the teaching of English

  • The 2023 Thomas Pringle Award for Articles on English in education and the teaching of English in Periodicals is awarded by the English Academy of Southern Africa
  • .This award is presented biannually and is considered in alternate (odd-numbered years) and considers articles on English in education and the teaching of English published in periodicals in the two (2) years preceding the year in which the award is made.
  • Articles published in periodicals in 2021 and 2022 are eligible for the 2023
  • Only articles in periodicals that are published in southern Africa are eligible for the award.
  • NO one may receive the award more than twice.
  • Please submit a copy of the article with proof of the journal that it was published in to: englishacademy@societies.wits.ac.za
  • Queries should be addressed to Karin Basel: englishacademy@societies.wits.ac.za

 

AWARDS AND PRIZES TO BE PRESENTED BY THE EASA

The English Academy is excited to be holding two events in the next few months.  We will be presenting some of our prestigious awards which were adjudicated in 2022.

The first event will be held on the 3 June in Johannesburg at the beautiful heritage house, Northwards in Johannesburg.

The following awards will be presented:

Thomas Pringle Award for best educational article – 2021 which will be presented to Ms Jean Moore and Associate Professor Laura Dison for:  Creating conditions for working collaboratively in discipline-based writing centres at a south african university.Per Linguam : A Journal of Language Learning = Per Linguam : Tydskrif Vir Taalaanleer, 35(1), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.5785/35-1-851

“The merit of this study is in its critique of the deficit approach to literacy development – viewing it as incompatible with a transformative agenda in education.”

The Thomas Pringle Award for a short story in a journal – 2022 will be presented to Professor David Medalie for the short story, “Hero”, published in English Studies in Africa (2021).

“Though belonging to a particular moment, “Hero” is expansive in its range. With sensitivity and scepticism, it broaches questions of care, shame and resilience. And in prose that is by turns wry, poignant, and humorous, Medalie hopefully if tentatively suggests that individual triumph can emerge out of social crisis.”

The Gwen Knowles-Williams Bursary 2023 which will  be presented to Phiwe-Inhlanhla Zungu who is currently registered for a PhD in Education in the Division of Languages, Literacies and Literatures in the Wits School of Education.

“We find Phiwe a most deserving recipient of this award because of her excellent academic record and her dedication as a teacher of the Foundation Phase.”

After the awards have been presented we are honoured that our patron Pikita Ntuli, who is both a talented poet and artists and currently has an exhibition at the Durban Art Gallery Azibuyele Emasisweni, will entertain us with a dramatic poetry performance.

We are all looking forward to this event.

 

In July the EASA will be hosting another event at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town.

The following awards will be presented:

The Olive Schreiner Poetry Prize 2022 will be presented to Jacques Coetzee for his anthology of poems,  An illuminated Darkness 

“Jacques Coetzee’s poetry inspires an adjustment and reformulation of perception, dispelling illusions while celebrating the liberating immediacy of lived experience.”

The Percy FitzPatrick Prize for Youth Literature 2022 has two winners this year:  Penny Lorimer for Luntu Masiza Tells the Truth and Sally Partridge for Sea Star Summer2022

“There were two novels that stood out. Both are not only well-written and -crafted, but also explore current issues as part of the lived experience of the protagonists and are very distinctly youth centred. Both are engrossing and embody hope.”

After the award ceremony The Percy Baneshik lecture will be delivered by Professor Rajendra Chetty, titled “Fatima Meer – Choosing to be defiant”

The evening will end with a reception and music by Riaan Oppelt

The EASA is delighted that we can hold these events to promote our talented writers.  Congratulations to all the winners.

 

EASA International Conference 2023

Ways of Reading: Literature and literacy

7-8 December, 2023, University of the Free State (Bloemfontein)

 To speak of literature and literacy in a single breath is perhaps to take for granted a linear relationship: any appreciation of the former requires proficiency in the latter. Of course, such proficiency is itself unstable and shifting, subject not only to different formative contexts and approaches but also to material and technological changes. Nor is literacy a value-neutral term: while it denotes at its most basic level the ability to read and write, a more nuanced understanding recognizes its capacity to confer value and shape aesthetic judgement. Already implicit in such an understanding is the mutually reinforcing relation between literature and literacy: the cognitive skillset which enables us to read is constantly being modified by what we read, and also by the material forms which our reading takes. On the one hand, the entanglement of literature and literacy is cultural issue: it asks, for instance, how particular writers, or movements, or literary-critical approaches shape our reading habits, our ways of seeing. On the other hand, the same entanglement draws out questions about social justice, access to education, and material affordances.

With the interconnectedness of literature and literacy in mind, the English Academy of Southern Africa invites papers on topics including (but not limited to):

  • Book cultures and the Global South;
  • Digital reading cultures: what’s lost, what’s gained?
  • Literacies shaped by different literatures /schools of criticism / institutional structures / book prizes;
  • The role of literature departments in addressing social justice issues;
  • The reading brain and body: embeddedness, embodiment, and cognition;
  • Literacy, oracy, and access;
  • The academic essay: legacies and trajectories;
  • Material literacy: notetaking, reading habits, technological tools, the future of the book as object;
  • Writers as readers;
  • Cultural literacy and decolonised canons;
  • Student literacy and university readiness;
  • Close reading and its afterlives;
  • Writers, indigenous narratives, and the handling of cultural heritage.

Please send 300-word abstracts to englishAcademy@societies.wits.ac.za by 28 Feb, 2023.

NEW PRESIDENT FOR THE EASA

At the recent Council meeting our new President Proffessor Owen Seda was voted in.  We are very excited to have him lead the Academy for the next few years.

Message from Professor Owen Seda – Newly Elected President of EASA

It is my singular honour and pleasure to serve in the role of president of the English Academy of Southern Africa. And for this I would like to thank all members of Council who bestowed the opportunity on me to serve in this capacity and join the roll-call of many other eminent presidents who have steered the academy to where it is today. I pledge to do my utmost best to follow in their footsteps as we all strive to maintain the prestige and good work of the association.

In taking up the role of president, I am mindful of the challenges that came with the peak of the recent pandemic, forcing many activities to take place online or go into a hiatus altogether leading to a general slowdown in the momentum of many of the things we had become used to as an association. As we gradually emerge out of it all, it is my sincere hope and trust that we are all re-energized to seize the moment and take up the activities of the academy with renewed zest.

I particularly wish to thank all members of Council and EXCO for keeping the academy going all these years, running and attending scheduled meetings as well as coordinating the academy’s prestigious competitions, award ceremonies, public lectures and events. Without your unwavering commitment, tenacity and support, it would not be possible to maintain keep the academy as the living entity that it has become. I of course also wish to thank the general membership of the academy for continually offering to take up ad hoc roles in adjudication panels for our various awards and competitions and attending our conferences and events at both the national and regional levels. Without you, the academy would lose the vibrancy that has come to define it during the course of the last six decades. Last but not least, I would also like to thank our current patrons, Dr Sindiwe Magona and Professor Pitika Ntuli for lending the academy the prestige and recognition that it enjoys through their esteemed patronage.

As the academy marches on into the next decade of its existence, I encourage all of us to continue to do our small part to ensure further growth and consolidation through attracting new membership, working with all interested parties involved in the study and propagation of the English language and literature, contributing to our flagship scholarly journal the English Academy Review and supporting all our various activities and events where and whenever they take place.

I thank you.

 

 

 

 

A successful function was held at an Art Gallery, the Spin Street Restaurant, Cape Town, on 28 July 2022 at 5pm. The guest list included family members of Betty Govinden and Ronnie Govender, friends and colleagues from universities in the Western Cape. There was also a large online presence with national and international guests. The function was directed by Rajendra Chetty, President of the Academy.

The first part of the function was the award of the English Academy prestigious Gold Medal to Betty Govninded for a lifetime of service to English.  The award was presented by Sindiwe Magona, Patron of the Academy, and Rosemary Gray, Honorary Life President. Betty’s responseto the award was poetic and inspiring.

The second part of the function was the Ronnie Govender Memorial Lecture delivered by Niren Tolsi. A recorded reading of a short story by Ronnie Govender was read by the great South African actor, Pat Pillai.

Congratulations to Dr Betty Govinden who has been awarded the English Academy of Southern Africa’s Gold medal 2021.

CITATION

The Gold Medal for the English Academy of Southern Africa’s highest award recognizes the following contributions:

  • Conspicuous service to the cause of English over a number of years
  • The performance of some signal act in service of the English Academy
  • Distinguished service to the English Academy

Dr Betty Govinden fulfils all three categories of service.

She was  a Senior Research Associate of the School of Education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal for man years . Betty has served the cause of English with distinction not only as a researcher and speaker but also as a published poet, frequently writing poems celebrating fellow members of EASA such as that for our Patron, Pitika Ntuli, and that for the late Lewis Nkosi. She has also written particularly moving poems in praise of  iconic figures such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Steve Biko, and Mahatma Gandi.  Over the years, she has exposed fellow South Africans to Indian writers like Rabindranath Tagore, and to South African writers, such as the late Ronnie Govender and Mafika Pascal Gwala.  She contributes to SAHISTORYONLINE paying tribute, for example, to  Nobandile Biko  [Steve Biko’s sister].

She has published peer reviewed articles in Agenda, Empowering Women for Gender Equity, African Perspectives of Researching Teaching and Learning and The English Academy Review. A forthcoming chapter in Labour, Law, and Wayward Lives: South Asian Migrations in Global and Comparative History (Bloomsbury Press) on Indenture and Apartheid [The story of a Grandmother] illustrates her international input. In addition, Betty writes book reviews, participates in panel discussions, and has presented scholarly lectures both locally and abroad (in Sweden, Spain, Morocco and India, for example).

Unobtrusively supportive of the Academy and its members, Betty stepped in the shoes of Thayalan Reddy, with whom she has worked closely over the years, as regional Vice-President of the English Academy for KwaZulu-Natal. As an active member of the English Academy of Southern Africa for close on two decades, Betty is always ready either to officiate at EASA functions, as she did for the Commemorative lecture for Colin Gardner, presented by the late Stanley Ridge, or to organize or participate in the Academy’s highly successful online Commemorative lectures.

Her publication output in the past three years is impressive and wide ranging. Close to home, it includes a poem in celebration of the Academy’s sixtieth birthday publication, Commemorative Snapshots: Recalibrating Our Blue Diamond, compiled  and edited by Rosemary Gray and Rajendra Chetty (2021), and an interview with the former for the inaugural virtual Madibaland World Book Festival (November 2020) on her monograph, The Tough Alchemy of Ben Okri, published in our flagship, The English Academy Review.

Response from Dr Betty Govinden

REMEMBER TO RE-MEMBER MEMORY IS A WEAPON

She trudges on narrow footpaths to school[1]

invisible young [wo]man

but with   teachers

who inspire that  the sky is limitless

 

 A child of the dream

She wants the earth and the stars

And the beautiful heavens

She wants to be free

And she wants the possibilities

That freedom brings…

She does not want to be defined

She does not want to be limited

She does not want to beg for 

her humanity[2]….

 

 She is shunted   to The Island[3]

a discarded military barracks

where the sky is overcast

the stars  distant

 

 This at the time of  “The Dark Years”[4] on that other Island

Seagulls over the lime quarries

Country of my Skull[5]

When there are No More Lullabies[6]

 

 She  listens on the steamboat

to   the Heart of Darkness[7]

The Horror the Horror

Forever haunted   in the fallow years that follow

 Consuming the  years of plenty

 

She slowly learns to    breathe Fanon’s prayer

in different ways over times and spaces

Oh my body, make me always a [wo]man who questions[8]

 

Following the  insider outsider warrior woman[9]

she writes of Sisters

In search of  home

homing

homecoming

Lives of  Grace and Grail 

Writing back to the Beloved Country

 

Sisters

who

REFUSE the longing

for ancestral shores but carry their

homes on their backs

 

REFUSE

to be tongue-tied

Manacled in grid-iron

Living in the false cocoons

of the oppressors’  lies

 

REFUSE

to mirror back

the grotesque images  

that kraaled  body and mind

into allotted spaces

 

who living and writing against the grain

see Freedom’s cause

the Pain of Being

as their identity

who  have much to teach us each living day [10]

 

She journeys From Freedom to Canefields[11]

goes in search of her grandmother

crossing the kala pani

living in a state of familiar temporariness [12]

permanent sojourner  in the land of her adoption

the land she tills toiling for tea for Empire

 

She returns to other  Seedtimes[13]

Planting in the back garden  with her father

Where are the green fields where she used to roam

She remembers the tamarind tree in her grandfather’s garden

Allured  by the girmit days of a fellow traveller in far-off Fiji[14]

 

She goes in search of more mothers’ gardens

Sojourner Truth  Mary Prince  Eva Krotoa  Saartjie Baartman Monica Wilson  Pandita Ramabai  Miriam Tlali Charlotte Makeke[15]

And listens more intently to the ancient song-lines

Womanspirit  across time and space

Lives of Love and Courage[16]

rediscovering  the ordinary[17]

the daily rounds of heroism

in backyards and across neighbours’ fences

from Katlehong[18] to the Casbah

from the Castle to the Cape Flats

 

She writes  a song for Sarah

A canticle for the many Sarahs across the land

 

Come let us praise our mothers of yesteryear

Mothers valiant in the  time of our  desolation

Refusing the badge of slavery

Borne  by the haunting of ancient  oceans

tossed by the winds

Tilling the orchards and vineyards

You sang the Lord’s song in a foreign land

The land of your birth

As you struggled to live a difference

that has no name 

and too many names[19]

 

Mothers in lamentation

weeping for your Absaloms[20]

bereft at street corners

searching for dreams elusive

in the land that denied its own offspring

 

Living, loving,

 lying awake,  longing,[21]

You  kept  alive  heart and hearth 

waiting for your  prodigals

wandering in search of tomorrow

and tomorrow

and tomorrow

 

Come let us praise our Mothers

who carried us on their backs

as they stooped at the rivers of blood

Mothers who sang hymns

the  freedom songs of  our ancestors

Sacred Songs and Solos[22]

 

Hymns of solace for believers

From the Valley of Mercy

To the limestone mountain plains

You never lost faith

In the wilderness of our long sojourn

 

You  did not eat the bread of idleness

you gathered fynbos and lavender

during the time of famine

strength and dignity were your clothing

You opened your  mouth with wisdom

and the teaching of kindness

was on your tongue

 

Now that the winter is past

The voice of the turtledove is heard in the land

And the vineyards are in blossom

Your face no longer graces our table

But your spirit lives on

In the children  who sing your praises at the gates

And in the wind that blows over the motherland[23]

Kindred womanspirits  have come to take you  home,

Where the ancient mountains shout out your name[24]

 

You must be born again she hears

And she is born again

And again

Innumerable times

With water and with fire

 

From the haunting of the Heart of Darkness

Of her earlier years

She journeys to the forest

ventures into the deep

And enters the Heart of Redness[25]

Learning to live in the past in the present

 

At once belonging and not belonging

Led  by the  stars across the Southern sky

writ large with criss-crossings of Negritude and Coolitude [26]

on the waters below

forever dispersed buffeted

Scattered in the gales of continents

In the currents of colonies[27]

 

She refuses  to corral the coral  imaginary

In a perpetual voyage in and voyage out

the incessant need to belong 

to belong to the nation

to Return to her Native Land[28] 

 

a home so deeply riven so precarious 

time of the dark Firebird[29]

Time of the Butcherbird[30] 

 

and to re-create a  single  planetary home                              

and to live the  bond of the Blood Knot[31] ….

*****

The Programme Facilitator, Prof Rajendra Chetty,   Family and Friends, Ladies and  Gentlemen,  I am deeply honoured  to receive the Gold Medal Award from the  English Academy of Southern Africa. Thank you to the Academy family – Prof Rajendra Chetty, The President; Prof Rosemary Gray, The Honorary Secretary; and all the members of Council. I have been greatly enriched through my sharing in the life of the Academy.

Thank You to the past Academy presidents, with whom I have worked closely – Prof Mbongeni  Malaba, from UKZN; the late Professors Colin Gardner [from the University of Natal, and UKZN]  and  Stanley Ridge [from UWC].

I must acknowledge the wonderful support the English Academy has enjoyed  in KwaZulu-Natal – support from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Durban University of Technology,  the Consulates of India and the United States in Durban,  Maritzburg College; and more broadly,  from  the 1860 Heritage Centre,  the Durban Municipality, and the Minara Chamber of Commerce. Among some of the Academy highlights have been  commemorations  of Shakespeare, Tagore,  Professor Margaret Lenta,  Lewis Nkosi, and Aziz Hassim; and Teachers’ Conferences at Maritzburg College.

I am deeply grateful to all those who are here tonight, and  those who are joining in virtually. You have all, in different ways, journeyed with me, and it is something that I greatly value.  A special Thank You to Mr Thayalan Reddy, and  Dolly Reddy,  for inducting me into the world of the English Academy.

On this occasion, I wish to remember my late husband, Herby, who was always there, at  Academy events; and I  thank my beloved families for their support  in all I do.  I also thank the Imbongi, Mawande Tshozi, for his dramatic Praise Song,  which included my parents and grandparents.

I wish to share  this Award with my wonderful grandchildren, Mira and Seth, who are here this evening, and Leah and Adam, who are joining us virtually  from Johannesburg. The other day, my grandson, Seth, said at the dinner table: “Mummy, Mummy, I won a prize”! And I was tempted to say, ”That’s very good my boy! Now, eat your carrots!”[32] 

I  would also like to  mention  young Aaryan Pillay, who is  with us this evening.  And dear Ronnie and Kay  Govender’s grandchildren – there are  10  of them – as well as their  5 great-grandchildren.[33]

YOU  are  all THE CHILDREN OF THE DREAM, that  Ben Okri writes about, and whom I quoted earlier.

And to re-phrase   Oodgeroo Noonuccal, the Aboriginal poet, whom I also quoted earlier:

“Let no one say the future is dead…

The future is all about us and within…

*****

In Conclusion, it is a special privilege to be sharing this occasion with a Memorial to Ronnie Govender. Herby and I were privileged to attend the Academy event at the Playhouse in Durban, when  Ronnie Govender was awarded the Gold Medal, in 1999. Over the years, we had attended all his  plays in Durban, as well as the many Retrospectives of them, superbly animated by Pat Pillai and Jailoshini Naidoo, among others.

I look forward to Niren Tholsi’s  Memorial Lecture; I commend  him for his astute and critical writings on Ronnie Govender  in the Mail and Guardian. We also appreciate the  scholarly work that  Professor Rajendra Chetty, himself, has done on Ronnie Govender over the years. Special Thanks to him, UWC, and the  English Academy, for all the planning for this very special event here, at this most beautiful Venue.

*****

Ronnie Govender was one of those  writers who trusted his  INTUITION,[34] which guided his sense of justice, in its different  manifestations;  and we celebrate that this evening.

Ronnie Govender  taught us to REMEMBER …TO RE-MEMBER.

He taught us that MEMORY IS A WEAPON.

[DON MATTERA,[35] who, sadly  died two weeks ago, taught us this in word and in deed.]

So I have chosen to conclude with words  that speak to me personally,  against the sediments of my own history and circumstance. They  also reflect the mission of  Ronnie Govender, who urged us – against the persistent onslaught of apartheid and colonial denials of SELF – that your encounter with your submerged self, your submerged world, is deeply SACRAMENTAL.

This is the other meaning of living  AT THE EDGE[36] when the periphery becomes the Centre. This is a return to the Self, at a personal level, as much as a return  to communal configurations we are challenged to constantly create and re-create…

This is also the RETURN that Lebogang Mashile passionately writes about..

“After they’ve…

Erased dreams from your eyes.

Broken the seams of  your sanity

and glued what’s left together with lies…”[37]

The  moving lines are from  Derek Walcott, the West Indian poet and playwright and Nobel Literature Winner [1992]:

LOVE AFTER LOVE

“The time will come

when, with elation,

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own front door,

in your own mirror,

and each will smile at the other’s

welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who

was your self…

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

 

all  your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

The photographs, the desperate notes,

Peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.” [38]

 

This is a RETURN TO THE SELF

From the ZONE OF NON-BEING[39]

 

THIS IS THE SONG OF THE SOUL

THIS IS THE SONG OF THE ATMAN[40]

 Thank You

 

  [1] Attended schools in Kearsney and Stanger, Natal.

[2] Ben Okri. Children of the Dream, 2003.

[3] University College for Indians, Salisbury Island, Durban.

[4] Mandela refers to his Robben Island years [1963- 1990] as his “the dark years”…in his autobiography,  Long Walk To Freedom,  1994. Boston: Massachusetts: Little Brown and Company.

[5] Antjie Krog. Country of My Skull. Random House: South Africa. 

[6] Mafika Pascal Gwala. 1982/1998.  No More Lullabies. Ravan Press: Randburg:Johannesburg. 

[7] Joseph Conrad’s novella [1899], prescribed for study at Salisbury Island.

[8] In   Black Skin, White Masks. New York: Grove Press, 2008 [1952].

[9] The title, Sister Outsiders, is from Audre Lorde, African-American womanist, and civil rights activist, who addressed injustices of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Lorde’s Sister Outsider was published in 1984.

[10] Written and presented at The Time of The Writer, UKZN,  when Sister Outsiders  was awarded the UNISA Press  Hiddingh-Currie Award for  Best Academic Book  in  2010.

[11] Adapted from the title of Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie’s From Canefields to Freedom – a Chronicle of Indian South African Life. 2000.  Johannesburg:Kwela Books. 

[12] These references are from VS Naipaul’s A House for Mr Biswas, published in 1961. UK:Andre Deutsch.

[13] Title of Omar Badsha’s book, Seedtimes,  from  Mafika Gwala’s book, No More Lullabies.  1982.                                              

[14] See Prof Brij V Lal. 2016. “The Tamarind Tree – Vignettes from a Plantation Frontier in Fiji.” In Fijian Studies: A Journal of Contemporary Fiji 14 [1], 35-50.

[15] I have published chapters on several of the women on this list. My Master’s study [1995]  was on Miriam Tlali.

[16] From the title of Pregs Govender’s memoir, published in 2007. Johanesburg:Jacana Media. 

[17] See  Njabulo Ndebele. 1991. The Rediscovery  of the Ordinary: Some New Writings in South Africa.  Scottsville: UKZN Press.

[18] See Jacob Dlamini’s Native Nostalgia. 2009.  Johannesburg:Jacana Media.

[19] In Trinh T. Minh’ha. When the Moon waxes Red –Representation, Gender and Cultural Politics.Routledge :New York.

[20] Biblical allusion [to Solomon in the Bible]; see, also, my poem on Phyllis Naidoo, whose son, Sadhan, was assassinated in Zambia in exile.

[21] See Magona, Sindiwe. 1991. Living, Loving and Lying Awake at Night. Interlink Books:New York .[Short stories on women’s experiences in South Africa.]

[22] Title of the hymn book that Sarah Jansen  used.

[23]Composed for Jonathan D Jansen’s biography  [with Naomi Jansen] of his  mother, Song For Sarah – Lessons from My Mother. 2017. Johannesburg: Bookstorm.  

[24] Line from the poem, “I Have Come To Take You Home”, by Diana Ferrus, written for Saartjie Baartman. 1998. Published in New Black Magazine [2007].    

[25] See Zake Mda. Heart of Redness. 2000. Oxford University Press. Historical fiction, linking past and contemporary challenges in South Africa.

[26] See my paper, “Two Oceans Marathon – Women from the South.” 2019. In Agenda – Empowering Women for Gender Equality. Vol 33, No 3, pp. 34-41. The paper narrates the story of my Grandmother,  and of Grada Kilomba, whose ancestral roots are in Angola, and São Tomé and Principe, off the coast of Equatorial Guinea; and the paper is  set against the background of Slavery and of Indenture. 

[27]  Carter, Marina and Torabully. 2002. Coolitude – An Anthology of the Indian Labour Diaspora. Anthem Press: London, p. 25.

[28] From Aime Cesaire. 1939/1969. Notebook of A Return to my Native Land. Presence Africaine.

[29] Firebird was choreographed by Jay Pather, and is based on Igor Stravinky’s  ballet in a contemporary South African setting, with a powerful rendering of the challenges in the new democracy.

[30] Time of the Butcherbird is a novel by Alex la Guma. Heinemann Educational. 1979. The novel  looks at the question of dispossession in South Africa.

[31] Title of Athol Fugard’s iconic play, published in 1961; it depicts the struggle to find one another, across apartheid barricades.

[32]  See  JM Coetzee,  Nobel in Literature  Speech, 2003.

[33] Ronnie and Kay Govender’s  children are  Dhaya,   Pregs,  Pat  and Samantha.

 

[34] VS Naipaul speaks of trusting his intuition, as a writer. See his Nobel Lecture [2001].

[35]Don Mattera is a South African poet and author. He wrote Memory is a Weapon, a story of Sophiatown, in 1987. This is a personal story, as much as a communal story – similar to Ronnie Govender’s At The Edge: Stories of  Cato Manor – of displacement [set in the mid-50’s].

[36] See Ronnie Govender’s At the Edge and other Cato Manor Stories. Originally published in 1996.

[37] See her poem, “Tell Your Story”. In In a Ribbon of Rhythm. 2005. Florida, US:Oshun Books.

[38] See Derek Walcott, Collected Poems 1948-1984.

[39] From Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks. 1952/2008. New York: Grove Books

[40] See Ronnie Govender’s, Song of the Atman, published in 2006. Johannesburg:Jacana Media.

Winner of the 2020 Olive Schreiner Prize for Drama

The team were unanimous in selecting  What Remains: A Play in One Act by Nadia Davids

In What Remains, Nadia Davids has shaken the local playwriting scene to its very core in ways that are bound to reverberate on local theatre stages for a long time to come. Davids achieves this amazing feat by presenting a thought-provoking One Act play that is located at the triple confluence of storytelling, history and stunningly creative dramatic experimentation. Nadia Davids mines (and I use the metaphor deliberately), a recent experience in local South African history when an 18th Century slave burial ground was unearthed inadvertently during civil works for the construction of a modern real estate development at Prestwich Place in the City of Cape Town. Davids creatively uses this sad incident in contemporary South African history to create a harrowing tale that brings together the craft of traditional storytelling theatre, realistic drama, as well as dance and choreography as physical theatre

Acceptance of the Oliver Schreiner Award- 2020
Nadia Davids    27th July 2022

It is a singular honour to win the 2020 Olive Schreiner Award for What Remains. I am so grateful that the work has been recognized in this way. Thank you so much to the judges and to the English Academy of Southern Africa.

I first encountered Schreiner’s luminous, soul-shifting writing when I was in high-school. Like many South African women of my age and place, The Story of An African Farm was one of the first novels I read by a South African writer- certainly the first I read by a South African woman writer. And the novel’s protagonist, Lyndall, quickly joined a pantheon of fictional girl characters from whom I took courage and comfort. Lyndall, like her creator, was a fiercely brave, independent, contradictory, unorthodox creature, full of ideas about the place and time she lived in, filled with an aching longing for women to be free, living a feminism that seemed to spring up, fully formed from within her. Lyndall made me want to know about Schreiner and years later I was delighted – though unsurprised- to find out that her (Schreiner’s) life had been marked by radical acts and radical thinking, that she had been friends with Cissie Gool’s parents, had corresponded with their young daughters, offering the girls books and ideas and- in my imagination-  affirmation that life was could be enriched by creativity and activism. It was a small detail, this friendship, in Schreiner’s biography, but it seemed to me then, as it does now, that something silvery and star-like connected Schreiner to Gool- an intellectual, political and ethical link between women, between these ancestresses feverishly writing, thinking, making and doing in the Cape’s past.

When I sat down to write What Remains, I was trying, as ever, to make sense of the city I call home. I hadn’t read Schrenier in many years and I was surprised to find that she was one of the writers much my mind. Her constant excavation of the landscape of what (was then) the Cape Colony, her parsing apart what it meant to be inside the cruelties Empire and battering herself against it, and her deep understanding of how the past circles close, led me to using one of her lines- from The Story of An African Farm- as a guiding theme for the work, ‘All that’s buried is not dead’.

The pandemic has had a devastating effect on theatre everywhere, and South African theatre in particular, has suffered immensely. An award like this one brings the play- a work designed for that fleeting form of live performance- back into being. It offers it not just support, but protection from being forgotten. It affirms that though theatres went dark- and in some instances- shut down, though audiences were shrunk and distanced, that this art form, so vulnerable during this difficult time, has remained precious and continues to contribute to South African literature. Thank you so much to the judges for their generous and thoughtful response to the play and to the English Academy for championing South African Literature. And finally, my gratitude always to Jay Pather for his unmatched contribution to this work- all playwrights dream of a director who can realise their work on stage. In Pather, I found a creative partner who exceeded my most hopeful expectations.  

The English Academy of Southern Africa is proud to announce the latest recipient of the Gwen Knowles-Williams Bursary

Vincent Molelekoa (North West University)

 Good afternoon all and thank you for making time to witness this day with me. It is indeed an honour and a privilege to be part of this function and being part of this university, particularly the English department. I am delighted to give my speech in this function which will have a permanent mark in my academic life. I want to express my gratitude to Dr Sefotho and Prof Nkamta for playing an important role in planning this event and I am truly grateful that they thought of me when they heard about this prestigious bursary offered by the English Academy of Southern Africa.

I would like to first acknowledge that this bursary could have been given to any teacher pursuing his or her postgraduate studies in English at any university, but I was fortunate to have been nominated. Considering the forever rising statistics of teachers leaving the system for different reasons, I believe the competition for this bursary would have been very high. However, I am glad that, all the odds were on my side, and I count myself privileged for receiving this bursary by being at the right place and at the right time.

To the English Academy of Southern Africa, its council members, sponsors, and affiliates, thank you for bestowing me with such an honour. I feel overwhelmed, emotional and I am at a loss for words to express my gratitude.  This is a very special moment in my academic journey and a motivation for me to promote English as a resource in the nation. Your gesture is indeed a great encouragement for me to work very hard on my studies and contribute to not only the academic world but also to the nation at large.

Thank you.

Vincent Molelekoa

 

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS FOR:

The 2022 Percy FitzPatrick Prize for Youth Literature

The prize is called the 2022 English Academy of Southern Africa Percy FitzPatrick Prize for Youth Literature.

The prize was established by the South African Institute for Librarianship and Information Science and is administered by the English Academy of Southern Africa.

It is awarded for an original literary work in English; published in southern Africa; and written by a person domiciled in southern Africa at the time of publication.

The work must be a work of fiction designed to interest children between 10 and 14 years of age.

To be eligible for the 2022 prize, the work must have been published in 2020 or 2021

A translation of a work originally written in another language may be considered provided that the work has been translated into English by the original author.

In this case, the year the translated work was published (and not the date the original work was published) will determine the work’s eligibility for the prize – in other words, to be eligible for the 2022 prize, the translated work must have been published in 2020 and 2021.

No writer may be awarded the prize more than twice.

You will need to submit three copies of the book which will not be returned.

If you are interested in submitting entries, please contact the admin officer

Karin Basel  e-mail: englishacademy@societies.wits.ac.za

Barry Ronge

As per Barry’s request he asked for his passing to be announced a week after his death.

One of South Africa’s most loved movie critics, columnist and arts journalists, has died.

Barry Ronge, former arts editor of the Sunday Times, passed away peacefully at the age of 74 in the arms of his life partner, Albertus van Dyk, on Sunday 3 July 2022.

He had retired from public life in 2014 and spent the last few years in seclusion in his beloved garden sanctuary in Johannesburg.

A well-known and highly respected media personality, journalist, broadcaster and raconteur, he was one of the country’s most widely read columnists. Spit ‘n Polish was published in what was then the Sunday Times magazine and, as he wrote in his final column on 23 February 2014: “for the last 27 years I have been spitting and polishing….I’m not tired of it, or bored with it. It has been a good companion, and it has given me an opportunity to observe South Africans, in the cities and the suburbs, radiating true Rainbow Nation spirit”.

The following year, in 2015, the Sunday Times renamed its prize for South African literature the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize. That prize, along with its non-fiction one, is no longer named after a person.

He was also known for his movie reviews in the Sunday Times, and his Sunday morning show on Radio 702 from 1989 to 2014 where he provided insight into all aspects of South African culture.

Ronge was born in Hillbrow, Johannesburg and grew up on the West Rand where he attended Florida Park High School. He completed his studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, where he wrote film reviews for the student newspaper.

He began his teaching career at St John’s College in Johannesburg, teaching both English and Afrikaans, followed by a 10-year stint as a lecturer in literature at the University of the Witwatersrand. As a journalist specialising in the arts, he commented on contemporary literature, theatre, dance, culture and film for over three decades, often helping to catapult South African performers’ careers.

In the late 1980s he was the food critic for the now-defunct Sunday Times Metro supplement, writing Barry’s Bites, and was Sandton Living magazine’s feared food critic under the pseudonym Ms Rebecca Parker.

From 1994/95, he wrote a weekly column in the Star Tonight! Arts supplement, Ronge’s Writes. He was the first male journalist on the Women’s Page of The Star newspaper from 1980 to 1982, reporting on social, health and well-being and the arts. He was also editor of the Star Tonight!

His accolades include being awarded a British Tourism Certificate for his contribution to the English Language and Culture in 2003, and the 2005 English Academy South Africa’s Pringle Award for reviews and contribution to the English Language.  In 2014 he was awarded a Special Lifetime Achievement Award by The Sunday Times honouring his contribution to South Africa’s Cultural Life and in 2015 the Sunday Times announced that the Fiction Prize would be known as the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize.

He published Spit ‘n Polish, a collection of his Sunday Times columns, in 2006 and More Spit ‘n Polish – the recent past in 2007.

At one of his book launches he thanked his partner van Dyk “whose inspiration never dried up when mine so often did. Albertus, half of the ideas come from you, all the inspiration too. There’s not much I could do without you. Thank you for such great light and joy for so many years”.

Teaching English Today

A project of the English Academy of Southern Africa

Sponsored by the National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS

 We once again invite teachers, teacher trainers, departmental officials, personnel at English-related organizations and other educationists to

(a) Send in suggestions / issues that you would like to have featured.

(b) Submit articles of any length on aspects of teaching English in schools (both practical and theoretical), teaching tips (which can be anything from 50 – 500 words), information about teaching resources, for publication.

(c) Give us news about related organizations and advertisements for courses, seminars, etc. These we will publish free of charge.

Please send your contributions at any time but by at least the end of March 2022 to:

drv@worldonline.co.za.

Dr Malcolm Venter

EDITOR: Teaching English Today

Ph: + 27 21 9765655 – Mobile: (0)83 383 2993

   

 

Tribute:   Michael Williams

I should like to first offer sincere condolences to Merle Williams and her two sons on the passing of our colleague, Michael Williams.  I bring this message on behalf of my colleagues at the English Academy of Southern Africa, the Council and the general membership. The Academy has been unusually blessed with Michael as the long-serving editor of our flagship publication, The English Academy Review. There are no words to thank Michael adequately for his support, mentorship and collegiality when we both co-edited the journal. Michael had extraordinary talents as an editor and was a brilliant wordsmith. He was dedicated to quality and remained patient and calm in spite of publication deadlines and demanding situations as his objective was to ensure that the highest standards were maintained in every edition. I am still amazed at his significant insights on a wide repertoire of writings. More importantly, he went the extra mile to nurture younger authors and novice researchers and this has contributed significantly to the growth and transformation of the journal. Michael was very generous with his intellect and time. I remember our long telephonic discussions on the merits of an article and how he graciously edited and enhanced contributions that he felt should be included, a caring and developmental stance towards first attempts at writing journal articles, especially among postgraduate students. He held noble values concerning the role of language and literature and cautioned us gently to nuance our responses to difficult authors and to consider the sensitivities of controversial interpretations of writings, especially in a country which is seeking to do justice to a variety of identities.

Cape Town Awards function

A successful awards function was held in Cape Town on 25 November 2021 at the 6 Spin Street Restaurant which is located in the historic Sir Herbert Baker building overlooking Church Square. The venue is an art gallery and we had an opportunity to view Nic Fredman’s collection of oil paintings and mixed media artworks during the awards function.  The majority of oil paintings are smaller panoramic landscapes – Drawing into a smaller space was about yearning for the unbounded horizon; an emotional response to landscape.

Rajendra Chetty, President of the English Academy, served as director of ceremony. The function started with the Percy Baneshik lecture presented by David Attwell. Candice Livingston introduced the speaker. The title of his presentation was: Just what gods do you serve, if any?: Wole Soyinka’s Chronicles and the destruction of postcolonial reason. The lecture was very well received.

The 2020 English Academy Gold Medal was presented to Darryl David by Rajendra Chetty. Rosemary Gray read the citation for the Gold Medal award. Mr David’s response was both insightful and full of humour!

Four prizes were presented at the function. The citations for the awards were read by Barbara Basel, Candice Livingstone and David Attwell.

  1. The 2021 TP  Award for Adhoc Review presented to Tevya Turok Shapiro
  2. The 2019 TP Award for Academic Article presented to Deborah V Sanoto and Christa van der Walt.
  3. The 2020 Percy FitzPatrick Prize for youth literature presented to Nerine Dorman.
  4. The TP Award for an academic article published in 2019-2020 presented posthumously to Bhekisiwe Petersen.

The function ended with a sumptuous finger supper and a musical interlude presented by Renato Tomei from the University for Foreigners in Perugia.

 

David Attwell presenting the Percy Baneshik lecture

 

 

 

 

 

 

Darryl David winner of the Gold Medal award

 

 

 

 

 

Rosemary Gray reading the citation for the Gold Medal award

 

 

 

 

 

 Nerine Dorman 

Winner of the 2020 Percy FitzPatrick Prize for youth literature

 

  

 

Tevya Turok Shapiro

  Winner of the 2021 TP Award for Adhoc Review

 

 

Professor Rajendra Chetty elected as President of EASA

I am delighted to serve as President of the English Academy of Southern Africa. Thank to the members of Council for this third opportunity to be at the helm of an august organization and, especially now, as we celebrate its diamond jubilee. I am humbled.

Taking on the presidency for the third term may not go well during the current decolonial turn, as parallels may be drawn with leaders who overstayed their welcome!

I want to personally thank each member of the Executive and the Council for keeping the Academy afloat during a most difficult and uncertain time. We all look forward to our 20th International Conference in a few weeks that will be hosted by the University of the Western Cape.

We each have to continue with our vision and mission. We have a rich 60 year history to lean on and continue. Some of the luminaries that received honours from the academy include Sindiwe Magona, Athol Fugard, Njabulo Ndebele, Wally Serote, Lewis Nkosi, Ronnie Govender and Guy Butler. Our prize winners include brilliant writers like Zakes Mda, Antjie Krog and John Kani. We look forward to the diamond jubilee publication that is jampacked with reminiscences and spicy snippets, edited by Rosemary Gray and me.

 We look forward to working with academics in the discipline of English, school teachers and learners and NGOs in the field of literacy and language as we fulfill our mandate towards a multilingual democratic society in which, while we advance our vision for English, the country’s diverse linguistic ecology is respected. We are challenged to extend our Southern African footprint significantly with our flagship journal, English Academy Review, contribute towards enhancing the success of our outreach activities and take the academy to new heights in the year ahead.

 

Winner of the 2020 Percy Fitzpatrick Award (Children’s and Youth literature)

The team were unanimous in selecting Nerine Dorman’s Sing Down the Stars, published by Tafelberg in 2019, as the winner.

What the reviewers said about the book:

I was riveted. This novel is world class fantasy. The novel explores the growth of the protagonist, Nuri, in her identity, finding acceptance from others, and herself. The intriguing calling from the whale-like sentient star-jumper, which is lovable from the start, affirms Nuri to the readers and herself and finally connects her to her calling, and that of her ancestor. The dystopian world created for the reader is credible, detailed, and sufficiently alien to fascinate – at the same time, the familiar elements of school (including the school bullies) and food offer a foothold in the world of these characters. Thoroughly enjoyable and a great choice for the PFP age group.

and

“This is me telling you to sing down the stars – find out what you want and don’t listen to the people who tell you that you can’t. And that’s all I’m going to say. Go out there and be excellent.”

Despite the sadness and hurt evident throughout, the overall positivity and optimism of this novel make it an uplifting read. Although the narrative is set light years in the future, it resonates deeply with the present realities faced by humanity. Environmental crises, acceptance of others, loyalty amongst friends, perseverance in the face of adversity and the celebration of personal heritage are just a few of the themes explored in this text. Nuri, the protagonist, is presented in a sensitive, skilful manner and, while one is made fully aware of her vulnerability, one comes to value her individuality and appreciate her unique qualities.

I recommend this novel as the winner for the 2020 Percy Fitzpatrick Prize for Youth Literature. Its expansive, literally universal, scope provides a refreshing and imaginative backdrop for the exploration of ideas which echo the concerns of today’s youth.

 

PLEASE GO TO THE CONFERENCE LINK TO SEE A DRAFT PROGRAMME OF THE CONFERENCE

 

 

2020 News

2020 has been a rather interesting year for the English Academy of Southern Africa and the majority of our events were cancelled due to the Covid 19 lock-down, however we still continued to present our awards. 

Memorial for   Harry Garuba (1958 – 2020) and Achmat Dangor  (1948 – 2020)

The English Academy of Southern Africa  honoured two esteemed writers and public intellectuals, Harry Garuba and Achmat Dangor. The online Memorial took place on Friday 30 October, 2020 . The event was organised by Betty Govinden and hosted by Prof. Owen Seda. It featured tributes from the following speakers – Divine Fuh (UCT), Kershan Pancham (UCT), Aghogho Akpome (Unizulu), Ari Sitas (UCT), Ronit Frenkel (UJ); represented by Betty Govinden and Salvatore Faure (University of Barcelona). Excerpts of Garuba’s work were read by Sindiwe Magona and Meg Samuelson who joined from the University of Ade-laide. Nancy Richards and Naomi Nkealah read excerpts of Dangor’s work.

Harry Garuba [1958-2020] was a poet and leading intellectual, working in postcolonial and decolonial literary studies. He was a Professor of English and African Studies at the University of Cape Town. Among his books, scholarly articles and poetry collections are Mask and Meaning in Black Drama : Africa and the Diaspora [1988], “Authors and Au-thority” [1991], “Chinua Achebe and the Struggle for Discursive Authority in the Postcolonial World” [2014]; “Teacherly Texts” [2017]; Shadow and Dream and other poems [1982], and Animist Chants and Memorials [2017]

.“…for thirty years,
I kept running, running away from poetry,
from lines, verses, and songs, closing my heart,
Until, this midnight hour, in a clasp of clockhands,
Through a burst of fireflies, a verse stabbed me in the gut,
Piecing through flesh and marrow and memory
And the blood flowed in lines, in verses, in songs
Running away from me…”
[Running Poem, Garuba]

Achmat Dangor [1948-2020] was a poet and award-winning author. He was founding member of the Congress of South African Writers. His novels include Waiting for Leila [1981], Kafka’s Curse [1997], Bitter Fruit [2001], and Dikeledi : Child of Tears, No More [2017].

Dangor was banned from 1973 to 1978 for his political activities. He served as CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation from 2007 to 2013.

“He stands on the stone table and selects a large fig, bites into the skin, then opens it with his fingers. He thinks of a woman’s sex, ancient and eternal, no young girl would have such gritty sweetness. Was this not perhaps the fruit that got Adam and Eve thrown out of Eden? Who would want to give up an unblemished state of immortality for the insipid apple?”
[Achmat Dangor, Bitter Fruit]

The 2020 English Academy Commemorative Lecture

 This was the only live event that we had this year and was presented by Council member, Professor Rajendra Chetty in February. This lecture is intended to honour persons who have contributed massively to the growth of English and its literatures throughout their lifetime. Ahmed Essop (1931-2019) was chosen as a suitable candidate for commemoration in this year’s lecture. Essop was a South African Indian writer of outstanding note, with 13 published works, including the famous The Hajji and Other Stories which won the Academy’s Olive Schreiner Prize for Prose in 1979.

Professor Chetty presented the commemorative lecture on the theme “The Janus-faced ambivalence of Indianness in Ahmed Essop’s The Hajji and Other Stories”. Professor Chetty’s lecture was both entertaining and informative. He explored the ambivalence of Indian identity as represented in Essop’s very popular collection of stories, published in 1978 and later adapted into film. He discussed the work within the context of postcolonial theories of nation and narration, specifically the authenticity and context of cultural location and representation. After the lecture, Yousuf Cajee (a relative of Ahmed Essop) spoke on behalf of the family, providing more insight into Essop’s life and thanking Professor Chetty for his lecture. As is customary, the full lecture will be published in the English Academy Review.

Fellowship award presented at the Memorial lecture in February

The EASA Fellowship Award was awarded posthumously to Dr Mark Lloyd.  Sadly, Dr Lloyd had passed on a week before this event and so the award was presented. The citation was given by Professor Rosemary Gray who acknowledged all the good work that Dr Lloyd had done for the Academy

The Gold Medal Award for a lifetime achievement presented at the Memorial lecture in February

The EASA awarded the Gold Medal awards to Professor Michael Williams. The citation was read by Professor Rajendra Chetty and it commended Professor Williams for his role as the editor of the English Academy Review over a number of years and his contributions to the EASA as both a Council member and member of the Executive Committee. 

 

CITATION

Professor Williams has conspicuously served the cause of English over a long period, serving as editor of the English Academy Review for nine years (2010-2018) and contributing to Academy business as both a Council member and member of the Executive Committee.

Michael Williams was born in Durban, and went to school there. He completed his Bachelor and Master’s degrees at the Durban branch of what was then the University of Natal (now the University of KwaZulu-Natal).

In 1976 he completed his Master’s dissertation which was entitled “The Individual and Society: The Problem of Identity in the late novels of Charles Dickens”. While working on this project, he taught in the Department of English at the University of Durban-Westville, and after that in the Department of English at the University of Natal.  Later, he spent time as a research student in the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York in the United Kingdom. He completed his D.Phil in that department in 1982; the work was entitled “Jane Austen: The Novels as Six Fictional Methods”.

While he was a research student, he did some teaching in his department at the University of York – giving lectures, and conducting seminars and tutorials.  A revised version of the text of his doctorate was published in 1986 by MacMillan Press in Basingstoke and London, and St Martin’s Press in New York. The work was entitled Jane Austen: Six Novels and Their Methods.  Between 1982 and 2014 he taught in the Department of English Studies at the University of South Africa. In addition to the regular and routine teaching, his job involved extensive revisions of existing modules and the planning, implementation and overseeing of new modules.

During his time at Unisa, he also undertook the task of editing some of the prescribed texts. An annotated edition of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (Ad Donker, 1987) was one of such. He also edited and annotated texts of poetry by John Milton and Alexander Pope, which were designed to be included in the study package sent to every student. And, together with four colleagues from the department, he worked on the selection and editing of a collection of 45 short stories (Cross-Currents: An Anthology of Short Stories, Acacia, 1989).

Some of the subject areas in which he worked are modern poetry and fiction (including South African modern poetry and fiction), literary theory, nineteenth century fiction, the literature of the Romantic period, eighteenth century studies, and Milton and Shakespeare. 

While he was in the department, a number of Master’s and doctoral students successfully completed their studies under his supervision. Topics included Shakespeare, Jane Austen, nineteenth-century fiction, Katherine Mansfield, and Elizabeth Bowen. He has also been an external examiner of Master’s dissertations and doctoral theses at six South African universities.

Professor Williams has read papers at international conferences, including an AUETSA conference, the International Milton Conference, the Language of Poetry Conference at the University of the Witwatersrand, a Congress of the Shakespeare Society of Southern Africa, a conference of the English Academy of Southern Africa, and the North-East MLA conferences.  

His research interests include British Romanticism, with a particular focus on Byron and Austen. He has also explored some of the interrelations between literature, history and politics, and expressions of political and religious scepticism. In addition, he has explored connections between Romantics and writers from other periods, including J.M. Coetzee, Alexander Pope, John Milton, and William Shakespeare.

During the period that he was Editor-in-Chief of The English Academy Review, he wrote twelve substantial editorials for the journal. The editorial for each issue drew attention to some key points in each of the articles included in that issue and also noted common grounds among the articles, as well as contrasting elements. 

The period of his editorship of the journal covered three terms, from 2010 to 2018. Two issues of The English Academy Review were published each year under his editorship. He was responsible for liaising with potential authors and for overseeing the blind peer-reviewing process. He advised authors on ways of revising their articles in the light of comments made by the reviewers, edited the revised articles, and checked the page proofs. He was also the sole author of the editorials for each issue. He truly rendered distinguished service to the Academy.  

Rajendra Chetty and Rosemary Gray

ACCEPTANCE SPEECH: MICHAEL WILLIAMS

I must begin with the expression of sincere thanks to Rajendra Chetty for his kind and generous remarks in introducing me. And I want to extend my thanks beyond the immediate and present moment. Both in his former capacity as President of the Academy and in our subsequent dealings, his conduct has combined the best of the professional with warmest of the personal and the friendly.

There is always a degree of invisibility that attaches to the function of editing: something should also be said about the variability of the process. It would perhaps be no exaggeration to claim that no two editors are likely to agree on exactly what the function involves. In my dealings with Guest Editors and with the Editors of other journals, I have encountered an impressive range of possibilities.

At one extreme there is the notion that once one has obtained favourable reports from peer-reviewers all one has to do, as editor, is to choose the order in which the articles will appear. At the other extreme there can be a minutely particular scrutiny of each sentence in an article for real or imagined grammatical infelicities. I must hasten to add that I have never been in favour of ungrammatical sentences. But I have also always felt that an author has the right to the expression of a particular and characteristic voice. In the end, of course, it is a matter of striking a balance. Perhaps Alexander Pope, in his An Essay on Criticism, puts it best. (As his title makes clear, Pope was addressing critics rather than editors; but it is fair to claim a degree of overlapping between the two roles.) Pope wrote:

A perfect Judge will read each Work of Wit

With the same Spirit that its Author writ… (ll. 233-234)

It is necessary to add that reading in this way does not automatically and always produce a favourable impression of the author:  try reading one of Donald Trump’s utterances with this in mind. 

A few lines later, Pope elaborates on his point by comparing literary beauties with the beauty of the human form, and by suggesting that it is the wholeness of the picture that should count, rather than individual and specific details:

’Tis not a Lip, or Eye, we Beauty call

But the joint Force and full Result of all…(ll. 245-246)

Pope’s term “a perfect Judge” warns us that he is invoking an ideal – but it is one of the ideals that is perhaps worth seeking.

 A word of thanks, in this regard, is due to the peer reviewers of EAR’s articles. Their efforts can never be properly acknowledged, but they do so much to help ensure that the process of editing is balanced and fair. I began by thanking Rajendra for his always cordial and professional conduct. I should like to end by thanking our President. He too has been uniformly courteous and friendly in matters pertaining to the journal, as he has also in general in his dealings with the Academy and its business. 

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Unfortunately, due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, it has not been possible to present any of the 2019 awards at the usual Academy Awards Ceremonies. However, the winners will receive their certificates and prize monies and the adjudicators’ citations. The English Academy of Southern Africa is pleased to announce the winners of its annual prizes and awards adjudicated in 2019 and presented in 2020

 

 

ENGLISH ACADEMY OF SOUTHERN AFRICA SOL PLAATJE PRIZE FOR TRANSLATION 2019

Awarded to: Michiel Heyns for his translation from Afrikaans into English of The Shallows by Ingrid Winterbach, published by Human & Rousseau.

 

CITATION

The Sol Plaatje Prize for Translation 2019 is awarded to Michiel Heyns for his translation of this ‘fantastical, absurd, yet haunting’ novel. Heyns manages to capture the Winterbach-style, and the manner in which this parallel narrative interlinks the novel’s characters and events with masterful storytelling. This was done in a manner that was not lost in its English translation and proves that Heyns is truly a Winterbach veteran.

Michiel Heyns is an academic, a writer, a reviewer and a translator of award-winning novels for which he has won many accolades. This is the second time Heyns has won this particular award, the first being for his translation of Marlene van Niekerk’s Agaat into The Way of the Women in 2008, while his translation of Willem Anker’s Red Dog won the SALA Prize for Literary Translation in 2018.

 

Judges: Dr Candice Livingston, Dr Amanda Swart, Prof. Louise Viljoen

 

Response to the award from Michiel Heyns

I am very grateful to the English Academy for this unexpected honour. Translation tends to be the Cinderella of the literary arts, at its most useful when least visible. A translation that draws attention to itself is by that token a bad translation. It is thus gratifying when a translation does receive some recognition, and can for a moment share the limelight with the real star, who is of course the author of the original text.  I have been privileged to translate any number of wonderful novels, and I remain grateful to their authors for giving me access to their creations. In this instance, I am particularly indebted to Ingrid Winterbach for her  wry, laconic  glimpse into a wholly unexpected face of suburban existence. As always with Winterbach, the subtle shifts of tone and  the deadpan humour were a challenge and a delight.

 

Umberto Eco, multilingual author and translator, has called translation ‘a negotiation between cultures’, and it is in this respect that the existence of this award is so heartening: as a contribution to that negotiation which can only be beneficial to both cultures. I feel privileged to have been part of such a negotiation, and thank the English Academy for recognising its role in the cultural life of our country.

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ENGLISH ACADEMY OF SOUTHERN AFRICA OLIVE SCHREINER PRIZE FOR A POETRY ANTHOLOGY 2020 (This prize is offered triennially, alternating with the Olive Schreiner Prize for prose and drama).

  • Over-all winner awarded to: Allan Kolski Horwitz for his anthology The Colours of Our Flag. (Botsotso, 2016)
  • Highly Commended Angifi DladlaLament for Kofifi Macu (Deep South, 2017
  • Highly Commended Naomi NkealahAnd They Call Themselves Feminists (The Poets’ Printery, 2017)
  •  

CITATION

The 2019 Olive Schreiner Prize for Poetry panel reviewed individual poetry anthologies (not edited volumes) published in 2016-2018. Reviewing poetry is seldom a task to be taken lightly, nor is it something that can be done hastily without thought or pondering. Poetry is that beast that lives in the realms of literature, colouring the landscape with its metaphors, metres, rhythms, rhymes and forms – a beast that many admire but few dare to approach. What is it about poetry that is simultaneously alienating and alluring? What is it that draws us towards it only to have us resist the connection like two positive poles of a magnet? Could it be that in those strangely arranged words that dance on the page, a choreography transcribed through spaces, dots, lines, swirls… ‘silences’, we are faced with images of life, lived experience that require of us a deeper connection with ourselves and others? Perhaps this need for a deeper connection with the other and ‘Other’ is something that has caused the gradual decline of poetry’s interrogation in graduate and postgraduate literature programmes.   Academia has a great love of interrogating, discussing, pondering, ruminating over the concept of ‘Other’, as long as the other stays on the page, remains a theory, a ‘something’ to be analysed, dissected, catalogued through the safe lens of the  microscope that is theory. Poetry, on the other hand, demands of us an engagement not only of the mind by also of the spirit, the metres, rhythms and rhymes stirring up something primordial in the reader, a connection, dare one say, to the Jungian manifestation of the Shadow – that part of our lived experience that has no place in a fast-paced, rational, clinical existence where time-is-money and emotional rather than e-motional engagement is ‘pointless’ and ‘wasteful’. A double-edged sword some might say, because in the same way that poetry challenges ‘ego’ in the reader, does it not amplify ego in the poet? A not so innocent question, but a question that needs asking and may in itself reflect the disconnect between today’s world of profit and gain, and the appreciation of the artist / wordsmith / creator as prophet, storyteller, observer and interrogator of ‘life’ and raw ‘lived-experience’. It is in this environment of disconnectedness that awards, such as the Olive Schreiner Prize for Poetry, become vital to sustaining the importance of this genre that reflects, in its alienating forms, our need to be reminded of what it means to be human.   This year’s selection of anthologies has presented a kaleidoscopic view of ‘humanity’. From experiences that touch the personal ‘lived-experience’, to elegiac journeys through landscapes and emotions – each body of work is testament, to a greater or lesser degree, to the role of the poet / wordsmith as prophet, storyteller, observer of humanity. That said, as in every adjudication, a result needs to be reached, and as such, certain criteria needed to be met. Our point of departure was that we were looking at anthologies. Thus, the individual publications needed to reflect the poets’ ability to comfortably navigate different forms within the genre whilst still maintaining a narrative flow that pushed the boundaries of linguistic mastery and expressive imagery symphonically.

Although recognized as a literary activist among aspirant creative writers, Allan Kolski Horwitz has not himself been recognized for his own literary expertise. This is his fourth anthology. It is commendable for its wide range of techniques, poetic timbre, polyphonic and contemporary vision, and historical reach. He experiments with various styles of versification, the mood shifting from tender to angry. The topics are wide ranging. Although somewhat spoilt by not too subtle sexual innuendos, the linguistic mastery and imagery manage to sustain a narrative flow that takes the reader on a guided psychedelic yet grounded journey of lived and living ‘Africanness’. The opening poem, “How Far” serves as both an introduction to the anthology and a challenge to the reader: “How far can I go with you / How far (ll.1-2) … I will show you / Once our horizons meet” (ll. 5-6). Gritty but tender; aggrieved but optimistic; remote but intimate: from within an oxymoronic aesthetic, Allan Kolski Horwitz finds solace – and, perhaps, absolution – in the controlled cadences of poetry. The poems are both boisterous and graceful, quarried from detailed observation of human frailty as well as a yearning for an ever-elusive companionship. “Bo Tree”, for example, is a wonderfully understated meditation on the balm of reciprocity, “when minerals in deep earth rise slowly” and “the Bo bends to offer its medicine”.  In “Stoned over Louis Botha”, the imagery is stretched, wrenched, and enlarged in a Dylanesque ballad of urban torment, demonstrating the poet’s desire to transcend the limitations of graphemic utterance. And in “Seven Minutes Past Three” – perhaps the centrepiece of the volume – Horwitz dares to confront the unspeakable. There is conflict, fear, outrage, and prophecy, animated by the poet’s refusal to yield to superfluities of diction. In poem after poem, the poet chronicles an outlaw space on the edge of civilization – bullet-riddled, untouchable, lawless, polluted, and sullied by craven ideologies. Yet, in poem after poem, too, Horwitz allows the Bo tree to offer its vivifying fragrance, giving lyrical authority to experience

 

Angifi Dladla in his work, Lament for Kofifi Macu presents himself as a voice that will certainly warrant even greater attention in the future.  His second anthology in English, Lament for Kofifi Macu presents images that speak of ‘lived-experience’, an uncomfortable reconciliation of that which is seen and heard outside with the reality of a fading ‘new dawn’.  There is an uneasiness in the poems, a resignation of fermented disillusionment with glittering promises and yearning to return to honest simplicity – emotions that come through in the poem, ‘When I’m Gone’.  Although the expression and flow in the poems is ‘raw’ and the imagery at times jarring, his work imparts a passionate intensity that renders the poems ‘real’. We look forward to reading and experiencing more of his works in English in the future. 

 

Similar to Dladla’s collection of poems, Naomi Nkealah’s poems are awash with unfettered passion – they shout out at the reader asking of him/her to closely question their ‘feminist’ leanings. Her poems are a ‘moral challenge’ to all who read them to re-evaluate what it means to be ‘woman’. By presenting this collection, Nkealah lays bare the inconsistencies in feminism’s claims of ‘liberation’ – the poem “MBA” in which she explores three words so often associated with the women ‘unseen’: “Molested … Battered … Abandoned”, and which concludes with the lines, “MBA – is what we called her / a woman free by law / but chained by marriage” (ll. 16-18), is just one example of poems which explore these contradictions. Her work comes highly commended as a voice of the unspoken.    

Judges: Ms Claudia Fratini (convener), Professor Rosemary Gray and Professor Ivan Rabinowitz

THOUGHTS ON OLIVE SCHREINER AND MY POETRY

Allan Kolski Horwitz

Let me first express my appreciation for this award, particularly as it carries the name, and as confirmed by the panel’s citation, the spirit of Olive Schreiner. The citation is very carefully and yet boisterously worded, and makes impassioned claims for the importance of poetry in the face of a totally commodified world which is pushing us, and probably the vast majority of species on this planet, on a path to extinction. And if poetry is this irrepressible expression of the life force that moves us to seek ‘truth and beauty’, then I felt it would be appropriate to look at Olive Schreiner’s writing and discern where we intersect;  and happily I found her mystical appreciations as well as her commitment to social change coinciding with my own.  

 

I was in my early twenties and sitting in small room in a flat; the open balcony looked down onto a courtyard in which stood a great multi-branched tree that reminded me of a baobab but wasn’t; and the writhing branches were turned upwards to the sun. And those seemingly blind tendrils embracing the source of life were fused into the tendrils of my own brain that were struggling to contain a situation of anguish regarding the sister of my lover who was in the throes of a breakdown: all systems down in the continuity of meaningful living. And as I sat imbibing the tangled yet vital force within the tree, the (dis)condition of a person I loved called out for healing but could not be healed; and so, to revive and balance myself, I began to order language and write my first poem.

 

Now I was not alone in being ‘pushed’ into poetry which was as much a consequence, like most children, of my own imagination being fired by stories. But Olive Schreiner was also placed under great stress – her childhood poverty, chronic asthma, the very early death of a sister and later the death of her own child, miscarriages, sexuality that remained unfulfilled, marriages that were inconclusive – so it is not difficult to see what shaped this, her best known poem:

 

I saw a woman sleeping. In her
sleep she dreamt Life stood
before her, and held in each
hand a gift–in the one Love,
in the other Freedom. And she
said to the woman, ‘Choose!’
And the woman waited long:
and she said, ‘Freedom!’
And life said, ‘Thou hast
well chosen. If thou hadst said,
“Love,” I would have given
thee that thou didst ask for;
and I would have gone from thee no
more. Now, the day will come
when I shall return. In that
day I shall bear both gifts in
one hand.’
I heard the woman laugh in
her sleep.

 

In this parable the dreamer chooses Freedom before Love for a reason: the shackles so many of us have to carry for reasons of class, colour, gender, ethnicity as well as the ‘chance’ incidents and accidents of living, work against the possibility of enduring Love. And so only when Freedom is won, can that critical aspect of our lives be established.  Given the imperial, Victorian circumstances of her time, Olive chose Freedom to express herself as a woman, as an internationalist and as anti-racist, and, as a result, seemingly sacrificed truly fulfilling Love relationships. And so the poem’s climax is disturbingly ambiguous: is the sleeper’s laugh at the news that one day she will receive both, one of joy that this desired harmony is possible – or one of derision at the very notion?  

I, on the other hand, born a century later, come from a middle class White South African generation shaped by an historical current that, as well as the privileges bestowed upon us by the System, included a New Left opposed to and presenting alternatives to capitalism and to Stalinist communism, the anti-Apartheid and anti-colonial struggles that made this a global necessity and rising feminist and gay rights movements. It was a time of revolt against the stultifying materialism, inequalities and sexual prudery of bourgeois/ bureaucratic societies in all their guises. However, as we know, this New Left soon foundered against a neo-liberal capitalist order that has perpetuated these divisions and oppressions, and, in some instances, made them even more acute.  And so the Freedom Schreiner advocated is still unrealised for a vast proportion of humanity.

But having said this, my personal attempt to synthesize these two lodes of living has, in many ways, had to deal with far fewer obstacles. Specifically with regard to composing poetry, I soon realized that this vocation offered immense range and historically had filled many social and religious functions so that there is no contradiction in the individual voice singing solo, in duets, or in a choir with millions. On the other hand, I also realised that our particular history, as a colonised territory, showed that art making is shaped by definite material circumstances and contexts and that these can cloud such knowledge.  One example is the misperception that afflicted many White South African artists/poets who saw the monstrous nature of our segregationist, extractive society as an imposition on their desire to write about issues/themes outside of the moral imperative to participate in the political struggles that dominated colonial life.

In this regard I am reminded of a lament expressed by Patrick Cullinan (quoted in an interview in New Contrast in1992) in which he says that “the fanatical belief that politics is more important than art” was slowing the process of South African poetry becoming “more sophisticated” and “less provincial“.  But how could a society dominated by racism and exploitation produce art that would respond to the deepest human needs unless it openly opposed these evils? And in any event this is a false dichotomy for the making of art is not one-dimensional. The poet can have many voices in the same way that any individual has different faces. There should never be conformity, rigidities in terms of theme or style. Freedom means precisely that.

And so, as we live at the beginning of a very new period in South Africa’s evolution, potentially the most transformative in terms of the values that Olive Schreiner believed in but tragically one still mired in moral and ideological corruption, myopia and superficiality, we have to be more honest about the legacies of the past and the nature of our current responses. We are struggling to re-align ourselves as Africans, and this struggle to redefine our ‘national’ culture (in all senses, not just with regard to art making) is reflected in our consciousnesses and in our public institutions and social patterns.

What then of poetry– its composing, its reading, its performance – and the future?

 Surely this ancient ‘solace and absolution’, this stirrer of emotion and ideas, will only play a ‘sophisticated’, ‘non-provincial ‘  part if we, as poets, stay true to the legacy of Olive Schreiner.     

 

For my family

Of blood and of the spirit

  The living and the dead

 

“The nature of a poem is analogous to that of a Fiesta, which, besides being a date in the

calendar, is also a break in the sequence of time and the irruption of a present which

periodically returns without yesterday or tomorrow. Every poem is a Fiesta, a precipitate

of pure time.”                                                                         

Octavio Paz

 

First of all, do it; then once you’ve done it (let the words spin out

a whirlpool, dart in from the fringes) let the flow

of ragged cataracts straighten into

deep channels so that a state of swirl

subsides

becomes clear as the foaming vision of prophets

 

truthful fantasy of voices  in  rhythm

machinery of the intellect

in hand with the rolling tongue telling drama

an ancient space      one to honour

as you

shape and re-shape

read the neighbour’s palms

                            then love your fresh page

all this as you make your own

script/scrawl of the living

 

island and mainland visited in

daylight and darkness

delivering merciful judgement      recording

revelation

 

you do this because you need to follow and leave

traces in the sand beside the raging river

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ENGLISH ACADEMY OF SOUTHERN AFRICA THOMAS PRINGLE AWARD FOR LITERARY ARTICLE 2019

Awarded jointly to: Rosemary Gray for her literary article “Recovering our true state of Being: Ben Okri’s fable, ‘The Comic Destiny’

and to: Jacomien van Niekerk for her literary article “The National Question in Antjie Krog’s Transformation Trilogy”.

 

CITATION

Rosemary Gray’s article, “Recovering our true state of Being: Ben Okri’s fable, ‘The Comic Destiny’”, is one of the two First Prize winners because it speaks to the plight of the people (as represented in Ben Okri’s work) in an incisive manner, breathing currency and topicality into a mode of subject matter choice most audiences could have otherwise classified as somewhat anachronistic. It highlights the numerous challenges that the 21st century African society is still battling with. Gray’s assertion that “The fable creatively dramatizes the human condition” (p. 36) bespeaks the essay’s feat not only in demonstrating the timeless relevance of the fable, but also the mutable dynamism of ‘the human condition.’ This article is impressively well researched and detailed. Its arguments, clad in lucid language and technical mastery, are quite refined.

 

Jacomien van Niekerk’s article, “The National Question in Antjie Krog’s Transformation Trilogy” equally deserves the First Prize on many critical  fronts. These include its germane argument, clarity of focus, recency and apt theoretical lenses from which it articulates its insights. This article boldly and cogently discusses issues of identity and the ‘national Question’ in South Africa, within the contentious frame of race and non-racialism. In its analysis of Antjie Krog’s Country of My Skull (1998), A Change of Tongue (2003) and Begging to Be Black (2009), Van Niekerk’s article confronts the explosive question: ‘to whom does South Africa belong?’ It is a well-researched article that frames its arguments within a solid historical account. At the end, the author reaches the well argued conclusion that a white person cannot claim an unproblematic belonging to South Africa – because of the vexed history of apartheid. 

 

The two articles, selected from many excellent ones published in a wide range of journals, undoubtedly take literary research to much higher levels.

 

Judges Professor L.J. Rafapa, Professor Hove, Muchativugwa,  Dr Lento, Mzukisi,  Dr Musvoto, Rangarirai

 

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ENGLISH ACADEMY OF SOUTHERN AFRICA THOMAS PRINGLE AWARD FOR REVIEWS 2019

Awarded to Sue de Groot for a portfolio of reviews published in Sunday Times.

 

CITATION

The year 2020 has been no ordinary year, with the whole world under siege from the corona virus. One of the possible benefits this ill wind has blown us has been a renewed interest in books and more time spent on reading, as lockdown confined us to our homes. And who better to guide us in our choice of reading matter at such a time than a reviewer of the calibre of Sue de Groot. Now, more than ever, her book reviews − always informative, perceptive and lively − make her a valuable national asset.

 

What is the purpose of the book reviewer? Her role is to broaden our reading horizons by making us aware of newly published books; to give us an idea of their subject matter, context and plot; to pique our curiosity; and to help us decide whether we would like to read a book by providing substantiated opinions of its strengths or weaknesses. De Groot’s reviews achieve all of these requirements. However, it is the tone and style of her reviews that give them real panache. Reviewing Hilary Mantel’s historical novel The Mirror and the Light, De Groot writes: Hilary Mantel does not write snacks. She writes banquets. Some might call Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy a three-course meal, but the concluding volume, The Mirror and the Light, is a standalone feast.

 

We see her effective use of figurative language again in the same review:     Mantel’s impeccable research yields the straw she     weaves into fictive gold.

 

The style of writing is striking and vivid, her precisely chosen words and images rich with implication.  When providing a concise plot summary, she is able to strike the balance between giving us a  sense of what each book is about, without giving too much of it away.

 

She also succeeds in going beyond the particularities of individual books by linking their themes to more general trends and concerns, thus enhancing their relevance.

For example, in the novel  My Dark Vanessa, a Lolita-like scenario in which a 15-year-old girl has a sexual relationship with her 42-year-old teacher, she links this to the #metoo era, and writes with deep psychological insight:

 ‘Grooming’ is what we now call it when an adult sets out to seduce a child ….It is a pathetically inadequate word for the conscious and deliberate shattering of innocence. It fails utterly to capture what all the Stranes have done to all the Vanessas. Having sex with supposedly willing minors is almost the least of it – the twisting of their perceptions and the erosion of their selfhood leave far deeper scars.

 

De Groot is adept at critiquing a wide variety of literary genres. Discussing Sarah Lotz’s thriller Missing Person, she suggests a comparison with that master of the menacing and sinister, Stephen King, when she describes Lotz’s “relentless build up of anticipation” as “entirely Kingian” and dares to state that the author “has out-Kinged King”.

 

In her evaluation of books, her response is both analytical and emotional. We see this in her review of Shuggie Bain, a novel set in “the bleakest reaches of Glasgow in the 1980s”. Of this book she writes:  …

the characters that pop and crackle and snap in Scottish dialect from its pages are people we know: people with fatal flaws and lovable eccentricities; people trying by whatever means possible to crawl through to the end of each grinding day; people fed and fuelled by the illu sion of a better tomorrow. They are us.

 

The conclusion of this review demonstrates De Groot’s gift for using language that is simple to express thoughts that are profound:

Everything in the novel … tells us that no matter how “normal” it might be in anyone’s world to be destitute, addicted, lonely, hungry, hated, afraid, unhappy and beaten, still there is hope that a different normality exists, and can be attained. 

 

She guides us towards recognizing global significance in the most mundane of local contexts, showing how scenes of “skin-crawling awfulness” can demonstrate deep-rooted truths – not all negative − about  human experience.

 

De Groot’s steady output of highly readable, accessible reviews has made her a trusted reviewer. We are fortunate that we can rely on her judgement to direct us to worthwhile new reads. We applaud her for her work which has done so much to encourage reading and which makes her so worthy a recipient of the Thomas Pringle Award for Reviews for 2020.

 

Judges: Dr Felicity Horne and Dr Verna Brown

_________________________________________

 

ENGLISH ACADEMY OF SOUTHERN AFRICA GWEN KNOWLES-WILLIAMS EDUCATIONAL BURSARY

Awarded to Carly Twaddle from the University of Pretoria

 

CITATION

Ms Carly Twaddle is the recipient of the 2020 Gwen Knowles-Williams Bursary awarded to an English teacher pursuing further education. She came to the University of Pretoria in 2016 and soon proved herself to be an outstanding student. She completed her BA degree with distinction at the end of 2018 after triple majoring in English, History and Latin.

 

She went on to do an English Honours degree and again graduated with distinction, earning class medals in several modules. In recognition of her academic achievements, she became a Golden Key Society member in 2017. She is currently registered for a PGCE and as of June this year, her cumulative weighted average for this postgraduate education qualification was an extraordinary 94%. This is not altogether surprising to those who know Ms Twaddle.

 

She is a dedicated teacher who soon showed herself to be a reliable and well organised colleague as well as an empathetic yet effective supporter of students struggling with their modules. In addition to all of this, Ms Twaddle is a lively and energetic young woman, who has served as a section editor and entertainment journalist on the UP student newspaper.

 

She is also an accomplished debater and has worked part-time throughout her studies as a debating coach at Beaulieu College. The English Academy of Southern Africa’s Gwen Knowles-William’s Bursary award could not go to a more deserving candidate or to a more promising trainee teacher.   

 

CARLY TWADDLE’S RESPONSE TO HER AWARD

Literature is the child’s first experience of another world – one painted by words and endless possibilities. While our imagination, indeed the time to imagine impossible things, dwindles as we age, literature prevails and allows us to seek refuge into the world of the extraordinary. English literature has played a pivotal role in my life since I could read Dr Seuss and Enid Blyton by myself. Nearly two decades on, I still feel the same passion and thrill. 

 

I was fortunate enough to pursue both an undergraduate and an Honours degree in English literature: I got to look behind the curtain. Here I discovered a whole other dimension in the world of literature. I was Lucy discovering Narnia, Harry opening his Hogwarts letter. My English lecturers at the University of Pretoria allowed me to explore this world and uncover precisely why literature matters in young people’s lives. My lecturers’ passion fed my own. Most importantly, they taught me how to feed others through the process of enjoyment, dissection and discovery. For this, I will always be grateful for them.

 

I am now embarking on a journey which allows me to spread my knowledge and my passion for literature. Being an English Home Language teacher is no easy task, but I hope to take it on bravely. This bursary (which I could not have been deserving of were it not for the support and guidance from my family and my mentor, Professor Molly Brown) is going to make a monumental difference in my life. In a time where instant gratification diminishes the passion for reading, I get to contribute to the fight for a while longer. I get to pursue my passions even further. So I would like to thank Professor Brown for my nomination and the English Academy of Southern Africa for this kind and honourable award.   

Carly Twaddle

 

________________________________________________

English Academy of Southern Africa 2020 International Conference “‘Africa Hurrah’: Into Africa, Out of Africa, English in the World Interrogated”

Due to the global health crisis, we have decided to postpone the EASA conference.  A new date is still under discussion and we will let you know as soon as it has been finalised.

We thank those who have submitted abstracts for the conference. If you would like to convert your conference paper in to an article we would be happy to consider it for our journal (English Academy Review).  

1 October 2019


 

 


AWARDS PRESENTED IN 2019

Gold Medal

Rajendra Chetty

4 May 2019, Northwards Parktown Johannesburg.

Chris Mann

14 March 2019, The National English Literary Museum Grahamstown .

Sol Plaatjie Award for Translation

Leon De Kock and Karin Schimke

For their translation from Afrikaans into English, of Flame in the Snow: The love letters of Andre Brink and Ingrid Jonker.

13th March 2019, English Department, Stellenbosch.

Olive Schreiner Prize for Drama (2015-2017 publication or performance)

Neil Coppen

For Tin Bucket Drum

22 May 2019, Ike’s Books and Collectables, 48a, Florida Road Durban.

Olive Schreiner Award for Prose (2015-2017)

Bronwyn Law-Viljoen

For The Printmaker

Elleke Boehmer

For The Shouting in the dark.

7 September 2019, Wits University Johannesburg.

Thomas Pringle Award for ad hoc Reviews 2019

Tymon Smith

7 September 2019, Wits University Johannesburg.

Percy Fitzpatrick Prize for Youth Literature (2016 and 2017)

Joanne MacGregor – Fault Lines

7 September 2019, Wits University Johannesburg.

Gwen Knowles Bursary

Bruce Bushula

Student at the Institute for the Study of Englishes in Africa at Rhodes University.

14 March 2019, The National English Literary Museum Grahamstown.

20 August 2018


Africa Live at The Little Theatre – 6 September 2018 The English Academy of Southern Africa in collaboration with Unisa’s Institute for African Renaissance Studies (IARS) invites you to join us at the English Academy Percy Baneshik Lecture

Project Manager: Professor Rosemary Gray (EASA)

Programme Director: Professor Rajendra Chetty (UWC & EASA)

Public Lecture: Professor Achille Mbembe (acclaimed Cameroonian philosopher – WITS)

Welcome: Professor Esther Kibuka-Sebitosi (Hod, IARS)

Introduction: Professor Rajendra Chetty (EASA President)

Dramatic interlude: Dr Owen Seda

Lecture: RETHINKING BABYLON: THE LANGUAGE DILEMMA AND THE SEARCH FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE IN AFRICA

5 June 2018


Conference For English Home Language Teachers Prof Chris Thurman, Keynote Address

9 April 2018


Africa Live at The Little Theatre – 3 May 2018 The English Academy of Southern Africa in collaboration with Unisa’s Institute for African Renaissance Studies invites you to join us in celebrating Africa Month and the English Academy Percy Baneshik Lecture

Project Manager: Professor Rosemary Gray (EASA)

Programme Director: Professor Esther Kibuka- Sebitosi (IARS)

Public Lecture: Professor Achille Mbembe (acclaimed Cameroonian philosopher – WITS)

Welcome & introduction: Professor Rajendra Chetty (EASA President)

Dramatic interlude: Dr Owen Seda

Lecture: WHY DO WE BELIEVE DIFFERENCE IS A PROBLEM?

13 March 2018


The English Academy Review Language Education and Literacy Issues: Principles underlying Policies, Politics and Practices

This will be the topic for EAR 36 (1), due out in May 2019. Submissions from last year’s Academy Conference will be included for consideration, and do not need to be re-submitted. Non-conference submissions will also be most welcome.

The guest-editor will be Rajendra Chetty. He is currently Research Chair in the Literacy and Poverty Unit at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Later this year he will be moving to the University of the Western Cape.

Articles to be considered for this themed issue should reach the Academy Office by 03 September 2018.

Academy Office address: EnglishAcademy@societies.wits.ac.za

Michael Williams

Editor-in-Chief

The English Academy Review