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Madibaland World Literary Festival 2021: The World’s Biggest Bookfest Returns

Booktown Richmond and the University of the Western Cape are the proud hosts of Madibaland World Literary Festival 2021, bringing dozens of wonderful authors from around the globe into your living room from 18 to 26 November 2021 - and entry is free. 

The festival was inspired by Nelson Mandela and honours three of his greatest passions - communication, education and connection.

“Many of us are so used to Nelson Mandela as a political figure that we forget that he is also probably one of the great writers of the world,” says Madibaland organiser Darryl David, writer, mentor and Afrikaans lecturer in Afrikaans at UWC’s Faculty of Education. 

“He unified a nation not only through his actions, but also through his writings - from the celebrated Long Walk to Freedom to powerful love letters to the thoughtful Conversations With Myself, written well into his nineties. He knew the power of stories, and gifted us with a powerful one of our own: the story of a rainbow nation. So it’s fitting we have a festival of this sort in his honour.”

David has handled dozens of literary festivals before. He’s the founder of BookTown Richmond and the UKZN Zulu Literary Museum, and the Director of Pniel’s Adam Small Boekefees and Pietermaritzburg’s Alan Paton Literary Festival (among others). And in a world facing a global pandemic, he knew that a book festival had the power to connect us. But Madibaland is special.

“To have two Booker Prize winners in the form of Ben Okri and Damon Galgut is the stuff of dreams. Add to this, writers from Australia, France, the UK, America, Canada, Russia, Macedonia, India, Pakistan, to name but a few, and it is easy to see why the Madibaland World Literary Festival is the premier international book festival in SA at the moment.”

Travel writers, like Pat Kramer and Alan Proust, will share the virtual stage with local literary legends like Ashraf Kagee, Joanne Joseph and Karen Jennings, as well as Nigerian novelist and poet Ben Okri (The Freedom Artist) and Welsh philosopher Mark Rowlands (The Philosopher And The Wolf). 

Essayist and academic Imraan Coovadia (The Poisoners) will expose the secret use of poisons and diseases in apartheid South Africa, the Rhodesian bush war and ithe United States. And British writer Fiona Sampson (In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein) will share the story of the woman who helped create science fiction (and also share a peculiar love of limestone).

And that’s just for starters.

As David notes: “Max and Sue Hoppe with their book ‘The Secret Life of Windmills’ will have you rolling over with laughter. A new book by Bevan Poggenpoel and Selwyn Millborrow on famous quotes of Madiba, artist Mark Alexander’s series of Mandela portraits and Bradley Steyn's book on Mandela's Spies will remind everyone why this festival is called Madibaland. And books about a man and his wolf by international author Mark Rowlands, books by Cameroonian writers, Zimbabwean writers. Every day is a treat!”

Madibaland: Words To Educate, Entertain & Empower

Madibaland is a celebration of writers - of what they mean to society, and what they can tell us about ourselves. 

“South Africa is facing a number of challenges - and it is our mission as a university to help educate the leaders who will tackle those challenges,” says Prof Rajendran Govender, Dean of UWC’s Faculty of Education. “One of the best ways to do that is to ensure that children (and adults) are committed to educating themselves - and one of the easiest and most effective ways to do that is through books. To build a culture of leading, we need to build a culture of reading - and we celebrate the writers who make this possible.”

UWC’s own story, a tale of a journey from a ‘bush college’ to a university that has reaped international acclaim for teaching, learning and research, is one marked with literary figures like the late Adam Small, writer-in-residence Antjie Krog, and powerful poet Diana Ferrus, as well as Sindiwe Magona. And that story continues, with remarkable UWC writers like alumna Jolyn Phillips (Bientang) and Graham Mort (Like Fado) adding their voices to MadibaLand 2021.

“Humans are, as the saying goes, storytelling animals - and storytelling, whether in fictional or non-fictional form, is an immensely powerful and important part of our lives,” says UWC’s Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Tyrone Pretorius. “The stories we tell, the writings we read - these shape who we are, and the way we see the world, and the people in it. Non-fiction writers help us understand the world as it is. Fiction makes us consider the world as it isn’t. And together, they help us consider the world that could be - and how to get there from here.” 

The festival’s name was inspired by Denis Beckett's 1998 book, Madibaland - a text that sees lawyer turned writer, journalist and columnist, Denis Beckett, roaming the length and breadth of South Africa in an endeavour to capture the spirit and the scope of its citizens and the country they live in.

“In South Africa, we’ve been going through a bit of a rough time,” says Darryl David. “We’re a very divided country - and more than that, I think the world is a very divided place. We don’t understand each other, and that scares us sometimes. But stories allow us to experience life through another lens, and walk in someone else’s shoes, and imagine ourselves in their place. And that can help us come to a better understanding (and tolerance) of others.”

Ultimately, it’s a celebration of connectedness.

At a time when the world is living through the great plague, when people are in quarantine and live in isolation, festivals like this bring people together. Authors make us laugh, make us cry. We no longer feel so utterly alone. We realise that we are not alone. That people thousands of miles across the globe face similar challenges. Books - and book festivals - inspire. They move us. And they help us get through tough times. It’s like a vaccination for your soul.”

The Madibaland World Literary Festival runs from 18 to 26 November 2021 - free for all, and free of charge as well! 

Day 1: Download Programme  |  Register
Day 2: Download Programme  |  Register
Day 3: Download Programme  |  Register
Day 4: Download Programme  |  Register
Day 5: Download Programme  |  Register
Day 6: Download Programme  |  Register
Day 7: Download Programme  |  Register
Day 8: Download Programme  |  Register

For more information, to view a full programme, or to register, please visit the Madibaland World Literary Festival page.