#JozisBBF: An Affordable Literary Festival

Jozi’s Books and Blogs Festival (#JozisBBF) is an annual literary festival that takes place in Lenasia, a suburb in the South of Johannesburg. Started by Dr Zaheera Jina, the festival aims to bring literature to the “residents of Gauteng’s less affluent communities.” Now in its fourth year, the festival brings together writers, readers, bloggers and more in celebration of literature. The 2019 edition of the festival will take place on July 28. 

Jina said she started the festival to change a perception. “Book festivals has previously been seen as elite gatherings in the northern suburbs,” said Jina. She wanted to change that and create a festival that’s affordable for all. 

Jina who holds a PhD in mathematics education is also an author. She is the editor of Saffron: A Collection of Personal Narratives by Muslim Women and the co-editor of Riding the Samoosa Express. Surprise! is her first children’s book. She is very interested in the promotion of literature and storytelling for all. 

Dr. Elinor Sisulu will open this year’s festival with author Fred Khumalo being honoured “for his vast contribution to literature in South Africa and beyond.” In previous years the festival honoured authors Don Mattera, Achmat Dangor, and the late Ahmed Essop. 

After discussing the idea with a friend, she approached the principal of Alpha Primary school in Lenasia to use the school hall and library. Along with Munira Carim from Noorul M Promotions she put together the inaugural festival in 2016. The festival then moved to the SBSM school in Lenasia. 

When asked why she chose to hold the festival Lenaisa, Jina said it made a lot of sense logistically. She lives in the area and says it is central to other suburbs in the south. “There are middle to lower income residents who I know benefits from interactions of this nature,” said Jina. 

She says the festival “inspires people to express themselves using various forms of media.” Jina says the festival is also for the entire family making it a pleasant day out. There is something for everyone from theatre productions to photography sessions. 

The festival will feature the theatre production of Whistle Stop which won the Standard Bank Silver Ovation Award. Photographer Xavier Saer will be hosting a photography session. Various authors and publishers will be in attendance like Raashida Khan, Shahista Thokan, Fiona Snyckers and Sarah McGregor. 

For young people there will even be a career discussion with a focus on journalism featuring many great South African journalists. Editor of the Mail and Guardian Khadija Patel, Bhekisisa journalist Nelisiwe Msomi and veteran broadcaster Ashraf Garda are just some of the journalists who will speak to young people about what’s it like to be a journalist. 

At this year’s festival, the charity Siyafunda SA has gotten involved. They are calling on people attending the festival to bring books along to donate to the charity. 

There are many literary festivals that happen all year round in South Africa. For Jina though, #JozisBBF is important because it “promotes the telling of our stories on various platforms: theatre, stories, blogs.” 

The festival is happening Sunday July 28 from 09:30 until 15:00. It is at the SBSM Independent School, Gate 2, 24 Salvia Street, Extension 3, Lenasia. Entrance fees in R10 and all are welcome. 

Featured image via Pexels