The opening session of the Time of the Writer festival, held at KwaMashu Library, drew an impressive crowd. The library, which opened in 1995, has become an important part of the KwaMashu community. NJABULO XAKAZA, a librarian at KwaMashu Library, spoke to Kwazi Dlamini about the decision to move the festival to the township.
How does it feel to host an event of this magnitude?
It was a good move; it will help local people to learn new things. People nowadays, especially young people, are not taking literature seriously and forgetting that that is where our heritage and history lies. Today we have many more people in attendance than we usually do on a normal day, even people who weren’t here for the festival, but decided to join in to extract knowledge from these writers. We are pushing the culture of libraries and this festival is good for that culture, to have writers from all over Africa. By being given the chance to host this event, the library has opened doors for aspiring writers and poets to learn more and engage with experienced writers.
How will Time of the Writer help the library?
It will help bring in more people to the library, and the posters and pamphlets helped a lot. You will never know what will inspire a person, and they can be inspired today by seeing their favourite author in person and having a chat with them. If it helps the library, it helps the community, because that is what we do: we serve the community. We will have more people coming in to read every day, and nurturing their writing skills on our computers in the cyber zone.
What do you do as the library to promote African literature?
We usually have displays when you come in to the library which promote local writers, and we put them near the reception area to make sure that it is the first thing people see when they come in, to remind them of the importance of local literature. Sections are separated by theme and writer’s origin, and the African literature section in our library is the first section when you enter the adult segment. We have separated it to make it more visible to our visitors. We also invite local authors whenever they have a new book to come launch it in our library, where we have a small event, usually with just a few people in attendance.
Do you currently have any of the books written by any of the authors in the library?
Yes we have them! I can’t recall them by their names because they are too many, but they are influential writers, so we must have their books. One book I can remember that we have is Sweet Medicine written by Panashe Chigumadzi. It’s a good thing that they came here, so the people who read their work will get a chance to see them and ask questions about their books.
After the festival, some people will be inspired to be writers. What resources are there in the library to aid aspiring writers in the community?
We do not really have all the resources needed by someone who wants to write; we only have computers and are yet to receive printers, a scanner and faxing machines, so it is still a struggle. The computers are also not enough, and it would be even worse for someone who wants to write as writers spend a lot of time on a computer. We give 30 minutes to non-card holders and an hour to cardholders when using the computer. Thirty minutes can never be enough to write something good, however we have Wi-Fi in the library and users are allowed to bring their devices in and connect to the Wi-Fi.
We currently have 13 computers working, catering for all the sections in KwaMashu, and the computers are extremely slow, people end up not finishing doing their things on time and they become frustrated. We have approximately 150 visitors a day in this library, so it is quite difficult.
The Daily Vox is the official media partner of the 2016 Time of the Writer Festival, which runs from 14-19 March 2016. For the full programme, click here.