The inaugural Abantu Book Festival kicked off on the 8th of December at the Eyethu Lifestyle Centre in Soweto. Conceptualised by Thando Mgqolozana as a reaction to the dominance of white spaces within the South African literary space, this festival hopes to give black writers and readers a platform that they have been denied for too long.
The Daily Vox team spoke to Phillippa Yaa De Villiers, a writer and performer who will be hosting a writing master class at the festival.
What got you interested in participating in this festival?
I was at the Franschhoek Festival where Thando Mgqolozana spoke about the problem of all of the literary events in South Africa being created in the white communities with white leaders, with a white vision behind it which he felt was really exclusive. So I was very excited to see his suggestion of creating a literary festival that is aimed at black communities coming to life.
What are you hoping that the Abantu Book Festival will achieve?
Well, that reading and writing becomes more of a priority. For example, a lot of emphasis has been placed on business and creating sustainable businesses and so on. I’m just hoping that people see the value in reading and writing because, a lot of these ideas that people have put a lot of legitimacy into and a lot of emphasis on, they cannot be achieved without good reading and writing skills. That’s the basic building block of thought. And as long as those things are neglected we will not have a prosperous country.
What are you most excited for at the festival?
I’m looking forward to giving workshops on creative writing and inspiring a new generation of writers who are going to tell South African stories.
Why do you write?
I wanted to tell the story from my point of view. So I believe that writing is very democratic. It is the one chance that you have to actually tell the story from your point of view. I think it’s a human right. It’s a right that everybody should access to. But if you don’t have the skills you have don’t have a chance to reach your audience.
What are you hoping to achieve from your panel on Friday?
I’m hoping that people will want to tell their own stories in their own words and that they will have the skills to do that.