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Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

Listen: Vanessa Levenstein reviews Raymond Suttner’s Inside Apartheid’s Prison for FMR

Inside Apartheid's PrisonFirst published by Oceanbooks, New York and Melbourne, and University of Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg, in 2001, Inside Apartheid’s Prison was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Alan Paton award in 2002.

In the public imagination the struggle that saw the end of apartheid and inauguration of a democratic South Africa is seen as one waged by black people who were often imprisoned or killed for their efforts. Raymond Suttner, an academic, is one of a small group of white South Africans who was imprisoned for his efforts to overthrow the apartheid regime.

He was first arrested in 1975 and tortured with electric shocks because he refused to supply information to the police. He then served eight years for underground activities for the African National Congress (ANC) and South African Communist Party (SACP).

After his release in 1983, he returned to the struggle and was forced to go underground to evade arrest, but was re-detained in 1986 for 27 months; 18 of these being spent in solitary confinement.

In the last months of this detention Suttner was allowed to have a pet lovebird, which he tamed and used to keep inside his tracksuit. When he was eventually released from detention in September 1988 the bird was on his shoulder.

Suttner was held under stringent house arrest conditions, imposed to impede further political activities. He however defied his house arrest restrictions and attended an Organisation for African Unity meeting in Harare, where he remained for five months. Shortly after his return to SA, when he anticipated being re-arrested, the state of emergency was lifted and the ANC and other banned organisations were unbanned.

The book describes Suttner’s experience of prison in a low-key, unromantic voice, providing the texture of prison life. This ‘struggle memoir’ is also intensely personal, as Suttner is not averse to admitting his fears and anxieties.

The new edition contains an afterword where Suttner describes his break with the ANC and SACP. But he argues that the reasons for his rupturing this connection that had been so important to his life were the same ethical reasons that had led him to join in the first place. He remains convinced that what he did was right and continues to act in accordance with those convictions.

Listen to Levenstein’s review here:


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Listen: AmaBookaBooka interview Christa Kuljian

In 1871, Darwin predicted that humans evolved in Africa. European scientists thought his claim astonishing and it took the better part of a century for Darwin to be proven correct. From Raymond Dart’s description of the Taung Child Skull in 1925 to Lee Berger’s announcement of Homo Naledi in 2015, South Africa has been the site of fossil discoveries that have led us to explore our understanding of human evolution.

Darwin’s Hunch reviews how the search for human origins has been shaped by a changing social and political context. The book engages with the concept of race, from the race typology of the 1920s and ’30s to the post-World War II concern with race, to the impact of apartheid and its demise. The book explores the scientific racism that often placed people in a hierarchy of race and treated them as objects to be measured.

In 1987, the publication of “Mitochondrial DNA and Human Evolution” suggested that all living humans could trace their ancestry back to an African woman 200,000 years ago. Again, many scientists and the general public in the West were slow to accept such a claim.

Listen to author Christa Kuljian discuss her Alan Paton award shortlisted book, sharing her thoughts on revisiting science, and repeating Australopithecus Africanus 10 times in this recent AmaBookaBooka interview:


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Listen to Lindiwe Hani discuss her father and the aftermath of his death at the launch of Being Chris Hani’s Daughter

This was a different launch. It was live on air – on Kaya FM. John Perlman interviewed Lindiwe Hani at the launch of her book Being Chris Hani’s Daughter, written with Melinda Ferguson. The crowd came to hear her talk about her life – dealing with the loss of her father, bearing the burden of his legacy, her addiction to cocaine and alcohol, and eventually coming face to face with the two men that murdered her father – Janusz Waluś and Clive Derby-Lewis.

Listen to the podcast:

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Amabookabooka chat to Sam Cowen about her memoir From Whiskey to Water

Amabookabooka, the quirky podcast devoted to interviewing local authors about their work, made its Daily Maverick debut recently.

In this episode, producers Jonathan Ancer and Dan Dewes chat to Sam Cowen, author of From Whiskey to Water.

Cowen’s 2016 memoir recounts her experiences of alcoholism – some funny, some terrifying – and how she overcame her dependency by replacing whiskey and wine with the source of life: water.

From the powerful effect that braving the icy Atlantic Ocean had on her to the process of writing about her past – Cowen, Ancer and Dewes cover it all.

You can listen to the full podcast here.

From Whiskey to Water

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Panashe Chigumadzi’s Debut Novel Sweet Medicine Launched with Shado Twala at The Book Lounge

Panashe Chigumadzi


Shado Twala and Panashe ChigumadziSweet MedicineIf there was any doubt about the importance and necessity of an imprint like BlackBird Books, the launch of Panashe Chigumadzi’s debut novel Sweet Medicine came and washed it away. The massive crowd of young, eager black readers welcomed this new author with open arms as she joined SAfm’s Shado Twala in conversation at The Book Lounge less than a fortnight ago.

This was the first of what one hopes to be many celebrations of Sweet Medicine, with other launches having been postponed due to Chigumadzi’s solidarity with student protests that dominated the country last month.

“Black women – I have never seen this many in Cape Town before in my life,” Chigumadzi said, inciting a round of applause and ululation. When asked where they had heard about the event and novel, the crowd confirmed Twala’s suspicions – social media.

Chigumadzi is a Ruth First Fellow and delivered a poignant and somewhat controversial speech entitled “Coconuts Behaving Badly and Militantly” during the annual Ruth First Memorial Lectures at Wits University in August. “I think there will be an expectation to get a taste of that in your book. Does it exist?” Twala asked, opening the conversation. Chigumadzi explained that she wrote, and started, Sweet Medicine long before she had any of the politics that she has now. She went on to say that she prefers verbalising her political stances in essays and articles rather than in fiction. “I think I respect the audience enough not to make this a thinly veiled critical essay.”

Sweet Medicine is set in Zimbabwe, but, Chigumadzi stressed, it is not about Zimbabwe. “I think that’s a lot of the things we talk about in black feminist politics and Black Consciousness – how do we reimagine ourselves?” She explained that for her personally, within the fiction space, she found that writing about race is very difficult without being guilty of lecturing or being boxed into a certain category. Setting the book in Zimbabwe allowed the story to develop without consideration for things like whiteness and race in the way you necessarily have to when looking at South Africa, where it is very visible.

“There is something freeing about writing in a different context, where I write about black people without having to consider if there’s a boss if it’s a white boss or a black boss,” Chigumadzi said, illustrating that a “Ruth First novel” would have been too tricky and tedious for her to write.

Where concepts like feminism and patriarchy are concerned, especially in the novel, Twala noted that they are never addressed full-on, yet are always there. “I think, for a lot of us, particularly in the last couple of months, the last couple of years, it has been a process of conscientising. We find the words to describe what we have been going through. So, it’s not as if we didn’t have the same inclinations, it’s that you have the words to describe what you are seeing,” the young author explained.

These words come to young South Africans through social media and the use of tools like Google, outside academic spaces. “I know a lot of people knock that as a space of conscientising, but I started seeing the words intersectionality and privilege and all of that and I’d think ‘hmm, what is this?’ and I’d go and Google and find links upon links; I learnt it outside an academic environment,” Chigumadzi said.

Google is a great tool to remember when reading Sweet Medicine, which includes a lot of Shona or Zimbabwean references. “There’s a lot of Shona in the book, and I didn’t battle much in getting the gist of some of the words being said, and I found it exciting that I could go and look up the words. In fact, we should all be able to speak Shona,” Twala said, to which Chigumadzi replied in jest: “You should, there’s so many of us here! More than there are Chinese people.”

This book was written for a Zimbabwean audience in South Africa, first and foremost, and the author did not want to explain as if to a tourist what certain things meant. If you can’t deduce it from the context you can ask your Zimbabwean friend or co-worker. We learn cultures by listening to and observing others, she said, and she wanted readers to learn about her home country in a non-confrontational way. An editor read the book and complained there were too many things she did not understand, to which Chigumadzi just replied, “Good thing you are not my audience.”

Naturally, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s name came up. “I knew her first, before Beyoncé, before she blew up, I knew her,” Chigumadzi said, sharing her first encounter with the Purple Hibiscus author when she was on exchange in Australia in Grade 10. “That just really stuck by me, to see myself in there.” This discovery led to many Google searches where the young author was captivated by, among other things, the image Adichie portrayed when she accepted the Orange Prize for Fiction for Half of a Yellow Sun in 2007. This made Chigumadzi believe that she, as an African woman, could do it too – she could also be who she was and say what she wanted to say and be successful. “[Adichie was] the person who really, really made me decide that I want to write.”

The conversation was incredibly rich and vast, paused only for enchanting readings by the author herself, and difficult to sum up. Listen to the recording for Chigumadzi’s thoughts on feminism; modern religion; storytelling; the various characters, themes and soundtrack of the book (“Mugove” by by Zimbabwean artist Leonard Zhakata); LGBTQI issues; writing and more. She also shared why Tony Gum absolutely had to grace the cover and spoke about the relationship between Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Listen to the podcast:


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Helené Prinsloo (@helenayp) tweeted live from the launch using the hashtag #SweetMedicine:



Listen to the theme song on Sweet Medicine while you scroll through the Facebook album:

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We Need to Change the Way we Talk About Rape – Pumla Dineo Gqola (Podcast)

RapePumla Dineo Gqola chatted to Redi Tlhabi in the Radio 702 studio recently about her new book, Rape: A South African Nightmare.

Rape: A South African Nightmare is a highly readable book in which Gqola interrogates South Africa’s complex relationship with sexual violence. The book examines the high profile rape trials of President Jacob Zuma, Makhaya Ntini and Baby Tshepang and asks penetrating questions about what characterises public responses to rape.

Gqola is the author of What is Slavery to Me? Postcolonial/Slave memory in Post-apartheid South Africa and A Renegade Called Simphiwe. She is Professor of African Literary and Gender Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand.

“What is wrong with the way we approach rape in South Africa?” Tlhabi asks.

“Several things,” Gqola says. “The most important is that we talk about it all the time, but we have the same conversation over and over again. And it’s a conversation that makes us feel more and more helpless. We ask the same questions, but we don’t really answer those questions.

“We also deal with each rape as an incident. We are horrified, we are mystified, and then we call in to shows, and write in to papers, and we talk to our friends, we say the same things over and over again. We are outraged, we are frightened. And yet this constant talking about it hides the fact that the discourse is not moving.

She continues: “As long as we continue to think about rapes as isolated incidents, we will continue to be helpless.”

Listen to the podcast:



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Listen to Award-winning Author Ishtiyaq Shukri Reading from “Losing London”, an Essay on His Recent Deportation

The Silent MinaretI See YouIshtiyaq Shukri has written a moving essay titled “Losing London” about the personal and imaginative implications of his deportation from London’s Heathrow Airport earlier this year.

Shukri was born in Johannesburg in 1968, and has been a permanent resident of the UK since 1997. His debut novel, The Silent Minaret, won the 2004 European Union Literary Award-winning. His most recent book is I See You. In May, Shukri was withdrew his work from consideration for the inaugural Financial Times Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Award, after objecting to the classification “emergent” being applied to African writers.

While traveling to Heathrow in July, from where he was to join his English wife at their home in London, Shukri was searched and detained for nine-and-a-half hours, before being deported back to South Africa.

He decided to make a public statement about the incident at the time, to share his experience and to highlight “the increasing heavy-handedness facing African migrants at UK and EU borders”.

In this new essay, the author writes movingly about the relationship he holds with London, both personally and in his writing.

“On the 14th of July 2015,” Shukri begins, “I boarded a flight to London. I thought I was flying home. I had no idea that in fact I would be flying into a brick wall.

“Upon arrival at Heathrow, I was detained for more than nine hours, and then deported. My resident stamp of 19 years cancelled. I have written two novels in my study in our London home. The first of which is set in London. It is in all senses a very London novel. The landscape of my London includes Shakespear’s Globe, which opened in 1997, the same year I received permanent residence in the UK …”

Shukri goes on to describe landmarks and moments in London’s recent history that have shaped his life, before concluding:

“When border force officials decided on 14th July that my ties with the UK did not merit their protection those were the ties they cut and the life of 19 years they negated in just nine hours.”

Listen to the recording:


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The essay has been published in full on Africa is a Country:

Losing London

I entered the world traveling. My first journey was the 1,4000km trek from Johannesburg to Cape Town, although I don’t remember it. I was just two weeks old at the time. I have lived fully in the world ever since. My first plane journey was when I was five. I still have the ticket with the old orange tail and blue flying springbok of South African Airways at the time. I still have the specially tailored jacket I wore on the flight. I remember staring at the surface of the water in my glass on the tray table, absorbed by how still it remained despite our great speed. My first international journey was when I was ten. With hindsight, South African apartheid had already made its mark because I remember noticing black and white people socialising together in public and black faces on billboards for products that were advertised with white faces in South Africa. I remain grateful for that first exposure so early on in life, and the enduring awareness that life could be otherwise than it was in 1970s apartheid South Africa.

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“The Freedom Charter has a Living Testimony” – Ismail Vadi (Podcast)

The Congress of the People and Freedom Charter: A People’s History by Ismail Vadi explores the preamble and history of this important document and offers readers essays by key figures, including Ben Turok and Es’kia Mphahlele, on the main points of the historic charter.

The Congress of the People and Freedom Charter: A People’s HistoryGauteng MEC for Transport and author Vadi recently joined John Robbie in the 702 studio to discuss his book and that important day in Kliptown when the Freedom Charter was signed by the 2 844 delegates gathered at the Congress of the People on 25 and 26 June 1955 – 60 years ago.

“It’s a popular history. The idea is that we need to recollect what happened in the past, record that from a non-academic perspective, and then of course popularise it so that future generations understand what happened in the past and the significance of this campaign,” Vadi says. He goes on to note that “the Freedom Charter has a living testimony” and is still very relevant today, “but of course it needs to be interpreted in it’s time”. The author expresses his hope that the charter, and his book on it, will continue to inspire generations to come – not only in this country but on the African continent and globally.

Listen to the podcast for more on The Congress of the People and Freedom Charter and Vadi’s memories of growing up in Kliptown:


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Vulgar, Diabolical, a Castle in the Sky: Malaika wa Azania on “Rainbow Nationism” (Podcast)

Memoirs of a Born FreeMalaika wa Azania, author of Memoirs of a Born Free: Reflections on the Rainbow Nation, chatted to Power FM recently about the way forward for South Africa.

Jacana Media recently sold the international rights to Memoirs of a Born Free to Seven Stories Press, a New York City-based publishing house.

Referring to the recent CEO sleepout initiative, in which South Africa’s richest spent a night sleeping on the streets to raise money for the poor, Azania says while the aims are admirable, the methods can be seen as patronising.

“Everyone in South Africa – privileged, not privileged, black, white, Indian, everyone – has got a role to play in the building of our nation,” Azania says, although she adds that “because of their class position and their material background”, privileged people’s view of transformation “tends to be a bit different, and somewhat too liberal for the what we, who know the pain, think needs to happen”.

Azania also has strong words for the concept of the rainbow nation.

“I’m not a proponent of rainbow nationism,” she says. “I’ve found nothing in the world as vulgar as that thing. Nothing as exclusive and nothing as diabolical as this idea of a rainbow nation that has been imposed on black people. An idea that exists alongside the oppression of black people that continues in the face of the continuation of white privilege and white supremacy; an exclusive anti-black system.

“So I don’t have a responsibiity to protect or defend that idea of a rainbow nation. I think it’s false. In fact, the only way South Africa can move forward is to completely disassociate and completely alienate this false idea of a rainbow nation that has depoliticised our people and has fed them castles in the sky.”

Listen to the podcast:

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Podcast: Jacob Dlamini Chats About Winning the 2015 Alan Paton Award for Askari

Jacob Dlamini

AskariJenny Crwys-Williams and Redi Tlhabi recently interviewed Jacob Dlamini on The Book Show for Cape Talk and 702 to chat about him winning the illustrious 2015 Alan Paton Award for his latest work of non-fiction, Askari: A story of collaboration and betrayal in the anti-apartheid struggle.

Dlamini became the 36th recipient of the Alan Paton Award – a title he shares with big names like Albie Sachs, Ivan Vladislavic, Antjie Krog, Nelson Mandela and Breyten Breytenbach. In the interview the author insists that he felt overwhelmed by the award and says, considering the strength of the other titles on the shorlist, that he did not see it coming to him.

When asked by Crwys-Williams what he hopes to achieve with the increased readership of Askari Dlamini says that he hopes it will be a spark for conversations we need to be having as South Africans. “There’s a lot we don’t talk about, that we need to be talking about”. He continues: “I don’t think we can understand some of the complexities that we are confronted with today unless we know what happened in the past. I am not suggesting for a second that history goes in a straight line, but we do need to know what happened in the past to understand a lot of what is going on today.”

Listen to the podcast to find out where Dlamini got the idea to write Askari, what he is working on at the moment and what he plans to do with his prize money:


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