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Wordsetc Journal

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Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

Wordsetc Issue no. 6 Featuring Imraan Coovadia is Here

Wordsetc 6

High Low In-between“Coovadia’s work hardly shies away from including troubling contemporary issues, including the inevitable twinning of race and political life in South Africa (and the myriad hues in which this link appears); the ambiguous position of Indians living outside of the Subcontinent – their ability to fit between the seams of discord, as well as irritate all sides of a given conflict; and the necessary criminal elements that help forge the bonds within such in-between societies, ensure survival for the time being, and foment plans of escape when necessary.” – M. Neelika Jayawardane

This sixth edition of Wordsetc, South Africa’s foremost literary journal, is out. Hot on the heels of a fantastic edition that looked at the iconic Nadine Gordimer, the latest edition continues to showcase the best of South African literature. It leads with novelist Imraan Coovadia, a young writer on a mission. He also teaches creative writing at the English Department at the University of Cape Town. He has just written his third book, High Low In-between. We explore what makes him tick as a writer, the themes he explores, his literary influences and even the music he listens to.

The rest of the contents are also sizzling.

Contents at a glance

The main profile is on novelist Imraan Coovadia, author of the recently published High Low In-between. We explore his work, the ambiguities that he tackles about Indians in the country.

In the Personal Notes section, activist Zachie Achmat relives the days of his imprisonment at the age of 15 for political activism (“My Father’s Touch”). He has bittersweet memories of his father. A touching read.

Over the years advertising icon Alistair King of King James Advertising has amassed a special collection of rare books. In an eloquent and humorous essay he tells why he frequents second-hand bookstores in search of that rare book (“The Collector”).

Award-winning journalist Kevin Bloom tells us about motivation behind writing Ways of Staying, a book that takes an unflinching view at the state of the South Africa. Some may describe the book as bleak, but deep down, Kevin makes a case of being a realist (“The Realist”).

Literary critic and writer Karina Magdalena Szczurek profiles seven of our top writers in South Africa. She specifically looks at how these writers hang on to their full-time jobs and still manage to write creatively (“Writers’ other lives”). A very illuminating feature.

In the Appraisal section, researcher and academic Joy Watson offers a rich narrative about the legacy of Ruth First as a writer and champion of social change (“Her words”).

For the past two years Victor Dlamini has been taking gorgeous photography of some of our remarkable artists, including writers. Across a spread of six pages, he shows readers his awesome work (“Capturing creative spirits”).

In the How I Write section, acclaimed novelist Angelina Sithebe details how the writing business happens for her.

Lindiwe Nkutha’s wonderful play called Woman In Transit is captivating in telling of a young woman from the countryside who comes to Johannesburg in the 1950s to find a city full of degradation, and her ultimate defiant stand against injustice. We publish an extract of the play.

In our new Poetry section, Seni Seneviratne, an acclaimed poet and performance artist from Britain, tells us about the central role poetry plays in her life.

In our Bookshelf Series, Absa’s marketing head Happy Ntshingila talks about the writing of his new book Black Jerusalem in which he reminisces about the heady days of crafting winning advertising pitches in his earlier life as a founding partner at Herdbouys advertising, the first black-owned advertising agency in the country.

There’s all this and more – literary travel, short story, book reviews, a restaurant review and listings pages. As with previous five editions, this issue is jam-packed. It will satisfy literature lovers and those keen to know more about the state of South African literature at the moment.

For an interview with publishing editor Phakama Mbonambi, or to excerpt any of the stories from Wordsetc, please contact him on 083 287 1955 or

See website at or Facebook group called Wordsetc – A South African Literary Journal.


Wordsetc is available at bookshops (Exclusive Books, CNA and many independent bookstores such as Boekehuis, Kalk Bay Books, Clarke’s Bookstore, Protea Books and The Book Lounge) and various alternative distribution points such as DVD Gurus, Absolutely Fabulous DVD Nouveau (Morningside), Service Station Café and Wild Olive Food Store (Greenside) and Michael Stevenson Gallery (Cape Town).

The journal retails for R49.95. Subscription is R170 for four editions. Back copies are available. Just write to

Book details

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Wordsetc Issue Four Coming Up!

Wordsetc Four

The next edition of Wordsetc looks at – wait for it – Barack Obama. We’re looking at him through the lens of literature.

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Making Rain by Colleen Higgs

From the current issue of Wordsetc, “Women & Words”. Watch for a new issue coming soon!

Making rain

Writer: Colleen Higgs

Modjaji Books is a love child, a rain queen, an opportunity, a passport, a small yet significant space. For years I’ve longed to be my own boss, to choose to do what pleases me. As a mother I longed to work more flexibly. I ran the Community Publishing Project at the Centre for the Book for seven years. I learnt a great deal about publishing from encouraging over thirty writers to publish their own work. I saw many opportunities to do all kinds of things that are beneath the radar of mainstream publishers, because the bottom-line may not be your only motivation for publishing a particular book. I also saw that there were ways of counting on networking, friendship circles, good will and inspiration to work differently.

I liked the idea of being a rain-maker for women writers. I grew up in Lesotho, and as a child my Sesotho name was Pulani, daughter of the rain. When the name Modjaji came to me as the name for my publishing company, it felt right, I liked the idea of having graduated from “daughter of the rain” to “rain queen”, or at least to being the hand maiden or lady-in-waiting to the Rain Queen. Modjaji is an entity separate to me, someone/something I work for, serve even. She is imperious, demanding and has very strong ideas. Yet she is a fabulous boss, and thrilling to work for.

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Es’kia Mphahlele Tribute Podcast

Eskia Mphahlele

Please listen to this podcast of my conversation with Dave Ball of The Times newspaper on Es’kia Mphahlele, who died this week and was the subject of a major feature in our second edition. (Read an excerpt of Mphahlele’s last major interview: click here.)

After speaking to me, Ball recorded another interview with Mandla Langa, which concludes the podcast:

Podcast: tribute to Es’kia Mphahlele


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Es’kia Mphahlele’s Last Interview

Wordsetc 2nd Issue

Es’kia Mphahlele, a giant of African literature, passed away last night. Wordsetc had the privilege to visit him at his home in Lebowakgomo to talk about his storied past, famous works and the state of South African literature. It was his last major interview, and we bring you a portion of it here. May his soul rest in peace.

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How I Write – A Writer’s Journey by Dahlma Llanos Figueroa

I write first and foremost because the stories I grew up reading bore no resemblance to my world.

I was born into a world of stories full of colour, warmth, tragedy and humour. I was born into a world of music and intuitive knowing. But when I went to school, I was told that reason and logic were the only acceptable ways of knowing. Emotions clouded reality. Definitions had to be exact, measurable, black and white, no in-betweens. Keep it simple, I was told.

But I was not simple. I was a black Puerto Rican female in a world that insisted that I be one or the other and valued neither one. That made no sense to me. And so I began to write my world, my way.

I write first and foremost because the stories I grew up reading in school bore no resemblance to the world of my family and my community. Those stories did not tell about the lines in my grandmother’s face or the smell on my abuelo’s skin when he came home from the cane fields. Nowhere did I see my family’s many shades of brown complexions or the sound of my mother’s voice when she called me mamita. I write because those images will not allow me to be silent.

I began writing as a teenager and have been filling journals since. I poured all my adolescent angst and romanticised notions of the world onto paper. When I graduated from university I had the desire to write but I also knew myself enough to know that I had nothing to write about, not yet.

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Interview with Janet van Eeden

For those who want to know a bit more about how Wordsetc got its start, an interview I did recently with Janet van Eeden might be of interest:

Please tell me a bit about yourself. What is your literary background and how did you become editor of this publication?

Although I’m a journalist, I don’t often write. I work behind the scenes in production, mainly involved with editing and designing of pages. I studied at Rhodes between 1993 and 1995. Strangely enough, I didn’t do literary studies. After I graduated I worked at Sunday Times, Sportsday, The Star, Business Day and Sunday World.

How did you get into this business and was it your idea to publish this particular magazine?

I’ve always been fascinated by the written word. I developed a love for books at an early age. First it was Zulu books and later English. Growing up in Durban helped – I’m from Umlazi township – because the public library in the city was great. When in town, for example sent by my parents on an errand, I would duck into the children’s library for hours.

Journalism opened my horizons. While at varsity I stumbled upon fine magazines such as GQ, National Geographic and Ebony. That fuelled my love for the written word. Within GQ’s pages I stumbled upon literary journalism. I didn’t know the term at the time, but the effect of reading a piece that read like a novel was fascinating. It was only later that I learned of Hunter S Thompson’s pioneering role in this genre of reporting. To me, even back then, it seemed like a perfect marriage of books and magazine. I also discovered a fine writer called Mike Sager. He’s now Wordsetc’s editor at large, thanks to the wonders of the internet! Then in 2000, while at the library at work at Johnnic (now called Avusa), I came across The New Yorker. I was blown away. The more I read its successive copies, the more I envied the depth the title gave to its content and the acres of space they devoted to subjects – any kind of subject. I developed a wish to see something similar locally. Not a copycat production but a publication with substance but which remained accessible. I also wanted it to have beautiful writing. So Wordsetc was born.


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Here we go again

First published 10 June 08.

The second edition of Wordsetc is out and the site has been updated. Yes, both events took a while. They also took all our energy. Apologies for those who got impatient. We are new in this. We’re learning the terrain – fast. We endevour to keep getting better and doing things a littler quicker.

We thank those who have supported us. They have done so because they share our vision of promoting African literature and great writing from elsewhere in the world.

Wordsetc’s premise is that literature plays a crucial role in society. Literature can make us aspire to be what we are not. It also helps highlight the commonality of human condition. As I write this, thousands of fellow Africans are in makeshift encampments in Johannesburg, having fled their homes due to senseless xenophobic attacks that have seen Africans hacking other Africans to death on baseless grounds. How can this happen now? Have we only recently, as a country, resolved that such ethnic violence will never again plague us? Our only hope is that literature — and all of the arts — can help us to transcend our lowly human conditions, our base predijuces and emotions. Perhaps by reading each other’s stories, by listening to each other’s music, by seeing each other’s stories told through painting and photographs, we can learn to appreciate our commonality as human beings, we can learn to stop dwelling on differences. Perhaps, through the arts, we can cleanse our poisoned souls. Elsewhere on this site, the South African writer Zukiswa Wanner clearly articulates her anger over the senseless attacks. Justifiable anger, to be sure.

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