Abantu Book Festival: “We are also human”

By Anele Gcwabe

The mere existence of a festival such as the Abantu Book Festival is verification, a clear testament that history needs to be revisited. It is the truth that needs to be screamed from the rooftops. Black women have been silenced for far too long.

Saturday, 8th December 2018 marked the third day of the Abantu Book Festival, the third edition.

What an overwhelming experience! The highlight  was a session hosted by the phenomenal South African actor, writer and performance poet Lebo Mashile titled “To Find Myself”. Mashile was in conversation with Rosie Motene- who wrote Reclaiming the Soil, where she speaks about the dynamics of being raised by a Jewish family and the identity crisis that stems from growing up in a white household as a black female.

They were joined by Thuli Nhlapo whose memoir, Colour Me Yellow, tells the story of the anguish and exclusion she experienced growing up because of her light skin complexion. The audience was taken on a journey of how two women, Rosie Motene and Thuli Nhlapo, were forced to confront their demons and the discomfort that comes with finally confronting the self. But they also speak of the liberation that comes with taking the journey of self- discovery against all odds.

It is amazing how many lives these two authors have touched and changed by sharing their deepest feelings. I am particularly intrigued by the way in which this session and the conversations within were so closely linked to the conversations that were happening in the other sessions as well. For instance Rosie Motene spoke of the strength of black women, “We’ve always been told that black women are strong. Yes, we are strong, but we’re also human. We feel pain,” she said.

Meanwhile, in a room nearby, Gail Smith and Diana Ferrus were exploring the poem by Dianna Ferrus I’ve Come to Take You Home that led to the repatriation of Sarah Baartman’s remains. This too, was a topic that explored the restoration of dignity to a woman who was dehumanised by colonialism.

I found myself imagining that bringing Baartman’s remains back home and giving her a hero’s funeral was a statement that echoed what Rosie Motene was saying in the next room, “We are also human”. This could well have been the theme of the day. In fact, it could simply be the theme of the whole festival. We are also human!

The mere existence of a festival such as the Abantu Book Festival is verification, a clear testament that history needs to be revisited. It is the truth that needs to be screamed from the rooftops. Black women have been silenced for far too long and today they are saying enough!

ACTIVATE! Change Drivers and The Journalist will continue to keep you posted on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. If you were not able to join the festival this year, there is always next year. In the meantime, stay updated by following us on social media.  All images courtesy of Mmuso Mafisa and Abantu Book Festival.

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Contributors

Anele Gcwabe

Anele Gcwabe is the Media and Partnerships officer at Activate! Change Drivers. She has a media and communications degree from Nelson Mandela University and an Honours Degree in isiXhosa from the University of Fort Hare. Anele is passionate about the development of African languages and would love to live in a world where indigenous African […]

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