Minister Nathi Mthethwa congratulates writer Songeziwe Mahlangu

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19 Mar 2015

It is with immense pride and elation that I congratulate Songeziwe Mahlangu for winning the coveted Etisalat Prize for Literature with his debut novel, Penumbra (Kwela; 2013). He was announced as the winner of this prestigious African prize in a ceremony held in Nigeria recently.

Mahlangu emerged the ultimate winner amidst tough competition from vastly talented writers from different countries across the African continent. The Etisalat Prize for Literature is a pan-African prize celebrating first time writers of published books of fiction. It is a platform for the discovery of new creative talent from the African continent.

He was shortlisted alongside Chinelo Okparanta of Nigeria and fellow South African writer, Nadia Davids. Mahlangu’s novel is a semi-autobiographical narrative about the complexities and challenges of young people’s lives in a contemporary South Africa. It gives us a glimpse into the world that confronts new graduates trying to penetrate the corporate world, as well as the resultant disillusionment and state of solitude that is often suffered by young people in this inevitable phase of their lives.

Mahlangu was born in the small but historic town of Alice in the Eastern Cape in 1985. He is part of a new generation of dynamic South African writers who are writing their own stories and flying the South African flag in the international arena. Over the past year the South African literary landscape suffered a spate of devastating losses that intimates the phasing out of a generation of literary icons such as Mbulelo Mzamane, Nadine Gordimer, Mafika Gwala, Chris Van Wyk and, most recently, Andre Brink. The challenge that confronts us is to discover and nurture new voices that will take the baton from these luminaries.

We are proud that the emergence of Mahlangu and other dynamic voices of this burgeoning generation provide a positive antidote to Antonio Gramsci’s assertion that “The old is dying and the new cannot be born.” Mahlangu is a shining example of assertive young people who are the chroniclers of their own narrative and cartographers of their own destiny. As the Department of Arts and Culture, we are duty-bound and remain committed to discovering and cultivating new artistic talents.

The news of Mahlangu’s achievement coincides with the celebration of South African Library Week. As a tribute to Mahlangu and other South Africans who are telling their own stories, we encourage fellow South Africans to take time and connect with their libraries. It is through the promotion of a culture of reading that we can build a knowledgeable and informed society in South Africa.

For further information call Spokesperson for the Minister of Arts & Culture, Sandile Memela at 082 800 3750.