Minister Z Pallo Jordan congratulates nine South African writers for contending the commonwealth Africa Region literary awards

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20 Feb 2009

It speaks to the outstanding literary talent in our country that the five authors short listed for the Best Book from the Africa region are all from South Africa. – a fantastic feat for this much valued and sought after award.

This is a noted, annual accolade to Commonwealth writers for the best English fiction. It ensures that works of merit reach a wider world audience. Another aspect of the coveted prize is to promote new voices through the Best First Book Prize and here too of the five selected authors for the Africa Region, four are from South Africa and one from Nigeria. This is an extraordinary achievement indeed!

The Best Book category is comprised exclusively of South Africans. They are former regional winner, Damon Galgut (The Impostor, Penguin,) academic Tim Keegan (My Life with the Duvals, Umuzi) and poet and activist, Mandla Langa (The Lost Colours of the Chameleon, Picador Africa.)

Women writers have staked their claims with highly acclaimed authors, Sindiwe Magona (Beauty’s Gift, Kwela) and Zoe Wicomb (The One That Got Away, Umuzi) joining the list.

In the last few years these writers have won numerous awards and other accolades to emerge as formidable and widely recognized figures on the world literary scene.

Congratulations to both the seasoned authors and the first time authors short listed for these highly competitive awards. May they chalk up further successes.

This latest achievement not only confirms their status as the pre-eminent creative intellectuals, but is a well deserved honor for men and women who have turned creative writing into an instrument for self-expression to reflect this transitional phase of our history.

Their achievements have inspired a new generation of writers who are staking their own claims amongst new authors.

Thus the First Book category, again, is dominated by five South Africans in a highly competitive short list of six.

They include Jassy Mackenzie (Random Violence, Umuzi), Megan Voysey-Braig (Till We Can Keep An Animal, Jacana Media,) Chris Mamewick (Sheperds & Butchers, Umuzi,) Sue Rabie (Boston Snowplough, Human & Rousseau) and Jane Bennet (Porcupine, Kwela Books.)

The only outsider is Nigerian author Uwem Akpan who joined his South African counterparts with his debut novel ironically titled, ‘Say You Are One of Them’ (Abacus.)

The achievements of both these established and first time writers consolidates the potential of the South African Story and talent to intuitively connect and resonate with readers in the whole wide world.

Their stories have been inspired by the turmoil and optimism that characterizes a society that is undergoing a fundamental power shift.

The Commonwealth Writers Prize is a coveted prize in international literary competition. But that South African writers will now go on to represent the continent at a global level is a giant leap for our creative talent.

This makes our writers special voices when it comes to telling the human story of the 21st Century in a globalized world.

We are very proud that both our established and emergent writers are the ambassadors for the creative talent that comes from the African continent.

It remains the mandate of the Department of Arts & Culture to create international and economic opportunities for all artists, including writers, to not only earn a living through their art but express their talent.

This outstanding achievement is evidence that, South African talent is amongst of the best on the continent and the whole wide world. 


For further details call: Sandile Memela, Spokesman for the Minister of Arts & Culture at 082 800 3750 or Premi Appalraju, Media Liaison Officer at 0829036778