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Archive for June, 2017

Listen: Sisonke Msimang on multiculturalism in post-apartheid South Africa

“We are learning to scan the wreckage of our history and mine it for gold. To look for the connections between us, even as we walk with our eyes firmly fixed on the horizon. We are moving ever more sure-footed, towards making a South Africa in which we all belong”.

Listen to Sisonke Msimang discuss multiculturalism in post-apartheid South Africa on CBC Radio:

Sisonke’s memoir, Always Another Country, will be published by Jonathan Ball in October.


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Win! Wen! Ukuwina!

Jonathan Ball Publishers are giving away four copies of the younger-reader edition of Michaela DePrince’s highly moving memoir, Hope in a Ballet Shoe. Beautifully and gently illustrated by Ella Okstad, the book is available in English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa. Visit our Facebook page to enter.

Ballerina DreamsBallerina Dreams

“One windy day, a magazine blew down the road. I reached out and caught it. A pretty picture of a woman was on the front cover of the magazine. She wore a short pink dress that stuck out around her in a circle. She looked very happy.”

At the age of three, Michaela DePrince found a photo of a ballerina that changed her life. She was living in an orphanage in Sierra Leone at the time, but was soon adopted by a family and brought to America. Michaela never forgot the photo of the dancer she once saw, and decided to make her dream of becoming a ballerina come true. She has been dancing ever since, and after a spell as a principal dancer in New York, now dances for the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam.

My Ballerina DroomMy Ballerina Droom

“Ek loer deur die verhooggordyn en sien die entoesiastiese gehoor. Hulle wag vir die ballerina om te verskyn. Die musiek begin. My hart klop vinnig van al die opwinding en dan vlieg ek op die verhoog. Die ballerina is ek!”

Michaela DePrince was ’n driejarige oorlogwesie in Sierra Leone toe sy op ’n dag ’n windverwaaide tydskrif optel met die foto van ’n glimlaggende ballerina op die voorblad. Daardie dag het haar obsessie met ballet begin. Sy het haarself daar en dan voorgeneem sy sou eendag ook so gelukkig soos die vrou op die foto wees.

Sy is kort daarna deur ’n Amerikaanse gesin aangeneem. Sy het egter nooit die foto van die ballerina vergeet nie. Toe haar nuwe ma bewus word van haar belangstelling in ballet het sy begin klasse neem.

Sedertdien het sy nog nooit ophou dans nie en vandag is sy ’n hoogs suksesvolle ballerina. ’n Storie wat enige jong meisie (of seun) sal inspireer om groot te droom.

* Die boek is die geïllustreerde kinderboekuitgawe van DePrince se roerende memoir, Hope in a Ballet Shoe. Die kleurvolle illustrasies is deur Ella Okstad.

Iphupho lomdansi we-BhaleyiIphupho lomdansi we-Bhaleyi

“Ngelinye ilanga elinomoya, iphepha likamagazini lapheshulwa ngumoya lehlisa umgwaqo phambi kwesango. Ngelula isandla ngalithatha. Isithombe esihle sowesifazane sasisoqwembeni lomagazini. Wayegqoke ilokwana elifishanyana elibukhwebezane elalivulekile lenza isiyingi esimzungezile. Wayebukeka ejabule kakhulu.”

Eneminyaka amithathu, uMichaela DePrince wathola isithombe somdansi we-bhaleyi esasizoguqula ukuphila kwakhe unomphelo. Ngaleyonkathi wayehlala endaweni ezintandaneni e-Sierra Leone, kodwa maduzane watholwa umndeni othile wayiswa eMelika.

Nakuba ekuqaleni wayengazi ukuthi i-bhaleyi iyini akasikhohlwanga isithombe somdansi we-bhaleyi ake wasibona. Wayefisa ukujabula njengalomdansi. Lapho umama owamtholayo ebona ukuzimisela kwakhe nge-bhaleyi, waqalisa ukumyisa ezifundweni ze-bhaleyi. Selokhu adansa kusuka lapho kuze kube manje.

UMichaela waqokwa njengomdansi osemqoka omncane kunabo bonke ku-Dance Theatre yase-Harlem. Manje udansa ne-Dutch National Ballet, inkampani ephezulu ye-bhaleyi yasemandulo.

UMichaela waba ngumlingisi oyinhloko ku-First Position, idokhumentari eyawina umklomelo. Usebonakale kaningi kuthelevishini kuhlanganise i-Dancing with the Stars ne-BBC News.
Ngo-2015, uhlelo lwethelevishini yase-Hollandi lwenza ukuthi uMichaela abonane okokuqala no-Magali Messac, umdansi we-bhaleyi owayesesithombeni.

AmaPhupha oMdanisi weBhaleyi

AmaPhupho oMdanisi weBhaleyi

“Ngenye imini eyayigqutha, kwawela imagazini endleleni phambi kwegeyithi. Ndayichola. Le magazini yayineqweqwe elinomfanekiso womama omhle. Wayenxibe ilokhwe epinki emfutshane. Wayekhangeleka onwabile.”

UMichaela DePrince wathi xa eneminyaka emithathu wachola ifoto yomdanisi webhaleyi. Loo foto yabutshintsha ubomi bakhe. Ngelo xesha wayehlala kwikhaya labantwana abangenabazali eSierra Leone. Kodwa wakhawuleza wathathwa lusapho oluthile lwamenza umntwana walo, lwaza waya kuhlala naye eMelika.

Nangona uMichaela wayeqale ngokungayazi ukuba yintoni ibhaleyi, zange ayilibale ifoto yomdanisi webhaleyi awayeyibone ebuncinaneni bakhe. Wayefuna ukonwaba njengaloo mdanisi. Umama wakhe wamsa kwizifundo zebhaleyi esakuqaphela indlela ayithanda ngayo. Yaba kukuqala kwakhe ukudanisa oko.

UMichaela wachongwa njengoyena mdanisi mncinane kwiDance Theatre of Harlem yaye ngoku udanisa neDutch National Ballet, eyona nkampani iphambili kwibhaleyi.

UMichaela uye wangumdanisi ophambili kwidotyhumentari eyaziwayo, iFirst Position. Ukhe wavela kwiTV amatyeli ngamatyeli, kuquka kwiDancing with the Stars, Good Morning America nakwiBBC News. Ngo-2014, iThe Times yamfaka kwi‘Top 25 Under 20’ uMichaela yaza iElle UK yamfaka kwi‘30 Under 30’.

Ngo-2015, inkqubo yeTV yesiDatshi iye yalungiselela ukuba uMichaela adibane okokuqala noMegali Messac, laa mdanisi webhaleyi wayembone efotweni.

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A ringing argument for the classic values of pragmatic liberalism – J Brooks Spector reviews Between Two Fires

Between Two Fires John Kane-Berman is uniquely qualified to look back over the enormous political and social changes that have taken place in his lifetime in this fractious country.

In his career as student leader, Rhodes Scholar, newspaperman, independent columnist, speech maker, commentator, and Chief Executive, for thirty years, of the South African Institute of Race Relations, Kane-Berman has been at the coal face of political change in South Africa.

The breadth and depth of ideas and events covered here are striking: the disintegration of apartheid, the chaos of the ‘people’s war’ and its contribution to the broader societal breakdown we see today, the liberal slide-away, the authoritarian ANC with its racial ideology and revolutionary goals, to mention only a few.

J Brooks Spector recently reviewed Kane-Berman’s autobiographical memoir for the Daily Maverick. An excerpt reads:

There is a theory that an autobiographer always gives his protagonist the best lines in every discussion; wins every argument he engages in; and always has the very best discussion-ending quip to lock down that win.

In John Kane-Berman’s polished political memoir from a particularly difficult contentious period in South African history, to his credit, he doesn’t win every debate. Nevertheless, he does maintain his arguments were always the better ones, even if they didn’t carry the day on any particular day …

John Kane-Berman’s memoir is a ringing argument for the classic values of pragmatic liberalism, as opposed to dogmatic ideologies – the two fires of the title.

Thus the question, not yet answered, is whether such a struggle over ideas will come down on the side of open politics and pragmatic decisions or – as some increasingly fear – unhappily on the side of dogmatic, doctrinaire solutions to social, political and economic issues.

Between Two Fires
is a fine read with a rich depth of detail about his struggle in waving that banner of liberalism in a very tough neighbourhood. But – necessarily, perhaps – it leaves open the pending question of what will happen next in South Africa’s evolution.

Read the full review here.
 
 

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Michaela DePrince se Hope in a Ballet Shoe beskikbaar as kinderboek in drie Suid-Afrikaanse tale

“Ek loer deur die verhooggordyn en sien die entoesiastiese gehoor. Hulle wag vir die ballerina om te verskyn. Die musiek begin. My hart klop vinnig van al die opwinding en dan vlieg ek
op die verhoog. Die ballerina is ek!”

Michaela DePrince was ’n driejarige oorlogwesie in Sierra Leone toe sy op ’n dag ’n windverwaaide tydskrif optel met die foto van ’n glimlaggende ballerina op die voorblad. Daardie dag het haar obsessie met ballet begin. Sy het haarself daar en dan voorgeneem sy sou eendag ook so gelukkig soos die vrou op die foto wees.

Sy is kort daarna deur ’n Amerikaanse gesin aangeneem. Sy het egter nooit die foto van die ballerina vergeet nie. Toe haar nuwe ma bewus word van haar belangstelling in ballet het sy begin klasse neem.

Sedertdien het sy nog nooit ophou dans nie en vandag is sy ’n hoogs suksesvolle ballerina. ’n Storie wat enige jong meisie (of seun) sal inspireer om groot te droom.

Die boek is die geïllustreerde kinderboekuitgawe van DePrince se roerende memoir, Hope in a Ballet Shoe. Die kleurvolle illustrasies is deur Ella Okstad.

My Ballerina Droom is deesdae beskikbaar in beide Zoeloe – Iphupho lomdansi we-Bhaleyi – en isiXhosa, as AmaPhupha oMdanisi weBhaleyi

Michaela DePrince is in 1995 in die oorloggeteisterde Sierra Leone gebore. Na haar ouers se dood is sy na ’n weeshuis. Daar is sy in 1999 deur Elaine DePrince, ’n Amerikaanse skrywer en eienaar van ’n platemaatskappy, aangeneem. Michaela is vandag ’n professionele ballerina verbonde aan die Nederlandse Nasionale Ballet. Sy is in 2012 deur Joburg Ballet genooi om in ’n hoofrol in Suid-Afrika te kom dans. Sy was ook ’n hoofdanser by The Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York.

Boekbesonderhede


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Book launch: Fever by Deon Meyer

Fever

“This is the story of my life. And the story of your life and your world too, as you will see.”

Nico Storm and his father drive across a desolate South Africa, constantly alert for feral dogs, motorcycle gangs, and nuclear contamination. They are among the few survivors of a virus that has killed most of the world’s population.

Young as he is, Nico realises that his superb marksmanship and cool head mean he is destined to be his father’s protector.

But Willem Storm, though not a fighter, is a man with a vision. He is searching for a place that can become a refuge, a beacon of light and hope in a dark and hopeless world, a community that survivors will rebuild from the ruins.

And so Amanzi is born.

Fever is the epic, searing story of a group of people determined to carve a city out of chaos.
 
 

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Lee Berger’s Almost Human “fascinating and dramatically paced,” writes Rachel Newcomb for The Washington Post

Almost Human is the personal story of a charismatic and visionary palaeontologist, a rich and readable narrative about science, exploration, and what it means to be human.

In 2013, Lee Berger caught wind of a cache of bones in a hard-to-reach underground cave near Johannesburg. He put out a call around the world for collaborators – men and women small and adventurous enough to be able to squeeze through 8-inch tunnels to reach a sunless cave 40 feet underground. With this team of ‘underground astronauts’, Berger made the discovery of a lifetime: hundreds of prehistoric bones, including entire skeletons of at least 15 individuals, all perhaps two million years old.

Their features combined those of known pre-hominids with those more human than anything ever before seen in prehistoric remains. Berger’s team had discovered an all new species: Homo naledi.

The cave proved to be the richest pre-hominid site ever discovered, full of implications that challenge how we define ourselves as human. Did these ancestors of ours bury their dead? If so, they must have had an awareness of death, a level of self-knowledge: the very characteristic we used to define ourselves as human.

Did an equally advanced species inhabit Earth with us, or before us?

Addressing these questions, Berger counters the arguments of those colleagues who have questioned his controversial interpretations and astounding finds.

Anthropologist and the Diane and Michael Maher Distinguished Professor of Teaching and Learning at Rollins College, Rachel Newcomb, recently reviewed Berger’s book for the Washing Post. Read an excerpt here:

A 9-year-old boy stumbles upon a 2 million-year-old hominin clavicle while exploring in a field in South Africa. A paleoanthropologist, kayaking with his family on the Pacific island of Palau, finds a burial chamber full of ancient remains that he suspects might be a previously undocumented race of tiny people.

A swashbuckling former diamond hunter discovers a treasure trove of humanlike fossils in a network of caves accessible only to people small enough to slither through an 18-centimeter opening.

In Almost Human, the search for hominin fossils reads like an extreme sport. Written by Lee Berger with fellow paleoanthropologist John Hawks, the book documents with riveting intensity Berger’s lifelong fascination with fossil hunting and the contributions he has made to our understanding of human origins.

In contemporary paleoanthropological circles, Berger, who grew up in the United States and is based in South Africa, is considered something of a maverick.

He invites National Geographic to document his expeditions for social media, puts out calls on Facebook to invite scientists to join his teams and, rather than hoarding his finds so he alone can analyze them, makes replicas and photos of fossils available for other scientists to study.

Traditionally, the journey from fossil discovery to publication has been a slow and laborious one, but Berger is known for speeding everything up.

Critical of establishment paleoanthropologists, he views them as “an exclusive club” that refuses to share with others. “I represented a generation that didn’t just want the keys to the club,” Berger writes, “we wanted to open the doors to everyone. We were impatient for a faster pace of discovery and science, and sought collaborations with larger and larger groups of experts outside the traditional schools of thought.”

Other scientists have sharply criticized Berger for being a relentless self-promoter, too quick to announce to the world that his fossils are rewriting human history.

Paleoanthropologist Tim White of the University of California at Berkeley has accused Berger of engaging in “selfie science” and suggested that he is more interested in telling a good story than in sharing scientifically validated facts.

Criticisms of Berger aside, Almost Human is a fascinating and dramatically paced book that translates for a lay audience the excitement of paleoanthropology, its debates and its scandals.

Continue reading Newcomb’s review here.
 
 

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Wilbur Smith signs with Bonnier Zaffre in one of the biggest deals in publishing history

The Bookseller recently reported that Bonnier Zaffre has poached Wilbur Smith from HarperCollins in an eight-figure deal.

Bonnier Publishing group chief executive, Richard Johnson, described this deal as “one of the biggest in publishing history”.

Mark Smith, CEO of Bonnier Zaffre, acquired global all-language rights to eight new Smith books, together with English language rights to 34 backlist titles including When the Lion Feeds, Elephant Song and River God.

The illustrious author has sold roughly more than 130 million copies of his novels worldwide, and is currently published in 25 languages.

HarperCollins published Smith’s first co-authored novel, Golden Lion, in September 2015 shortly after he moved from Pan Macmillan. This six-book deal is rumoured to be worth £15 million. Prior to this shift, Smith published 34 novels with Pan Macmillan. Smith’s last book with HarperCollins is due to be published later this year.

The fourteenth installment in the perennial fan-favourite Courtney-series, War Cry, was released in May 2017.


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Yes, a seventh book is in the making – Michael Sears at launch of Dying to Live

Last night Melville’s Love Books played host to an array of sunshine noir – yes, that is a genre! – fans at the launch of the sixth novel in Michael Stanley’s Detective Kubu-series, Dying to Live.

This popular series, set in Botswana, revolves around the enigmatic detective Kubu, who, along with a new recruit to the Botswana CID, Samantha Khama, solve grisly and perplexing murders.

Michael Stanley consists of two authors, Michael Sears and Stanley Trollop. As Stanley is currently based in the US, Michael was in conversation with Eugene Ashton, the managing director of Jonathan Ball Publishers.

Eugene and Michael covered many topics during their discussion, ranging from the writing process (“sometimes we’re just sitting around, throwing around ideas … usually with a bottle of this,” Michael responded, pointing to his wine glass), to how the first book came about (“After three years and throwing away a lot of words, we had a book!”)

According to Michael, a seventh book is in the making…

He assured the audience that Kubu will not be killed off (unlike our Nordic friends who enjoy the odd death of a main or secondary character), and that both he and Stanley had decided on a seventh book ever since the publication of the first book in the series, A Carrion Death.

Michael stated that a publisher once told him that one cannot make money until you’ve reached your seventh book, which motivated them to start writing. With zest.

The conversation took a serious turn when Eugene mentioned the recent, ugly tendency of cultural appropriation, asking Michael how he and Stanley go about creating plausible characters which aren’t of European heritage without demeaning them or reverting to stereotypes.

Michael honestly responded that he cannot speak a word of Setswana, and emphasised the importance of accuracy when writing about a cultural group which differ from your own.

“All you can do to protect yourself from that [appropriation] is to ask locals to read the manuscript and pay very careful attention to any advice.”

Michael added that writing is about stretching yourself and that the series has added to Botswana’s cultural literature.

Their decision to include a female character was to exercise their ability to write out of their own borders and a need to introduce the tension of Botswana’s predominantly patriarchal society.

An audience member asked Michael about conflict which might arise from co-writing, and how one goes about avoiding head-bashing.

He replied that both he and Stanley have to remind themselves that it’s always about the book. They often critique one another heavily in the margins, yet Michael adds that it’s easier to write as two authors, since neither he nor Stanley feel personally insulted as what they’ve written isn’t necessarily what they would write as individual authors. They often ask friends to read their manuscripts, and rely on their criticism and comments.

The discussion ended with an anecdote which had the audience in stitches.

A few years ago, Michael attended an international crime writers conference in Minneapolis, where a friend introduced him to a student who apparently was a huge fan of the Detective Kubu series.

Said fan probably made the literary faux pas of her life as she bounded up to Michael, gushing that she “loves the series! I had no idea you were two people! Who’s McCall and who’s Smith?”

*Cue all round genuine belly laughs*


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Afrikaner Odyssey an engaging and worthwhile addition to understanding those involved in the Anglo-Boer War, writes David Reiersgord

Afrikaner Odyssey
In the first half of the nineteenth century, southern Africa was a jumble of British colonies, Boer republics and African chiefdoms, a troublesome region of little interest to the outside world.

Into this frontier world came the Reitz family, Afrikaner gentry from the Cape, who settled in Bloemfontein and played a key role in the building of the Orange Free State.

Frank Reitz, successively chief justice and modernising president of the young republic, went on to serve as State Secretary of the Transvaal Republic.

In 1899, he stood shoulder to shoulder with President Paul Kruger to resist Britain’s war of conquest in southern Africa. At the heart of this tale is the extraordinary life of Deneys Reitz, third son of Frank Reitz and Bianca Thesen.

David Reiersgord recently reviewed Afrikaner Odyssey for Business Day Live:

Martin Meredith has made a career writing about African history and politics. He has written a biography of Nelson Mandela, two books about Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, an interesting and lesser-known account of elephants and several other books on African affairs.

His book Diamonds, Gold and War remains an important text for understanding how the discovery of diamonds and gold in the latter of half of the 19th century helped to shape the future of modern SA.

Meredith’s latest book, Afrikaner Odyssey: The Story of the Reitz Family in South Africa, moves away from the broad lens for which he is well-known and zeroes in on the role of one Afrikaner family during great political change in SA.

In this relatively short, but engaging book, he offers a detailed portrait of how one family crossed paths with some of the most significant people shaping the history of the late 19th and early 20th century in colonial SA.

In the process, Afrikaner Odyssey engages with the complexity of individual ambitions alongside the ambitions of a nation-in-the-making.

The Reitz family was part and parcel of the Cape Colony aristocracy in the 19th century. The patriarch Francis Reitz bred horses and owned Rhenosterfontein, one of the most impressive farms in the Swellendam district that drew visitors ranging from well-known stockbreeders in the Cape to foreign dignitaries. His son Frank Reitz, whose decisions and experiences guide much of the narrative, was born in 1844.

After showing potential in school, Frank decided to study law in London, where he developed an interest in politics. After he returned from Europe, he transposed English-language poems he liked into Afrikaans, some of which were published in Het Volksblad, a weekly newspaper in Cape Town.

His love for Afrikaans later featured as a potent source of cultural pride at a time when animosities between the British and early Afrikaners were increasingly tense. Despite his education, Frank struggled to find employment as a lawyer, because the economy of the Cape Colony was tiny.

However, the discovery of diamonds in the interior of the colony — and later, gold in the Transvaal — boosted economic growth and his skills and training were put to good use.

Shortly after marrying Norwegian immigrant Blanca Thesen in 1874, Frank received an offer to become the president of the newly established High Court of Appeal in the Orange Free State.

This offer changed not only the course of the Reitz family; it also adjusted the course of South African history.

Continue reading Reiersgord’s review here.

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SA needs “transformation” far more radical than the ANC is currently talking about, writes John Kane-Berman

John Kane-Berman, policy fellow at the IRR and author of Between Two Fires: Holding the Liberal Centre in South African Politics, recently published an opinion piece on Politics Web stating that if the ANC wishes to achieve anything it should utterly change its approach to transformation.

An excerpt from Kane-Berman’s piece reads:

If South Africa is to tackle its overriding problem of massively high unemployment, it will need “transformation” far more radical than the African National Congress (ANC) is currently talking about.

The ANC’s version of “radical socio-economic transformation”, spelt out earlier this year in President Jacob Zuma’s state-of-the-nation address, and recently reiterated by several of his ministers, is focused mainly on using the state as an instrument to transfer ownership and control from white to black.

This policy was adopted before the ANC came to power, and has been implemented incrementally since 1994 via a series of racial preferencing laws. Proposed amendments to the mining charter to increase black ownership from 26% to 30% are just the next step. So are all the latest land reform-proposals.

Cyril Ramaphosa and Malusi Gigaba are now trying to pass off transformation as meaning “inclusive growth”. The last such policy was the “accelerated and shared growth” initiative –known as Asgisa – launched by President Thabo Mbeki 11 years ago. Since then unemployment (including “discouraged” workers) has risen by 1.8 million.

Nothing the deputy president or the finance minister has recently said suggests they are contemplating the kinds of policies necessary to reduce joblessness to the 6% referred to in the National Development Plan adopted in 2012.

That’s as only to be expected, for the ANC cannot see beyond race.

Continue reading here.

Between Two Fires

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