See the jam-packed South African Book Fair programme
See the jam-packed South African Book Fair programme

The South African Book Fair 2019 features a stellar literary programme at Johannesburg’s Constitution Hill this year. Relevant topical discussions will take place from 6 to 8 September 2019.

Nearly 100 authors, 40 panel discussions

The 2019 programme reflects the Fair’s position as the country’s most inclusive and diverse literary event, and features close to 100 authors across nearly 40 panel discussions and sessions.

Alongside this is a jam-packed schools programme (6 September), as well as a marketplace showcasing all aspects of the book industry. This year also sees the addition of an Illustrator’s Exhibition within the Oval Atrium in the Women’s Jail, featuring the work of five book illustrators.

The Fair’s signature Poetry Café and African Philosophy Café will host compelling and topical performances and discussions. Families also have lots to choose from including performances and storytelling for little ones in the Magic Tent and a children’s programme running in the Special Events Space.

A variety of food and drink, easy public transport and parking access, and a host of on-site activations make the South African Book Fair an essential outing for a diversity of visitors.

Visitors will be hard-pressed to choose from a programme that features prominent thought leaders and sessions dealing with the most pressing social, economic, and political issues facing South Africa.

Get South African Book Fair tickets at Webtickets
Get South African Book Fair tickets at Webtickets

Writers at South African Book Fair 2019

The line-up of writers includes Jonny Steinberg, Masande Ntshanga and Fred Khumalo (Writing to Fulfil a Quest), Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, Rekgotsofetse Chikane and Hlumelo Biko (Democracy & Delusion), Sarah Ladipo Manyika and Remy Ngamije (Love Without Borders, also with Fred Khumalo), Wandile Ngcaweni, Sarah Mokwebo, Adam Habib and Rekgotsofetse Chikane (Rebels, Rage and Revolution) and Pieter-Louis Myburgh, author of Gangster State.

Among the session highlights is Life Reclaimed, that sees Letshego Zulu, widow of racing driver Gugu Zulu, who lost his life scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, Gabi Lowe, author of Get Me To 21, and social activist Ndileka Mandela, who share inspirational stories of survival, catharsis and transcendence.

Another all-women panel leads a session titled Dismantling the Patriarchy, hosted by feisty feminist book club Confembulate. It features feminist writers Kelly-Eve Koopman (creator of Coloured Mentality), Keletso Mopai and Makanaka Mavengere-Munsaka getting under the skin with their true and fictional challenges to tradition and stereotypes.

Sports aficionados will not want to miss the Saturday session Vuvuzela Dawn, during which sports journalists, Luke Alfred and Andy Capostagno, and all-rounder Jeremy Daniel, will talk to Wild Coast FM DJ and sports lover Jeff Moloi about the unifying power of sport and how it has shaped our nation.

On the same day Vagabond – Travels in Mzansi and Beyond features the ever-hilarious Sihle Khumalo, author of Rainbow Nation My Zulu Arse, and journalist and continental drifter Lerato Mogoathle (South Africa’s answer to Elizabeth Gilbert). They will give insight into African travel writing.

Unmissable sessions

In a session titled Multilingualism in South Africa on Saturday, language activists and educational pioneers Gcina Mhlope, Xolisa Guzula and Zanele Ndlovu will explore multilingualism as an answer to Mzansi’s literacy deficit. The Sunday session, Faith & Freedom, sees Reverends Frank Chikane and Peter Storey recounting their roles in the struggle for freedom during and after Apartheid, and discussing how religion can serve as a moral compass in times of political upheaval.

Black Tax and its Discontents is a highlight of Sunday’s literary programme. It features Niq Mhlongo (recent winner of the Media24 Herman Charles Bosman Prize for Fiction), superstar writer Dudu Busani Dube and publisher-at-large Phehello Mofokeng looking at how history keeps a whole generation in debt.

Another unmissable session is Sex, Lies & The Bare Naked Truth when the queens of all things sultry, Eva Mazza, Dudu Busani Dube and Jackie Phamotse, gather for hot discussion of their erotic writing. More light-hearted discussion comes with My Dad has a Helicopter, a satirical look at the rainbow nation through the eyes of travel writer Sihle Khumalo and comedian Lesego Thlabi (Coconut Kelz).

As part of South African Book Fair’s strong focus on Africa, Professor Kojo Yankah, an ex-member of Ghana’s parliament and celebrated writer and journalist, will launch his book about J.J. Rawlings, Ghana’s longest-serving Head of State. In the session Beyond Party Politics, Professor Yanhak will examine corruption and democracy in the context of governance beyond party politics.

Another African-focused session is Nigerian-British author and Professor of Literature at San Francisco University, Sarah Ladipo Manyika (Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun) re-releasing her iconic work In Dependence.

Swedish writer and journalist, Elisabeth Åsbrink, visits SA courtesy of the Swedish embassy. Her historical book 1947: When Now Begins has been singled out internationally as essential reading for non-fiction devotees. Åsbrink’s session takes place on Sunday.

The African Philosophy Café returns on Saturday and provides an opportunity for visitors to experience the concept of lekgotla. This year, Prof. Adekeye Adebajo will convene some of the greatest intellectual minds of the region to pay tribute to the icons of our age, as featured in his carefully curated selection of essays, The Pan African Pantheon. Among these is Dr. Bongani Ngqulunga, winner of the 2018 Alan Paton award for non-fiction for his book, The Man Who Founded the ANC: A Biography of Pixley ka Isaka Seme. Nomsa Mwamuka, Prof. John Lamola and Maureen Isaacson will also feature in this important event.

Among the many different South African Book Fair activations is Dance of the Dung Beetle, while Find Your Art Heroes is a journey of discovery for youngsters hosted by Dr. Cobi Labuschagne. Running over all three days in the Oval Atrium of the Women’s Jail is an Illustrator’s Exhibition featuring comic book illustrators Loyiso Mkhize, Clyde Beech and Nathi Ngubane and more. Plus performances in different languages of The Gruffalo.

Workshops include Write Your Story, a half-day writing workshop facilitated Melinda Ferguson (7 September) and a short Zulu crash-course by Melusi Tshabalala (8 September). A focus on food includes a live cooking demo by Mogau Seshoene (The Lazy Makoti’s Birthday Bash).

See the South African Book Fair programme.

What: South African Book Fair 2019
When: 6 – 8 September 2019
Where:  Constitution Hill Johannesburg
Tickets: WebTickets
Social media: @SABookFair Twitter, @SouthAfricanBookFair Facebook,
Hashtags: #BUYABOOK, #OURSTORIES, #readbecause, #SABF2019