By Izak de Vries
Makhanda’s proverbial flag fluttered proudly next to many international flags in Cradock during the Schreiner Karoo Writers Festival, which took place from 15 to 17 June. The annual Schreiner Karoo Writers Festival has become a firm favourite for literati and for families who need a break from the city. When better to experience the art of stoepsitting and storytelling, as well as warm friendships, than during a knypkoue Karoo winter in Cradock?
South African writer Olive Schreiner (1855-1920) was a fierce believer in equality. Not only did she fight for women to gain equality with men, she actively campaigned for racial equality as well. Her free-spirited thoughts on sex, gender, and marriage continue to surprise her readers.
Paul Walters, a retired academic from Rhodes University in Makhanda, read a paper during a day that was focused on Schreiner’s continuing importance in international academic circles. Jade Munslow Ong (University of Salford, UK), Sanja Nivesjö (who holds positions at the Uppsala University in Sweden and the University of Salford, UK), and Andrew van der Vlies (University of Adelaide, Australia) joined Walters in the Schreiner House Museum to pay homage to, read papers about and discuss the legacy of Olive Schreiner. This Museum in Cradock is owned by the Amazwi South African Museum.
Each of these four academics had earlier written a chapter in a book, edited by Munslow Ong and Van der Vlies, that is set to appear later this year. The title of this work is Olive Schreiner: Writing networks and global contexts.
This session was sponsored by the Amazwi South African Museum of Literature. Zongezile Matshoba from Amazwi opened the session. Marike Beyers, also from Amazwi, read poetry. Sithembele Xhegwana, a curator at Amazwi and 2023 AVBOB Poetry contest winner, also addressed the audience. Crystal Warren, also from Amazwi, said a few words and read some poetry. The Amazwi team also read poems during the closing session of the festival.
While these academics read papers based on the chapters in the book, two other academics from the University of Salford, Simon Stanton-Sharma and Maire Tracey, ran a workshop with educators from the Eastern Cape on, among other things, filmmaking. Stanton-Sharma and Tracey are the directors of the movie All that is buried, the title of which comes from the pen of Olive Schreiner. This workshop was sponsored by The AVBOB Poetry Project. The movie was screened at the Victoria Hotel earlier that morning.
Crystal Warren from Amazwi also participated in a workshop with the educators, this time a hands-on session on how to create a children’s book. Warren, known as a poet, shared her experience of creating The best nest, a children’s book, which she created with Megan Vermaak and Ashlyn Atkinson. Warren, Vermaak and Atkinson created the book as part of Book Dash, a not-for-profit organisation that uses professional volunteers to create books that are distributed free of charge. The best nest has been translated into all 11 South African languages.
A ménage à trois and some musicals
On the evening of 16 June, two postgraduate students from Rhodes University presented Ménage à trois, a musical compilation about the lives of Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms. The duo performed lieder by Robert and Clara Schumann and by Johannes Brahms. Devon Florence (voice) sang the lieder, while Gareth Robertson accompanied him. Florence also read excerpts from letters written by the three musicians.
On 17 June the musical duo returned to the stage to entertain the audience with songs from musicals. The Karoo Writers Festival takes place close to 16 June each year.