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Writers Speak Out: South African Oppressions, 22 March

CCS hosts 16th Time of the Writer – International Writers Festival
Date: Friday, 22 March
Time: 12:30-2pm
Writers in attendance: Ashwin Desai, Kagiso Molope
Venue:Centre for Civil Society, MTB, 6th Floor, Seminar Room 602, Howard College Campus, University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Contact: Tel: 031 260 2940

South African Oppressions and Resistances
The socio-cultural and political-economic problems our society faces generates diverse kinds of oppressions - and also extraordinary resistances. We are only belatedly becoming aware of the pandemic of violence against women, the persistent homophobia, the myriad of racial and class power plays, and the nexus of state and capital versus ordinary South Africans. But so many people are fighting back, and brave writers are at the sites of struggle trying to record why our polity remains one of the world's most militant, and yet why so many campaigns for justice appear further from victory, now, than ever before.

Tailoring a judicious mix of eloquence, empathy, solidarity and critique is often amongst the most difficult moments of confronting oppression and joining resistance.

Ashwin Desai
Prolific sociologist and activist Ashwin Desai, holds a master’s degree from Rhodes University and a doctorate from Michigan State University. He is professor of sociology at the University of Johannesburg.

Desai is an unusually prolific and wide ranging writer whose work has been published in academic and popular books and periodicals around the world. One of South Africa's foremost social commentators, Desai's work is internationally celebrated for its courage and clarity of vision and for its focus on the lived experience of oppression and resistance.
The Poors of Chatsworth is described as in part, first rate sociology, then investigative journalism, then seething post-colonial writing which is indispensable reading for anyone attempting to understand contemporary South Africa.

The late enigmatic human rights activist Dennis Brutus writes about Desai's work, We are the Poors: One of South Africa's leading activist intellectuals has produced a remarkable book detailing growing resistance to neoliberalism in post-apartheid South Africa. Desai gives a moving picture of desperate conditions in post-apartheid South Africa, where things have not changed for most of the people. But this is also a stirring account of a courageous fightback, the fight that is being globalized as we challenge corporate globalization.

In 2007 Desai co-published (with Goolam Vahed) Inside Indenture: A South African Story, 1860-1914. Subsequently, in July 2010, he published The Race to Transform: Sports in Post-Apartheid South Africa.

In 2012, Desai launched his latest intriguing book about the education of political prisoners in Robben Island, Reading Revolution: Shakespeare on Robben Island. Offering accounts of the extraordinary courage of Robben Island prisoners who resolved to read in the midst of harsh conditions and the minimal books they had access to, Desai says, “any excuse for not reading goes against this incredible story.”

Selected Bibliography
Reading Revolution: Shakespeare on Robben Island, University of South Africa Press, 2012
The Race to Transform: Sports in Post-Apartheid South Africa, Cape Town: HSRC Press, 2010
The Poors of Chatsworth, Madiba Publishers, 2000

Kagiso Lesego Molope (South Africa)
Kagiso Lesego Molope was born in Atteridgeville, South Africa, in 1976. She is a graduate in English Literature and Literary Theory from the University of Cape Town, and studied with Andre Brink and Dorothy Driver. Dancing in the Dust, her first novel, was chosen as the South African English representative for the IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) Honours List, and the novel is now a set-work for high schools in South Africa. Her second novel, The Mending Season, set in the South Africa in the early 1990s, was published in August 2005. The Globe and Mail acclaims her work as 'cinematic in clarity. Molope makes her reader see and understand...feel the enormity of apartheid's atrocity.'

Of her writing, Molope states, ‘I'm an African feminist writer. I write the stories I would have liked to have read when I was younger - coming of age stories about being young, African and female. Not a lot of books are written about being young and female in countries that are either going through or have recently gone through conflict. It is the effect of conflict on young women's freedom and sense of self that I want to talk more about, from a feminist perspective. I'd like to live in a world where we see more African women educated and raising their voices. I hope that books like Dancing in the Dust and The Mending Season help in us live in that world.'

Previously a Human Rights Project Officer based in Canada, Kagiso Lesego Molope has been involved in human rights advocacy, counselling and documentary film-making.

Dancing in the Dust, TSAR, 2002; Oxford University Press, 2004

The Mending Season, Oxford University Press, 2005

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