Last Saturday saw the launch of the #WritingMyCity book, the exciting collection of
Cape Town writing, put together by Cape Town Library Service and Open Book.
The selected authors signed a copy for the organisers, Christelle Lubbe and
Frankie Murray. Then we opened our copies and started reading each others stories.
There are some fascinating stories, poems and memoirs in the collection.
Here’s the piece I wrote (page 96):
I’d been late leaving school that afternoon. I’d stayed behind because nice Miss Leibrandt had been helping me with my poem.
On the way home I’d been kicking a can along the dirt pathway between the shacks when I heard shouting over on the main road. Then there was the explosion. Flames shot up into the air, all red and angry-looking. Black smoke billowed upwards.
My house was the other way, but I had to see. I peered out from the end of the lane. People were jumping up and down in the street, arms waving angrily. They were chanting.
Flames licked out of the little corner shop. My friend’s shop. Mr Kabongo whose skin was as black as night, who came from another country further up the map of Africa. Mr Kabongo who told me stories about the animals of the forest where he grew up and the people who lived there before the war in his country. Mr Kabongo who gave me sweets when I went to fetch a half-loaf for my mother.
And now his shop was destroyed. I wondered if he was safe. Had he run, as he’d run before?
I came across this interview yesterday about the #WritingMyCity project in which I participated as a facilitator and writer a few month’s ago.
I was particularly excited that our little group, who are part of the Women for Change programme, got a mention. Their stories obviously struck a chord even if they didn’t make it into this particular collection.
Here’s an extract from the interview:
Q. Tell us about the fantastic book project ‘Writing My City’
A. There are so many people with wonderful stories but rarely a vehicle to share them. To help people do this, Cape Town libraries offered creative-writing workshops earlier this year. Now we’re launching a collection of everyday Capetonians’ stories about living in the city.
Q. The project is an incredible collaboration with local libraries across the city. What is your experience of connecting with these very diverse community hubs?
A. I was so impressed with the librarians who took on this challenge. It was heart-warming that each participating library had passionate teachers, writers and poets who freely gave their time and expertise to facilitate the workshops and to help would-be writers pull their stories together.
Q. It must have been exciting getting such diverse perspectives on Cape Town. What kinds of submissions really moved you?
A. As part of the workshops, the Women for Change Group had a chance to share their stories. I cried when I heard of mothers talking about losing their children, abuse and dependencies. I also embraced how they helped each other through these experiences as one big family.
That last paragraph is so important to me. When the ladies eventually felt able to tell me their experiences I was incredibly humbled and moved.
The collection is going to be launched at an event at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town in September. I’m looking forward to attending.
A copy of the anthology will be in more than 100 libraries across the city, so it will be available to a wide audience. Books don’t come cheap in this country. Copies of the book will be sold at the Open Book Festival in September. It will be awesome to see my words in print alongside the other 39 chosen Capetonians.
Read the full interview with Christelle Lubbe, of the City of Cape Town’s Library and Information Services, and Frankie Murrey, Co-ordinator of the Open Book Festival by Carla Lever onTimes Live
Just a quick update on the outcome of the submissions to the#WritingMyCityproject.
To recap: Cape Town Libraries, in conjunction with theBook Lounge and the Fugard Theatre, launched the project earlier this year to encourage Capetonians to write stories and poetry about the city they live in.
The initiative was aimed at giving Capetonians, from a broad range of backgrounds, the opportunity to tell their stories to a wider world, and for more local community stories to be told and shared. By doing this there is an opportunity to celebrate and deepen the understanding of who and what makes Cape Town the city it is, and build better social cohesion.
You may remember that I volunteered to facilitate a series of workshops, leading agroup of peopleto help them produce their own unique submission. Things didn’t entirelygo to planbut in the end we did tell our stories and we did submit to the project.
My hope was that at least one of the ladies’ stories might be accepted. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. Perhaps their stories were just a bit too gritty. But it was an interesting journey for us all, and I hope that one or two of them will continue to write and get that release and enjoyment from doing so.
The names of those who have been selected suggest that a range of different voices will be published, including the immigrant English woman who wrote a little piece from the point of view of a child from the township.
Well, if you’ve been following my #writingmycity project journey, you’ll know we’ve had a few challenges along the way. Now we’ve come to the end of this particular road and there’s really good news.
Stories have been written, author’s bios have been composed and now our entries to the project are ready to go.
How pleased and proud I am of this group of women. They’ve produced disturbing, gut-wrenching and thought-provoking stories. There’s been anger, there’s still sadness but there is definitely hope.
These stories may not be selected for the Cape Town Library Book, but they will certainly give the selection panel food for thought. I don’t know what image of the ‘Mother City’ the editors of the publication intend to portray, but members of the Suiderstrand Library writing group have borne vivid witness to the gritty, dirty underbelly of beautiful Cape Town.
The voices of these strong women deserve to be heard. My thanks to every one of them for sharing their stories with such bravery and honesty.