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Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Mike van Graan was one of five African writers, residing in Africa, to be represented at the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature in New York City from April 25 to May 1.

Van Graan is an award-winning playwright, cultural activist and author of the weekly blog, The Cultural Weapon. As Executive Director of the African Arts Institute in Cape Town, he joined Nigerian Nobel Prize-winner Wole Soyinka, Leila Aboulela (Sudan/Qatar), Mahi Binebine (Morocco) and Peter Godwin (Zimbabwe) at the annual event, presented by the PEN American Center.

The African Arts Institute (AFAI) is a South African non-government organisation based in Cape Town. The organisation harnesses local expertise, resources and markets in the service of Africa's creative sector. Van Graan is also the Secretary General of Arterial Network, a continent-wide network of artists, activists and creative enterprises active in the African creative sector and its contribution to development, human rights and democracy on the continent.

The PEN World Voices Festival saw more than 100 writers from 40 countries convene in New York City to celebrate the power of the writer's voice as a bold and vital element of public discourse. Chaired by Salman Rushdie, the programme was a cross cultural celebration of the written word, showcasing the work of international writers from across the globe, in conversations, readings, performances and panels, together with their American counterparts.

Van Graan participated in an evening of theatre and discussion, including staged readings from two of his stage works, at the City University of New York's Martin E. Segal Theater. The reading excerpts included Green Man Flashing (2004) and Iago's Last Dance (2009). Green Man Flashing is currently listed as set work for IEB schools and some universities. It received both Naledi and Fleur du Cap Theatre 'Best Script' award nominations in 2005. Iago's Last Dance was nominated in the Fleur du Cap Best New Script category in 2010.

The readings were directed by Barbara Rubin, a South African-born writer/director and current faculty member at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.

PEN American Center is the US branch of the world's oldest international literary and human rights organisation. International PEN was founded in 1921 in direct response to the ethnic and national divisions that contributed to the First World War. The largest of 144 PEN Centres in 101 countries, PEN American Center was founded in 1922. For more information, visit and