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Friday, September 4, 2015


(Dr Gcina Mhlophe)

The 2015 Nozincwadi Festival, presented by The Gcinamasiko Arts and Heritage Trust under the auspices of its founding member and Executive Director, South Africa’s internationally-renowned story-teller and best-selling author, Dr Gcina Mhlophe, will run over two days next week.

The main event will be held on September 8 at Durban’s Diakonia Centre. The second event which Gcinamasiko will participate in to celebrate its annual schools festival as well as International Literacy Day, will be on September 9 at Emandeni Community Library near Stanger.

Celebrating International Literacy Day, the upcoming festival has a history-telling theme entitled Tell an Old Tale. This aims at encouraging young South Africans to honour their history, instilling a sense of pride in their heritage while renewing the traditional spirit of valuing their elders.

Following the adage, “For a branch to bear fruit, it must honour its roots”, the festival’s theme is in line with planning that is underway for the opening next year of The Dr Gcina Mhlophe Memory House. This ground-breaking oral history museum will be launched early in 2016. To this end, all projects which pave the way for the opening Memory House will be themed around oral history, history-telling and pride in our heritage.

The vision of Nozincwadi embraces the concept of young and old people being drawn in as recipients of book packages, which are given away during this ongoing reading road show. Its beneficiaries include children, young adults as well as recently literate adults.

The aims and objectives of Nozincwadi are: to instil in people the pleasure of reading; to revive the art of storytelling; to encourage and promote the role of storytelling in modern society; to endorse the work of South African and African authors; and ultimately to encourage young people to start creating their own stories and their own books, so they can have a say in the future of writing and reading in this country.

A primary thrust of the project remains the distribution of books within communities who otherwise will have no access to books.

“In today’s world, literacy and reading are keys that open the doors to the global village,” affirms Dr Mhlophe. “We say this is the age of computers, but sophisticated computers and all sorts of modern forms of media are useless to a country that does not invest in the literacy of its people. This is why I dedicate my creativity and time to make a difference in the lives of rural people, particularly children whose situation might seem hopeless. I’ve been there, that’s where I come from: reading inspired me to think and dream big. I would like to share this experience with everybody who is feeling despondent with their personal situation right now.”

Nozincwadi was conceived in 2001 as a tribute to reading and writing in South Africa. While the project has travelled to the most remote areas of the country, promoting reading and inspiring future young writers, millions more children need to benefit.

“On a practical level, the Nozincwadi project helps teachers and librarians set up library boxes, and where libraries already exist at schools and community centres, we bring new books. During the course of the project, new schools were targeted every month,” continues Dr Mhlophe. “We are proud that since its inception in 2001 Nozincwadi is still running. This year we will have more than 15 schools in attendance including Umlazi Junior Primary school, who are fresh from winning three top awards in an inter-schools traditional dance competition. These highly talented students have already graced our festival stage for three years and now in 2015 they are back by popular demand! Their dedication and discipline is remarkable. What makes us even prouder is that they are just as committed in the classroom. They know what our slogan ‘Read and Grow’ means.

“We were able to successfully host this festival each year even with financial constraints,” Mhlophe adds. “This was made possible with support from our partners such as Robin Hood Foundation, Awesome SA, Masizi Kunene Foundation, Biblionef, Puku Publishers and many other sister organisations. In 2015 we are proud to announce that Gcinamasiko has partnered with REDISA who are supporting the event both financially and in-kind”.

This new partnership is reciprocal: since November 2014 Gcina Mhlophe has been a spokesperson and ambassador for the education wing of REDISA, attending events, performing and generally supporting REDISA's work.

Admission to the Nozincwadi Festival is by invitation. 10 primary schools and 12 high schools from around KwaZulu-Natal will participate in Day One at Diakonia Centre. Each school will receive a book box containing books in English, Afrikaans and the mother tongue.

Day Two will see GAHT joining forces with the Emandeni Library near Stanger to participate in their celebration of International Literacy Day. Emandeni Library celebrates this special day each year. GAHT attends the event, supporting and partnering with them. There are usually 10 or more schools from Emandeni and surrounds in attendance. Many community members attend including the Chief of that area. GAHT will present the professional storytelling performances.

The programme will also launch the new The Hope Song CD, a celebration of oral history in which Gcina Mhlophe is accompanied by the acclaimed jazz maestro and maskandi star, Bheki Khoza.