Our Chairman, Patrick Coyne began proceedings by saying that he joined the SAWC some 24 years ago.
It has been pointed out recently that the awards are not given the recognition they deserve – that the people behind the awards are not well known.
Hilde Slinger was the Competitions Manager when Patrick joined and Frances Bond was a literary agent – a conduit to mainstream publishers, as well as a judge, agent and member of the Writers’ Circle.
Patrick Lister was the group secretary for many years, and would always write a personal letter of congratulations to competition winners, who sometimes cherished these more than the actual trophies awarded. Fay Goldie started the Durban Writers’ Circle in 1960.
Our history is contained in hard copies of old correspondence and newsletters and needs to be written up by an archivist. The position has been advertised but as yet, no suitable applications have been received.
Patrick then introduced Dr. Nqabomzi Gawe, our invited speaker.
Dr. Gawe is an educationalist, now retired, and her topic was ‘Dare to stop the avalanche’.
She commenced by saying that her writing is academic, not creative, but believes that if people discover they have the skills to write, nothing can stop them.
In the past, writers, and particularly women writers, did not dare write under their own names; a leading example was Mary Ann Evans, known by her pen name George Elliot. She was an English novelist, poet, journalist, translator and one of the leading writers of the Victorian age.
Dr. Gawe continued by saying that people do not always know the power and impact that their writing might have; that it might change people’s perspectives and understanding of issues. She encourages us not to stop writing, but to continue with the flow and energy of an avalanche.
Dr. Gawe said she accepted the invitation to speak to us before discovering the enormity of the task and the unfamiliarity of the arena – she quoted the editors of The Heinemann Book of Caribbean Poetry, Stewart Brown and Ian McDonald:
“An arena of world culture, where the cultural inputs are so diverse, where notions of form, craft and style are so contentious …”
She saluted the number of women present at the gathering, commenting that if this had been held at the beginning of the last century, women would have been conspicuous by their absence.
Today we talk of writers without identifying them by gender. Women have overcome history and know their impact, competing at the same level as men.
South Africa is influenced by international trends, for example by celebrating International Women’s Day. Women and men need to engage in crucial conversations, empowering each other to be comfortable with who they are.
Women have critical skills in putting thoughts together, in channelling those in a safe space, providing growth and confidence.
Dr. Gawe suggested that the SAWC should be instrumental in putting African literature on the world stage, and African learners on a par with the world. She ended her talk by saying that those who did not win awards should be equally celebrated; that the journey is as important as the destination.
SAWC member and accomplished author, Wendy Greeff thanked Dr. Gawe, saying that although we have talented men, our strong feminine component of winners validates that we are on the right track.
Our competitions manager, Derek Griffin affirmed that entrants and judges are overwhelmingly female. He agreed that it is a challenge for the SAWC to promote South African writing in a much wider context to Africa and the world.
The SAWC thanks Dr. Gawe and all members who organised and attended the function, for making this yet another successful event.
Particular thanks go to Angelique Pacheco, winner of no fewer than five awards, who travelled from her home in Pretoria to be with us.
- photos courtesy of Sanabelle Ebrahim