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Every year the JBF chooses Guests of the Fair. The Guest is someone whose work reflects the aims and objectives of the Fair, and who inspires others to read, write and appreciate all art forms.

Previous JBF Guests have included:

2010: Lindsey Collen (Mauritius),

2011: Ellen Aaku (Zambia),

2012: Helmi Sharawy (Egypt) and Lauretta Ngcobo (South Africa),

2013: Walter Bgoya (Tanzania),

2014: Zakes Mda (South Africa),

2015: Gcina Mhlophe (South Africa),

2016: Mohale Mashigo and Kemang Wa Lehulere (South Africa)

2017: Shailja Patel (Kenya) and Kopano Matlwa (South Africa)

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Kopano Matlwa was born in Mamelodi Day Hospital in 1985. She is the eldest of three children. She is a medical doctor and the author of three books – Coconut, Spilt Milk and Period Pains. Kopano was one of the Mail & Guardian’s “100 young South Africans you must take to lunch” list, two years in a row.

At high school Kopano was selected as Head Girl, achieved full academic colours and matriculated with seven distinctions. She studied medicine at the University of Cape Town (UCT).[expand tittle=”Read More”]

Besides her support work with Student Healh and Welfare Organisation, Kopano was also a member of the Clarinus House Committee, an orientation leader and member and mentor of the Golden Key National Honour Society.

In her second year at medical school Kopano was selected as one of eight Goldman Sachs Global Leaders and represented South Africa at the Goldman Sachs Global Leadership Institute in New York. While studying for her degree in medicine, Kopano started writing her first novel in 2003. She was influenced by discussions with her sister, Tumelo, and realised the need for people to address uncomfortable issues.

Several publishers rejected Kopano’s novel but she persevered, and her debut novel Coconut was a success. Coconut is about the lives of young South Africans in post apartheid democracy, and the challenges of colour and class. Coconut, published in 2007, won the EU Literary Award, a publishing contract with Jacana Books, when Kopano was just 21. Kopano also won the JD Baqwa merit award.

Kopano completed her second book Spilt Milk before she graduated from medical school in 2010. The book made it onto the Sunday Times Fiction Prize long list in 2011 Sunday Times. Her recent novel, Period Pains, was published in 2017. Kopano’s favourite author is Toni Morrison.[/expand]

Shailja Patel

Shailja Patel was born in Kenya to parents of Asian origin. She attended school in Kenya and Britain. Later she also went to university in Britian. The expulsion of people of Asian origin from Uganda in 1972, many of them citizens, has influenced her life and her work, Migritude.[expand tittle=”Read More”]

The CNN calls Shailja Patel “the people-centered face of globalization”. Her publishing debut, Migritude, based on her acclaimed, internationally touring one-woman show, was a #1 Amazon poetry bestseller, a Seattle Times bestseller, and was shortlisted for Italy’s Camaiore Prize. Migritude is taught in over 80 colleges and universities worldwide. Patel’s poems have been translated into 17 languages. Her essays appear in Le Monde Diplomatique, The New Inquiry, Internazionale and Counterpunch among others. She has appeared on BBC, Al-Jazeera, and NPR. Honors include a Sundance Theatre Fellowship, a Voices of Our Nations poetry award, the Fanny-Ann Eddy Poetry Award, and the Nordic Africa Institute African Writer Fellowship. Her performances have received standing ovations on four continents.
Patel is a founding member of Kenyans For Peace, Truth and Justice, a civil society coalition which works for an equitable democracy in Kenya. The African Women’s Development Fund named her one of Fifty Inspirational African Feminists, ELLE India Magazine selected her as one of its 25 New Guard Influencers, and Poetry Africa honored her as Letters To Dennis Poet, continuing the legacy of renowned anti-apartheid activist poet Dennis Brutus. She represented Kenya at the London Cultural Olympiad’s Poetry Parnassus. Her work currently features in the Smithsonian Museum’s groundbreaking “Beyond Bollywood” exhibition.

To get a preview of Shailja Patel’s Performance:


[Mother’s Voice]

By Shailja Patel


Three times in my life I’ve sliced my heart open on an

S-shaped curved. The first was Shruti – the child they told

me I would never have. Shruti means “divine revelation”

And she was. Our gift from Mataji.

Then Shailja. Named for Parvati, the flowering of stone

in temples, the cave paintings of the goddess in Sri

Lanka. No wonder she became an artist.

Finally Sncha. Beloved.

You never forget the pain of childbirth. It’s something

no one can imagine. Your heart is never whole again

once you have a daughter.

I never wanted daughters. Women are never safe. My

daughters make me so angry! They keep seeking out

danger. After everything we’ve done for their security,

they reject us. They choose the hardest, worst, most

dangerous things.[/expand]



Guests of the Fair

The JBF’s Guests will participate in a number of activities at the Fair. Kopano Matlwa will discuss the Status of Women and Girls in South Africa with Pali Lehohla (Stats SA). She will also converse about her books Coconut and Spilt Milk and discuss the theme of the Fair, Women and Literature in a Roundtable discussion. Kopano will also be in conversation with members of the Gauteng Community Health Workers Forum about the National Health Insurance and the future of healthcare for South Africans, taking into account her book, Period Pain.

Shailja Patel will perform her work, Migritude, on both Saturday and Sunday, she will also participate with young women poets and will also participate in the Roundtable discussion on White Monopoloy Capital: what future for South Africa.

The JBF has ensured that the books of both Guests, Coconut, Spilt Milk and Period Pains by Kopano Matlwa and Migritude by Shailja Patel will be sold at very low prices to ensure affordability for communities. Thanks both publishers, Jacana and Kaya Press, respectively. Both Guests will also be available for book signings in the Exhibitor Tent.