Guests of JBF 2017


Every year the JBF chooses Guest(s) of the Fair. The Guest is someone whose work reflects the aims and objectives of the Fair, and who inspires peers and others, to read, to write and to appreciate all art forms.Previous Guests have included: Lindsey Collen (Mauritius), Ellen Aaku (Zambia), Helmi Sharawy (Egypt), Lauretta Ngcobo (South Africa), Walter Bgoya (Tanzania), Zakes Mda (South Africa), Gcina Mhlophe (South Africa), Mohale Mashigo and Kemang Wa Lehulere (South Africa).

The Guests for 2017 : Kopano Matlwa and Shailja Patel.

Kopano Matlwa

Kopano Matlwa was born in Mamelodi Day Hospital in 1985. Kopano is a medical doctor and an author of 3 books; Coconut, Spilt Milk and Period Pains. Kopano has made it to the Mail & Guardian's “100 young South Africans you must take to lunch” list two years in a row.

Kopano was selected as Head Girl at high school, achieved full academic colours and matriculated with seven distinctions before heading to the University of Cape Town (UCT) to study medicine and always seems on the lookout to improve herself and the space around her.


At UCT she furthered her schoolgirl interest in community outreach projects as a volunteer for the Students39; Health and Welfare Centres Organisation a student-run NGO at UCT that aims to improve the quality of life for individuals in developing communities. Kopano was also a member of the Clarinus House Committee, an orientation leader and member and mentor of the Golden Key National Honour Society – well known for developing exceptional leaders.

In her second year at medical school Kopano was selected as one of eight Goldman Sachs Global Leaders and went on to represent South Africa at the Goldman Sachs Global Leadership Institute in New York.

While studying for her bachelors in medicine and surgery, the energetic Kopano made the time to follow in the footsteps of her heroine author, Toni Morrison, and wrote her first novel. She started writing about two young women growing up in contemporary South

Africa in December 2003, after discussions with her sister Tumelo made her realise the important and uncomfortable issues people should consider. Several rejection slips from publishers later, just as her manuscript was doomed to languish in a drawer while she set off on other pursuits, her debut novel Coconut – a fascinating view into the lives and issues of South African youth living in the modern post apartheid era – won an EU Literary Award and a publishing contract with Jacana Books, when Kopano was just 21. Coconut, published in 2007, also won Kopano the JD Baqwa merit award.

Kopano completed her second book Spilt Milk before she graduated from medical school in 2010 – and made it onto the prestigious long list for the 2011 Sunday Times Fiction Prize.

Shailja Patel

Shaija Patel was born in Nairobi, Kenya, she was raised as a third-generation of East African of Indian Gujarati heritage.

She grew up in Nairobi and attended college in England before migrating to the United States. Patel is an internationally acclaimed Kenyan poet, playwright, theatre artist, and political activist.

She is most known for her spoken-word theatre show Migritude. She divides her time between Kenya and the USA.

In Kenya, she is very active in terms of equality and peace. She is a founding member of Kenyans For Peace, Truth and Justice, a civil society coalition that works for an equitable democracy in Kenya. Her book, Migritude, was published by Kaya Press in 2010. Her other published work includes Shilling LoveDreaming in Gujurati and Fyrefly.

Patel's poetry, performance art, and essays are often centered on the themes of Empiremigration, globalization, colonialism, women, and the African and South Asian diasporas.

Patel is best known for her book Migritude which went to number 1 on Amazon's Bestsellers in Asian Poetry. In December 2010, it was a Seattle Times Bestseller. In 2011, Migritude won the award for Best Book Design in the American Design Awards.

Her awards and grants include Fifty Inspirational African Feminists (African Women's Development Fund); Nomination for Premio Lettarario Camaiore (Italy); African Guest Writer Fellowship, Nordic Africa Institute, Sweden; Indian American Women Empowered – National Award for Arts and Creativity; Ford Foundation Award; East Bay Community Foundation Grant; National Performance Network Creation Fund Award; City of Oakland Individual Artist Grant; Zellerbach Foundation Grant; Lambda Literary Festival National Slam Champion; Voices Of Our Nations Arts Foundation Poetry Award and Outwrite Poetry Award, New York Lesbian and Gay Center.