This year the Jozi Book Fair (JBF) celebrates 10 years of creating readers and writers amongst people of all ages; and our 10th annual JBF Festival. The promote mother tongues and all art forms, to ‘read the word and the world’. Every year the JBF chooses a theme to focus our work and deepen the development of a diverse cultural movement.
This year the theme of the JBF is Literature and Working People, an opportunity to read and analyse the literature written in South Africa. This is also an exciting chance to engage this country’s history through the literature that has been produced in all our languages. Historically, what has been written about the working class in South Africa, under apartheid and under democracy? How are working people depicted in these stories, are they gendered, do they have different colours, cultures and languages? Are the characters strong, weak, decisive or nuanced? Does the literature reflect the complex realities of working people? Is the literature written for working people or about working people? Who has written this literature, have workers contributed to writing about the working class themselves? When people of other classes and/or colours have written about the working class, how have they depicted working people. Given the history of South Africa and the particular relationship between colour and class, where black (generic) people tend to be working class, has the literature captured this history?
An important challenge is that the theme must include literature written in indigenous languages in this country. This will not only stimulate interest in indigenous languages that is lacking, but also contribute to developing an understanding that in South Africa literature must include and promote all languages. In Sweden, working class literature, is a special genre or type of literature, within their national literature. This theme will assist us to become more conscious of how we read and how we write, and how we understand the world in which we live and act.