This year one of JBF’s beloved patrons, dissident poet, James Matthews turns 90 years old on 24 May. We wish Uncle James, as we fondly call him, much love, continued good health and many many more years with us. Uncle James has attended a number of Festivals and spent many inspiring hours with school youth and the public, running poetry workshops and performing his art. He will celebrate his birthday be at the JBF Festival this year.
Interestingly, the JBF’s theme, Literature and Newspapers, is most suited to James Matthews who worked for many years as a journalist. He contributed to national newspapers such as the Golden City Post, The Cape Times, Drum and the independent community newspaper, Muslim News in Cape Town, South Africa’s oldest Muslim newspaper, dating back to 1960. The first editor was Imam Abdullah Haroon, a hero of the anti-apartheid struggle, an activist who was killed in detention by the security police in 1969.
Under apartheid, strict laws forbade criticism of the racist regime and freedom of expression was limited. As a freedom fighter, James Matthews used his pen to highlight oppression and exploitation. Twenty-one (21) editions of Muslim News was banned under apartheid. Today the newspaper has changed its name to Muslim Views.
We look forward to celebrating uncle James’ birthday and his life’s work at the Festival. As a way of celebrating, we request all JBF constituencies and the public to write a poem about uncle James, his work, and his world views. The poems we receive by 15 May will be given to uncle James on his birthday. Final deadline for all poems is 3 June.