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Promising line-up for Open Book Festival

Promising line-up for Open Book Festival

21 August 2019

Cape Town’s literati (and other book lovers and avid readers) are set to descend on the Central City when the ninth edition of the Open Book Festival – featuring more than 150 events and close to 200 authors – takes centre stage in September.

"It’s five days of engaging conversation, fun-filled events, award-winning authors and so much more,” says festival representative Christine Skinner of the event, which takes place from 4 to 8 September.

One of the festival highlights is Miché Solomon’s appearance on 8 September at the Fugard Theatre. Better known as Zephany Nurse, her story made headlines years ago when she was kidnapped shortly after she was born on 28 April 1997 in Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, to Celeste and Morné Nurse. She is now 22 years old and has released a book, "Zephany: Two Mothers. One Daughter. An Astonishing True Story", telling her extraordinary story, after being granted the go-ahead by the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to reveal her true identity. She will be appearing at the festival with Joanne Jowell, the author of her book, 

Other authors taking part at this year’s festival include Chigozie Obioma whose debut novel, The Fishermen, won an NAACP Image Award in the category of Outstanding Literary Work. Fred Khumalo, author of among others, Bitches’ Brew which won the 2006 European Union Literary Award and Seven Steps to Heaven, a prescribed text at UNISA will also be at the festival. In addition, Prof. Pumla Gqola, author of Reflecting Rogue and Rape: A South African Nightmare which won the Alan Paton Award in 2016 and Wilhelm Verwoerd, the grandson of Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of the apartheid regime, and author of Verwoerd: My Journey through Family Betrayals will also be part of the festival.


The festival, which attracts nearly 10 000 people each year, will have the usual mix of book launches, discussions, poetry, comics, performances and various children’s outreach programmes. This year, new and exciting events, such as the poetry and ice cream pairing and Virtual Reality (VR) experiences, will be introduced. As in previous years, festivities will be spread across the Book Lounge, The Fugard Theatre, the District Six Museum Homecoming Centre and the A4 Arts Foundation from 10h00 to 21h00 each day.


While Christine admits she can’t pick a favourite event because there are too many, she recommends that people book for the authors they would like to hear but also perhaps for a name they don’t know or one of the up-and-coming authors. “There really is something for everyone from a wide range of genres of books and their authors as well as unique events including our #cocreatePOETICA programme.”


The #cocreatePOETICA programme is a celebration of rap, poetry and the spoken word. Now in its fourth year, it is a partnership between Poetica and #cocreateSANL and presents an electric programme of performances, readings, discussions and workshops that explore themes such as culture, identity and history.

Says Open Book Festival director, Mervyn Sloman: “We look forward to welcoming Dutch poets Simone Atangana Bekono and Radna Fabias. Catch Simone at The Mouth that Bears Many Tongues exploring how we find language through poetry and Radna at Crafting Home, similarly about finding home through poetry. Both will also be performing at the not-to-be-missed Naked Word Session that closes the festival.”


Besides creating a platform to celebrate South African writers, as well as hosting top international authors, the festival also strives to instil a love of reading among young attendees, with the programme designed to engage, entertain and inspire conversations among festival-goers.

“We hope the festival adds to much-needed debate in certain areas and provides people with new insights on topics as well as offering an opportunity to engage with ideas and continue discussions long after the event is over,” says Christine.


The festival has grown significantly over the years and has established itself as one of the biggest in South Africa. It has twice been shortlisted for the London Book Fair Excellence Awards.

Christine explains: “We are now in a position where we not only have sold-out events, but we are seeing audiences that speak to the city we live in. Those who join us are young, from diverse backgrounds and are passionate.”

Ticket prices for the festival start at R45 but if you plan on spending five days going to as many events as possible, it may be worth buying a day pass for R150 (which gives access to six events) or a festival pass for R600 (which gives access to 30 events). There are also plenty of free events for which you can book via webtickets.

  • Click here for a full list of the many other brilliant authors attending the festival.

IMAGES: Retha Ferguson

Tags: Open Book Festival Book Lounge Christine Skinner The Fugard Theatre