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Green remembered hills PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 19 February 2017 17:39

By Stephen Coan

With Hazara – Elegy for an African Farm John Conyngham (a featured author on the KZN Literary Tourism website) has broken the long silence following the publication in 1998 of his novel The Lostness of Alice; the final book in a thematically connected trilogy, its predecessors being The Arrowing of the Cane and The Desecration of the Graves.

The epigraph to The Lostness of Alice, drawn from Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa, ‘If I know a song of Africa does Africa know a song of me?’, could also apply to Hazara, an exploration of white identity and belonging in Africa, more specifically that of the English-speaking South African. Part memoir, part history, part personal meditation, Hazara is the story of a sugar farm north of Durban and the family who lived on it for five decades during the last century.

The Arrowing of the Cane was set on the same farm, or if not the same, certainly its palimpsest, where owner James Colville, haunted by a colonial past and a claustrophobic present, knocks back the J&B as cane fields burn in the night and he feels compelled to write a first-person account articulating his predicament.

The Arrowing of the Cane, which won several awards, and in its British edition drew praise from, among others, Colm Tóibín, was dedicated to ‘Mia Woollam, in memory’. When Mia (née Keith-Fraser) married James Woollam in 1924 her father bought her a farm as a dowry. Its undulating hills planted with vivid green fields of cane were offset by the blue of the Indian Ocean in the distance. James named the farm Hazara as a reminder of his service in the 106th Hazara Pioneers during World War One; the Hazaras being one of the peoples of Afghanistan drawn under the umbrella of the British Raj.

The shadow of the imperial project is ever present in Hazara, as Conyngham explains in an author’s note: ‘(Hazara) is also the story of a diaspora of men and women who were borne across the globe on an imperial tide that has since receded. As a child and youth I caught the era’s afterglow, as one sees at twilight the salmon-pink suffusion of a sun that has already set.’

In time, Mia and James’s ownership of the farm was passed on to their adopted daughter Anne and her husband Mick Conyngham, the author’s parents.

The story of Mia and James, Anne and Mick, and their extended families, provides the warp and weft of time and memory at the heart of Hazara. Yes, there are the drinks on the veranda and the tennis parties, but behind such surface distractions Conyngham details the accidents, happy and tragic, that make up the real work of living: childhood deaths, abandoned marriages, adoptions, fractured families. Hopes, dreams, lives abruptly ended by two world wars. The relentless harvest of time.


Steve Biko’s 70th Birthday PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 18 December 2016 14:56

By Rasvanth Chunylall

Today marks what would have been the 70th birthday of Steve Biko, an anti-Apartheid activist, Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) founder and author. Biko died following a brutal interrogation session under police custody. He continues to inspire a number of people and organisations like the Economic Freedom Fighters who have been influenced by his BCM writings. His most notable books include I Write What I Like, Black consciousness in South Africa, The Testimony of Steve Biko and Escribo Lo Que Me Da LA Gana.

Pictured: Google's Steve Biko doodle

In honour of Biko Google has created a Google Doodle on their site’s homepage (pictured) to mark his birthday. #SteveBiko is currently trending on Twitter in the country and members of the public have paid tribute on the platform:


Don't forget #SteveBiko. How they stripped him naked, beat him senseless, threw him, half alive, in the back of a van & drove till he died.

— perfect hlongwane (@perfecthow) December 18, 2016


I don't think one can truly understand the horror of apartheid without reading all the literature on the last days of #SteveBiko life.

— Lindi Tout (@linditout) December 18, 2016


Great to see that #SteveBiko is on Google Doodle today in honour and commemoration of his 70th birthday today

— SteveBikoFoundation (@BikoFoundation) December 18, 2016


Biko is linked to several prominent anti-Apartheid activists and authors linked to the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province like Jay Naidoo, Fatima Meer and Prithiraj R. Dullay.

From a KZN literary tourism point of view, the province marks several areas pertinent to Biko’s life. He graduated from St. Francis College (now the Mariannhill Secondary Independent School), a Roman Catholic institution in Mariannhill, KwaZulu-Natal. In 1966, he attended the Durban Medical School at the University of Natal (now the University of KwaZulu-Natal) Non-European section (UNNE) and it was here that he took part in the University student movement. In the early 1970s, he was a central figure in The Durban Moment, which formed an important part of the on-going struggle against Apartheid. Biko’s legacy in KZN includes the renaming of Mansfield road to his name in his honour. There is also a campus at the Durban University of Technology that bears his name.


We encourage you to take the opportunity to visit these areas in order to learn about the places that shaped Biko’s life.


KZN Literary Tourism features on #BetweenTheSheetsWithPamela Christmas Special 2016 PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 17 December 2016 23:08
Our research assistant, Rasvanth Chunylall, was a featured guest on Pamela Power's vlog, #BetweenTheSheetsWithPamela. On this Christmas Special episode he discussed the project and recommended Zinaid Meeran's "Saracen at the Gates" as an ideal Christmas present. His section can be viewed at 09:08:



Transcript of Rasvanth's section:

Hi, everyone. My name is Rasvanth Chunylall and I’m a research assistant at the KZN Literary Tourism project which is based here in the beautiful KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province. A little about the project. We are a multi-faceted project which has conducted research on literary tourism, done reviews, interviewed authors, covered literary event and we’ve built up an online archive of authors linked to the KZN province. If you would like to learn more about the province, you can visit us on our website at You can also follow us on social media. Our Twitter handle is @literarytourism, our facebook is @literarytourism and if you’re more into Instagram you can follow us @kznliterarytourism.

So with Christmas just around the corner you’re probably wonder: What do I get? What do I get? What do I get? We have the perfect gift for a bookworm. It’s called “Saracen at the Gates” by Zinaid Meeran. It explores the life of a young woman from a prominent, rich, Muslim family living in Johannesburg. Now Zakira’s family expects her to be a humble and devoted daughter. But, Zakira would rather club, smoke, drink, party, and, essentially, live her life according to her own expectations. This life changes when she meets and falls in love with Sophie, a rebel activist. The book has been praised for its exploration of identity and its political incorrectness. Personally, I enjoyed the fact that Meeran is a master of satire. He really shows you the colourfulness of Joburg and all of its people.

On a final note I would like to say thank you to Pamela Power for having me on her vlog. So from us at KZN Literary Tourism have a wonderful festive season and lots of love.


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