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Graham Lang PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 29 July 2015 12:16

Graham Lang (1955 - ) was born in Zimbabwe. His family moved to South Africa in 1965 where he studied at Maritzburg College. He completed his tertiary education at the University of Natal where he studied art and later completed a Master of Fine Art Degree at Rhodes University in 1987. He taught sculpture at the Carinus Art Centre, the Technikon OFS and the University of Durban-Westville before emigrating to Australia in 1990. He lectured for twenty years at the University of Newcastle, NSW, where he completed a PhD in 2007.

Lang’s career as a visual artist spans three decades during which he has exhibited extensively in South Africa and Australia. His art predominantly involves traditional forms of painting and sculpture but has also included mixed-media drawing, photographic narrative and site-specific installation. Essentially biographical in its attempt to evoke both the external and internal realities of place and being, much of his early practice reflects the political and existential anguish prevalent in apartheid South Africa, particularly during the 1980s. Similarly, the broad-ranging work produced during his time in Australia centres most prominently on themes relating to migration, cultural identity and the umbilical connections linking Australia and Africa. Since his departure from academe in 2011, he has tended toward a more intuitive approach, exploring a diverse array of subjects, many derived from his literary interests.

Lang is the author of three novels – Clouds like Black Dogs (2003), Place of Birth (2006) and Lettah’s Gift (2011). On his interest in writing he told the project:

At some point in my education I felt the need to write instead of just read. I also felt that writing offered a powerful creative parallel to my endeavours as a visual artist.

His novels explore shifting notions of postcolonial southern African identity, dispossession and dislocation, triggered especially by the deeply conflicted issue of land. Each work reflects a different aspect of the maelstrom of change in Zimbabwe and South Africa during recent decades – love across the crumbling racial divide during the final bloody decade of apartheid (Clouds like Black Dogs); a family’s tragic confrontation with ‘war veterans’ on a farm in Zimbabwe (Place of Birth); learning the true lesson of African suffering (Lettah’s Gift). Yet each novel is also united by the common theme of an émigré’s return to a completely transformed ‘home’. Through the eyes of these flawed prodigals we gain insight into the limbo experienced by many among southern Africa’s growing diaspora.

Each of his books has received positive critical interest. The Pretoria News described Clouds like Black Dogs as a “vivid and often violent story of loss and redemption”. Place of Birth was commended for having the potential to “make one appreciate that they live in a country filled with hope” and show that people can achieve a lot if they “stop seeing the colour of [their] skins as a threat”. The book went on to be longlisted for the Sunday Times Prize in 2007. Lang’s latest novel, Lettah’s Gift, was praised by Ian Lipke for being a “stark, moving tale”. Cheryl Critchley agreed, giving the novel a “moving” verdict in her review.

Lang now lives in Tasmania where he writes and paints full-time. He has kept strong ties with southern Africa, frequently returning on creative projects.


Photograph: Caroline Flood

Selected Work

Excerpt from Place of Birth (2006:57-58):

To add something more about Rex and the psyche of the Rhodesian male: Rex had also tried to teach me to hunt, but I lost interest after my first kill, an event that was meant to ‘blood’ me. Being blooded was a farm tradition started by my great-grandfather where all the Bourke boys would be anointed by the blood of their first kill. I was nine years old when my turn came. I’d been looking forward to it – at the time I wanted nothing more than to be admitted into the exclusive world of real men like Rex. Gus had already shot his first buck, a young kudu bull, and he wore the blood on his face for the whole day.

The debacle of the experience is forever etched in my memory. I shot an impala while it was drinking at a water hole, about eighty metres away. I fired in a kneeling position, resting my elbow on my knee, as Rex had taught me. But the rifle was too heavy and the sights wavered. I squeezed the trigger nevertheless because I didn’t want to disappoint Rex and Gus who were crouching behind me, watching. We heard the thwack of the bullet as it struck. The impala reared up, staggered a bit and fell. The sound of it bleating in agony made me lose my composure. I threw the rifle to the ground and ran over to where the gut-shot animal lay, horrified by what I had done. Stupidly, I tried to comfort it. Wide-eyed, bawling, it thrashed around on the ground trying to get to its feet. I started blubbering. Behind me, I heard Gus laughing contemptuously and say, ‘Ah, Vaughn! You big bloody sissy!’ Then Rex came up and pulled me away from the impala. He gave me the rifle and told me to finish the job. Never leave an animal to suffer, he said. Put it out of its misery. He pointed to where I should shoot - at the heart. By this time the buck was just lying there looking at us, seemingly resigned to its fate. I finished the job, but ran away when Rex tried to smear blood on my face.


2003. Clouds like Black Dogs. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball Publishers

2006. Place of Birth. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball Publishers

2011. Lettah’s Gift. St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press

On the Twitter Trail: June 2015 Roundup PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 09 July 2015 18:12

By Rasvanth Chunylall

Many writers have embraced twitter as a medium to engage with fans, develop their brand identities, share news stories and express their thoughts and opinions. This month most of the writers remained shocked by the Fifa scandal and preoccupied with their writing. Here are some of the highlights:

People outside of #Africa watch #TheLionKing and think all #lions are friendly like #Mufasa. End result tourist gets killed. #LionAttack

— Trevor Kleinhans (@secretsmakeusic) June 01, 2015

First reviews coming out for Dub Steps: like watching your toddler wobble around the corner of the swimming pool...

Andrew Miller(@miller_aka) June 01, 2015

There is a crude phrase that describes Blatter's resignation perfectly: "Money talks. Bullshit walks". There walks Blatter :-)

— Eric Miyeni (@EricMiyeni) June 02, 2015

Reading Judy Blume, something I haven't done for about 35 years. #amreading

Charlotte Otter (@charlwrites) June 11, 2015

#2015EuropeanGames being held in a repressive country like #Azerbaijan, does not make any sense. Another corrupt deal following #FIFA

— Trevor Kleinhans (@secretsmakeusic) June 16, 2015

Had an amazing morning speaking to over 700 girls at Danville Girls High School. #inspiration #girlpower #reading

Melissa Delport (@melissadelport) June 19, 2015

Be Kind. Anything else takes too much time, and life is short.

— Shafinaaz Hassim (@shafinaaz) June 19, 2015

The terrible tragedy of politics globally is grubby determination of my generation to hold on power at all costs to the future generations.

— Jay Naidoo(@Jay_Naidoo) June 22, 2015

Our world and innocent victims suffer when only the powerful are heard and we remain silent in the face of human rights abuses. #AlBashir

— Jay Naidoo(@Jay_Naidoo) June 23, 2015

The government is admitting guilt in the #Marikanareport - Accountability at last. Cyril Ramaphosa is guilty of the murder of 30 miners.

— Janet van Eeden (@janetvaneeden) June 25, 2015

Polokwane today looks like London, slate grey, feels like Cape Town, cold, windy. The wind more than whispers to one, 'Stay indoors!'

— Shafinaaz Hassim (@shafinaaz) June 27, 2015

Was great watching Grigor Dimitrov play this evening. Tennis was pretty good too ;)

— Rosamund Kendal (@Rosamundkendal) June 29, 2015

So the season finale of #Arrow was awesome. What shall I do with my time now? Oh yes... I'm an author #noexcuses #amwriting

Melissa Delport (@melissadelport) June 29, 2015

Fantastic! Congratulations to the ever eloquent writer Jacob Dlamini for his win - The 2015 Sunday Times Alan Paton Literary Award.

— Zainub Priya Dala (@zpdala) June 29, 2015


Gcina Mhlophe Announced as Guest of Jozi Book Fair 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 03 July 2015 10:25

We are excited to announce that Gcina Mhlophe has been selected as the guest of this year's Jozi Book Fair.  The theme of the fair is Children's Literature and Childhood, making the Durban-based story teller a valued addition to the event.  Follow the links to read more about Mholphe's role at the fair and about the the fair that takes place at WITS University from 11-13 September.

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