Open Book Festival: The telling of our stories

Words rise from the page and turn to fire when poets such as Faith Kinniar perform hard-hitting verses in a celebration of our stories. Together with Afeefa Omar, who was the last person standing at the Western Cape Current State of Poetry Slam, they’ll be setting the stage alight with the sparks from their spitting rhymes at Open Book Festival from 5 to 9 September.

While our local artists flow hot enough to scorch the mic, Swedish-Iranian wordsmith Athena Farrokhzad mixes northern ice with Middle-Eastern heat as MC Allison-Claire Hoskins keeps the fire extinguisher handy.

Their Rioters in Session jam is just one of over 140 events at Open Book where poets, novelists, investigative journalists, professors, performers and comic book creators rub shoulders and talk about things that matter.

You can lift your spirit and drop your jaw at a poetry slam on Saturday night and on Sunday morning hear directly from the journalist Chris Steyn who helped ex-cop Mark Minnie – whose apparent suicide earlier this month has raised suspicions – write the book The Lost Boys of Bird Island, which exposes how apartheid ministers such as Magnus Malan raped young coloured boys on Bird Island outside Port Elizabeth, after flying them there in airforce choppers.

If you want to know what’s really going on with the land issue, some of the best experts will talk about it at midday on Wednesday 5 September. There will be activists from Unite Behind discussing the scandalous state of public transport with representatives from the City on Thursday morning.

There will also be laughter as the cream of South Africa’s writing talent teams up with top international authors to cringe at their failures.

Then there’s events in which authors provide insight into the themes and thinking within their novels. Such as multiple international award-winning novelist Aminatta Forna (book review here) chatting with incendiary new American author Adam Smyer (book review here) and Rehana Rossouw about the effect of Post Traumatic Stress on their characters.

In short, Open Book is five days dedicated to the wisdom, insight and importance of books, and the joy, frustration, and inspiration that comes with writing them. It is about the things that give our life meaning and enable us to recreate the world, imagine others and re-imagine ourselves. It is about stories. Such as our daily story of having to hang outside the train carriage to get to work because it is over-full, or being fired for not being able to get to work because the taxis are striking again. The kind of stories that will be discussed in events such as Mobility in the City and Urbanity, Blackness & Mobilities. Or a story about a man who was kidnapped in Bosnia, which is part of our human story, drawn with hundreds of pictures in a book by Canadian cartoonist Guy Delisle.

There are also free events for children and comic book workshops for teenagers and adults. And if you ever wondered how to make a pop-up book, fold paper into origami, or create a zine, Open Book has got those too.

It’s all happening in venues in the east city precinct, just a minute’s walk from the Cape Town train station. The whole programme, and information on all the writers, is online at

Most events that are not free cost only R45 for a ticket, but if ticket prices are a challenge, there are a limited number of complimentary tickets availables.

To request a complimentary ticket to an event, send an email to Be sure to include the name of the event you want to see (event names, dates and times are on the programme at and mention The Critter in the email.

Should you receive a comp, it needs to be picked up at the info/media table in the Fugard Theatre foyer 20 minutes before the event, except if the event takes place in The Book Lounge, in which case the comp can be collected at The Book Lounge counter.

Comps not collected 20 minutes prior to the event will be put back into the system for sale.

Hope to see you there.


*This post is sponsored by Open Book Festival

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