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Sanya Osha and Laurence Juma Discuss their Novels with Readers

Saturday 29 September 2012

At A Langaa –Prince Claus Reading Workshop,
Cape Town, South Africa, 07 September 2012

Date: 07 September 2012
Venue: South Africa, University of Cape Town
Time: 9:00-18:00
Authors: Sanya Osha and Laurence Juma
Host/Facilitators: Francis Nyamnjoh and Katleho Shoro
Attendance: 20 Cape Town based (mostly UCT Students) participants
Sponsorship: Langaa and Prince Claus Fund


On Friday the 7th of September 2012, Sanya Osha (Nigerian writer and academic based at Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa) and Laurence Juma (Kenyan writer and Associate Professor of Law, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa) joined 20 Cape Town-based (mostly University of Cape Town student) participants to discuss their respective novels – Dust, Spittle & Wind and Kileleshwa: A tale of love, betrayal and corruption in Kenya, both published by Langaa Research and Publishing Common Initiative Group in Cameroon.

The conversations within this literary workshop covered a range of themes from within the books themselves but also took many other directions. Many of these conversational turns were grounded in contemporary politics, academic discourses around matters such as “voice” as well as the imagining of Africa, African writers and the African audience. Osha and Juma’s respective novels certainly proved to be fascinating tools in which to engage a wide range of contemporary topics.

Sanya Osha led the first session with his discussion around the life of his novel Dust, Spittle and Wind. Osha commenced his discussion by illuminating how his novel was actually published 20 years after it was written (after he found an appropriate home at Langaa) thus pointing to the major role that institutions (and their ethos) play in writing and publishing. Osha went on to speak about the socio-political circumstances in Nigeria under which his novel was written, his personal growth and experiences as a writer of different genres and his attempts to constantly expand and break literary boundaries. It was his focus on the experiences of writing, self-discovery and writers finding their own niches within the literary world that made Osha’s session especially special for the writers that participated in the workshop. It was within Osha’s session that questions of the audience of African literature, the freedom and responsibilities of African artists and the form that populist literature takes were raised. Furthermore, it was pointed out that Osha’s novel is one that transcends the West/Africa dichotomy thus existing as a writing of Africa becoming and African writers defining themselves and their worlds using all the tools – African and beyond – which they have at their disposal. This session was filled with an abundance of philosophy and it encouraged much self-reflection on the works produced within the continent and by the participants.

Laurence Juma began his session with a much appreciated contextualisation of Kileleshwa. Hearing that his novel was intended to be an additional teaching tool for his marital law students – a tool that allowed them insight into the complicated aspects of human life and the hardships faced by women during divorces in particular that the law does not fulfil or address - allowed a different reading of his novel. By attempting to illuminate the hardships facing women in divorce situations as a man, Juma sparked a conversation around the writers’ ability and, at times, their responsibility to empathise and ask their audiences to do the same. In addition to ideas around empathy, questions of “voice”, in particular, who has the right and capability to “voice” that which is considered muted or neglected, were central. Kileleshwa also invoked discussed around love and forgiveness, gender and gender relations as well as writers’ challenges in translating and negotiating meaning when grappling with differing social and linguistic contexts. These themes continued in conversations amongst participants hours even after the official workshop had ended.

The Sanya Osha and Laurence Juma workshop certainly highlighted how delightful, mutually-beneficial and rare discussions with authors around their works tend to be. The intimacy of the workshop allowed for participants of the workshop to dwell on the aspects of the authors’ works that they found pressing to their own circumstances and for the authors to get feedback on their works. The interaction seemed vital in making writing and reading a somewhat communal activity - which can never be a bad thing for the literary community in general.

The workshop was part of a Langaa initiative funded by the Dutch-based Prince Claus Fund.