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    On Risk, Rejection and Confronting our Demons

    2nd Annual Polokwane Literary Fair - Writers In Conversation
    The Keynote Speaker was Poet Laureate Professor Keorapetse Kgositsile whose paper was entitled “Towards some demystification”.The two respondents were Professor Pitika Ntuli and Gail Smith

    I wish to begin by thanking the organisers both for organising a festival dedicated to literature and for inviting me and bestowing upon me the honour of sharing a platform with the poet laureate. It is indeed a privilege to be tasked with the role as respondent this evening.
    Prof Kgotsitsile has always been someone who has held a lantern and walked ahead for those of us who love writing and literature.
    As our national preoccupation on 18th July is invariably fixed on honouring, remembering, and valorising former President Nelson Mandela, I will begin with a poem, penned by Prof Kgotsitsile, entitled, “Mandela’s Sermon”:

    Blessed are the dehumanised
    For they have nothing to lose
    But their patience
    False gods killed the poet in me. Now
    I dig graves
    With artistic precision

    I think this poem aptly describes the work of writers, poets and literary activists, and echoes what Salman Rashdie said, when he wrote: “The nation requires anthems, flags. The poet offers discord. Rags.”
    Writers, as you so eloquently argue, Professor, work with both life and language. And as your paper has pointed out, writers working today in South Africa, face a particular range of challenges: linguistic imbalances and widespread illiteracy being among some of the difficulties that bedevil writers that you outline.
    I would agree with you on those, and I would further agree with you that “language is the depository of people’s cultures” and that we, as a nation, are taking immense risks with both our languages and our culture.

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