African authors share short stories at UP

Posted on August 25, 2016

Why do we write and tell stories? Every writer and storyteller has their own reasons for the creation of their literary works. Sowetan-born African writer and journalist Niq Mhlongo, alongside African short story writer, novelist and professor in the Department of English at the University of Pretoria (UP) David Medalie, recently shared their literary works during an event held in the Library Auditorium on the University's Hatfield Campus. The 'Meet your African authors' event was part of an initiative by the Department of English, in collaboration with the Department of Library Services.

When asked why they write stories and what they intend to accomplish by writing them, Mr Mhlongo and Prof Medalie had different responses. Mr Mhlongo says, 'When I write stories, I write for myself first, because I have personal things to deal with.' He says that when he is writing it feels like he is a doctor diagnosing himself, and after writing he feels like he has healed himself. This echoes the sentiment of African American author Alice Walker when she said, 'Storytelling is how we survive. When there is no food it feeds the spirit, the imagination.' Mr Mhlongo adds, 'If my writing heals my readers as well, then I am glad I shared it.'  

Prof Medalie says that people write for different reasons and that for him creative writing is a kind of curiosity. 'Writing is like going on a journey, not knowing the destination,' he says. 'Good writing is not telling people what to do or think, but rather it reflects and transforms experiences,' he adds. This reflects what African author Ben Okri meant when he said, 'Without stories life would lose its moorings or lose its orientations.'

Prof Medalie agrees with Mr Mhlongo, saying that writing is personal and adding that in the end it is about language and how language works to do what it is supposed to do. 'I love the impulse in us to tell stories, it is a privilege both to tell and to receive stories,' he concludes.

The event was a reminder that we are shaped and influenced both by the stories we tell and by the stories we are told.


- Author Mikateko Mbambo

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