Meeting your African writer, Zoë Wicomb

Posted on September 13, 2016

The Department of English, in collaboration with the Department of Library Services, recently hosted an event titled: 'Meet your African writer: Zoë Wicomb'. Prof Wicomb was also awarded an honorary doctorate by the Faculty of Humanities, in recognition of her literary achievements and the quality of her writing, at the recent Spring Graduation Ceremonies.

Prof Molly Brown, Head of the Department of English, introduced Prof Wicomb and thanked her on behalf of the University for honouring the invitation. 'We are privileged to have Prof Wicomb with us. She is probably one of the best South African writers of our time,' said Prof Brown. She described Prof Wicomb's work as evoking 'the particular moment, the individual, but in doing that I think she illustrates general truths about complexities and sometimes painful histories.'  

Before reading from her novel, October, Prof Wicomb said that one the ironies of her life is that she started writing because she cannot speak, and yet once she started writing she was required to speak. October, like Prof Wicomb's other works, has various influences. When she stared writing October she wanted to write about an old woman and the phenomenon of childlessness among women. Women who chose this path are often told that they will regret it when they are older. 'I wanted to make sure this woman did not regret being childless because I think this is the charge that is so often convicted upon women,' she said.

Prof Wicomb is a cheerful storyteller and the audience laughed continually while she read. The chapters she read from gave the audience a feel of what the novel is about. It felt like a theatre performance. The audience were engaged and unaware of their own expressions – giggling and nodding.

Prof Wicomb expressed her gratitude for her honorary doctorate, saying: 'It is a great honour – my first South African honorary doctorate. It is so marvellous to come to a place that has changed.'


- Author Mikateko Mbambo

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