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Nuwe skryfwerk | New writing > Artikels | Features > English

Big Issue's columnist makes waves


Katja Hamilton - 2007-09-19

The Big Issue's columnist and writer Lauren Beukes was chosen as a Western Cape finalist in the search for Vodacom's Journalist of the Year. The announcement was made at a function at the Cullinan Hotel, Cape Town earlier this month. This sees Lauren in the running for the national title, which will be announced at an award ceremony on Sunday, November 4, 2007 at Vodaworld, Midrand, Gauteng.

Other Western Cape entrants selected to go through to the finals included Zapiro from the Sunday Times, Bruce Cameron from Personal Finance, Robyn Smith from e.tv and Hazel Friedman for Special Assignment.

The Vodacom award is in its seventh year, and highlights the work of hundreds of journalists and photographers serving the print and electronic media. The winner stands to win R100 000.

"We are incredibly proud of Lauren and are so pleased about her award. Whether she is covering the stories of victims in rape courts, interviewing homeless sex workers or tackling the head honchos of the tobacco industry, she has always done so with integrity, passion and tenacity, and continues to challenge readers to rethink the way they see the world," says Trudy Vlok, Managing Director of The Big Issue.

Editor Donald Paul says he was very pleased that Lauren stayed with The Big Issue when he came on board. "Lauren's got a quirky and intelligent way of talking about the world. It's the sort of voice I want to see more of in the magazine. And she's great to work with. We're counting on her to clean up at the finals."

Reflecting on her nomination Lauren says:"It's a huge honour and came as a huge surprise, particularly considering the level of talent in the Western Cape. I'm very grateful to The Big Issue for the support and page space. It's a privilege to be associated with the magazine."

"Being a columnist for The Big Issue is a great opportunity to squeeze society's festering pimples, whether it's the blight of pseudo-Tuscan architecture or potato-head ministers. A good columnist should be able to twist a current event around like a koeksister, to give you a fresh and funny perspective, to comment, dissect and cut through the crap with laser wit," says Beukes.

Lauren's submissions include three columns written in 2006: "Life Lessons from Zuma", "Think of the Children" and "Rise of the Princess Slut".

"They're scathingly satirical, arch, funny but also weighty, insightful and relevant," says Beukes. "'Life Lesons from Zuma' proposed a motivational book for success in the mode of Machiavelli or Sun Tzu, based on Zuma's strategies for dealing with his rape case and the corruption trial. "Think of the Children' looks at who is really responsible for kids strapping on cardboad suicide bombs, videoing beatings or torturing a mouse to death and sharing that via cellphone. 'Rise of the Princess Slut' is a piece on risque underwear for under-10s and reflects on how we should consider ourselves lucky that little girls are wearing underwear at all with role models like Paris Hilton around," explains Beukes.

Lauren is a journalist and writer of ten years. "Getting into journalism allowed me to write for a living and meet interesting people and do interesting things," says Beukes. "For the sake of a story I've jumped out of planes and into shark-infested waters, learned how to make mqombothi and how to pole dance and interviewed nuclear physicists, homeless sex workers, teen vampires, electricity thieves, AIDS activists and township vigilantes, among other interesting folk."

Lauren has been a regular contributor to The Big Issue since 1999 and says she writes for the magazine because it gives her the space to tackle more serious subjects such as politics, pop culture and current affairs in a way that is satirical and subversive.

"The Big Issue's finely tuned social conscience and fearlessness in tackling big issues makes it one of the most exciting publications to write for in this country," she says.

Lauren has written for Colors, Dazed & Confused, The World Health Organisation and The Hollywood Reporter, as well as most of the major glossies locally. She's published several short stories (including one in Oshun's upcoming anthology, Open) and a rollicking non-fiction, Maverick: Extraordinary Women From South Africa's Past, which was nominated for the 2005 Alan Paton prize. Her first novel, Branded, is being shopped around internationally.

She has her MA in Creative Writing from UCT and makes a living writing for the hit cartoon show URBO: The Adventures of Pax Afrika on SABC3, a weekly satirical sci-fi series that tackles relevant contemporary issues affecting kids. She's also working to develop a new animated sitcom show for adults.

But The Big Issue still allows her the most direct avenue to try to remix the state of the world a little. "Writing for The Big Issue is about giving back to the community. I'm immensely proud of the work the organisation does; it directly empowers people and improves their lives and their ability to make a living in a country still reeling from our messy past."