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Visit the active LitNet platform at www.litnet.co.za

Feeste | Festivals > Artikels | Features > Boekbedonnerd 2011: Bookends

Boekbedonnerd 2011: Bookends

Bibi Slippers - 2011-11-04

The first session I attended at the Boekbedonnerd festival demonstrated, very poignantly, why events like these are so important. The speaker was Mongane Wally Serote, and the talk was devoted for a large part to the debate around the inclusion of the names of SADF Soldiers on the monument at Freedom Park. Serote was an inspiring speaker: intelligent, sensitive and warm, and highly aware of the complexities of the theme he was addressing.

At the end of his talk, when the floor was opened for questions, a man got up and walked to the front of the room. He asked to shake Serote’s hand, and paid him respect. Then he asked Serote whether he had joined the ANC of his own volition or whether he had been forced to join. Serote replied that it was of his own free will. The man replied that when he was 16 he was forced to join the SADF. He had no choice in the matter and was sent off to fight a war for a cause he did not believe in. He asked Serote why the names of others like him, who lost their lives against their will, could not be included on the monument. Serote did not answer straight away. He remained silent and seemed pained. At last he did say that he could not provide a satisfactory answer, but that this is exactly what he is working for: to be able to answer to men like the one he had just met, to continue the conversation, to create a space where we can all be included, whatever our story may be.

It was not a meeting that changed the world in an instant, and it had no definite outcome. But it was important because it highlighted the fact that there is space to talk to one another, to share experiences, to tell stories. Boekbedonnerd made that space. The festival brought people together who might otherwise never have crossed paths. It stimulated conversation, it had people talking and listening.

In the words of the last act on the programme, Dana Snyman: “We don’t choose our stories, but we get to know ourselves through the stories we tell.” May there always be a Boekbedonnerd, so that we may sit together and share the stories that each of us brings from far away.

Boekbedonnerd is an excellent literary festival. If you haven’t been, make sure you pack the padkos and set off for the Karoo next year.

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