This Is How the Literary Crowd Throws A Party


 The Cool Web

Children are dumb to say how hot the day is, 
How hot the scent is of the summer rose, 
How dreadful the black wastes of evening sky, 
How dreadful the tall soldiers drumming by.

But we have speech ,to chill the angry day, 
And speech, to dull the rose's cruel scent.
We spell away the overhanging night, 
We spell away the soldiers and the fright.

There's a cool web of language winds us in, 
Retreat from too much joy or too much fear:
We grow sea-green at last and coldly die
In brininess and volubility.

But if we let our tongues lose self-possession,
Throwing off language and it's watery clasp
Before our death, instead of when death comes,
Facing the wide glare of the children's day, 
Facing the rose, the dark sky and the drums,
We shall go mad and die that way.

Robert Graves

This is the poem which began the speech by Eloise Wessels, CEO at the NB Group of publishers, at the Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature awards.

The poem is about instilling in children a respect and appreciation for language, so that they can be comfortable with using it to navigate their way through life. Eloise said something about "negotiating vicissitudes...". Vicissitudes. I still can't get my tongue around that word, but it rolled so gracefully off of hers. It's a small thing, but hearing people use words- "big", impressive ones- to articulate their thoughts so effectively makes me want to aspire to do the same.

source: Club Litchi
 The MC for the night was Katlego Maboe, initially of Flip-A-Coin fame, but now also one of the faces of SABC 3's breakfast show, Expresso.
He directed the proceedings using a blend of English, Setswana, Afrikaans and Zulu, taking time to add anecdotes from his childhood detailing how he came to acquire these languages- it was all true to the spirit of the evening. 
After a celebration of South Africa's rich linguistic heritage (the awardees' efforts made me want to go out and look for literature in my own language, Xitsonga), it was time to show our appreciation for some local entertainment.

The Shakers and Movers are a pantsula duo who had the crowd's attention with their athleticism and elaborate storytelling. Props were even involved! Pantsula dance is definitely one of the most entertaining dance forms in South Africa.

Next was Tumi (from Tumi and The Volume), who performed with Yesterday'sPupil (also known as Peach van Pletzen).

source: Katesque
source: IOL

These two literally shut the place down: it began to rain just as Peach was giving us his rendition of Beat It. It's sad that we weren't able to stay longer, but Sanlam and NB Publishers sure do know how to throw a good party!

Thank you so much to Seventeen for the hook-up! Their Urban Scouts programme really does work to rewards readers' loyalty.

More on the music and the books to follow.

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