The Rhodes MACW is fortunate to have had writing residencies sponsored by the Andrew Mellon Foundation since 2012. Writers fulfilling these residencies come to work on their own writing, and also contribute to teaching in the MACW programme. In 2015 our application to have this sponsorship extended until 2018 and to include international visitors was successful. In addition, we were granted Mellon sponsorship for an international colloquium in 2017, and four generous student scholarships covering both fees and living costs.
Last Modified: Sun, 03 Sep 2017 19:56:30 SAST
Kris Saknussemm was a 2016 Mellon Writer-in-Residence. Saknussemm is a cult novelist and multimedia artist. Born and educated in America, he has lived most of his life abroad, primarily in Australia and the Pacific Islands. He has published ten books that have been translated into 22 languages. His science fiction themed novel Zanesville, published by Villard Books, an imprint of Random House in 2005, was hailed by critics as a revolutionary work of surreal black comedy. Another key novel, an erotic supernatural thriller Private Midnight is set in a noir crime world of jazz, junkies and shadows from out of time.
An avowed genre specialist from the USA, Saknussemm provided much needed input as the MACW increasingly moves towards a mixed or hybrid genre orientation for the core vision of the course. As an examiner for the MACW, Saknussemm produced two excellent reports in 2015. We therefore tasked him with conducting an analysis of the entirety of last year’s examination reports. The purpose of this analysis was to evaluate the effectiveness and fairness of our examination procedure, to assess the success of our integration of local and international examiners, and to find ways of improving the quality of local examiner reports. Saknussemm also hosted seminars and workshops with MACW students and participated in Live Writing at the National Arts Festival and in the colloquium, between producing new poems and rethinking a large novel project.
Last Modified: Tue, 05 Sep 2017 09:53:34 SAST
Billy Kahora is the managing editor of Kwani Trust and an associate editor with the Chimurenga Chronic. He is a past recipient of the Chevening Scholarship and resident of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program. He has written a nonfiction novella, The True Story of David Munyakei, and his work has appeared in Chimurenga, McSweeney’s, Granta online, Internazionale, and Vanity Fair. His stories “Urban Zoning” and “The Gorilla’s Apprentice” were shortlisted for the Caine Prize in 2012 and 2014, respectively. He is working on a novel titled The Applications.
As a 2016 Mellon Writer-in-Residence he was able to dedicate two months to his novel-in-progress, titled The Applications and to research a new novella based at Rhodes University, the university he graduated from more than a decade ago. For the staff of the MACW it was an opportunity to draw on his extensive experience in teaching creative writing throughout East Africa. Kahora also hosted seminars and workshops with MACW students, presented a successful public reading at the National English Literary Museum and participated in the 2016 MACW colloquium on teaching creative writing.
Last Modified: Tue, 05 Sep 2017 09:53:06 SAST
Afrikaans poet Ronelda S. Kamfer was a 2016 Mellon Writer-in-Residence. Her first book, Noudat slapende honde, was published in 2009, and Grond/Santekraam followed in 2011. We were very fortunate to host the official launch of her third book of poetry, Hammie (2016), in conjunction with NELM at the Eastern Star Gallery on 21 June. Kamfer was born in Cape Town in 1981. She graduated from the University of the Western Cape and has worked as a nurse, a waitress and an administrative assistant at a marketing company. She was co-winner of the 2009 Eugene Marais prize, and was awarded the 2016 Jan Rabie en Marjorie Wallace-writers prize. Kamfer’s poetry is marked by searing emotional honesty and acute political insight.
Kamfer’s husband, Nathan Trantraal, himself a poet, columnist for Rapport (the leading Afrikaans Sunday newspaper), and a comics artist, accompanied Kamfer and contributed to her residency. Not only did Kamfer and Trantraal expose students in the MACW to political realities that complicate any easy solutions provided by identity politics, but they also exposed them to the challenges of authentic demotic writing in South Africa today.
Trantraal and Kamfer hosted seminars and workshops with MACW students and participated in Live Writing at the National Arts Festival.
Last Modified: Tue, 05 Sep 2017 09:53:53 SAST
CAMERON PIERCE who live in Astoria, Oregon, is a writer, editor, and publisher active in Bizarro and Alt Lit and their zones of intersection. BIZARRO and ALT LIT are two distinctive new literary movements that have taken shape in the past ten years in the United States. Although aesthetically different, both are movements without unified statements or beliefs, except for a pervasive distrust and disdain of authority in all forms (aesthetic and political).
Pierce is the author of eleven books, ranging from grotesque humour to Lovecraftian horror to fables about fishing and the outdoors. He edited the ground-breaking anthology The Best Bizarro Fiction of the Decade (2012), and most recently 40 Likely to Die Before 40: An Introduction to Alt Lit, edited with Michael J Seidlinger (2014). His Lazy Fascist Press imprint has published the work of authors such as Sam Pink, Scott McClanahan, Stephen Graham Jones, and Blake Butler. His latest book, Our Love Will Go the Way of the Salmon (2015), is a collection of fishing short stories set in the Pacific Northwest.
He was a Mellon Scholar in Residence at Rhodes University in February 2015.
Last Modified: Tue, 05 Sep 2017 09:49:35 SAST
Donald Parenzee is an architect and a poet who was active for many years in cultural initiatives opposed to apartheid. He lives in Cape Town, where he has practised and taught architecture, worked as an exhibitions curator at the District Six Museum, and collaborated on creative interventions in the city. He has run many creative workshops, some of which explore ways of integrating literature and visual art. Donald hosted talks explores the role that the poet can play in the daily existence of his/her community during his stay in Grahamstown as Mellon Writer in Residence, working with the Rhodes MA programme in Creative Writing.
Last Modified: Tue, 05 Sep 2017 09:52:39 SAST
Denis Hirson has published seven books, most of them concerned with the memory of South Africa under apartheid, and most of them crossing the boundary between poetry and prose.
His most recent books are the novel The Dancing and the Death on Lemon Street (2011) and Worlds in One Country, a short historical survey of South African writing (2011). He has also edited seven anthologies of South African writing in English and in French, most recently In the Heat of Shadows : South African Poetry 1996-2013 (Deep South, 2014).
AS Mellon Writer in Residence at Rhodes University, Denis hosted workshops and did readings from writing he produced during his residency.
Last Modified: Tue, 05 Sep 2017 09:57:34 SAST
Kobus Moolman – poet, dramatist, and head of creative writing at UKZN – was Mellon writer in residence from mid-April to mid-July 2013.
Moolman has published several collections of poetry including Time like Stone (2001), Separating the Seas (2007), Tilling the Hard Soil: poetry, prose and art by South African Writers with Disabilities (University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2010), Light and After (Deep South Press, 2010) and Left Over (Dye Hard Press). In 2003 Moolman was a finalist in the BBC African Performance radio drama competition — collected in Blind Voices (2007 Botsotso Publishers), in 2009 one of his poems was nominated for a US Pushcart Prize and in 2010 he received the South African Literary Award for Poetry for his collection, Separating the Seas. More recently he received the 2013 Sol Plaatje European Union poetry award.
His play, Full Circle [Dye Hard Press, 2007] won the Jury Prize at the 2004 PANSA Festival of New Writing. The play had a five-week run at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg and in 2006 was produced at the Oval House Theatre, London as part of the Southern African season. He won joint first prize in the 2007 PANSA Festival for his new play, Stone Angel. In 2012 he was commissioned by the Performing Arts Centre of the Free State to adapt Zakes Mda’s the novel, The Madonna of Excelsior, for the stage. The production has travelled to several theatres in the country, including the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and the State Theatre in Pretoria.
Last Modified: Tue, 05 Sep 2017 09:58:48 SAST
In 2013, bilingual writer Soga Mlandu was a Mellon Writer-in-residence in the Creative Writing Departtment at Rhodes University. Mlandu writes essays, short stories and poetry in both English and Xhosa. Last year published his eighth book titled Tell Me Again Stories.
Together with one of the MA teachers, Mxolisi Nyezwa, he convened two workshops for Xhosa writers active at Rhodes, including graduate students from the division of African Languages.
Last Modified: Tue, 05 Sep 2017 10:01:25 SAST
Rhodes University, September - November, 2012.
I arrived at Rhodes University in the spring of last year. In the gardens near the St Peter’s Building the clivias were out. And another native flower with a plume that resembles a rich woman’s talc brush. This local colour presented itself to me in many other ways other than in Easte
rn Cape flora and when I eventually left I felt enriched.
During my writer’s residency I did the following:
- at the Creative Writing School I presented the seminar How to write and use a journal to the creative writing students. The aim of the seminar was to inspire students to write continuously, i.e. make daily entries in their journal. And by doing so honing their writing skills. I also tried to open their minds and encouraged them to keep all their senses on alert as to the range of stuff that is possible to enter in a journal.
- at the English Department I presented a talk on the language of Koert, one of the characters in my novel Trencherman.
- I did a public reading of passages in English and Afrikaans from my work, under the auspices of Afrikaans and Neerlandistiek Studies.
- at NELM I presented a talk titled: From photos to fiction. Both this and the public reading was well attended.
- The Rhodes MA writing school organised for me to give a seminar at the University of the Western Cape, and I gave the same seminar on how to use a journal.
- at Longleat, the lovely residence where I stayed, I concentrated on, amongst others, a writing exercise where I rewrote the same passage of 2000 words over and over again in an effort to get to the essence of my subject.
- at the Rhodes Library I had the opportunity to do research on sexual repression, my current interest, from academic journals.
- on Facebook I posted an album: People and Places of Grahamstown that enthused and inspired me as a tribute to my residency: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.4359236132930.154613.1048569322&type=1
Since my residency I’ve been corresponding with Anton Vorster of Afrikaans and Neerlandistiek Studies about the possibility of becoming an ambassador for their school. The primary aim will be to canvass more pre- and post-graduate students to study at their school and to link them more widely with similar schools internationally.
Long after I left Grahamstown the easy-going, amiable way in which the races mixed lingers with me as the strongest impression of my stay. It would be naive to idealize the rainbow nation aspect of Grahamstown society: I became aware of the poverty and high rate of unemployment which certainly hampers easy-going mixing. Even so I came away with a sense of goodwill amongst the people I encountered on campus, in the cafés and bars, in the supermarkets and on the streets. And since then I’ve often shared these good impressions, in South Africa and here in Australia where I currently live.
Thank you to everybody who made the Mellon Writer’s Residency possible for me. It was a very valuable journey.
Last Modified: Tue, 05 Sep 2017 10:01:51 SAST
Upon my arrival at Rhodes I was warmly received and taken to my quarters (on campus, in a block that houses research fellows and post-graduate students: I had a bedroom, living room and a small kitchen) by a member of the Creative Writing team, Paul Mason, an old friend…and later on, the same day, treated to a great dinner in his company and that of another old friend and teacher, Paul Wessels. Beautiful start.
First...the fellowship itself allowed me to explore my own writing in the way in which writers should. That is, without having to worry about external factors like having to chicken-scratch in the muck for food & shelter (for the three month period in which i held it). Beautiful. It bought time & space for me. A major plus was not having to worry about delivering any text to some principal-type character standing there with a ruler and scissors trying to whack-n-snip me into line. So...perfect.
Then was the added pleasure and benefit of engaging with the creative writing students & their work. On a personal level (& as an unrepentant devourer of literature, who loves watching the word being born), I truly appreciated that. Especially the possibility of playing devil's advocate and mischievously (even childishly, but NEVER maliciously) poking fun at the students just in order to bring the said WORD bubbling raw to the surface, was great.
I found the course teachers quite giving, warm....prepared to engage, dissect, construct, de-construct, debate, argue...I don't know if it helped that I knew most of them before I went there but the constant, intense, intelligent and selfless to-and-fro bits of dialogue, experimentation, critical battles, etc were not just energising but humanising too, ultimately... there was much conviction and passion there, in the main. I am proud to have been a part of it.
Readings and book-launch – I gave a few well-attended and well-received readings and talks on and off campus. Some of these were organised with the help of the good people at NELM.
Public lecture – I delivered a public lecture at the Humanities Dept, hosted by the Dean of Humanities, and it was more than just worthwhile for me, and I hope, for all involved.
Media interest – I had an opportunity to come across what should be the first lesson in Journalism 101 ‘How not to conduct an interview’ – when I had a sorry encounter with a Rhodes journalism lecturer writing for Grocott’s. She spoke for 90 percent of the time, tried to get me to mouth her opinions and views on things, and then went off and wrote the most pathetic, error-filled article I have ever encountered. What rendered the episode even more comic was that the paper, in trying to rectify the matter, published their apology cut off mid-way by accident.
Young Anna-Karien, with much excitement, conducted a couple of interviews and wrote for the Rhodes online publication. A bit of naivety there but some promise too, sweet.
Workshops – I had a Tuesday slot in which to conduct workshops where people off-campus could come and share/exchange their work with those who were part of the creative writing class. As time progressed I noticed that there were barriers. This had little or nothing to do with the creative writing crew, though, but flowed out of the social dynamics/problematics entrenched in the university-community relationship. Some people came from the township and as far afield as East London. However the reticence was overwhelming. It was obvious how uneasy they were on the Rhodes campus. I am referring of course to people who were not part of the creative writing programme. It was sad to witness.
There is much economic disparity and racism in Grahamstown. Clusters and little laagers. Enclaves where people lock themselves in behind invisible doors of class. They greet one with fake smiles and never outright turn anyone away, and yet…each person knows their place without being told. The university feeds off the community (black) and yet the said community gets little out of it and subsists on…well…its own stark abjection –across the street from the university there is utter poverty, whole families begging in the street. It is heartbreaking.
I experienced this myself, being personally insulted and put upon when I was stopped on numerous occasions by the university’s security guards and asked my business…& to produce my Rhodes card…back to the dompas. How sad then, subsequently being told, by one of the creative writing teachers, around my farewell lunch-table, that it was because black people often come to the university to steal.
All in all though, my experience at Rhodes was quite enlightening, positive, soul-enriching, and I believe that I came out of it a better person. No regrets whatsoever and I can only hope the students and the community at large took from it as much as I did.
Last Modified: Tue, 05 Sep 2017 10:14:47 SAST