Eben Venter

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 Eastern 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, 24 Sep 2013 18:28:36 SAST