SA Literary Awards breaks new ground for writers

Morakabe Raks Seakhoa
Morakabe Raks Seakhoa

Carla Lever speaks to The South African Literary Awards project director Morakabe Raks Seakhoa.

The South African Literary Awards (SALA) have become the most prestigious literary awards in SA. What’s your aim each year in selecting nominees?

We aim to reach out to as many outstanding entries as possible, as well as break new ground and push barriers in subject matter.

How do you ensure that you find work that's representative of our country's diversity?

We try as much as possible to get our message across: through traditional media (newspapers, radio, television etc), social media platforms, our own websites, the publishing houses-organisations, writers’ organisations and word-of-mouth.

Are there any past SALA winners whose works stand out for you as pushing the idea of what diverse SA literature can look like?

We’ve awarded our three national poets Laureate Mazisi Kunene, Keorapetse Kgositsile and Wally Mongane Serote Lifetime Achievement Literary Awardees as well as the late Nobel Literary Laureate Nadine Gordimer, Noni Jabavu, Eskia Mphahlele, Antjie Krog, Dan Sleigh Sindiwe Magona, Patrick Magaisa, Zukiswa Wanner, Credo Mutwa, Aletta Motimele, Etienne van Heerden as well as many others.

Many people think literary awards only cover novels, but you have 12 exciting categories, even including forms of journalism! How do you decide what should be included (and excluded) as a literary work?

We get requests from different quarters for inclusion of categories: from members of the public, selection panel, adjudication panel, partners and so on. The SALA board then subjects the proposals to thorough scrutiny.

You seem to frame your role as both rewarding existing and promoting future literary excellence. Can you tell us a little about the legacy programme you ask all award winners to be involved with? The legacy programmes of SALA are the Africa Century International African Writers Conference, the Miriam Tlali Reading and Book Club and the Keorapetse Kgositsile Memorial Annual Lecture.

We're particularly impressed by your book club and library projects. What do these involve and why are they so important to SALA?

The Library and Book Club programme aims to create space for writers, readers and the general public to access and discuss books and literary issues.

What steps would you ideally like book publishers and readers to take to ensure that South African literature is loved and celebrated in all its diversity?

Publish more books in indigenous languages, and help create or improve on platforms for everyone to interact with books.

How can people nominate or submit work for entry to the awards?

For 2019, the call for submissions is still open until the end of April 2019 and the information can be accessed at

www.sala.org.za or they can write to info@writeassociates.co.za.

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