The Gothenburg Book Fair opened today, back in full force for the first time since 2019. Guest of Honor, as well as one of the fair’s four main themes, is South Africa.
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22 september 2022 Web version
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Culture Holds Us Together — South Africa Takes Pride of Place as Guest of Honor as The Gothenburg Book Fair Opens to The Public Again 
The Gothenburg Book Fair opened today, back in full force for the first time since 2019. Guest of Honor, as well as one of the fair’s four main themes, is South Africa. South African literature and current societal issues are reflected in seminars, dialogues on the Fair premises, and poetic performances, today Thursday, and throughout the four days of the fair. Collaborating partners are the National Library of South Africa and South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture. The program has been designed together with organizations from the civil sector, among them the Global Square and the Swedish Church.

South Africa hosted the grand Book Fair inauguration ceremony in a dedicated Guest of Honor area. On stage to welcome the guests were the Gothenburg Book Fair’s Director Frida Edman, and Program Director Oskar Ekström, as well as Ms. Nocawe Mafu, Deputy Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, and artist Ms. Gcina Mhlope. The Swedish ambassador to South Africa, Håkan Juholt, and the South African ambassador to Sweden, Ms. Brigitte Sylvia Mabandla, were in attendance.

– In the years of physical distancing that preceded this, books enabled us to come closer together. We may have been far apart physically, but we gained perspectives. As a Book Fair, we strongly believe in adding the power of the personal meeting to that: to come together, and see each other and, as the South African saying goes, say “I am because you are.” Ms. Frida Edman, Book Fair Director.

Ms. Nocawe Mafu, Deputy Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture gave a speech expressing a wish to build on mutually shared values and promote a rich culture — an endeavor leading to future developments and collaborations between the two countries, and “more South African books in Swedish bookshelves.”

– It is an immense honor to be the focus country for the Gothenburg Book Fair. It enables us to share our rich culture and build on mutually shared values to move forward with a shared vision of development. Ms. Nocawe Mafu, Deputy Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture South Africa

Artist Gcina Mhlope also gave a short speech after a rousing vocal performance, stressing the importance of culture as that which holds us together, creating space for a future for everyone — facing the challenges of today for the sake of the next generation.

Sweden has strong ties to South Africa, which stretch back to the political and humanitarian support in the struggle against apartheid in the 1960s. The country is now entering its third decade of democracy. How is the rainbow nation – a concept coined by Desmond Tutu after the fall of apartheid – doing today? As one of the strongest economies in Africa, with a strong media and exceptional literary talent, the country still faces challenges such as inequality, segregation, and of course, climate change as a global issue.

South Africa is represented through a specific Guest of Honor area, and in over 65 seminars and programs, featuring multiple genres such as poetry, graphic novels, and suspense literature, as well as discussions on issues from the past to the future of post-apartheid South Africa, and its writing in a de-colonized world. The program has been guest-curated by Hedda Krausz-Sjögren, writer and producer.

Notable South African Literary participants at the Gothenburg Book Fair include:

Renowned authors Professor Ivan Vladislavic, dramatist and poet Zakes Mda, novelist and playwright Kagiso Lesego Malope, and author and editor Bronwyn Law-Viljoen. Novelist Damon Galgut, recipient of the 2021 Booker prize for his novel The Promise. Masande Ntshanga, whose novel The Reactive, published in 2014, won a Betty Trask Award. Marlene van Niekerk, who won readers’ and critics' hearts alike with Agaat – now presenting her latest book, Triomf. Lauren Beukes, winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Zoo City. Sabata Mpho Mokae, who writes exclusively in setswana. Dramatist and storyteller Dr. Gcina Mhlophe, and authors and journalists/editors Niren Tolsi, Diphete Bopape, and Lebogang Lance Nawa.

The South African poetry scene is making its mark at the Gotheburg Book fair with poet Koleka Putuma and poet and graphic novelist Nathan Trantraal, Ishmael Sibiya, poet and founder of Hear my Voice, and spoken word poet Siphokazi Jonas

Ms. Nocawe Mafu, Deputy Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, and Dr. Cynthia Khumalo, are amongst the official representatives from South Africa’s Department of Sport, Arts and Culture in Gothenburg, along with representatives of the country’s private literary establishment, including literary agents Isobel Dixon and publisher Nick Mulgrew, publishers Karavan Press, and Fourthwall Books. Other literary institutions include Hear My Voice, a platform for spoken word poetry, poetry, filmmaking, and art based in Tshwane, and the Gcinamasiko Arts & Heritage Trust.

The Gothenburg Book Fair, the 38th of its kind, runs from September 22nd to the 25th, 2022. The Climate Crisis, South Africa, Crime Time, and Voices from Ukraine are the themes at this year’s book fair. The Book Fair Play is today an integral part of the book fair, and many seminars and stage programs will be broadcasted live here and will also be available to stream afterwards. Read more about the Gothenburg Book Fair at www.goteborg-bookfair.com

For any questions, please contact
Maria Rogstad Norberg
Head of Communications at the Gothenburg Book Fair
tel. +46 072-211 93 39

Press images:

Frida Edman Oskar Ekström / Photo: Natalie Greppi
The cutting of the ribbon with Frida Edman and Ms. Nocawe Mafu, Deputy Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture / Photo: Natalie Greppi
Gcina Mhlope / Photo: Natalie Greppi

The Göteborg Book Fair takes place 22–25 September 2022 at the Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre in Gothenburg, Sweden, and at Book Fair Play.
Themes: South Africa, the Climate Crisis, Crimetime and Voices from Ukraine.

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