The Gcinamasiko Arts and Heritage Trust (GAHT) joins a global community to celebrate International Day of Literacy on 8 September 2020 by re-opening the doors of the Storytelling Tree on the Bluff Showgrounds as part its first live events within the National Regulations Level Lockdown of Covid 19 to celebrate the day.
International Literacy Day (ILD) celebrations have taken place annually since 1976 around the world to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights, and to advance the literacy agenda towards a more literate and sustainable society. According to UNESCO despite progress made, literacy challenges persist with at least 773 million adults worldwide lacking basic literacy skills today. As Durban has been named a UNESCO City of Literature, it is of course fitting that GAHT is a part of this day and continues to promote the joy of reading.
To celebrate the day GAHT has lined up a stellar programme and will be launching books by three authors. Ziconsisa Amathe and The Reluctant Storyteller will be launched by award winning publisher and author Nakanjani Sibiya who is a lecturer at UKZN and very passionate about the isiZulu language. He has been doing extensive research into the work of iconic veteran authors of KZN and derives great joy in sharing knowledge about them. South African History Retold will be launched in both isiZulu and English by author and South board game developer Khethiwe Zulu. The book focuses on the history of the new street names in Durban, for which a lot of research time was dedicated in order to inform the public who these people that were often struggle heroes are/were. This book will shed a light on many of their contributions to the country we live in today. Both of these authors will present a reading and share a presentation while award winning author, journalist and activist Zubeida Jaffer's is the third book Beauty of The Heart which will also be launched with an excerpt and reading presented by Nomakhwezi Becker. Born and raised in the Western Cape, she has been a passionate freedom fighter all her life, and this shows in her work. Her books include Our Generation, Love in the time of Treason and On Trial With Mandela, in addition to the one that will be launched at the event. After trying several times to launch Beauty of the Heart in KZN it is an honour the 21 icons awardee agreed for GAHT to host her work. In addition to the book launches GAHT will also pay a special tribute to the African Writers Awards and Literacy Association of South Africa for their work towards knowledge and literacy, especially in light of them honouring the work that has been done in the past 20 years through the Nozincwadi Literacy Campaign, run by Dr Mhlophe and the GAHT team.
In line with International Literacy Day (ILD) 2020 which will focus on Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond with a focus on the role of educators and changing pedagogies. Cultural Activist, visionary, poet, storyteller and director of GAHT, Dr Gcina Mhlophe will also present readings and merge the beauty of oral and written literature as she always does in her work. After the final speakers representing various arts and literacy organisations, to complete the programme which will be the first live event within social distancing regulations, Red Lights Vocal Ensemble from UKZN will present some a cappella musical items.
Supported by the EThekwini Library Services through their partnership with GAHT a number of events have been curated from monthly storytelling, traditional music, history-telling, poetry, readings, origami workshops and more under the old wild fig tree at the Bluff Showgrounds in Durban, which Dr Mhlophe adopted and named the Storytelling Tree in 2019. Dr Mhlophe says she and the GAHT team began the storytelling tree because "We are living in a time that we call the age of information, still very few people know how to communicate this information with one another. Celebration of the oral tradition is here to reawaken the power of our shared stories. There is something very unifying in the gift of a story well told". During lockdown GAHT commissioned gifted 26-year-old self-taught street artist Giffy Duminy to create a mural transforming the abandoned stage and tuck-shop building underneath the Storytelling Tree into a magical wonder land.
'Our programme is designed to bring together the Bluff community, young and old, and welcome story and book lovers from the greater Durban to enjoy stories, music and poetry on a regular basis. The outdoor setting has made it not only accessible but also to rekindle the spirit of the very first place of gathering of community around the world, long before theatres and community halls were ever built: the tree. There is something very healing about enjoying cultural heritage in a natural environment. GAHT hopes to continue bringing this to our audiences, even during times where the nature must be shared through digital means until the healing can take place safely amongst larger gatherings once more" - Dr Gcina Mhlophe