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Flame Series Launched with Ari Sitas, Rajan Soni, Belinda Kruiper, Alan Weinberg and Keyan Tomaselli

Launch: Unisa Press Flame Series

On Wednesday, 4 March, Unisa Press launched their exciting flagship Flame Series as part of the University of South Africa’s (Unisa) 2015 Research and Innovation Week.

Launch: Unisa Press Flame SeriesLaunch: Unisa Press Flame Series

Unisa professors Vusi Mncube and Les Labuschagne introduced the books in the Flame Series: From Around the World in Eighty Days: The Indian Section by Ari Sitas, Mooi Loop: The Sacred Art of Vetkat Regopstaan Boesman Kruiper by Vetkat Regopstaan Boesman Kruiper, Driftword by Croc E Moses and Looking for Lakshmi by Rajan Soni.

Mncube and Labuschagne welcomed the authors of the groundbreaking series of books, as well as professors Alan Weinberg and Keyan Tomaselli, who shared their thoughts about the books, the authors and the importance of seeing performance poetry in print. Lynette Naidoo chaired the proceedings.

The aim of the Unisa Press Flame Series, Labuschagne said, is to provide a platform for new forms of creative expression that are transdisciplinary in nature, as well as original, creative and analytical. The series is set to push the boundaries of traditional publishing by transcending subject, field and medium.

“Flaming away, unlocking the future”

Launch: Unisa Press Flame SeriesTomaselli delivered the keynote address entitled “Flaming away, unlocking the future”. He lauded Unisa Press for realising the symbolic value of these manuscripts and of the paradigms of indigenous knowledge. He said that with the Flame Series one sees an inversion of “normal” paradigms: “The future is not what it used to be.”

Tomaselli said that South Africa needs new ideas and new ways of communicating. The Flame Series is about taking risks and the certainty of uncertainty.

“I learned a lot from Ari Sitas’ culturalism in my younger years,” Tomaselli said. “Ari remains way ahead of me.”

“Poetry is hard research”

Launch: Unisa Press Flame SeriesFrom Around the World in Eighty DaysSitas introduced his poetry anthology, From Around the World in Eighty Days: The Indian Section, which was born from an idea that you could travel the world in 80 days without ever leaving Durban.

“Poetry is hard research,” Sitas said. From Around the World in Eighty Days and its audio and visual dimensions reflect five years of intense work. His previous book, Rough Music, required 10 years of dedicated research.

Instead of telling the audience about his work, Sitas showed them. He read various verses from his book interspersed with snippets of stories and fables he learnt throughout his research. For example, he heard a tale about an elephant called Mandela, because it spent 27 years in a zoo.

He read a poem entitled “Learning to love” which was met with great applause from the audience.

“The world is made up of migrants”

Launch: Unisa Press Flame SeriesLooking for LakshmiSoni spoke about the acute pain of being an exile in your own country. The author of Looking for Lakshmi has travelled to over 60 countries on five continents and spoke from experience when he said, “The world is made up of migrants.”

“God is too big to fit into one religion. The stories of migrants are too vast to fit into one story of one person,” Soni said.

When the author started writing Looking for Lakshmi he was a married father of one. When he finished he was divorced with two children. “Suffering cooks the soul,” he said. “This book, short as it is, has become better for the suffering.”

Soni spoke about the universal condition of being exiled in one way or another. As a Kenyan living in South Africa and later in the UK, he had great difficulty answering the question, “Where are you from?” The world does not recognise him as African.

Soni recalled a nostalgic trip back to Kenya and seeing how much Nairobi has changed. It now resembles Mumbai, with hundreds of people migrating to the city to make a living. “There are patterns and patterns that repeat themselves, but what we see are the colours.”

Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, love and prosperity, and Looking for Lakshmi tells of the oceans of dreams from Kenya to India, the noise of history being unmade, savannah becoming industrial estates, harbingers of upheaval, the tapestry becoming unstitched.

Soni said that even though he travelled across the world it was not through geographical spaces but through a time machine: “I saw similar patterns unfolding.”


“Kom soos jy is, maar met respek”

Launch: Unisa Press Flame SeriesMooi LoopBelinda Kruiper introduced the book that captures the artwork of her late husband, Mooi Loop: The Sacred Art of Vetkat Regopstaan Boesman Kruiper.

Kruiper is also a poet, whose work is inspired by the Kalahari Desert, her people and her deep spiritual beliefs. She spoke about the message of the oldest people as it is reflected in her late husband’s art and said there is a lot of work that has not yet been done or has been ignored deliberately.

Kruiper spoke about the “University of Life” – about sitting around the fires and sharing the knowledge they have gained during the day. “We are the academics,” she said. “No research is needed when you know God.”

Kruiper shared her methodology of hanging out as the best way to learn anything and asked, “Who does the IKS (Indigenous Knowledge System) belong to?” She expressed her concern that IKS and the “science of the bush” are “going the wrong way”.

The Sacred Collection is a world heritage and goes way back in time when man was animal, Kruiper said. “Suffering is part of who we are … everything we do is about putting meat and bread on the table.”

“Respect is what the art speaks about. Kom soos jy is, maar met respek.” Kruiper ended her talk with a San adage: “Wat jou toekom sal jou oorkom.”


“We are seven billion faces of the same music teacher”

Launch: Unisa Press Flame SeriesDriftwordWeinberg, who presented Driftword on behalf of Croc E Moses, congratulated Unisa Press for breaking boundaries and bringing performance poetry to a wider audience of scholars, students, young people and researchers.

Lending a phrase from the speaker before him, Weinberg said that Moses comes as he is, he performs his poetry in public as it is created. He said that Moses, as a Canadian, has embraced South Africa in the fullest possible sense of the word and embodies the entire texture of the country in his work.

The tale of migration is threaded throughout Driftword: “Where is your home? Your home is where you are.” It speaks to people who have been marginalised by society yet at the same time expresses the simple joy of being.

Weinberg described Moses as a “colourful being of a new social consciousness”. Driftword is a reflection of a body of experiences relived by Moses and given back to us, the audience.

He quoted from the poem, “Pace and the pulse and the peace”: “We are seven billion faces of the same music teacher.”

Mncube ended off the evening by thanking all the speakers and authors for their valuable contributions to the series. A lovely dinner of finger foods followed at the Theo van Wyk building where the authors mingled with guests and signed copies of their books.

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Annetjie van Wynegaard (@Annetjievw) live tweeted from the event using the hashtag #livebooks:



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