The South Africa Independent Publishers Awards 2015

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The South Africa Independent Publishers Awards were in announced in Richmond recently. Here is Darryl David's report:

Harold Athol Lanigan Fugard, you beauty. The initials of his name may spell “half”, but to all the people who were in Booktown Richmond last weekend he was simply Number 1. A one-of-a-kind human being. It is very seldom that a writer of such stature can mingle with the common man in the street. But years of living in the Karoo must have made Athol realise how small he is in this infinite wonderland that is the Karoo. Wherever he went, he made sure he greeted every waiter and gardener by their first name. And that is to say nothing of the one hour that he had the audience spellbound. Nor the sheer awe in which performers were of him when he sat in on their performances. Peter Baker, co-founder of Booktown Richmond, remarked that Athol’s being in Richmond was akin to seeing a modern-day Shakespeare walk down the streets of this storybook town in the Karoo. He may be known as Fugard the world over, but in the Karoo he is Fugod!

But as much as Fugard was on the lips of bibliophiles in Richmond, the inaugural South African Independent Publishers Awards captured the imagination of literati in South Africa. Ever since returning from Richmond I have been inundated with requests for the results.

Here they are.

South Africa Independent Publishers Awards

At the gala awards dinner I announced the winners in every category, but I also named each category after a famous writer who deserves to be honoured.

Miriam Tlali Prize – Autobiography, named for the first black woman to publish a novel in English. The winner in this category was the late Edwin Jackson for Flight of the Moth. Edwin published his novel because of the encouragement of Booktown Richmond. I therefore felt vindicated when the judges unanimously chose Edwin Jackson’s book as the winner in this hotly contested category. It is astounding that a simple farmer, faced with a terminal disease, could pen a book of such immense beauty.

John Kannemeyer Prize – Biography. Named for the greatest biographer in South Africa, who was also the biographer of JM Coetzee, and who spoke at the launch of the JM Coetzee Festival in Booktown Richmond. Sadly John Kannemeyer passed away before his biography hit the bookshelves. And the winner was Angie Butler for The quest for Frank Wild. This has to rank as one of the greatest self-published books out there. It is a fairy tale story about a man more famous than Shackleton. Angie Butler deserves praise for bringing Frank Wild back from oblivion.

Sandra Antrobus Prize – Architecture. Sandra Antrobus is the driving force behind Die Tuishuise in Cradock. She has restored almost 30 houses in Market Street and has transformed this once lowly street into one of the most iconic streetscapes in South Africa. Not to mention her role in the restoration of the Schreiner Museum. And the winners were Darryl Earl David and Philippe Menache for A Platteland Pilgrimage: 102 Country Churches of South Africa. If I may blow my own trumpet, this book is a thing of beauty. For lovers of church architecture this book is a leader in its genre in South Africa.

Gcina Mhlope Prize – Children’s Literature. Gcina Mhlope is a legend in this genre. She is a tireless ambassador for literacy among children and has been a staunch supporter of my literary festivals in KZN. The winner was Leslie Wainer for The Adventures of Babba Bear. From the minute the judges laid their eyes on this book they knew that they had the winner. The artwork is astounding and the inclusion of a teddy bear with the book a stroke of genius.

Mongane Wally Serote Prize – Poetry. The poetry of Mongane Wally Serote should be known to every generation. To read his poetry is to know the meaning of sheer genius. His is a poetic voice that deserves to be remembered by generations to come. The winner was Leslie Howard: Under the moon. Needless to say, Leslie was over the moon when her name was called out. A worthy recipient of the poetry award!

RRR Dhlomo Prize Rolfus Robert Reginald Dhlomo is the forgotten man of South African literature. He is the man most wronged by our literary historians, for he is the first black man to write a novel in English. Historians will give this honour to Sol Plaatje, but they are wrong. And the winner is Nhlanhla Maake: Hyenas in a place of joy. The judges praised the book for its lyrical quality, humour and originality.

Jock of the Bushveld Prize – Animals/Pets. Named for the most famous animal in South African literary history, this was a keenly contested category between two KZN vets: Mike Lowry and Tod Collins. The winner was Tod Collins: Bull by the horns. Tod brings to the genre a literary quality that one would expect of a short-story writer. A worthy recipient of the award.

However, the judges would like to commend 84-year-old Paddy Jackson for a remarkable book about her dog Savoir. And for the amazing illustrations in her book. This is a small book with a big heart. The literary world needs more books like this. If there had been a “small book, big heart” award, this book would have won it.

Antoinette Pienaar Award – Health. The Griqua Apprentice remains one of the greatest books ever written in this genre. Antoinette Pienaar deserves the recognition. And the winner is Maritza Breitenbach: The Cookie Book. Who would have thought a book on the vagina would garner so many national and international awards? A great book by Maritza. Great vision to spot such a gap in the market. This is no mere biology book – it’s a must-read!

Elza Miles Award – Art / Fine Art. Elza Miles deserves the recognition for focusing our attention on artists marginalised by apartheid. And she is a damn fine human being as well. The winner was Tracy Hawthorne / Kevin Shenton’s John Meyer: A retrospective. If I may say so, one of the books of the competition. No cost was spared on this book about one of South Africa’s foremost artists. A truly beautiful book.

Obie Oberholzer Photography Award. Obie is a legend in the field of photography. The scarcity of second-hand books in his name is testimony to the enduring appeal of his work. The winner was Heinrich van den Bergh: Reflection. Here is a book that would make Obie proud. Definitely one of the books of the competition. Out-of-this-world photography.

Ashwin Desai History Award. Ashwin Desai has given us some of the great books of the last decade. His book on Gandhi later in the year will make waves in literary circles. Moreover, he possesses the literary finesse of some of our greatest wordsmiths. The winner of this award: Jan van der Merwe and Philippe Burger: Vrystaatse dorpe. Denis Beckett remarked that a postman with sturdy arms delivered this book. It is colossal. In weight as in scope. Beautiful photography. With lots of interesting information unknown to even the most enlightened reader. A truly worthy winner in this category.

Denis Beckett Travel Award. Denis Beckett needs no introduction to South Africans of my generation. Who can ever forget his TV series Beckett’s Trek? Or books like Madibaland. Make no mistake: Denis Beckett deserves this honour. This was undoubtedly the most keenly contested category. The judges decided to award two prizes: one to the best photographic travel book and one that focuses more on the narrative. The winners of the best photographic travel book were Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit for Karoo Keepsakes. Karoo Keepsakes is a pioneering work. It is a hymn to the Karoo and the people of this region. But it is so much more than pretty photographs. It captures deep knowledge about the Karoo and the eccentric figures that inhabit this land of thirst. If nothing else, read the description of the love dance of the ostrich. The winner in the second category of travel writing was Ashwin Desai: The Archi-Texture of Durban. This is a love letter to Durban filtered by the mind of one the country’s top sociologists. This is not a travel book about the Durban we know through glossy travel brochures. It is a history of the Durban Casbah; of Papwa Swegolum, the Indian golfer who was forced to accept his prize in the rain because he was a coolie; about Christmas mass at Emmanuel Cathedral before Indians were forcibly removed to Chatsworth and Phoenix. A book that is destined to become a South African classic.

Best Independent Bookshop. In the first such award in South Africa to pay tribute to the great independent bookshops in the country we awarded two prizes. We were of the view that bookshops in small towns could not be judged against the same criteria as those in big centres. For example, because of their geography, smaller towns cannot boast book launches of the country’s top writers. In the small town category, the winner was John Donaldson of Booktown Richmond. I can just hear other bookshops crying, “Voting was rigged!” But John Donaldson has managed what no other bookshop owner has achieved: an entire town of bookshops. At last count, John had opened a staggering 11 bookshops. With evocative names such as Diesel & Dust and Huis van Licht en Schaduw, there is no doubt in my mind no other person in South Africa is more deserving.

In the larger cities the winner is Ike’s Bookshop, owned by Jo Rushby. Ike’s is an iconic bookshop. It was one of the first bookshops to be owned by a so-called non-white in South Africa. It was opened by none other than Nobel Prize-winner JM Coetzee. But just browse around the store. Yes, like many a great bookstore it has a stunning collection of books. But let your eyes wander to the walls. Signatures of all the greatest writers adorn the walls of this bookshop, which is at the very epicentre of cultural life in Durban, situated in the trendy Florida Road. And that wraparound balcony has played host to some of the greatest book launches in South Africa. Hats off to Ike’s. Long may it continue.

Best Website by an Independent Publisher. This had to be one of the easier categories to judge. The winner was Karoospace, the website managed by Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit. It was initially launched to promote their award-winning book Karoo Keepsakes. But it has taken on a glorious life of its own. Go and have a look for yourself! Make sure you have a few hours to devote to it!

Patrick Mynhardt Award for Best Performance at the Fugard Festival.  Patrick Mynhardt, that larger-than-life character, will never be forgotten in Richmond. For the Boy from Bethulie not only put Herman Charles Bosman on the map, but also helped us launch Booktown Richmond nine years ago, when all and sundry thought I was cuckoo. This was such a difficult category to judge. There were magnificent performances by Marc Kay in The Erlking; Mpilo Nzimande and TQ Zondi were superb in Woza Albert. But the award must go to Pieter van Zyl for his stunning, superlative performance in The woman with a baby on her back. Take a bow, Pieter. You had us spellbound for 65 minutes.

BookBedonnerd Award 1. This award was created to honour the spirit of Booktown Richmond. It doffs its cap to the greatest of the greats, but also to the truly deserving, no matter what others may think. In the “no matter what others may think” category, the winner is Dawn Garisch for her stunning book Dance with suitcase. Yes, it did not win in the health category. But it is a must-read book if you call yourself a connoisseur of fine books. It is a book that is bound to be misunderstood simply because it sets out to explore such a difficult subject – the therapeutic role of dance. And even though I have two left feet, and my body will never know the joys described in Dawn’s book, this book waltzed its way into my heart.

BookBedonnerd Award 2. This year’s recipient of the BookBedonnerd Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Athol Fugard. Very few writers epitomise “crazy about books” more than Athol Fugard. His plays loom large in the literary imagination: Boesman and Lena; Blood Knot; Master Harold and “the Boys”; Road to Mecca; The Island; Sizwe Bansi is dead; Tsotsi. He is an actor, writer, theatre director and lecturer. Very few have fulfilled all those roles. He ranks up there with the world’s greatest playwrights: Shakespeare, Beckett, Ibsen, Chekov, to name but a few. Last year he acted in his own play at the tender age of 82. And a new play at that! He is a man who swapped alcohol addiction for the addiction of words and ideas. We in Booktown Richmond, in the heart of the Great Karoo, Fugard country, know: we were privileged to have the name Fugard roll over our lips in our lifetime.

Albie Sachs’s Judge amongst Judge’s Awards. Such a competition would not exist were it not for the generosity of spirit of our judges. They toiled for months reading every book entered into the South Africa Independent Publishers Awards, with no monetary reward. Despite busy work schedules. To Denis Beckett, Darryl Earl David, Betty Govinden, Rajendra Chetty, Leslie Howard, Beverley Roos-Muller, Rita Gilfillan, Elza Miles, Grant Leversha, Peter Baker, Mike Norris, Sheritha Ramparsad, Rozena Maart, Joanne Rushby, Juan Solis, Loraine Prinsloo, Eugene Marais, Tracy Ann Moodley, Elizabeth van den Berg: your names deserve to be in large font. Sadly, there can be only one winner among you. The person who set the bar highest in the first instalment of these awards is Denis Beckett.

See photographs from this year's JM Coetzee | Athol Fugard Festival in Richmond.


Don’t frack with our Karoo™

Booktown Richmond’s 9th Anniversary

9th Annual Bookbedonnerd Festival
October 22, 23, 24, 2015
A Richmond Community Development Foundation Project

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  • Goeiedag. Ek wil graag verneem wanneer die volgende "SA INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS AWARDS"-kompetisie weer geloods gaan word, asseblief?

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