As one of the first writers to articulate the experiences of black women under apartheid and in the post-independent nation, Dr. Magona is regarded by many as a pioneer in South African letters. As of 2022, she has published four novels, two collections of short stories, two autobiographies, three biographies, four plays, one collection of poetry, some thirty essays and over 130 children’s books (which make her the most prolific writer of children’s literature in South Africa, if not in the continent). Her writings in these many genres engage with pressing issues at the heart of South African society, on themes related to race, gender, language and tradition.
Dr, Magona’s compelling life story can be read as a reflection of the country’s own story of oppression, liberation and development as an independent nation. Born in 1943 in the Eastern Cape and raised in the townships of Cape Town, Magona grew up in difficult circumstances and though she showed great potential in school and earned a teaching certificate, she ended up destitute and on her own with three young children. Even so, she worked her way out of poverty and earned a scholarship to study at Columbia University in New York. This was followed by a twenty-year career at the United Nations and then a return to South Africa upon her retirement where she has continued to write about South Africa’s contemporary landscape and to draw attention to the rights of women and children (while simultaneously teaching in the UWC Creates program at the University of the Western Cape and earning a Ph.D. of her own in creative writing at the same university). This story of determination and agency, so central to Magona’s sense of self, influences all her writing and serves to inspire other South Africans to discover the capabilities from within to meet the challenges of twenty-first century life.
Dr. Magona has gotten considerable public recognition for her work, as evidenced by the twenty plus awards and four honorary degrees she has been given over the course of her career. Given her many important contributions and her tenacious spirit in addressing the tension points of South African society, it is extremely fitting that a scholarly conference should be added to these honors, allowing South Africans to take pride in one of their most important writers and giving her readership outside of South Africa the opportunity to better understand the scope and significance of her many literary endeavors.
The Sindiwe Magona 2023 Planning Committee invites proposals for individual papers or entire panels or round table discussions on topics such as those listed in the detailed suggestion bank included below (and under the Call for Papers tab). Note that this is not an exhaustive list. We welcome any paper or panel suggestions on Magona’s work or on the work of other writers whose works overlap with Magona’s interests.
9 - 9:45 a.m.
Introduction to the conference
9:45 - 10:45 a.m.
Opening Address: Dr. Mamphela Ramphele
10:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Academic Panel I
12:15 - 1:30 p.m.
1:30 - 3 p.m.
Academic Panel II
3 - 4 p.m.
Highlighted Event: Writers of full-length books on Magona
4 - 4:15 p.m.
4:15 - 6 p.m.
Creative Event: Viewing of Mother to Mother, the documentary (directed by Sara CF de Gouveia)
8 - 9:30 a.m.
Academic panel III
9:30 - 9:45 a.m.
9:45 - 10:45 a.m.
Highlighted Event: Antjie Krog
10:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Academic panel IV
12:15 – 1:30 p.m.
1:30 – 2:30 p.m.
Keynote Address: Dr. Sindiwe Magona
2:30 - 4 p.m.
Academic Panel V
4 - 4:15 p.m.
4:15 - 6 p.m.
CSAD Event (Creative Expressions Contest)
6:30 - 7:30 p.m.
Creative Event: Creative Writing Readings
8 – 9:30 a.m.
Academic panel VI
9:30 – 9:45 a.m.
9:45 - 11:15 a.m.
Academic Panel VII
11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
Academic panel VIII
12:15 – 1:30 p.m.
1:30 – 2:30 p.m.
Creative Event related to Beauty’s Gift: to be announced
2:30 – 3 p.m.
Academic Panel IX
3 - 3:15 p.m.
3:15 – 4 p.m.
Closing Comments by Organizing Committee
4 – 4:30 p.m.
Creative Event: A storytelling performance piece by Sindiwe Magona
4 – 6 p.m.
Sindiwe Magona 2023: Literary Reflections on Contemporary Issues in South Africa and Beyond
The conference is intended to honour this formidable South African on her 80th year by bringing together scholars, students, professionals and community members from Africa, North America, Europe and further afield for discussions about the many compelling themes to be found in her extensive oeuvre. While the conference will primarily focus on Dr. Magona and her perspectives on South Africa, attendees are also welcomed to present work on other writers or texts that can be brought into conversation with Magona’s writing. Our intention is that the discussion will cover topics that are at the forefront of intellectual debate throughout Africa by highlighting the continent’s potential and its challenges (as well as its place in the contemporary world) while simultaneously drawing attention to this engaging and tremendously important author.
Also, note that multiple presenters from one institution may present on the same panel.
Please fill out the submission form for the Sindiwe Magona 2023 conference. Abstracts of no more than 250 words for individual papers or 500 words for panels or round tables (with names and affiliations of all attendees) should be sent to email@example.com by December 31.
1. Mother to Mother:
Sindiwe Magona's seminal work Mother to Mother captures the tensions and complexities of South Africa's momentous transition in the 1990s. We welcome individual paper proposals/proposals for the panels/proposals for round tables that offer new readings of this canonical text. This discussion aims to display the relevance of the book in today's South Africa and in the context of a globalized, multilingual world. Possible topics include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Mother to Mother around the World: Its Ever-Expanding Influence
- Mother to Mother at Nearly Thirty: Its Impact and Continued Significance
- A Mother or a Woman? The Complexities of Feminism in Mother to Mother
- Mother to Mother on Stage: The Dramatization of the Novel
- Mother to Mother as Prophecy: Where Is the Lost Generation Now?
- Other Writers or Texts that Can Be Brought into Conversation with Mother to Mother
2. The Power of the Personal Story: Sindiwe Magona's Autobiographies
Sindiwe Magona's To My Childrens' Children and Forced to Grow not only capture the writer's journey from her childhood to adulthood, but they also portray the struggles and challenges of black South African women faced at the time. These works are often read as a feminist critique of patriarchal African society during the apartheid era, but they also offer a critical lens for reading the post-apartheid environment. We welcome individual paper proposals/proposals for the panels/proposals for round tables that offer new readings of these important autobiographical works. Possible topics include (but are not limited to) the following:
- The Womanist Voice in Magona's Autobiographies: Redefining the Feminist Perspective
- Mother or Writer? - Maternal Identity in Magona's Autobiography
- Magona's Bildungsroman: Her Emergence into Adulthood/ South Africa's Liberation from Apartheid
- Battling the Oppression of Apartheid: The Black Women Writer's Position
- Subalternity in Magona's Autobiographies: When the Subaltern Speaks, She Has a Lot to Say
- Other Texts or Authors That Can Be Brought into Conversation with Magona's Autobiographies
3. Magona's Children's Literature
Written in English and Xhosa and translated into multiple African languages, Magona's literary works for children occupy a significant position in the canon of African children's literature. Books like The Best Meal Ever!, Skin We Are In, Books' n Bricks, Life is a Hard But a Beautiful Thing and her series of updated African legends touch on serious issues around race, poverty, corruption and the like, even while providing details on the everyday experiences of South African childhood. We welcome individual paper proposals/proposals for the panels/proposals for round tables on readings and interpretations of Magona's children's literature. Possible topics include (but are not limited to) the following:
- The Use of Myth in Magona's Children's Literature
- The Child Narrator in Magona's Children's Literature
- Question of Race in Magona's Children's Literature
- Narrative Technique in Magona's Children's Literature
- The Mother Figure in Magona's Children's Literature
- Other Writers or Texts That Can Be Brought into Conversation with Magona's Children's Literature
4. African Languages, Lingua Franca and the Need for Translation
Language has always been a debatable issue in African literature (and postcolonial studies), especially after Chinua Achebe and Ngugi wa Thiong'o staked out two opposing positions on whether to write in a colonial language or in African languages. Magona has challenged this ossified language debate by writing in both lingua franca and in African tongues and by championing the importance of indigenous languages even as she embraces English (and the role of translation) to reach a global audience. We welcome individual paper proposals/proposals for the panels/proposals for round tables on Magona's contribution in the language debate of African literature and translation, as well as proposals about other African writers whose works have addressed and contributed to the language debate. Possible topics include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Magona's Linguistic Aesthetics: Creating Space for African Languages in Anglophone Texts
- Magona's Linguistic Activism: The Role of Mother Tongue in Contemporary South Africa
- Translation in Today's South African Literature: Creating a Bridge between Lingua Franca and Local Languages
- The Language Debate in the Works of Other Contemporary African / South African Writers
5. Sindiwe Magona: Women's Rights and Protections
Sindiwe Magona is not renowned just for her writings, she has also worked tirelessly for women's protection and the preservation of women's rights. Being a woman writer and social worker herself, Magona was part of the women's rights movements during the apartheid era and her commitment to causes involving women has continued to the present moment. We welcome individual paper proposals/proposals for the panels/proposals for round tables that throw light on her life-long investment in women's issues and examine the relationship between her activism for women's issues and her fiction. Possible topics include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Magona's Role in Women's Rights Movements in South Africa
- Magona's Responses to Gender-Based Violence
- Magona: A Woman Writer and/or a Woman Activist
- Sindiwe Magona's Focus on Women and the African Family
6. Social Causes in Magona's Fictions
While Magona's primary concern is about the fate of women in South Africa, her various works have also thrown light on multiple other social issues and causes of the apartheid and the post-apartheid settings. Her works highlight issues such as racial discrimination, AIDS, poverty, the lingering effects of relocation, language discrimination, children's education and the environment. We welcome individual paper proposals/proposals for the panels/proposals for round tables on the pressing social issues discussed in Magona's works. Possible topics include (but are not limited to) the following:
- HIV and AIDS and the Stigma Against It
- Bantu Education and Its Lingering Effects
- Race Hate and Reverse Discrimination
- Linguistic Discrimination
- Governmental Malfeasance and Corruption
- The Interconnectivity of All Life (Human and Otherwise)
7. Sindiwe Magona: One Name, Many Avatars
Magona is known not only for her remarkably prolific output of material but also for the very wide variety of genres she chooses to engage with. In addition, she plays many roles in society: writer, teacher, storyteller, motivational speaker, translator and activist. We welcome individual paper proposals/proposals for the panels/proposals for round tables that consider her many different callings and the implications of her multifaceted professional identity on our understanding of the role of the writer.
8. We also welcome individual paper proposals/proposals for the panels/proposals for round tables on African women writers in general.
9. We also welcome individual paper proposals/proposals for the panels/proposals for round tables on African feminism and women's writing from Africa in general.
10. We are reserving one time slot on the conference program for readings of creative writing by conference participants which touch upon themes that are at the center of Magona's work. If you are interested in reading creative work (poetry, fiction, non-fiction) for approximately 10 minutes at this session, indicate so on the Sindiwe Magona 20223 Paper/Panel Submission Form.
There is a wide variety of hotel options in the downtown Atlanta area. Ones that are within walking distance of Georgia State are listed on the page below.
Note: We are including a question about accommodation needs on the Sindiwe Magona 2023: Paper/Proposal Submission Form. If enough people are planning to stay at a hotel in downtown Atlanta, we will secure a discounted rate at the Ellis Hotel. We will send more information about this during the submissions period.
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