News & Media

'The melting pot for an intellectual feast'

Unisa’s Library and Information Services celebrated World Book and Copyright Day on 22 April through, among others, a book discussion with esteemed writer, playwright, scholar and Unisa alumnus, Dr Siphiwo Mahala.

Dr Siphiwo Mahala at the discussion

The discussion was based on a celebration of Mahala’s new journal of African writing, entitled Imbiza. "The word imbiza has multiple meanings in the various Nguni languages of southern Africa," he explained. "In isiXhosa, imbiza means a pot used for cooking food, while in isiZulu it refers to natural herbs or any mixture of roots, bulbs and leaves used for medicinal purposes." Thus, imbiza symbolises healing and nourishment. "In naming this journal Imbiza, we model it on the food that feeds individuals, families and communities," he added. Mahala highlighted that the 141-page journal will be "the melting pot for an intellectual feast, including creative outputs, criticism and academic writing".

Writer Fred Khumalo on the inaugural cover of Imbiza

The discussion, hosted live on the Library’s Facebook page, delved into book reviews, essays, features, poetry and paintings, among other topics, in more than five languages. Mahala ensured that the languages used in the journal represent as much as possible of Africa’s rich cultural diversity – Kiswahili, isiXhosa, Sepedi, xiTsonga and isiZulu, among others. Included in the inaugural edition are writers such as feminist poet and writer Vangile Gantsho (another Unisa graduate), who wrote an article on the poetry and views of queer feminist poet and theatre practitioner, Koleka Putuma. Also featured were Prof Siyasanga Tyali, Chair of the Department of Communication at Unisa; feminist scholar Simankele Dlakavu; and Dr Brian Sibanda, who wrote an essay on the decolonial writings of Prof Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Artist Chepape Makgato contributed artwork that explores the intersections of gender and class.

Mahala was also guest speaker at a recent Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA) event where he highlighted the power of libraries as spaces of community engagement and lifelong learning. He hopes to nurture the vision of the journal as a unique platform for creative and academic writing, criticism and intellectual engagement for African thinkers, cultural workers and activists. He donated a copy of the journal to the Unisa Library. The journal is also available for purchase at CNA countrywide. A recording of the discussion is available on the Library's Facebook page.

* Submitted by Natalia Molebatsi, Marketing Coordinator, Unisa Library

Publish date: 2021/05/11