One WORLD of BOOKs DAY – in Jozi

Booking in the streets of Jo-burg on the Bard’s Birthday


In a small, dog-eared shop in Commissioner St, books are stacked precariously wall to wall, floor to ceiling. Impressed by the volume of volumes, I ask the tall imposing man emerging from the leaning towers, eating from a polystyrene takeaway, if I may take a pic. His clipped monosyllabic  response is the same that he gives the chic young woman who asks if he has a Siswati title she’s looking for. We both back out onto the street, unlikely to revisit.

A block or two down the street, and up the stairs at Bridge Books, neighbouring an art studio and a gentleman’s barber, the welcome is warmer. ‘Coffee?’ Barista, collector, enthusiast and owner Griffin Shea smiles his offer.

Here books, new, used, cherished, curated and chosen with love are displayed, some even discounted, individually, with reverence.

Griffin’s book journey began with a hunt for Jozi’s lost books – in dark tunnels, below the streets.  Above ground he bridges a gap between the  underground and pristine precinct booksellers.  And offers an embracing space.

Taking up his spatial offer, once a month multiskilled Baeletsi Tsatsi bares the storytelling side of her soul at Bridge’s Maboneng branch. Evoking ancient fireside spirits with  21st century wit and words, sass and a wide smile.

Over Nelson Mandela Bridge and on into de Korte St, the retro-afro, light, bright African Flavour bookshop gleams like a well lit, well stocked Pan African library.

Wooden spoons label shelves on politics, poetry, language. Giant sofas invite a foot weary shopper to sit and read a while.

Fortiscue Helepi beams his passion – for his shop, his books – and his wife and literature-lover partner Nokuthula.


His dream is to have a branch of African Flavour in every dorp and village across the country.

Journey’s end at OR Tambo – airport oasis Exclusive Books is neatly stacked and packed with hot-off-the-press bestsellers. They don’t have Helen Moffett’s new 101 Water Wise guide that I’m looking for on the way back to the dessicated Mother City – but the synopsis on the back of a new Ethiopian novel is seductive.  After all, what is a flight without a book.

Respect to Jozi’s noble bookies for spreading the words.




Listening to people’s stories is compulsive. And after 25 years of unfolding interviews on the radio, I find I am unable to break the habit. So I’m not going to, and I need your story.

Together with Quivertree Publications, here’s what I’m looking for:

The story that you grew up with, as a South African.

The one that your father, gogo, uncle or tannie told you as a child – the one they handed to you like a precious piece of the jigsaw puzzle that makes up you. The story that’s slotted into your mind and your life like an inherited piece of treasure.  A small but precious fragment of your culture.

This story of yours may be a folk tale that goes back into the distant mist of memory – about animals and ancestors, about mountains and mythical creatures. It may be about a person from centuries or decades past that has become a legend for who they were or what they did – like Krotoa the young Khoi woman servant and interpreter to van Riebeeck, like Nongqawuse the Xhosa prophetess responsible for the cattle slaughter, like Modjadi the Rain Queen,  like Van Hunks the old pirate who had a smoking contest with the devil…. But most importantly, it needs to be a story that is a link in the cultural chain – that others, like you may know, but that others, not like you, may not.

Once we have harvested stories from South Africans representing all the eleven official languages, we will choose as many as we have room for and nestle them together in the pages of one book.


So here’s how we need your help :

. Think of a truly legendary story or folk tale that represents your culture or language group. One of the 11 official languages of South Africa.

. Write down a short summary of it in just a few lines and email it to

. Tell us who you are, what your mother tongue is and what language group the story represents.

. Once we have chosen the stories, we will contact you to get the full version.

. Deadline May 31 2018.  Any questions, let me know on

Sir Ian Makazi

The stories can be written as a story or as a poem, it can be as long or short as it needs to be and it should be in English. Maybe one day, the book can be translated into all official languages. But this is a start – a way of bringing all the stories that we grew up with, that made us South Africans, together in one big beautiful Quivertree book.

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Tellers names will appear at the end of each chosen story.


The book launch at Babylonstoren in Klapmuts, Simondium was much to do with the food that comes from the garden…..

But first, there came the tour….

….with head gardener Liesl van der Walt….looking every blade the part…and a tiled shallow water feature, dry as the Cape right now…..

We followed her through secret spots amongst nests….

….past fullsome climbing and creeping vegetables….

….others hanging out and cherished…..

….into special places for chooks and ducks…..

…..and pretty places to sit….

….at ground level there were carob pods and chamomile….in whatever language…

….and at eye level, swellings of all sorts….

…..the occasional unexpected: hungry tortoise and insect hotel….

…..prickles and in-house messages…..

….there was the legendary Ernst van Jaarsveld and his sunny succulent house….


And miraculously there was water, precious and preserved….

….less surprisingly there was an abundance of fresh food hand picked from the garden….


And finally there were speeches by author Franchesca Watson (left) and photographer Heidi Bertish…..and thank yous. But the thanks was all ours – what a  treat, what a garden, what a book! The Garden of Babylonstoren is published by Struik Lifestyle. 

SOIL – Tilling, Telling and the Media


Beating our way through the thick green foliage, despite the drought,                                we arrive at SOIL FOR LIFE ready for some serious Media Training…..


The outdoor classroom is ready…..


….and the delegates gather – Trainers and Assistant Trainers of the Home Food Gardening programme….

We’re well hydrated…and the vocal rooster keeps us awake….

Martin talks us through the preparation…..copious notes are taken and discussed…..

There’s deep concentration…..

…focused and thoughtful breakaway groups….

…a photo op with Livingstone…..and a bit of youthful spirit……till finally….

….the work is done. Time for the team – Vusi, Zeblon, Nomonde, Natasha, Joy, Livingstone, Simon, Hazel, Bulelwa and Fran – to rest. With love from Martin and Nancy….


….and time for us all to hang up our boots. Thank you Soil for Life and                                co-ordinator Fran Fredericks for a fun and fertile morning! Stay tuned!


A simple holiday to a complex city turns into a pilgrimage….of passion

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The list was long. Any mention of the upcoming trip to Istanbul brought a flush of  ‘….you must see, must do, eat, find, buy….  I was exhausted by the place and we hadn’t even reached the airport.

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Then in among the flurry of emails from fellow travelers came: ‘Read any Orhan Pamuk? Writer, Nobel laureate, lives in Istanbul….  ‘ I had not. ‘…..must before you come, esp Museum of Innocence – ingeniously turned into a real-life museum in the city.’ A light turned on in my head. Eclipsing all mosques and eating imperatives, it burned into my itinerary.

I borrowed Innocence from the library on a friend’s ticket. The weight and proportion of excess hand luggage, there was not a snowflakes chance in hell of reading it before we left, nor of taking it on voyage.  But the genie was out of the bottle. I started – and fell headlong into the story’s intrigue and romance.

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From the moment the plane landed, I was on the lookout……

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….could that be him….?

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….or him?

…..or her?

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To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was looking for Mr Pamuk himself or Kemal, his duplicit protagonist or Fusun his nubile young lover…..they appeared to be on every street…..

– and on every corner, there were couples in love……

It became a bit ridiculous, verging on obsession – dammit I even lost an earring in the hotel room (you have to read the book to catch the significance).


But I did my best to fall in line with the others plans,……

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……obediently visiting mosques….

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……infinite bazaars…..

…..ancient iconry……

……eating mountains of delicious local delicacies…..

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……drinking a river of tea….

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…..and way too much raki…

Until the day we set out to find the Museum of Innocence…..

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…..we walked the streets…..

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…..took a tram…..

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…..and a train…..

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…..we walked past coffee shops…..

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….and feral cats…..

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…..stopped at a bookshop to ask the way…..

Past back alley graffiti  and stylish shops….

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And then in an area you would only call, a ‘hood……IMG_2733 - Copy

….there it was….a deep blood red building – all innocence….

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I may have fallen to my knees and kissed the ground but at that moment a truck full of vegetables careened around the corner….

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A gentleman got out,  loudly declared his wares….and women descended their baskets on ropes to buy. Would Kemal and Fusun have heard this…..I wondered. Story goes that while working on the Museum, Mr Pamuk was known to buy his coffee in such a way…..

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Finally tickets were purchased…..

….. I wont spoil your visit by showing too many of the boxed cameos…you can lose yourself in their detail as Mr Pamuk must have done in their creation…….

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…..but here’s fellow Pamuk pilgrim in front of a mass of Fusun’s cigarette butts (you really do have to read the book to get this bit).

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….and here in the Penthouse is the room where ‘Orhan Pamuk’ listened to Kemal’s story about his love for Fusan…..

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…..and here’s the bookshop where, so flustered by the enormity of the decision and there being no English versions of the books I wanted, I bought only two postcards….

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But some people go beyond generous, and later, fellow Innocentia gave me his own copy of the catalogue… words sufficient…..

Emerging, blinking in the light, respect for Orhan Pamuk’s imagination knows no bounds…..and intense as they are, his other books – among them Istanbul: Memories and the City (a story for another day) don’t come close to his incarnate Museum of Innocence. 

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It may be I did see him – somewhere in the press of the city’s 14 million people….

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…….or perhaps just his spirit…..

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…..or the light that he scattered across the Bosphorus……

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….but I’d like to say thank you….to Mr Pamuk. Lovely.

See more for yourself on Museum of Innocence

Thanks also:

To JOHN-CLIVE for enabling the experience 

To JIM and SUE for the guidance 

To JAMES for the gift of Innocence




A sobering start on the Waterfront Art Walkabout – a reminder to Remember Death in Life… the Everard Read Gallery…..

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….with introduction from Everard curator Emma….at their steely gates

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…where she introduced us to Angus Taylor’s heavy head…..


…Brett Murray’s fat gorilla…

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…Dylan Lewis’s prowling tiger….

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….and a storeroom of goodies in transit and in waiting including a naked lady and a wrapped rabbit…..

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Moving on we pass Breakwater Prison graffiti…..requires a close look……


….and on the way past the Graduate School of Business, bump into Eduardo Villa’s Energetic Man XII…..

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…..and Mohau Modisakeng’s broken button symbolising Cape Town’s failing textile industry….

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Next to Nobel Square where we get to pat our favourite laureate…..

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….and hear about their creation from artist Claudette SchreudersIMG_3937

….followed by a musical interlude from Didi and Jules…..


On past the Clock Tower and Cameron Platter’s ‘we need money’ planters….


With Culture Connect director and guide Kate Crane-Briggs leading the way….


…past the Radisson Red and Carl Fredrik Reuterward’s knotted non-violence gun inspired by John Lennon’s death…..

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Some rusty wheels left over from the grain silo conversion into the Zeitz MOCCA, lead us to….


….the white hot foundry of Donald Grieg, where there were creatures of all kinds….

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….including a sky walk of warthogs.

We saw, and heard, a whole lot more besides. And if you’d like to see and hear more, about this walk or any of her others, contact Kate of Culture 072 377 8014 Connect  on


THE GREAT ETHIOPIAN WAIT Part 2: A Wing and a Prayer

There’ s faith in Addis Ababa  – it’s everywhere – in the structure of the buildings and the soul of the people……

There’s also history – ancient and noble…..

…..Troubled  and complicated.

There’s also the memory of Hailie Selassie – and his legacy

There’s architecture – ancient and noble….

…troubled and complicated.

There’s a zig zag track where you can run a marathon – back and forth….

There are lots of markets – where you shop, get your shoes shined, buy a goat – or just wait…


And there’s lots of food….and lots of coffee….

You can discover the root of all life in Addis……or you can  just sit…. and wait…..



THE GREAT ETHIOPIAN WAIT Part 1: Wedding and Running


‘And there are amazing cave churches, carved out of rock…..’  Judy told me this. She’d just come back from Ethiopia. A seed nestled, ‘Wow’ I thought, ‘one day I’ll go there too.’ Over twenty five years later, I made it. I didn’t get to see the rock churches, and sadly, the lovely young Judy Faber never got to see them again either, because she died in a car crash soon after.

So a quarter of a century later when Sarah said ‘Don’t you want to come and do the Great Ethiopian Run’ – my first thought was of Judy. I’ll do it for her. ‘Yup’, I said, ‘count me in!’

It nearly didn’t happen. With just a few weeks to go, a State of Emergency was declared in the country. But having waited so long, I wasn’t about to back out now. And so we ran – BBC journalist Sarah, photographer Caroline and Ethiopian chef Tutu….


And so did Tutu’s dad, Melaku. Almost immobilised by a couple of strokes, UK based Tutu decided she’d that she’d help him fulfill a dream and push him on the 10km Run – in a wheelchair.  Sarah Parfitt who through her son’s school in Cookham is fundraising for an Ethiopian rural village community called Gende Tesfa, brought over the wheelchair – as well school teddy mascot and her camera buddy Caroline to cover the event. Irresistibly this feisty trio called their joint venture ‘Tutu’s for Change’ – and dressed accordingly!


But before embarking on the Great Run – first there was the early morning-before warm up – though the traffic in Addis Ababa is quite hectic, one way or another….

We witnessed the city slowly coming to life with prayers, commerce, transport…. and waiting….

Tutu has a large and extended family at home in Addis, and many friends who she helps support – so when she comes back she celebrates with them. And very generously she invited us to join them all at a family wedding reception…what a privilege!

What started as a sedate event soon grew into a boisterous celebration – with dancing…..

And feasting….

Tutu, who owns a restaurant Tutu’s Ethiopian Table in the UK, went easy on the feast…but made sure her dad’s plate was filled – energy for the next days adventure!

Finally, the wedding party was over – and power cuts notwithstanding, a good time was truly had by all!


Next stop was the pre-race Pasta Party at the Hilton Hotel, for participating internationals….where we got to meet founder of the Great Ethiopian Run, legendary Olympic athlete himself Hailie Gebreselassie – of whom everybody wanted a piece….

At dawn next morning, us and two elite Kenyan athletes staying in the same hotel, head out for the Start of the Run in Meskel Square. The city’s streets are closed to make way for the event – but there are also State of Emergency-triggered road blocks

But we get there – and the crowds are already amped and warming up….

So are the police – so is Caroline…..

Slightly worrying is that there are 42,000 people on this Run – but only one loo….

But with a little encouragement from South African star runner Hendrik Ramaala – Team ‘Tutu’s for Change’ is ready to roll…..

And then we’re all off…..

Coupla moments along the way….

…and a couple more…..

Till finally – the Finish….

…..the selfies and the interviews with, amongst others, Kenyan athlete Jorum Lumbasi, UK running rock star and organiser Richard Nerurkar and a beaming Hailie…..

But a Run in Ethiopia is not over till the party is done….and up at Hailie’s Yaya Athletic Village in the mountains we get to eat, drink and dance some more with the man who inspires thousands to run….and have a welcome cup of coffee….

So worth the wait…..well and truly blessed!


The Great Ethiopian Wait – Part 2 to follow soon…..



Occasion: Kulture Book Fair  Venue: Kuyasa Library, Khayelitsha  Date: June 20

Congratulations on a great event…..!

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To visionary behind the Fair, Monde Kula of Inkululeko in Mind


And thank you to Lungelwa Ciliba, reference librarian who gave me directions on the phone!


And a warm wamkelekile from the check out team!

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Mama Sindiwe Magona opens the event with stories for the kids….

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….getting those little imaginations flying……

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And a good time was had by all!


Including Prof Simphiwe Sesante of Unisa who got to share a moment with Living Legend Sis Sindi.

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Teacher and writer Lukhanyo Mangona picks up some inspiration……


…while the impressive library itself caters for all tastes, and ages.

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Author of five books Nondyebo Booi has a story that grows and grows…

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…while actress, ‘artivist’ and soon-to-be published author Andrea Dondolo centres herself before sharing her story……

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….and inspirational speaker, founder of Lesdei House publishing company Tshepo Nketle reads from one his own 24 book titles…..and reveals that he is soon to be opening the very first book shop in Mandela Park, Khayelitsha!


And may there be many, many more -book shops and Book Fairs in Khayelitsha…where there are so many old, and new stories  just waiting to be told. Thank you Monde, for an inspiring experience.




International Women’s Day and Daphne and I got to spend it in the company of some fine women!
Walking for peace in the Company’s Garden with the Cape Town branch of the International Women’s Peace Group and witnessing Lucinda Evans of Lavender Hill, founder of Philisa Abafazi Bethu receive her Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur award from French Ambassador Madame Elisabeth Barbier at the Alliance Francaise. What an honour for us to be invited to both events.
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Atlantis activist Barbara Rass
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On the peace path 032
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The man behind her, Frank Evans 044
Sharing the moment, poet Bulelwa Basse 067

What a proud day!