The magic of Abantu Book Festival is palpable at the Eyethu Lifestyle Centre in Soweto. It's not just a socially inclusive space where friends can catch up in-between workshops and stalls; it's a literary feast with all our wordsmith faves and radio personalities are on hand to share their wisdom.
Thando Mgqolozana and his team have created not only a safe space for many of those who have been 'othered' or painfully erased by our society, but they have also given a voice to many who have not -- until now -- felt that their voices were valid or that their existence and their lived experience was an important part of our national consciousness.
The festival not only ensures that all the book lovers get to hang with their fave paperbacks, but that the children are also taken care of and have their own programme running simultaneously to the adult sessions or workshops.
The youth is kept entertained and they are made to feel just as much a part of the festival as anyone else present. The interactive sessions with the children are intellectually stimulating and affirming.
The children's programme is particularly important in light of the Progress in International Reading and Literacy Study released on December 5. The study stipulates that 78 percent of Grade 4 learners are unable to read for meaning, which is a worrying literacy crisis.
Festivals such as Abantu seek to actively change this through workshops such as "Turning the Library in Africa into a truly African Library", which focuses on decolonising the library and seeing how the function of libraries can serve as "sites of change".
It is important that, from a young age, children are able to read and write in the mother tongues as well, as multilingualism is becoming increasingly important in today's society.
Abantu Book Festival was all of the things we needed this year.
The second Abantu Book Festival kicked off on Thursday 7 December and culminated in a beautiful celebration of the ongoing fight for fee-free decolonised education on Sunday 10 December, with the Free Education Live concert featuring some of South Africa's noteworthy musicians -- Abantu remains a gift that keeps on giving.