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UKZN Academic gets Durban named UNESCO’s City of Literature

09 Nov, 2017

Mr Darryl Earl David made Durban UNESCO’s City of Literature.

Through hard work and steely determination, Lecturer in the School of Arts Mr Darryl Earl David has finally succeeded in getting Durban the UNESCO City of Literature status. Durban now joins the prestigious list of 21 other cities which include Prague, Dublin, Iowa City, Baghdad and Barcelona.

David was the executive director of the Durban bid for the UNESCO City of Literature status. He says, ‘Durban now becomes the literary capital of Africa, the literary gateway to Africa. Everything that the city plans from now, literature must be at its heart. It must define the city. Statues of writers need to be built, literary trails need to be developed.

‘We already have three major literary festivals in the city: Time of the Writer; Poetry Africa from UKZN and most recently ARTiculate Africa. Our bid was built on these cornerstones. By joining the UNESCO City of Literature family, the literary world will open up to Durban.’

Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UKZN Dr Albert van Jaarsveld said, ‘For many years Mr David, in his capacity as the executive director of the Durban bid for the UNESCO City of Literature status, championed this noble cause supported by a small group of other equally dedicated and committed South Africans.  They worked tirelessly to make this a reality and credit must go to them as we celebrate this success today.

‘We are proud that one of our own was the driving force behind this wonderful initiative. As UKZN we have always proudly associated with the literary world through initiatives such as the annual Time of the Writer Festival and Poetry Africa.’

Iowa in the USA will be now also be Durban’s mentor city. ‘Iowa has been a UNESCO City of Literature for almost a decade. Their advice was invaluable to our bid. For instance, we forwarded our draft bid to Director John Kenyon. He advised us to find innovative projects because he knew what existed in the network.’

‘Christopher Merrill, for example, helped in the organisation process of ARTiculate Africa. While this mentoring process officially ended upon the announcement, if given the chance, I will continue this relationship in the early years,’ said David. 

Asked about what this would mean for literature in South Africa and for indigenous languages, David said, ‘This will be huge for South African literature. Such a designation opens South African literature up to the entire world. International writers love South Africa and have been waiting for something like this. As for indigenous languages, part of our proposal included not only the promotion of isiZulu, but also of Indian languages like Urdu, Telegu and Hindi.’

David is the founder of Booktown Richmond and at least 10 other literary festivals in South Africa. ‘Bringing a UNESCO City of Literature to South Africa does not fall out of the sky. It has been a long journey and all of my literary festivals helped me eventually to get to what I consider to be the Holy Grail in literary tourism – a UNESCO City of Literature. Of this achievement I am most proud. I have given my life to literature in South Africa.’

Melissa Mungroo

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