The consensus about the second Abantu Book Festival, which took place in Soweto at the weekend, was that it was a space of healing for black people. There is so much power and delight about a literary event that allows black people to be themselves freely, with all their cultural idiosyncrasies and without compromise. To see this can be emotionally overwhelming. Doyen of Zimbabwean literature and film-maker Tsitsi Dangarembga, who was a keynote speaker and opened the festival last Thursday, had to hold back tears as the audience broke into a praise song just as she was about to start speaking. "I’ve never been to a book festival where the entertainment comes before a keynote address," she said. The preamble made sense. In most black African cultures, a light prelude always precedes a weighty conversation. But there was nothing light about the poetry and music on the opening night. The political implications of the festival are stark – it’s primarily a black book festival where black...

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