Time of the Writer festival focuses on mental health and suicide

The 25th edition of the Festival Le Temps de l’écrivain will focus on mental health and suicide. Moderated by knowledgeable and empathetic radio listener and journalist Michelle Constant, the discussion will seek to deepen the understanding of suicide and mental health by those who have lost loved ones or been affected by its consequences.

Durban-based journalist Glynis Horning and her husband Chris woke up one Sunday morning to the devastating discovery of their 25-year-old son, Spencer, dead in his bed. In his book, Waterboy: Making sense of my son’s suicideHorning pieces together the puzzle of his death, writing with visceral intensity of loss and grief but also joys of celebrating his son’s life.

Orphan by suicide is Alicia Sewdas Ramdharee’s moving tale of being orphaned at the age of 12. In her heartbreaking memoir, she recounts the horrific event that threw her life into chaos and confusion. As the story of her family’s murder-suicide made national headlines, she was carried from house to house, with no place to belong. Often blamed for her family’s demise, Ramdharee struggled to find solace as feelings of abandonment and disgrace threatened her physical and mental well-being.

In his singular lyrical prose, broken porcelain, Relebone Rirhandzu eAfrika covers topics such as the role of social media in how we view depression, generational trauma, what self-care really is, taking antidepressant medication and finding love when you have a mental illness. The author writes with poignant honesty about the darkness of his mental illness and breaks down what mental illness is (and isn’t).

Festival Details

The panel includes filmmaker Gillian Schutte whose son, Kai Singiswam, committed suicide. After an altercation with a friend, Kai, who showed empathy and sensitivity, sank into a black hole of self-loathing and despair throughout the night, which led him to end his his days. Popular and loved by his friends, the death of 20-year-old Kai sent torrents of sadness through a community that admired him. Schutte is collecting memoirs to celebrate and honor her son’s life.

Flora Veit-Wild, Emeritus Professor of African Literature at Humboldt University in Berlin, will also join the panel. She lived in Harare from 1983 to 1993 and became known for her work on Zimbabwean literature and as the literary executor and biographer of Dambudzo Marechera. She is also a founding member of the Zimbabwe Women Writers. Her publications include studies of the body, madness, sexuality and gender in Anglophone and Francophone African writing and code-switching and linguistic innovation in Shona literature. His first book-length literary work is his memoirs They called you Dambudzo.

The festival takes place from March 14 to 21 and will be broadcast live for the 3rd year in a row, where it can be viewed on Facebook or YouTube. The Festival sets the stage for engaging in critical discussions about Luthuli’s vision and present-day South Africa and socio-political issues of global concern.

The 25th edition of the Time of the Writer festival will pay tribute to chef Albert Luthuli whose first book let my people go marks the 60th anniversary of the publication. Notable writers from South Africa and around the world have been brought together for the Festival by the Creative Arts Center at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in partnership with the African Book Festival and with support from the Department of Arts and KZN Culture, National Arts Council, Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, Embassy of Brazil, Embassy of Ukraine and High Commission of Canada.

Milton S. Rodgers