Podcasts: PEN South Africa announces Season Three of The Empty Chair Podcast: A Transatlantic Conversation- starts February 3, 2022

What: Season Three of The Empty Chair Podcast: A Transatlantic Conversation, presented by Pen South Africa
When: Starts February 3, 2022
Platforms: Apple podcastsSpotifyAnchor FM and the PEN SA website
Cost: No charge – free

Social media: Follow @pen_southafrica on Twitter and subscribe to “The Empty Chair by PEN SA” on Spotify or Apple Podcasts so you don’t miss this season of The Empty Chair

PEN South Africa (PEN SA) has delivered extraordinary initiatives, during the pandemic – keeping writing going. Here is exciting news of the latest edition of PEN’s The Empty Chair Podcast. The podcast series starts on February 3, 2022 and is titled: A Transatlantic Conversation. Information as supplied:

PEN South Africa (PEN SA) presents the third instalment of its acclaimed series, The Empty Chair Podcast: A Transatlantic Conversation.

Starting on February 3, 2022, the season continues toilluminate shared histories and values between South Africa and the USA, engaging with topics around social justice, racial equity and diversity. Coinciding with Black History Month in the USA, this series focuses on conversations inspired by this initiative. Writers, musicians, historians, theatre practitioners and representatives from historic community radio stations from both sides of the Atlantic engage in compelling conversations across eight episodes. The podcasts are available onApple podcastsSpotifyAnchor FM and the PEN SA website.

The stellar line-up includes Farah Jasmine Griffin, Mandisa Haarhoff, Jehan Jones-Radgowski, CA Davids, Salim WashingtonThandi NtuliLinda Sikhakhane, Gwen Ansell, John Edwin Mason, Stefanie Jason, Patricia Hayes, Renee Gladman, Masande Ntshanga, Jacob Ntshangase, Brenda Leonard, Takalane Nemangowe, Nicole Dennis-Benn and Yewande Omotoso, among others.

Marking the Day of the Imprisoned Writer

Every year, on the fifteenth of November, PEN marks the Day of the Imprisoned Writer, and at each event there is an unoccupied chair. This chair symbolizes those who cannot be with us because they have been jailed for their writings and it is from this symbol that the podcast takes its name. In keeping with the focus on social justice, each of the eight episodes is dedicated to a writer in prison or a writer who has been curtailed, harassed, detained or tortured by the state.

This Season takes place during the United States’ Black History Month and in it, we bring together South African and American writers, activists and artists to reflect on shared histories of struggle and creativity. Through their transatlantic conversation, our brilliant guest speakers provoke questions of archives, memory, remembrance, revered ancestors, constructed identities, literary influences, our reading histories and how we tell the stories of our past. And they celebrate those working to make the world a better place in the present,” says Nadia Davids, President of PEN SA.

These invigorating conversations explore issues of social justice, freedom of expression (in art and life), moments of solidarity, difference, uncertain presents, and dreaming of possible futures.”

 The programme for The Empty Chair Podcast: A Transatlantic Conversation – Season Three: Black History Month, includes:  

Thursday February 3, 2022  

Jehan Jones-Radgowski, Acting Public Affairs Officer for the US Consulate General in Cape Town, in conversation with Mandisa Haarhoff lecturer in English and Literary Studies at UCT, about Black History Month, children’s literature, history, and diversity.   Jones-Radgowski first came to South Africa as an intern 20 years ago.  She has worked around the world with the US Foreign Service and is a published author of seven books, with two more coming out in 2022. Haarhoff is a recipient of the National Research Fund’s Black Academic Advancement Programme for her book manuscript in progress, Kaffirland/Vaderland: Black Absenting and White Indigeneity in South African Farm Narratives.   

Tuesday February 8, 2022  

Harhoff chairs a second episode, talking to authors Farah Jasmine Griffin (Read Until You Understand: The Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature) and CA Davids, (How to be a RevolutionaryThe Blacks of Cape Town) about their latest books, American poet Langston Hughes, literature and history. Griffin is professor of African American and African diaspora studies and English and comparative literature at Columbia University as well as the recipient of a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship.  

Thursday February 10, 2022   Renowned South African music writer and researcher Gwen Ansell chairs a discussion about Jazz and Freedom with Salim Washington, acclaimed musical artist Thandi Ntuli and Linda Sikhakhane,musician, improviser and composer. Washington is a professor, composer and instrumentalist and is the inaugural International Visiting Professor of African American and African Diasporic Studies at Columbia University. He is also a cluster leader/ HOD (head of department) of Performing Arts, and a Professor at University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (Durban, South Africa).  

Thursday February 17, 2022   The topic for Episode 4 is: Photography and history, Mabel Cetu, late 19th- and early 20th-century portraits of Black Virginians and Gordon Parks. Chaired by Patricia Hayes, the participants include John Edwin Mason and writer and journalist Stefanie Jason, who works at the intersection of research, writing and curating.   John Edwin Mason teaches African history and the history of photography at the University of Virginia. He has lived in Cape Town and publishes widely on South African history. His long-term documentary project on carnival troupes in Hanover Park and Woodstock led to his book, One Love, Ghoema Beat: Inside the Cape Town Carnival.  

Other riveting episodes to catch include the History of Community Radio chaired by Jacob Ntshangase, head of Wits Radio Academy and coordinator at Citizen Justice Network (CJN), in conversation with Managing Director of Bush Radio, Brenda Leonard and Station Manager of Alex FM, Takalane Nemangowe.

In another enticing episode, award-winning author, editor and publisher Masande Ntshanga is in conversation with celebrated American writer and artist Renee Gladman about her innovative work. Gladman is a writer and artist preoccupied with crossings, thresholds, and geographies as they play out at the intersections of poetry, prose, drawing and architecture. She is the author of thirteen published works and two collections of drawings. A 2021 Windham-Campbell Prize winner in fiction, Gladman has been awarded fellowships, artist grants, and residencies from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Lannan Foundation, and KW Institute for Contemporary Art (Berlin).   Also look out for the podcast with PEN SA treasurer and executive vice-president, writer Yewande Omotoso talking to author Nicole Dennis-Benn (Here Comes the SunPatsy), about Identity, Home and Belonging.  

Follow @pen_southafrica on Twitter and subscribe to “The Empty Chair by PEN SA” on Spotify or Apple Podcasts so you don’t miss this season of The Empty Chair.  

This podcast series is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Embassy in South Africa to promote open conversation and highlight shared histories.    

PEN South Africa was founded in 1927. It represents the writers of southern and South Africa – one of the many PEN centres from all over the world that is affiliated to PEN International.   PEN SA celebrates literature, defends Freedom of Expression and Speech, and aids writers in prison. Its work is urgent and its advocacy essential, even more so in recent times. It has managed to continue its activities during ongoing crises, including the pandemic.

Today, PEN South Africa is led by Nadia Davids, who was elected in 2017. PEN SA’s board members include award-winning novelists, journalists, playwrights and academics. The board members are: Nadia Davids (President), Yewande Omotoso (Executive Vice-President and Treasurer), Sisonke Msimang, Pierre de Vos, Kate Highman, Bongani Kona, Nicky Falkof, Ekow Ducker, Mandla Langa and Special Advisor: Margie Orford.

PEN South Africa adheres to the PEN charter which affirms that “Literature knows no frontiers and must remain common currency among people in spite of political or international upheavals”. It also stresses the necessity of “good understanding and mutual respect between nations and people … dispel[lling] all hatreds and [championing] the ideal of one humanity living in peace and equality in one world” as well as the “unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations”.  

In the past PEN SA has hosted book launches and discussions, days of the Imprisoned Writer, seminars on freedom of expressionchildren’s literacy and literature, dialogues on student movements and the media. It has partnered with the Institute for the Creative ArtsOpen Book FestivalPenguin Random House South AfricaThe Mandela Rhodes Foundation and the Fugard Theatre for some of these events.

After a brief hiatus from 2019–2020, PEN SA has been delighted to be able to return to the public sphere and resume its important work. For the Day of the Imprisoned Writer 2020, PEN SA created a video that included messages from Nobel Prize winner JM Coetzee and globally celebrated anti-apartheid activist Albie Sachs. Episodes of first season of the podcast, “The Empty Chair by PEN SA”, were released from April to June 2021.      

Sponsored content. Featured image: Thandi Ntuli will be one of the participants in PEN SA’s Season Three of The Empty Chair Podcast: A Transatlantic Conversation. Photo: Ndumiso Sibanda. Supplied.