Dialogue Programme for Writers from the Low Countries and South Africa


After an absence of two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jakes Gerwel Foundation and Brussels-based International House of Literature Passa Porta’s Dialogue Programme for Writers from the Low Countries and South Africa is up and running again.

The collaboration between the Jakes Gerwel Foundation and Passa Porta was cemented in 2019 with the first writers’ residency for two South Africans, Chase Rhys and Denver Breda, and two Belgian writers, Miriam Van hee and Rachida Lamrabet, at the Foundation’s Paulet House in Somerset East, Eastern Cape.

Two Flemish writers are chosen each year to share a residency with two South African writers. In this way, the partners encourage cross-pollination between the writing of writers from different backgrounds and strive to enrich the body of literature here and abroad.

About the Partners

This collaboration was born out of Professor Jakes Gerwel’s considerable legacy, in that it was from the Vrije Universiteit of Brussels in 1979 that he received his doctorate in Literature and Philosophy (magna cum laude). His thesis which was published in 1983 was on Literatuur en apartheid: Konsepsies van “gekleurdes” in die Afrikaanse roman tot 1948 (“Literature and apartheid. Conceptions of ‘coloured people’ in the Afrikaans novel up to 1948”). It was a study that impacted Afrikaans literary criticism immensely.

Today, the Foundation’s aim is to promote and expand South African literature in general, but especially Afrikaans which was Professor Gerwel’s field of expertise.

The Foundation focusses on:

  • Enriching South African literature
  • Assisting with new perspectives and sharing of new experiences
  • Supporting emerging writers and new voices
  • Encouraging reading and promoting literacy among the youth.

However, the Foundation is open to multilingualism much like our partner Passa Porta which is a multilingual meeting place in Brussels, a city where 180 ationalities co-exist. Passa Porta occupies a spot at the heart of all these languages and offers a passport for readers to meet their favourite writers from home and away and discover new writings.

It is above all a place where writers, artists, and translators can slow down and have a platform or workspace where they exchange ideas, texts, and stories. Every second year, hundreds of writers and artists from all over the world descend on Brussels to participate in the Passa Porta Festival that honours Brussels as a city of literature.

Residency information

The all-expenses-paid Dialogue Programme for Writers from the Low Countries and South Africa takes place at Paulet House in Somerset East from 7 to 21 November 2022. If you would like to be part of this exciting collaboration, please send your submissions to the executive director of the Jakes Gerwel Foundation, Theo Kemp, at theo@jgf.org.za by 5 September 2022.

Residency requirements:

  • You should include a letter of motivation in the language in which you write or publish.
  • You should include a CV along with a list of your publications if you are an established writer or an upcoming writer. All genres will be considered.
  • You should include a project outline of what you intend to work on during the residency. It will count strongly in your favour should your writing or research project be compatible with those of the two Belgian authors already chosen for the residency.
  • You should be committed to using the residency productively and you should be committed to contribute to the collegiate and towards a respectful atmosphere in Paulet House.
  • You are welcome to write and progress at the pace you are accustomed to, as there are no mentors involved in this residency.


About the Belgian writers

Dr Yousra Benfquih:

Besides being a jurist in international human rights, Yousra Benfquih is also an author, columnist, poet and spoken-word artist. She won the txt-on-stage competition Naft voor Woord in 2017. Her columns appear regularly in, for example, De StandaardDe MorgenVRT NWSrekto:versoSamPol and Knack while the audio of her letter to De Held van de Week (“The Hero of the Week”) can be heard every month on the Flemish Radio 1. Her poetry, in which she strives to balance humour and seriousness as well as discomfort and pathos has already appeared on many platforms.

Yousra completed her PhD at the University of Antwerp in 2020 and, in 2021, was awarded the Max van der Stoel Human Rights Award 2021 for her PhD thesis in the field of international human rights. Her dissertation is entitled “Reasonable Accommodation in Education: An Integrated Human Rights Approach on the Basis of the Right to Equality, Inclusive Education and Freedom of Religion”.

Fleur Pierets:

Fleur is an award-winning Belgian artist and writer as well as an LGBTQ+ activist. She combines different media such as photography and performance arts with writing. Her work is characterised by positive activism that focusses on what binds us rather than on what separates us. Fleur’s book Julian, in which she writes about the loss of her wife and their work together as a couple, appeared in 2019. Her children’s book Love Around the World (2019) was published in New York. Fleur presents lectures all over the world.