Gerwel Discussions at Suidoosterfees, Artscape – 27 April to 1 May 2023


The Jakes Gerwel lecture of 27 April with Dr Imtiaz Sooliman as guest speaker must unfortunately be postponed due to medical reasons. An alternative date for the lecture will be communicated as soon as possible.

Our sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Please note that the rest of the Jakes Gerwel Discussions at the Suidoosterfees will continue as planned.

We hope to be welcoming you at the Jakes Gerwel Lecture later in the year.

This year, the Jakes Gerwel Foundation (JGF) makes attendance of the prestigious Jakes Gerwel Commemorative Lecture more accessible by bringing it to the same platform as the Jakes Gerwel Discussion series, which is held every year at the Suidoosterfees, Artscape.

The Jakes Gerwel Commemorative Lecture celebrates the rich legacy of Prof. Gerwel and strives to encourage innovative thought and excellence in our society. Because of the salient role Prof. Gerwel played in the establishment of the Suidoosterfees, both the Jakes Gerwel Foundation and the Suidoosterfees regard it as particularly fitting to host this year’s Commemorative Lecture as partners.

Every year the Foundation invites an influential speaker or writer to present the Jakes Gerwel Lecture. We are pleased to announce that, this year, our guest speaker is Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, the founder and chairperson of the Gift of the Givers. Over the 30 years of its existence, this non-governmental organisation for disaster response with its vision to uplift and unite people has earned worldwide recognition. Theo Kemp, the executive director of the Jakes Gerwel Foundation describes Dr Sooliman as ‘a South African who is a role model of how we should act in times of crisis and a true inspiration.’

The Jakes Gerwel Discussions started out in 2018 with only four talks, but has expanded to about 14 sessions. Kemp says: ‘First, I think it is so wonderful to gather again – and without masks. The discussions are intimate and provide such a great platform for people to engage with writers, leading figures in South Africa and fellow citizens. It is a perfect opportunity to express your views on matters that involve all of us. But you don’t have to raise your voice, you can also just come and observe, and listen to the views of other people. If you are serious about living in South Africa, if you are interested in our politics and literature, this is the place to be. And it is for free plus a coffee!’

One of the bonuses is the unpredictability of the discussions that always offer some food for thought. ‘You might laugh or cry, agree or annoyingly disagree, but you will not leave the venue without feeling and thinking something. And mostly, you will be different from before,’ says Kemp.

To Kemp, this post-pandemic event is close to his heart. For it is again possible to welcome writers who have participated in the Foundation’s mentorship and residency programmes, the writers who have become part of the ‘JGF family’, together with their brand-new books.

It is a good idea to reserve seats well in advance as the Discussion series have garnered quite a following of attendees who return every year. ‘It is always nice to chat and catch up,’ says Kemp. ‘And the cherry on the cake is when familiar faces bring along new friends!’ Non-fiction books and current affairs are, according to Kemp, ‘the main meals on the menu’ while fiction writers with new and different perspectives, such as the writers in the JGF family, are also firm favourites.

‘I sort of measure the success of the Discussion series by the rise in heat levels! Robust discussions are wonderful, but it remains important to create a safe space where no one opinion is valued above all others. We may differ and arguing is not fighting, it is healthy. It is a great opportunity to bring together, in one venue, people with totally opposite views and to hear what others think. But the underlying rule of the game is: mutual respect,’ Kemp concludes.

The Jakes Gerwel Discussions take place from 27 April to 1 May and the Commemorative Lecture is scheduled for 27 April at 18h00. Click here for the programme.

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