1892 woman writing impressionist painting

Colleen Higgs

Modjaji is a women’s press – but some people don’t realise that it is a women’s press – they look at the titles and just think, ‘these are all good writers’, which if you reverse the gender bias, might not be seen as unusual at all. In a way, I think that means Modjaji is doing something right.

But at the same time, I do have an activist sensibility. Very often women’s voices and experiences are sidelined.  And Modjaji is able to publish things that don’t fit into well set commercial genres – Hester se Brood (Hester’s Book of Bread), for example, is about making bread and living in a small village in the Karoo. Many people loved it because she writes wonderfully, and her partner has done such beautiful drawings, but other publishers wouldn’t touch it because it was too weird.

The first novel I published, Tracey Farren’sWhiplash, is about a sex worker – and not a glamorous Belle-de-Jour type – it was rejected elsewhere, and it was not easy to get it stocked in stores here after it was published because of its subject matter. But then it was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize and all those reluctant stores had to stock it. Now it is being made into a film. The director, producer and Tracey Farren herself have been working on the film for several years in different ways. Tracey has written the script. The producer and director have been working hard to raise sufficient funds for the film.

I think Modjaji is a feminist press. And that’s to do with what’s going on in the world. Having lived through and enacted it, I think publishing only women writers is a hugely political act, particularly if you think about the way publishing is owned, media is owned, who gets to make the decisions, and how women are represented. Even in South Africa, where we have a great constitution, lesbians are violently attacked and in some cases murdered simply for their sexuality; all women live with fear of violence and abuse, and our rape statistics are horrific.

Women do have a different experience of different things – not necessarily just because they are women, but because of the way power is structured and filtered. There was a point, not so long ago, maybe 30 years ago, where married women couldn’t open a cheque account in South Africa, without permission from their husbands –women were treated as minors.

A bit of context: Modjaji Books is a small press that publishes books written by South African women. It is based in Cape Town. You just read what the founder, Colleen Higgs, has to say about what it means to think of Modgaji as a women’s press.

Check out the full interview HERE. It was conducted by Katie Reids for African in Words. Visit Africa in Words for more illuminating interviews. 

 

Image via

Tags: , , , , ,

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

One Response to “An African Feminist Press? Colleen Higgs On Why Modjaji Books Is Doing Something Right” Subscribe

  1. Harry Owen 2013/08/22 at 03:38 #

    Modjaji only publishes excellent writing. What else matters?

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives

#TBT | An Ode to Makeup | The Full Transcript of Chimamanda Adichie’s Wellesley Speech

adichie wellesley

Our #TBT feature this week is Chimamanda Adichie’s Wellesley speech. Two years ago, Adichie gave the commencement speech at Wellesley […]

The Impossibly Dapper Novelist: A Look at Alain Mabanckou’s Style File

mabanckou style (2)

From Chimamanda Adichie’s widely-publicized made-in-Nigeria wardrobe to Teju Cole’s Ikire Jones scarves to Prof Ato Quayson’s fedora hats, fashion and […]

Keeping Up With African Writers: Aminatta Forna

aminatta-5-1-e1498142594292

  Among writers of her generation, Aminatta Forna belongs in the higher ranks of critical acclaim. With her work translated […]

Why Maaza Mengiste Threw Away the First Draft of Her Second Novel

mengiste_shevaunwilliams-1-1-e1498141568170

Maaza Mengiste might have just one novel published so far, in 2010, but she is one of the most visible […]

Chimamanda Adichie at City of Columbia’s Books In Bloom Festival | By Arao Ameny

adichie columbia city (1)

The city of Columbia, Maryland—a city located midway between Washington D.C. and Baltimore—hosted its first literary festival ‘Books in Bloom’ […]

Leila Aboulela Headlines 2017 Kaduna Book and Arts Festival

kabafest (1)

Hold on, Ake Festival. KABAFEST is here! Yes, we are delighted to announce the inaugural edition of the Kaduna Book […]