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

Departure | Three Poems by Romeo Oriogun

14808778703_3587b5e3cc_o

i was born with a graveyard. – Safia Elhillo. Departure i do know about the hate that sinks a name […]

What It Means to Feel Adrift | By Arinze Ifeakandu | Memoir

FullSizeRender

1. Your friends are suddenly too far away, your family even farther. You feel a loneliness that gnaws, a disconnection […]

Dinaw Mengestu, Chinelo Okparanta and Yaa Gyasi Listed among Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists

InstaBox_2017428132951654

Granta has released its prestigious once-in-a-decade Best of Young American Novelists list and it includes Ethiopia’s Dinaw Mengestu, Nigeria’s Chinelo […]

Bessie Head’s Letters: the Pain, the Beauty, the Humor

head (1)

“Forgive the vanity, but few people equal my letter-writing ability!!” writes Bessie Head on March 14, 197o to her friend […]

Is Tram 83 Misogynist Poverty Porn? Petina Gappah, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Ainehi Edoro Deepen Conversation as Ikhide Ikheloa and Richard Oduku Publish New Essays

tram 83

Two days ago, we covered an important conversation that had started on Facebook in reaction to Ikhide Ikheloa’s essay in […]

A Letter of Secrets | By Nwanne Agwu | Fiction

11893775_10207320117223894_2273125653442773633_o

On the streets of Lagos, a boy searches for himself in mirrors. — Romeo Oriogun. Saturday, 01 April, 2017 Dear […]