Pen South Africa’s podcast series The Empty Chair has a new season out! Released on August 17, Season 9 promises to continue discussing important topics and books across the Atlantic through refreshing conversations.
Founded in 1927, PEN SA is a center located within PEN International, operating in over 100 countries. PEN is a global politically non-aligned organization of writers dedicated to promoting freedom of expression and encouraging literary growth.
PEN SA’s podcast series is titled The Empty Chair: A Transatlantic Conversation and began in 2021 with a focus on South Africa. The podcast explores issues of social justice, freedom of expression, moments of solidarity, difference, difficult pasts, uncertain presents, and possible futures. Each episode is dedicated to an imprisoned writer or a writer who has been subject to some form of abuse by the state.
Since season 4, the podcast has become more transatlantic, featuring novelists, poets, theatre makers, musicians, activists, journalists, academics and historians based in South Africa and the United States. This podcast series is funded by a grant from the U.S. Embassy in South Africa to promote open conversation and highlight shared histories.
Here are highlights from the first few Season 9 podcast episodes:
Season 9, Episode 1: Writing Across Time
Phillippa Yaa de Villiers interviews Congolese poet Sarah Lubala and Ethiopian-Eritrean writer Mahtem Shiferraw about their poetry collections, A History of Disappearance and Nomenclatures of Invisibility. Sarah and Mahtem read several of their poems and contemplate language, ancestors, writing for a collective, migration, loss and awe. Listen.
Season 9, Episode 2: Durban’s Casbah – “A City Within a City”
South African professors Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed talk with Betty Govinden about their book Durban’s Casbah. They reflect on personal and collective pasts, bunny chows and bioscopes, critical nostalgia, indentured labour, migration, jazz and the Casbah today. Listen.
Season 9, Episode 3: Tracing Lineages & Imagining Futures
Vuyokazi Ngemntu invites Brooklyn poet LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs and Durban poet Sihle Ntuli to reflect on their poetic practice, language and dispossession, literacies, influences, rootedness, Black women’s histories and music. Listen.
Season 9, Episode 4: Gardening & Creating a Space of Welcome
Yewande Omotoso asks Camille Dungy about her latest book, Soil: The Story of a Black Mother’s Garden. They delve into nature writing, gardening, radical generosity, writing revisions, the ethics of fellowship grants, hope and resilience. Listen.