South African author Zukiswa Wanner just released a timely essay collection titled Vignettes of a People in an Apartheid State this November. Published by Periferias, the book reflects on Wanner’s experiences witnessing apartheid in Palestine during the Palestine Festival of Literature.
As the violence against Palestinians continues in the ongoing conflict in Gaza between the Israeli military and Hamas, Wanner’s reflections in this essay collection offer a first-hand account of contemporary settler colonialism in Palestine.
In May 2023, the Palestine Festival of Literature took place where Wanner was a guest. As Palestinians are not always permitted to travel across checkpoints, the festival brought her and other festival participants to different parts of the Palestinian territories (“glorified bantustans” as the book describes) for literary engagement with audiences.
According to the publisher’s synopsis, since Wanner hails from a country with a history of apartheid, she should have had an inkling of what to expect but her experiences were more than she had bargained for. Vignettes is her “witness account of contemporary settler colonialism, genocide and a world that’s damned by its refusal to see or hear the pleas for a truly free Palestine.”
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The book has already received praise from the literary community. Sudanese author Leila Aboulela shared the book on her Instagram, calling it a stunning and revelatory read:
South African author Zukiswa Wanner is qualified to recognise apartheid when she encounters it. In this book, just published a few days ago, she travels through the Palestinian territories and in lucid, uncompromising prose, at once intimate and informed, she bears witness to contemporary settler colonialism. I was startled most by her encounter with an Israeli soldier humming the apartheid national anthem. The revelation that follows is stunning. Thank you @zukiswa.wanner for this timely, much needed, clear-eyed read.
This book is a must read for everyone who is concerned about the ongoing violence in Gaza. We are grateful for Wanner’s first-hand reflections and insightful writing!
Zukiswa Wanner is a South African journalist, novelist and editor born in Zambia and currently based in Kenya. In 2015, she won the K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award for her 2014 book London, Cape Town, Joburg. In 2014, Wanner was named on the Africa39 list of 39 Sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define trends in African literature. In 2020, she was awarded the Goethe Medal, making her the first African woman to win the award.
Read Wanner’s stunning essay collection about Palestine on Kindle here.