63 episodes

In The Empty Chair Podcast: A Transatlantic Conversation, PEN South Africa hosts authors, academics and activists based in South Africa and the USA. The podcast focuses on books, writing, social justice, freedom of expression, shared histories and possible futures. Each of our episodes is dedicated to an imprisoned writer or a writer who has been harassed by the state.

The Empty Chair by PEN SA PEN South Africa

    • Arts
    • 5.0 • 14 Ratings

In The Empty Chair Podcast: A Transatlantic Conversation, PEN South Africa hosts authors, academics and activists based in South Africa and the USA. The podcast focuses on books, writing, social justice, freedom of expression, shared histories and possible futures. Each of our episodes is dedicated to an imprisoned writer or a writer who has been harassed by the state.

    S9 E7 Hugo ka Canham & Grace A. Musila: Death, Life & Mpondo Theory

    S9 E7 Hugo ka Canham & Grace A. Musila: Death, Life & Mpondo Theory

    Grace A. Musila asks Hugo ka Canham about his book Riotous Deathscapes. They explore riotous methods, rural Mpondoland, precarity, storytelling, death and life as well as the natural and ancestral worlds.

    Grace A. Musila is a Professor in the Department of African Literature at Wits University and the author of A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder (James Currey, 2015). She is the editor of Wangari Maathai’s Registers of Freedom (HSRC Press, 2019) and the Routledge Handbook of African Popular Culture (Routledge, 2022).

    Hugo ka Canham is a Professor at the Institute for Social and Health Sciences at UNISA. He is the co-editor of Black Academic Voices: The South African Experience (HSRC Press, 2019). His latest book is Riotous Deathscapes (Duke University Press & Wits University Press, 2023).

    In this episode we are in solidarity with academic, human rights lawyer and author Dr. Mohammed Al-Roken. We join PEN International and call on the authorities in the United Arab Emirates to free him. You can read more about his case here: https://www.pen-international.org/our-campaigns/day-of-the-imprisoned-writer-2021

    As tributes to him, Hugo reads “Rain Falls on the Abstract World” by Gabeba Badperson and Grace reads from Dr Nawal El Saadawi’s essay “Dissidence and Creativity”.

    This is the final episode of season nine. We’re so grateful to all our brilliant participants, our listeners for your support, our producer Andri Burnett, our executive producer Lara Buxbaum as well as Bongani Kona, Nadia Davids, Yewande Omotoso, Kate Highman and the whole of the board of PEN South Africa. Thank you to the U.S. Embassy in South Africa for the grant which made the last eight Transatlantic Seasons of The Empty Chair Podcast possible. 

    We hope you’ll spend time browsing through our archives. All our episodes are freely available on our website or wherever you get your podcasts. 

    This podcast series is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Embassy in South Africa to promote open conversation and highlight shared histories.

    • 1 hr 8 min
    S9 E6 Gabeba Baderoon, Roger Reeves & Bongani Kona: Intimacy & Interiority

    S9 E6 Gabeba Baderoon, Roger Reeves & Bongani Kona: Intimacy & Interiority

    Bongani Kona interviews Gabeba Baderoon and Roger Reeves about their books The History of Intimacy and Dark Days: Fugitive Essays. They remember early transformative encounters with literature and their beginnings as writers. They also confer about essays, poetry, interior lives, family and their current projects. Roger reads from his essay “Reading Fire, Reading the Stars” in addition to his poems “Grendel” and “After the Funeral”. Gabeba reads her poems “Give” and “The Flats”.

    Bongani Kona is a writer, editor and lecturer in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of the Western Cape. He is a board member of PEN South Africa.

    Gabeba Baderoon is the author of Regarding Muslims: from Slavery to Post-apartheid  as well as the poetry collections, The Dream in the Next Body, A Hundred Silences and The History of Intimacy. She's the co-editor, with Desiree Lewis, of the essay collection, Surfacing: On Being Black and Feminist in South Africa. Gabeba is an Associate Professor in Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, African Studies and Comparative Literature at Penn State University.

    Roger Reeves is the author of two poetry collections, King Me and Best Barbarian. Dark Days: Fugitive Essays was published by Graywolf Press in 2023. His essays have appeared in Granta, The Virginia Quarterly, The Yale Review and elsewhere. Roger is an Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Texas at Austin.

    In this episode we are in solidarity with the collective case of 12 Eritrean writers and journalists imprisoned in 2001. They are: Dawit Isaak, Fessehaye ‘Joshua’ Yohannes, Seyoum Tsehaye, Said Abdelkadir, Methanie Haile, Temesegen Ghebreyesuy, Yousif Mohammed Ali, Amanuel Asrat, Dawit Habtemichael, Matheos Habteab, Sahle ‘Wedi-ltay’ Tsefezab and Said Idris ‘Abu Are’.

    We join PEN International, PEN Eritrea in Exile and PEN centres around the world in calling on the authorities in Eritrea to free them. You can read more about their case here: https://www.pen-international.org/our-campaigns/day-of-the-imprisoned-writer-2021

    As tributes to them, Gabeba reads “All You Who Sleep Tonight” by Vikram Seth and Roger reads “Preliminary Question” by Aimé Césaire (translated by A. James Arnold and Clayton Eshleman).

    This podcast series is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Embassy in South Africa to promote open conversation and highlight shared histories.

    • 1 hr 18 min
    S9 E5 John Marnell, Alejandra Oliva & Kudakwashe Vanyoro: Migration, Refuge & Solidarity

    S9 E5 John Marnell, Alejandra Oliva & Kudakwashe Vanyoro: Migration, Refuge & Solidarity

    Kudakwashe Vanyoro interviews John Marnell and Alejandra Oliva about their books Seeking Sanctuary and Rivermouth. They deliberate about telling other people’s stories, the experiences of LGBTIQ migrants, immigration policies, translation, faith-based organisations and solidarity.

    Kudakwashe Vanyoro is a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Wits University. He is the author of the forthcoming book Migration, Crisis and Temporality at the Zimbabwe-South Africa Border: Governing Immobilities (Bristol University Press, 2024).

    John Marnell is a Doctoral Researcher at the African Centre for Migration & Society at Wits University. He is the author of Seeking Sanctuary: Stories of Sexuality, Faith and Migration (Wits University Press, 2021) and with B Camminga co-edited Queer and Trans African Mobilities: Migration, Asylum and Diaspora (Zed Books, 2022).

    Alejandra Oliva is an essayist, embroider, translator and immigrant justice advocate. Her book Rivermouth: A Chronicle of Language, Faith and Migration (Astra House, 2023) received a Whiting Nonfiction Grant. She was the Yale Whitney Humanities Center Franke Visiting Fellow in Spring 2022.

    In this episode we are in solidarity with Crimean Tatar citizen journalist and human rights defender Server Mustafayev. We call on the authorities in Russia to free him. You can read more about his case here: https://www.pen-international.org/our-campaigns/day-of-the-imprisoned-writer-2022

    As tributes to him, John reads “Teach the Nation Poetry” by Stella Nyanzi, Alejandra reads “Like You” by Roque Dalton (translated by Jack Hirschman) and Kuda reads an extract from the book he’s writing with his brother, Diaries of Border.

    PEN South Africa joins the PEN community in mourning the journalists and writers who have been killed in Russia’s war on Ukraine, including Ukrainian writer Volodemyr Vakulenko and PEN Ukraine member and human rights defender Victoria Amelina. Read more here: https://www.pen-international.org/news/pen-international-mourns-the-killing-of-victoria-amelina

    This podcast series is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Embassy in South Africa to promote open conversation and highlight shared histories.

    • 56 min
    S9 E4 Camille T. Dungy & Yewande Omotoso: Gardening & Creating a Space of Welcome

    S9 E4 Camille T. Dungy & Yewande Omotoso: 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.

    Yewande Omotoso trained as an architect and holds a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town. She is the Vice-President and Treasurer of PEN South Africa. Her debut novel Bom Boy (Modjaji Books, 2011) won the South African Literary Award First Time Author Prize. Yewande was a 2015 Miles Morland Scholar. Her second novel The Woman Next Door (Chatto and Windus, 2016) has been translated into Catalan, Dutch, French, German, Italian and Korean. An Unusual Grief (Cassava Republic, 2022) is her third novel.

    Camille T. Dungy is the author of Soil: The Story of a Black Mother’s Garden (Simon & Schuster, 2023). She has also written Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood, and History (W.W. Norton & Company, 2017) and four collections of poetry, including Trophic Cascade (Wesleyan University Press, 2017). Dungy edited Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (University of Georgia Press, 2009). She is a University Distinguished Professor at Colorado State University.

    In this episode we are in solidarity with Egyptian poet and lyricist Galal El-Behairy. We call on the authorities in Egypt to free him. You can read more about his case here: https://www.pen-international.org/news/poet-galal-el-behairy-marks-two-years-in-arbitrary-pre-trial-detention

    As tributes to him, Camille reads extracts from El-Behairy’s “A Letter from Tora Prison” and Yewande reads Camille’s poem “Trophic Cascade”.

    This podcast series is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Embassy in South Africa to promote open conversation and highlight shared histories.

    • 50 min
    S9 E3 LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Sihle Ntuli & Vuyokazi Ngemntu: Tracing Lineages & Imagining Futures

    S9 E3 LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Sihle Ntuli & Vuyokazi Ngemntu: Tracing Lineages & Imagining Futures

    Vuyokazi Ngemntu invites LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs and Sihle Ntuli to reflect on their poetic practice, language and dispossession, literacies, influences, rootedness, Black women’s histories and music. 

    Vuyokazi Ngemntu is a writer-performer situated in Cape Town. She has received awards for her short stories and her work has appeared in The Kalahari Review, Herri, Ake Review and elsewhere.

    LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs is a writer, vocalist and performance/sound artist. She is the author of the poetry collections TwERK (Belladonna, 2013) and Village (Coffee House Press, 2023). She lives in Harlem and teaches part-time at Brooklyn College and Stetson University.

    Sihle Ntuli is a poet from Durban and a recipient of the 2023 JIAS Writing Fellowship for his poetry. He is the editor-in-chief of New Contrast.  He is the author of the poetry chapbooks Rumblin’ (Uhlanga, 2020) and The Nation (River Glass Books, 2023) in addition to the full-length poetry collection Zabalaza Republic (Botsotso, 2023).

    In this episode we are in solidarity with writer and activist Wai Moe Naing. We call on the authorities in Myanmar to free him. You can read more about his case here: https://www.pen-international.org/news/myanmar-pen-member-now-serving-54-year-prison-sentence

    As tributes to him, LaTasha reads “American Sonnet 61” by Wanda Coleman, Sihle reads his poem “The National Screening of Sarafina, Every Year on June 16th” and Vuyokazi reads her own untitled poem.

    PEN South Africa joins the PEN community in mourning the passing of writer, photographer, artist, and President of PEN Myanmar, Nyein Chan (known by his pen name, Nyi Pu Lay). You can read more about him here: https://www.pen-international.org/news/myanmar-pen-mourns-the-passing-of-pen-myanmar-president-nyi-pu-lay

    This podcast series is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Embassy in South Africa to promote open conversation and highlight shared histories.

    • 1 hr 4 min
    S9 E2 Ashwin Desai, Goolam Vahed & Betty Govinden: Durban’s Casbah – “A City Within a City”

    S9 E2 Ashwin Desai, Goolam Vahed & Betty Govinden: Durban’s Casbah – “A City Within a City”

    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.

    Betty Govinden is a retired academic, researcher, writer, poet and critic. She was awarded the English Academy of Southern Africa Gold Medal for distinguished service in 2022. Her published works include Sister Outsiders – Representation of Identity and Difference in Selected Writings by South African Indian Women (Unisa Press, 2008).

    Ashwin Desai is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg. He is the author of Wentworth: The Beautiful Game and the Making of Place (UKZN Press, 2019) and Reading Revolution: Shakespeare on Robben Island (Unisa Press, 2012) among many others.

    Goolam Vahed is a Professor in the Department of History at the University of Kwazulu-Natal. His recent publications include Chota Motala. A Biography of Political Activism in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands (UKZN Press, 2018). He is the co-author with Ashwin Desai of Colour, Class and Community – The Natal Indian Congress, 1971-1994 (Wits University Press, 2021) and Durban’s Casbah: Bunny Chows, Bolsheviks and Bioscopes (UKZN Press, 2023).

    In this episode we are in solidarity with journalist José Rubén Zamora Marroquín. We call on the authorities in Guatemala to free him. You can read more about his case here: https://www.pen-international.org/news/guatemala-jose-ruben-zamora-marroquin-must-be-released

    As tributes to him, Goolam reads “A Prison Evening” by Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ashwin reads from Mafika Gwala’s poem for A.K.M. Docrat “A Stalwart – August 1977” and Betty reads from Maria Ressa’s How to Stand Up to a Dictator as well as a poem she wrote for José Rubén Zamora Marroquín.

    This podcast series is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Embassy in South Africa to promote open conversation and highlight shared histories.

    • 1 hr 4 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
14 Ratings

14 Ratings

Top Podcasts In Arts

House Music Curated
Le Good Life
Dish
S:E Creative Studio
Artwork Sounds
Artwork Sounds
Kabza de Small & DJ Maphorisa - eMcimbini feat. Samthing Soweto, Aymos, Mas Musiq & Myztro x Suzy Eises Saxophone Cover - She
Shera The DJ
Agatha Christie - Man in the Brown Suit
Agatha Christie
The Moth
The Moth