09 Sep 21 ICONS: Nadine Gordimer
Nobel prize-winning author Nadine Gordimer shares her wisdom in the 7th installment of filmmaker and photographer Adrian Steirn’s 21 ICONS South Africa. As a novelist and short-story writer, she is the first artist featured in the series.
Although Gordimer is admired as an activist for political and social justice during apartheid South Africa (she joined the then banned ANC and played an active role in opposing the regime), she is firm that she is a writer first and foremost and that her life’s work has been her writing. Steirn chose to photograph her “Alice in Wonderland” style sitting on a pile of life-sized copies of some of her books, under a jacaranda tree in her garden in Parktown, Johannesburg.
Steirn chose the titles on which Gordimer sits with care: they are her first novel, “The Lying Days” (1953), “A World of Strangers” (1958), “The Late Bourgeois World” (1966), “Burger’s Daughter” (1979) — which she names as her favourite of all her novels —and “July’s People” (1981). Apart from her debut, these books were all banned by the apartheid government, some for more than a decade. And to the shame of that government, it never officially congratulated her on her 1991 Nobel prize for literature — the first woman writer in 25 years to receive it — even as it came in the heady days of apartheid already being dismantled.
She has this advice for aspirant writers: “Read and write. Don’t go to creative writing class. You can’t be taught to write. You can be taught to be a good journalist, but you cannot be taught to be a poet or a novelist. You read, read, read so that you become aware of the power and the range of the word — and then you want to do your own little experiment.”
The original photograph, signed by Gordimer, will be auctioned at the end of the series and the proceeds donated to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital.
Over 21 weeks black and white portraits of 21 South African heroes will be shared as collectable posters in the Sunday Times newspaper, and the accompanying short films will air on SABC3 at 6.57pm, just before the 7pm news. Fans can follow the series online through the digital campaign launched by Quirk Joburg on Facebook, on Twitter or at www.21icons.com, where you can find icon profiles and behind the scenes images uploaded weekly. Or you can catch up here every Monday.
21 ICONS South Africa is proudly sponsored by Mercedes-Benz South Africa, Nikon, Deloitte, The Sunday Times, SABC3 and the Department of Arts and Culture. Additional credits go to content-creation company Ginkgo Agency.