LitNet Interview: Shireen Mall, participant in the Brussels to Karoo residency

The Jakes Gerwel Foundation and Passa Porta international house of literature in Brussels are thrilled to welcome two Belgian and four South African writers to their two-week Brussels to Karoo residency at Paulet House in KwaNojoli, Eastern Cape.

Belgians Nele Van den Broeck and Gerda Dendooven and South Africans Sibuyiselo Sbuja Dywili, Shireen Mall, Charl-Pierre Naudé and Ayanda Xaba are now sharing the two-week residency borne out of Professor Jakes Gerwel’s considerable legacy. It was from the Vrije Universiteit of Brussels in 1979 that he received his doctorate in Literature and Philosophy (magna cum laude).

Below is an interview between Naomi Meyer and Shireen Mall on the residency.

Shireen, you obtained an MA in Creative Writing from Rhodes University in Grahamstown. Why did you apply for this residency at Paulet House?

I am particularly thrilled and privileged to be back in the Eastern Cape again, especially for the Jakes Gerwel Foundation Residency, which is heaven-sent. Any serious writer with purpose will agree that the opportunity to collaborate in dialogue with a diverse group of writers from across the world in various disciplines is a sure way to grow personally as a writer and broaden your scope. It broaches many possibilities, aside from contributing meaningfully in a literary sphere which then lives on from there. That is what this opportunity means to me and why I applied.

The formula is magic, and the Jakes Gerwel Foundation provides a framework and the platform to facilitate this, which is just marvellous. But it’s also a much needed respite from the “noise”, clamour and fever out there. A place to rest and recalibrate, so to speak.

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Shireen Mall is a writer and academic from Cape Town, South Africa, who obtained an honours degree in English literature at the University of the Western Cape and a master’s degree in creative writing at Rhodes University. She is the author of the long research essay “The Goodbye Letter” (WritingThreeSixty, 2018). Shireen is particularly interested in the various approaches to writing the self, how fickle memory is, poetics (as in form) and psychological trajectories, which she hopes will come to the fore in her current offering, M O Y, a novel of creative nonfiction. When she is not studying, she works in the English Department of the Education faculty at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, where she teaches LOLT (language of learning and teaching).

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