Fiona Khan from Durban Writer in Residence

The Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature has invited Durban writer and publisher Fiona Khan for a one month stay in Reykjavík in October 2020. This is the second year of the Reykjavik residency for authors from other UNESCO Cities of Literature and Miss Khan was selected out of forty applicants from Cities of Literature around the world.

The 2020 residency is dedicated to children‘s literature in cooperation with the Reykjavík International Children‘s Literature Festival Mýrin. The festival will run from October 8 – 11 and Fiona Khan will be one of the featured authors. This year‘s festival has a special focus on global issues we all face together, in particular environmental changes and migration.

Fiona Khan

Fiona Khan is an author of children‘s fiction and poetry, with a long career in her native country as well as having been published internationally. Her efforts and support for literacy and reading has made her one of the most distinguished leaders in Kwa-Zulu Natal and elsewhere in South Africa. She is the founder and publisher of mobile and digital publishing house Global Forum 4 Literacy and Washesha Publications. Her dedication to the promotion of literacy goes back to the 1995 campaign A Reading Nation is a Winning Nation, where she worked at spreading literacy in schools, libraries and conducted workshops for language, literacy and literature. Her network today extends to Johannesburg by donating books for worthy causes and to Cape Town where she has been working on a film project for youth and animation for children. She has also been a radio presenter, spreading literacy, poetry and literature in general.

Fiona Khan was featured as one of South Africa’s climate change leaders in a Mail and Guardian supplement on South Africa and environmental affairs in 2014 for her efforts with establishing Permaculture and organic gardening in schools. This included recycling and indigenous gardening and creating sustainable partnerships with the communities. She has also assisted in community projects as a community practitioner such as counselling and assisting victims of gender-based violence and HIV/Aids. Her children’s book on HIV/Aids focusing on emotional intelligence has been used in the Department of Education’s school curriculum.

Global Forum 4 Literacy and Washesha Publishers have been active participants in the Durban UNESCO City of Literature programs, including their flagship event, Articulate Africa. They have furthermore been active participants in library programmes hosted by Thekwini Municipality.

While in Reykjavík, Fiona Khan will be working on a new comic book for children and is hoping to connect with local visual and comics artists and writers of children’s fiction, as well as publishers and others in the literary sector. She will be introduced to the literary and library sectors in the city as well as meeting readers and literary enthusiasts at the Mýrin festival. 

We at the Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature look forward to welcoming Fiona Khan to Reykjavík and to strengthening the ties and mutual learning between our sister-cities in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Durban was the first city in Africa to be dedicated as a UNESCO City of Literature in 2017, and is still the only African city in the literary network.

UNESCO Citiess of Literature Residencies

The UNESCO Cities of Literature network currently counts 39 cities that are part of the wider UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Mobility and exchange of writers and other creatives is one of the cooperational projects the literary cities have worked towards in the past years and several cities now offer residency programmes for writers from other UNESCO Cities of Literature and beyond. The Reykjavík residency for writers from within the network started in 2019 and will be offered annually onwards. Chantal Ringuet from Québec City of Literature was the first author invited for the residency.