The Empty Chair, a podcast series from PEN South Africa 15 April -Terry-Ann Adams, Megan Ross , Siphokazi Jonas with Nadia Davids

We are delighted to introduce The Empty Chair, a new podcast series from PEN South Africa about writing, freedom of expression, censorship, resilience and solidarity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For these first five episodes, we have drawn together an eclectic and electric group: novelists, poets, performance poets, journalists, constitutionalists and academics, who together offer us remarkable insights that are piercing, funny, courageous, explanatory and hopeful – all working to help us make sense of this strange and disorientating time.

We hope you will join us for these conversations. The trailer for The PEN SA Empty Chair podcast is now available on our website at as well as on Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

The first episode, “Young Writers in the Pandemic”, will be released on Thursday 15 April. It features Terry-Ann Adams, Megan Ross and Siphokazi Jonas in conversation with Nadia Davids, the president of PEN SA.

Picture Siphokazi Jonas

Terry-Ann Adams was born and raised in Eldorado Park in Johannesburg. Her first novel, Those Who Live in Cages (Jacana Media, 2020), about feminism, disability and coloured identity, was beautifully received last year. Megan Ross’s book of poetry, Milk Fever (uHlanga Press, 2018), as well her short stories and essays have been critically acclaimed. She is a recipient of the Brittle Paper Award for Fiction (2017), a finalist for the Gerald Kraak, Miles Morland and Short Story Day Africa awards. Siphokazi Jonas is a writer and performer. She is co-producer of the much garlanded #WeAreDyingHere in both play and short film form. In 2016, she was the runner-up for the Sol Plaatje European Union Award and is currently the English Poetry Editor for the New Contrast journal.

These writers speak about the pressures and difficulties of writing during this time, the unexpected connections that have come out of it, the ways in which their own lives have been affected by COVID-19 as well as what lies ahead for their own work and for South African literature. They. give readings of their exquisite and moving works, speak openly about their struggles during this time and maintain a kind of sturdy optimism about how to write into and through this moment that is both invigorating and instructive.

These wonderful young writers convey a message of solidarity to Chimengül Awut, an editor and award-winning Uyghur-language poet who has been imprisoned without charge in a “re-education” camp in China.

The four subsequent podcast episodes will be released every two weeks on Thursdays. Subscribe to The PEN SA Empty Chair podcast wherever you find your podcasts, so that you don’t miss out.

The PEN SA Empty Chair podcast is inspired by the opening proclamation of PEN’s charter: “Literature knows no frontiers and must remain common currency among people in spite of political or international upheavals.” In this time of unimaginable upheaval, we hope that this podcast will offer a space in which to reflect on the ways we live, read and write during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This podcast series is made possible by funding from PEN International for our Digital Communications Project. It is part of a series of events planned throughout 2021 to mark PEN’s centenary celebrations. PEN International’s Centenary is a celebration of PEN’s 100 years. Bringing together PEN Centres, members, partners, patrons, writers, readers and activists for a unique programme of events, campaigns and activities across residencies and workshops globally, the Centenary is a celebration of PEN’s unfinished story.

For any queries, please contact Lara Buxbaum, the Podcast Project Co-ordinator: LaraB.PenSa

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