Durban is the largest city of the KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa, with over 3,442,400 inhabitants. Home to Luthuli – first African Nobel laureate –, Bessie Head, Mandela and Gandhi, the city was built on the pillars of learning and literacy despite the years of apartheid. In books and literature, Durban finds the possibility of dialogue, reconciliation and reconstruction. Durban hosts the University of KwaZula-Natal (UKZN); one of the country's highest-ranked and one of the few to offer a PhD in creative writing. The city also holds a strong independent publishing network, which offers a key platform for emerging literary voices.
Various fairs, festivals and conferences on literature are held locally, most notably the major Time of the Writer Literary Festival that has featured Nobel laureates for literature and writers from every African nation. Through the partnership with UKZN, the festival seeks to encourage the development of new writing talents, especially among the youth, and foster dialogue through discussions including human rights and inequalities reduction. The 2016 Ethekwini Creative Industries Summit also provided a key platform for artists and cultural professionals to discuss dealing with the challenges and opportunities within the existing local creative industry.
Durban recognises the crucial role literature, culture and creativity, have in forging national identity, fostering social cohesion and delivering socio-economic development. In this view, the Department of Arts and Culture has set up special bursaries for local writers to attend international festivals. In addition, in an effort to advocate for linguistic diversity, the KZN Provincial Language Policy promotes the equitable use of the city's official languages – English, Zulu, Xhosa and Afrikaans – within educational programmes.
As a Creative City of Literature, Durban envisages:
- organising the Africa International Literary Festival in tandem with the Durban International Book Fair to enhance best practices and involve advocacy stakeholders for literary industry;
- organising the Festival of Children's Literature through well-resourced schools, promoting mother-tongue literatures and fighting low literacy levels amongst the youth;
- strengthening cross-cutting approaches by linking the Durban Script-Writing Festival with the Durban International Film Festival;
- promoting the Megazone Online Radio Station, bringing the voices of Durban writers to the world;
- organising a translation workshop at the UKZN Department of Creative Writing, and the Department of Africa Literary Studies UKZN, seeking to translate English works into vernacular languages; and
- enhancing international outreach of the Poetry Africa Festival by involving poets of different nationalities, notably from the UCCN.