17 April 2018 16:54

A Lancaster University Professor is at the helm of a new project which aims to inspire a South African writing community to explore the ideals of freedom.

Professor Graham Mort, a lecturer in the English and Creative Writing Department, is currently visiting the University of the Western Cape (UWC), South Africa, on a Leverhulme International Fellowship. 

He is also working with the Creative Writing programme there to develop a range of postgraduate creative writing courses. 

Professor Mort’s ‘Taking Liberties’ writing project, which explores personal, social and political liberty through creative writing practice, had its origins in Uganda in 2001 and has continued through subsequent writing and radio projects in Africa and Kurdistan. 

“At its heart is the relationship between the political concept of liberty and our sense of personal freedom,” explains Professor Mort.

The project is based at UWC, an institution with a linguistically and culturally diverse community of students, who form a generation of first-time attendees, following the dismantling of apartheid. 

In 2017, Lancaster University and UWC staged the ‘Writing for Liberty’ conference in Cape Town. The event brought together writers, theorists and critics to share their understanding of how authors have confronted oppression and contributed to human liberty. 

“Our debates were often hard-fought, reaching down into an historical sense of partition and powerlessness,” he explained. 

“My project will build upon that legacy, engaging with students at UWC and building on my earlier multilingual work there in Xhosa, Afrikaans and English. We’ll build a new website, featuring the writing of students and staff members, and acting as a showcase and resource for other researchers and teachers.” 

This project will be an exploration of original writing in new configurations, both individual and collaborative. 

“It will show how language inhabits more than one place of meaning at once: an exercise in ambiguity, counterpoint, contradiction and multivalence,” added Professor Mort. “All that will be enacted through the subtleties and sleights-of-tongue that form the basis of research through creative writing practice.”