The Puku Childrenʼs Literature Foundation identified the acute shortage of interesting, engaging and appropriate reading material for children, especially in African languages as one of the major factors contributing to South Africaʼs education crisis. Elinor Sisulu, Chairperson of the Puku Childrenʼs Literature Foundation said at the launch of the first story festival: “Through this festival we want to showcase and celebrate the work of storytellers, writers and artists so that children and their parents, teachers and caregivers will know what is available in their language.”

Speaking on behalf of the National Arts Festival, Ayanda Mjekula welcomed the Puku Story Festival: “We are honoured to be part of this exciting and ground breaking initiative. We have been worried to see the indigenous languages being given stepchild treatment with our children struggling to express themselves in their own languages. We decided that we will no longer be spectators witnessing the neglect of a crucial linguistic challenge, hence our support to Puku. We hope that Pukuʼs ideal, among others, of creating a dynamic and interactive links between producers, teachers and children will be realised.”

Professor Sizwe Mabizela, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Rhodes University said: “Rhodes University is committed to the notion of multilingualism as part of transformation. In 2008 the University won the PanSALB Multilingualism Award for the efforts being made on campus, more specifically through the work of the African Language Studies Section. These include offering isiXhosa vocation-specific courses for Law, Pharmacy, Education and Journalism as well as overseeing the implementation of multilingual initiatives under the Rhodes Language Committee and NRF SARChI Chair which is headed by Professor Russell Kaschula. It is hoped that these multilingual initiatives can be fed into the broader educational milieu under the auspices of the Puku Festival.”

The 2016 guest of honour was legendary musician, poet, storyteller and teacher Latozi Mpahleni, better known as Madosini. Widely acknowledged as the foremost living player of isitolotolo, uhadi and the umrhube mouth bow, Madosini is truly a national treasure formally recognised by the Department of Arts and Culture as a Living Legend.

Festival director, Ziyanda Gysman could hardly contain her excitement at having Madosini at the Festival. “Alongside other iconic Eastern Cape writers and artists such as Dr Sindiwe Magona and Dr John Kani, Madosini is internationally acclaimed in her field and has performed all over the world, but her work has not received the recognition that it should in the province of her birth, especially among the youth. Just as the Puku Story Festival gave the children of Grahamstown schools exposure to Sindiwe Magona and John Kani, so will we bring Madosini to the same audiences.”