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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 18, 2007

South African writer Zakes Mda reads for 'Live from Prairie Lights' Oct. 3

Prominent South African fiction writer Zakes Mda will read from "Cion," his new novel, in a free event at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen live via the Writing University website at

The event will also be recorded for broadcast on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series, originating on UI radio station WSUI-AM 910. Hour-long "Live from Prairie Lights" productions, hosted by Julie Englander, air at 8 and 9 p.m. Saturdays, and 7 p.m. Sundays on WSUI-AM 910 in Iowa City, WOI-AM 640 in Ames and KRNI-AM 1010 in Cedar Falls.

In "Cion" a South African professional mourner visits the United States for the first time on the eve of the 2004 presidential election and finds it to be a surreal theme park.

A review in Publishers Weekly concluded, "The book offers a rich and original picture of the United States on both a personal and grander historical level and is suffused with the same lyricism, vividness and dark, tragic wit that have earned the author previous recognition here and in his homeland."

Mda began his writing career as a playwright, and after the publication of "We Shall Sing for the Fatherland and Other Plays" in 1980 he completed a master's degree in theater at Ohio University, and then a master's degree in mass communication.

In 1985, now a successful playwright, he returned home, working at first with the Lesotho National Broadcasting Corporation Television Project, and subsequently as a lecturer in the English department at the National University of Lesotho where he became full professor and head of the English department.

Between 1985 and 1992 he was director of the Theatre-For-Development Project at the University of Lesotho and founded the Marotholi Travelling Theatre, with which he and his students traveled to villages in remote mountain regions, working with local people to create theater about their everyday concerns.

After teaching at universities in the United States 1991-94, Mda returned to South Africa to teach at the School of Dramatic Art at Witwatersrand University, where he turned his creative energies from plays to novels. He now teaches creative writing at Ohio University.

His previous books include "Ways of Dying," "The Heart of Redness," "The Madonna of Excelsior," "The Whale Caller" and "She Plays with the Darkness."

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Paul Ingram, Prairie Lights, 319-337-2681,; Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073 (office), 319-430-1013 (cell),