Durban has been awarded the status of a City of Literature by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation – Unesco. It’s the first city in Africa to win this status.

Writer Zainub Dala spearheaded the team who worked on the bid for a year. Dala says the idea was born after she was took part in the US International Writers Programme in Iowa City.

It’s one of the cities that already has the Unesco status, along with Edinburgh in Scotland, Melbourne in Australia and others. Dala explains what the status means in literature, drama, music and heritage will be used for social upliftment.

“In addition to that it also means that literature will be highlighted. Reading, literacy and literacy projects will now fall under the umbrella of Unesco so that we take it up to international standards.”

Dala says the Unesco City of Literature status was awarded to Durban based on a number of proposed large projects that will have to be put in place over the next four years.

This includes making children’s literature accessible to a large number of children. There are also plans to train South African teachers at the University of Iowa in English language and literature at grassroots level.

Dala says they also want to put spoken stories in indigenous languages into print.

“We’ve also been talking about translation of written and spoken word literature. We have to understand that a lot of the ethnic languages here do not have their words and their stories written down and published. And so that is one of the projects we want to take forward is to actually take the spoken stories and put them down into books, and have them published and distributed to the communities in general,” adds Dala.