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Media 24 slammed for 'all white' book awards - but bosses say it was a 'mistake'

A number of local writers have expressed their disgust at the recent awards which included an almost entirely white judging panel.

whitebooksjpg

In 2015 social media was flooded with the hashtag #Oscarssowhite in protest at the lack of diversity of both the nominees and the judging panel of Hollywood's Academy Awards.

This week South Africa's publishing industry is facing similar criticism after the annual Media 24 Literary Prizes awarded all six of its prizes to white authors.

Additionally, only 2 of the 18 judges on the panel were black, leading many local writers to label the awards a 'whitewash'.

Poet Athol Williams is one of several local authors who's added his voice to the criticism being levelled at Media 24.

What more must we do as black writers to be regarded as having arrived?

Athol Williams, Author and poet

It's always this idea that we are emerging, that we are up and coming...

Athol Williams, Author and poet

Williams says the root of the problem lies with the structure and concentration of South Africa's publishing industry.

It's a R3.5 billion a year industry that less than 1% goes to black-owned publishers.

Athol Williams, Author and poet

He says the lack of diversity among the winners is no surprise given the structural make up of Media 24.

Media 24? 90% of their authors are white. Go further back down the chain, 100% of their management are white, Their editorial staff? White.

Athol Williams, Author and poet

I've got no problem with 100% of the authors being white, if they wrote the best literature they should win the award, but that isn't the issue, go back down the chain, 17 of the 18 judges were white.

Athol Williams, Author and poet

Following widespread criticism of the awards managing director of Media24 Books Eloise Wessels issued a statement claiming the lack of diversity had been 'a mistake'.

Listen to the full conversation with poet Athol Williams below:

This article first appeared on CapeTalk : Media 24 slammed for 'all white' book awards - but bosses say it was a 'mistake'