Nancy Richards interviews Kim Gurney about PANYA ROUTES

Artist, academic, writer Kim Gurney visited five different Independent Art Spaces in five different African cities: Nairobi, Accra, Addis Ababa, Cairo and Dar es Salaam. She came back with a changed mind, fresh thinking and some very different outlooks on the future, of art, cities and society in general. The result, a book to change your mind too, called Panya Routes (Motto).

Listen to her interview with Nancy Richards: KIM GURNEY – On ‘Panya Routes’

Kim Gurney on a public panel about the politics, legacies and inheritances of independent spaces

Kim Gurney, the author of Panya Routes: Independent art spaces in Africa, is participating on a public panel in Cape Town on Saturday about the politics, legacies and inheritances of independent spaces. Along with: 

  • Ukhona Ntsali Mlandu, Director, Greatmore Studios
  • Nqaba Shakes Mbolekwana, Location Studio Practice 
  • Phokeng Setai, Interdisciplinary Scholar 
  • Itumeleng wa Lehulere, Revolutionary Papers

Date: 24 September

Time: 12h00-14h30

Venue: Theatre Arts Admin, Observatory 

The panel is part of ‘Power Talks’, convened by Goethe-Institut Johannesburg and African Centre for Cities, as a roving national series to unpack power mechanisms in the cultural world. The Cape Town iteration is curated by Ukhona Ntsali Mlandu, director of Greatmore Studios, to look beyond the trauma and violences of power and see what constructive manifestations of power might look, taste, sound and feel like. It involves sonic explorations, food networks, theatre explorations, and more. 

Event info here:

Session info:


Karavan Press and Protea Distribution become local distribution partners for Kim Gurney’s ‘Panya Routes’ and ‘August House is Dead, Long Live August House!’

Kim Gurney by Daleen Nel Hall



Kim Gurney writes in multiple genres, and is the author of three non-fiction books: The Art of Public Space: Curating and Re-imagining the Ephemeral City (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), August House is Dead, Long Live August House! The Story of a Johannesburg Atelier (Fourthwall, 2017), and Panya Routes: Independent art spaces in Africa (Motto Books, 2022). Kim first worked as a journalist; she was News Editor of a weekly newspaper (FT Business Group) while in her twenties. She then pivoted into the artworld where she collaborates on public space interventions and makes slow art from a Salt River studio. Another foot is in academia: Kim is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape, and a Research Associate at African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town which supported the research behind Panya Routes. She holds advanced degrees in Journalism and Fine Art, both awarded with Distinction, a Masters in International Journalism, and a PhD exploring art as a vector of value. Kim lives in Cape Town, South Africa, working on her next creative non-fiction book Flipside.


Independent art spaces on the African continent have flourished, particularly over the past twenty years in tandem with a youthful population in fast-urbanising cities. This book takes the reader on a journey to discover their DIY-DIT working principles: horizontality, second chance, elasticity, performativity and convergence. The itinerary begins at an empty plinth in Cape Town to closely track the performative and artistic afterlife of a colonialist statue whose toppling turned public space into common space. Next stop: Nairobi, Accra, Cairo, Addis Ababa and Dar es Salaam — all rapidly changing cities of flux. The author visits five non-profit platforms that build narratives in public space by stitching together art and everyday life. They create their own panya routes, or backroad infrastructures of divergent kinds, in response to prevailing uncertainty. Working largely in collaborative economies and solidarity networks through refusal and reimagination, these “off-spaces” demonstrate institution building as artistic practice. By thinking and dreaming beyond the status quo, they fast-forward to creatively inhabit city futures that have already arrived in the global South. The key platforms featured in the book’s research are: The GoDown Arts Centre, ANO Institute of Arts and Knowledge, Townhouse Gallery, Zoma Museum and Nafasi Art Space.


“This beautifully crafted book represents a new generation of scholarship, bringing together the fields of urban studies and art history. While cities and urbanization are themselves formal manifestations of the intersections across economy, politics and aesthetics that define modern life, the role of creative practice as a form of sociality is under theorized. Kim Gurney explores that role in the making of new urban societies in the Global South. She shows how Panya Routes or ‘backroad infrastructures’ that define Southern cities are neither temporary nor epiphenomenal but rather major forms for the formation of collective solidarities. A much-needed volume, it explores the emergence of new institutions as themselves a genre of art. This book is a tour de force of creative research and writing and should inform and serve the next generation of urban scholars with a new vision of how contemporary forms of art making and creative performance have become an integral part of the infrastructure of social and political life in the twenty-first century.”

— Vyjayanthi Rao, Senior Editor of the journal Public Culture, and Visiting Professor at Yale School of Architecture

“In an engaging analysis of five African independent art spaces, Kim Gurney convincingly highlights the powerful artistic and political potential of such autonomous art initiatives: to formulate novel propositions that creatively engage with the continent’s varied social realities; to redesign its material realities; to innovate the contents of what constitutes its public spheres; and to generate imaginings of alternative futures that bypass the tired discourses and practices of institutionalized political levels in order to embrace more inclusive and collective modes of living together. Panya Routes is an original, hopeful and timely reflection on the role of public art to rethink urban worlds in Africa and beyond.”
— Filip De Boeck, co-author of Suturing the City: Living Together in Congo’s Urban Worlds (Autograph, 2016)

“Gurney’s book deserves conversations with works on independent art spaces in Asian cities, where they have also been an important development in the last two decades. Gurney’s documentation and analysis are pioneering, and should inspire colleagues in Asia, because they are crucial in furthering the critical role of arts in contemporary dramatic transformation of their cities.”

— Marco Kusumawijaya, architect and urbanist, Director of RUJAK Center for Urban Studies in Jakarta

“Evocatively written, Panya Routes juxtaposes five stories about the creation of independent art spaces on the African continent. At a time of heightened capitalist co-option and the concomitant fetishization of ‘African art’, these stories about agential capacity, abilities to shapeshift, and ways of ‘doing art’, importantly position African creatives at the forefront of our contemporary moment of thinking in excess of the artworld status quo.”

— Ruth Simbao, National Research Foundation SARChI Chair in Geopolitics and the Arts of Africa, and Head of the Arts of Africa and Global Souths Research Programme at Rhodes UniversityBottom of Form


Publisher: Motto Books, Berlin
Editor: Mika Hayashi Ebbesen
Designer: Márcia Novais
Publication date: August 2022
ISBN: 9782940672394


In the east end of the inner city of Johannesburg, a former textiles factory undergoes a dramatic transformation to become, over the next several years, one of the city’s foremost artists’ studios. When the sale of the building seems imminent, not only must the artists face the daunting prospect of relocation, but a remarkable chapter in the complex narrative of contemporary South African art seems about to close. Sensing the importance of this moment, Kim Gurney, herself a former tenant of the atelier, follows the stories of several of the August House denizens through some of the artworks that came to life in their studios. The result is a fascinating study of the role of the atelier and its artists in South Africa’s fractious art world, and a consideration of the relationship between art and the ever-changing city of Johannesburg.

PRAISE for August House is Dead, Long Live August House! The Story of a Johannesburg Atelier

With the eye of an urbanist, artist and resident, Kim Gurney [constructs] a compelling assemblage of individual, visual and urban narratives brilliantly illuminates the complex life of a building, August House, located in inner city Johannesburg. Her cast of characters – artists, workers, neighbours, August House and the city – lend poignant contours to the ebbs and flows of daily life, the pressures of gentrification, the ruthlessness of poverty, the radicality of the imagination and the ghosts of history.

—Mabel O. Wilson, Columbia University

Kim Gurney’s biography of August House weaves together a diversity of … narratives that capture an intimate, layered view of a city in flux and the precarity of artists’ spaces in Johannesburg. August House is Dead, Long Live August House! sensitively explores the tensions between competing impulses in the city, and who ultimately gets to shape what Joburg is and who it is for.

—Mpho Matsipa, University of the Witwatersrand

August House is Dead, Long Live August House! The Story of a Johannesburg Atelier

Publisher: Fourthwall Books, Johannesburg
Editor: Terry Kurgan
Designer: Carla Saunders
Publication date: 2017
ISBN: 978-0-9947009-4-0

If you are a bookseller, please contact Protea Distribution to order copies of Panya Routes and/or August House is Dead, Long Live August House!. If you are a reader, please ask your local bookshop to order the book for you via Protea Distribution.

SA Jewish Report: ‘Dov Fedler’s Gagman makes its deadline’ by Peta Krost Maunder

When acclaimed veteran South African cartoonist Dov Fedler celebrated his 82nd birthday recently, he received a gift of the first copy of a book he had spent 35 years working on.

Titled Gagman, the book isn’t full of political and satirical cartoons as one would expect from Fedler, but a Holocaust story with a difference.

The book was conceived in 1985 when, said Fedler, “the story just jumped into my head” and he sat down and “wrote it in a flash”. The story is about a comedian in a concentration camp who survives by entertaining the commandant. “He would give his soul for a new joke,” said Fedler. “He knew that the moment he was no longer entertaining, he would die.”

Fedler said it took him until 1995 to understand where his idea had come from. “I was living on deadlines and every single day, I had to produce a cartoon and it had to be funny. If you break down the word deadline, you have dead and line. So, the story was a metaphor for myself times a thousand. It was me telling history and my story in a way.”

He revealed this recently in a video conversation with his daughter, Joanne, an accomplished author in her own right, and Lewis Levin, a family friend and the architect of the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Museum.

“I felt like I grew up with Gagman,” Joanne said. “I remember my dad talking about him when I was a teenager and early adult. I remember writing a poem about him when my dad was 54, and now I’m 54.”

The project went on for many years and took on many iterations. “It wasn’t just the writing of the book but the many illustrations that took time, and it got to a point where it felt like the project was never going to come to fruition,” said Joanne.

Fedler battled to tell a story about someone who had lived through the camps, which wasn’t his own experience. However, the Holocaust certainly played a role in his life.

South African Jewish Report

Continue reading: South African Jewish Report

Karavan Press and Protea Distribution become local distribution partners for Dov and Joanne Fedler’s GAGMAN


A prisoner in a WWII concentration camp discovers a superpower that could keep him alive – he can make the commandant laugh by telling jokes. Pushed to ends of his wit and humanity, Gagman is propelled into a spiralling madness in which he would sell his soul for a gag simply to live another day.

Evoking themes from The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Fedler weaves the story of a Faustian bargain brokered in hell, where redemption only comes in the form of a punchline. He must stay funny – or die.

Enhanced by Fedler’s own haunting illustrations, Gagman masterfully juxtaposes humour and pathos, while exploring themes of survivor guilt, desperate determination and the search for the meaning of life in the wake of the Holocaust. Swapping his yellow star for a tattered comic book, Gagman roams the new world and our consciousness determined to find answers to the deepest questions about loss, hope and belonging.

Gagman is a touching and unique tale of survival through unimaginable horror.


Gagman is a daring and uncompromising work, both allegory and achingly real — a confronting, haunting, and disturbing descent into hell, drawing on word and image to create a world in which to remain sane one must go mad. Dov Fedler totally inhabits his protagonist, and pushes his craft and his imagination to the limits to expose the horrors of Nazism, and to explore the redemptive power of art, humanity and humour.” — Arnold Zable

“Dov Fedler, in Gagman, has plunged the reader into a crazy world where the Holocaust collides with Superman and Nietzche and the result is a virtuosic graphic and written allegory. It is a very original take on a highly contested history – who can tell the story of the Holocaust? Through a pastiche of Talmudic scholarship and confronting black humour, Gagman is a way of looking into the abyss. A 21st century Scheherazade, a tale for our times.” — Sydney Jewish Museum

Gagman is a searing and brilliant book which does more to expose the horrors of the Nazis than any book since Eli Wiesel’s Night.” — Alan Gold

“With a humour so searing and audacious it made me gasp, revered cartoonist Dov Fedler bears witness to the horrors of the Holocaust in this extraordinary work of startling originality and ingenuity.” — Suzanne Leal, author of The Deceptions

Gagman is an extraordinary piece of work — strange and haunting and uniquely itself.” — John Maytham

“Can we transform suffering into art and, more outrageously, into humour? Two Jews walk into my heart with a book that made me laugh and cry at the same time. Gagman treads the edge of the forbidden joke, speaking to the histories of all marginalized people. A book of bitter and sweet nuance in which ‘everything is speakable’.” — Tyson Yunkaporta, author of Sand Talk


DOV FEDLER, one of South Africa’s legendary political cartoonists (now retired), has been working on this story for 35 years. His earliest dream was to work for Walt Disney but he ended up working for The Star newspaper as their cartoonist in the early 1970’s instead, and had a career that spanned half a century. Gagman is his fourth book. His previous titles include his memoir, Out of Line (Tracey McDonald Publishers, 2015), If You Can Write, You Can Draw (Joanne Fedler Media, 2018) and Starlite Memories (Tafelberg, 2020).

JOANNE FEDLER is an internationally bestselling author of 14 books, speaker and publisher. Her book Things Without a Name has been optioned for a TV mini-series. She is Dov’s writing mentor, editor and middle daughter.

Publisher: Brio Books (Booktopia)

Publication date: February 2022

ISBN: 9781922598554

If you are a bookseller, please contact Protea Distribution to order copies of Gagman. If you are a reader, please ask your local bookshop to order the book for you via Protea Distribution.

Karavan Press and Protea Distribution become local distribution partners for Penny Haw’s books NICKO and THE WILDERNESS BETWEEN US

We are delighted to announce that, together with Protea Distribution, Karavan Press is the South African distribution partner for Penny Haw’s novels, Nicko and The Wilderness Between Us.

Long-time journalist and columnist, and latter-day author, PENNY HAW has written for many South African publications including Business Day, Financial Mail and Sunday Times. Her children’s book, Nicko, was first published in 2017. It was followed by her debut novel for adults, The Wilderness Between Us, which again expounds her interest in strong women and her love for animals and nature. Penny’s two works of historical fiction will be published by Sourcebooks in 2022 and 2023. She lives in Hout Bay and, when not writing, Penny can be found hiking in the mountains or to the beach with her husband and three dogs.


Based on the true story of Alice Kirk and Nicko, the baby vervet monkey who was abandoned near Alice’s farm in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, Nicko tells the remarkable tale of inter-species friendships between humans and animals, both domestic and wild.

Author Penny Haw is Alice’s granddaughter. Here, in Alice’s voice, Penny retells the story of Nicko and his antics, adventures and misadventures with his many friends, as she recalls hearing it throughout her childhood.

It is a heart-warming and humorous story about the love and playfulness of animals and their human friends, which will delight children and animal lovers of all ages.     

Praise for the book

“The perfect antidote to modern life with all its stresses, Nicko is on my bookshelf next to Jock of the Bushveld. It’s that kind of a special heart-warming African animal tale. Nicko and his friends will worm their way into your heart and never leave.” Consuelo Roland, author of The Good Cemetery Guide and Lady Limbo

“Oh, what a pleasure! Full of common sense and understanding, and adorned by soft pencil drawings, which catch character and expression deliciously. A gentle delight to read in this modern world.” Jay Heale, reviewer of youth literature for Bookchat, the Children’s Book Network and Book Choice on Fine Music Radio

“A great read because it’s a book for all ages and it is written seemingly effortlessly. I found myself completely invested in the characters while glued to the edge of my seat. Nicko’s playful, mischievous personality leads him into many adventures with his hilarious friends. I greatly recommend this book to anyone.” Mia de Klerk, Grade 5, St Cyprian’s School

Publisher: PMH Publications

Publication date: 2020

ISBN: 978-1-990996-92-4


Faye and her friends’ anorexic daughter Clare are thrown together when a flood separates them from their hiking group in the remote, mountainous Tsitsikamma region of South Africa. With Clare critically injured, Faye is compelled to overcome her self-doubt and fears to take care of the younger woman, who opens her heart to Faye.

As their new friendship takes the women on an unexpected journey of discovery, the rest of the group wrestles with the harrowing aftermath of their own near tragedy. When the hiking party is reunited, their number is reduced by one.

Juxtaposing physical and psychological intrigue, The Wilderness Between Us is a tale of two fragile women who unexpectedly find clarity, independence and renewed purpose as they fight to survive. It is a fast-moving story about family, friendship, adventure and the healing power of nature and compassion.

Praise for the book

“A thrilling read fraught with the tension of unravelling relationships, betrayal, broken bones and callously revealed secrets.” Tracy Going, television anchor, and author of Brutal Legacy

“Fans of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild should definitely add Haw’s book to their TBR list.” Diane Barnes, author of More Than

“I expected a tale of family, friendship and adventure, but the added layers of emotional angst and deep heart-searching of the main players took it to a whole new level.” Karen Byrom, The People’s Friend and National Federation of Occupational Pensioners Members’ Magazine, Scotland

Publisher: Köehler Books

Publication date: July 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64663-414-9

If you are a bookseller, please contact Protea Distribution to order copies of Penny Haw’s books. If you are a reader, please ask your local bookshop to order the books for you via Protea Distribution.