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Courage Day

On 16 November 2020, the New Zealand Society of Authors (Wellington Branch) held an event to mark Courage Day, internationally known as the Day of the Imprisoned Writer. Mandy Hager highlighted the annual commemoration and then Christopher Burke discussed the life of New Zealand writer James Courage. A special thank you to the speakers and organisers for allowing this event to be recorded and shared.

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  • 0:00:00 - Welcome - Janis Freegard, Branch Chair of NZSA Wellington
  • 0:01:28 - Mandy Hager, author and President of NZSA
  • 0:07:58 - Christopher Burke discusses the life and works of James Courage
  • 0:53:45 - Questions from the audience


The event at Vic Books Pipitea (Wellington) on November 16, 2020, titled "Courage Day 2020" featured speakers Christopher Burke, Janis Freegard, and Mandy Hager. It commemorated Courage Day, which aligns with the international Day of the Imprisoned Writer, celebrated annually to recognize and support writers who resist repression of their fundamental human rights.

Mandy Hager shared insights on the work of PEN International, discussing the importance of acknowledging writers who face imprisonment or have been killed for their work, highlighting five writers facing injustices in the current year. These include Paola Ugaz, a Peruvian investigative journalist facing defamation charges; Iranian lawyer and poet Sedigheh Vasmaghi, sentenced to prison for their activism; Turkish critic Osman Kavala, imprisoned for their criticism of President Erdogan; Chinese Uighur poet and editor Chimengul Awut who was sent to a reeducation camp; and Ugandan author Kakwenza Rukirabasaija, critical of the Ugandan president, who was arrested and detained.

Hager, president of the New Zealand Society of Authors, discussed human rights and democracy's fragility and urged vigilance even in stable democracies in safeguarding the right of free speech. They cited the example of investigative journalist Nicky Hager, who after publishing "Hit and Run," faced illegal searches and surveillance from the police.

Dr. Christopher Burke, a historian and public servant, who wrote a doctorate on author James Courage, spoke about restoring Courage's legacy. Though Courage was popular before their novel "The Way of Love," their work remains largely forgotten. Burke aimed to discuss Courage's life, their cultural contribution, and the significance of "The Way of Love" that faced censorship in 1961. The event highlights Courage’s challenges, including their repression, mental health battles, and subsequent censorship, all of which diminished their work's reach.

Additionally, a discussion ensued about how James Courage's works resonate with readers, emphasizing the novelist's cultural impact. Despite the censorship and withdrawal of their books from circulation, Courage received mail from New Zealanders touched by the stories, indicating their continued influence.

This summary is created using Generative AI. Although it is based on the recording's transcription, it may contain errors or omissions. Click here to learn more about how this summary was created.

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Record date:16th November 2020
Location:Vic Books Pipitea (Wellington), Wellington
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Archive:The master recording is archived at the Alexander Turnbull Library (OHDL-004609).