Mission | Vision

New Contrast is devoted to publishing the best of poetry and prose, art, reviews and interviews from both local and international authors.


Sindiswa Busuku

Literary Patrons

J.M. Coetzee, Geoff Haresnape, Zakes Mda and Zoë Wicomb


When Contrast was established in 1960, Jack Cope as Editor announced that it might be considered an impertinence to start a literary magazine at that time, but asserted that if it were to survive, it would have to succeed on its own merits. 2000 copies of the first issue were printed. Contrast was published by the South African Literary Journal (Pty) Ltd, a situation which is still in place after 60 years, although modified by changes to South African company law. Cope edited the magazine for the next twenty years on a non-paid basis, and the magazine attracted sufficient support from enough people (and donors) to stay afloat through some difficult times. It developed a healthy reputation and launched the careers of many of South Africa’s most notable writers. It also attracted criticism from some who felt that it was too Cape based. By 1970, the number of magazines printed was down to about 1000 copies an issue. Geoff Haresnape took over from Jack at the end of 1980 when Jack went to England.

Geoff continued the magazine and in turn handed over to Douglas Reid Skinner in 1989, when Contrast was re-launched as New Contrast following the merging of Contrast and UpStream. New technologies were brought into play to keep costs down, and for a number of issues, New Contrast also published a compact called The South African Literary Review. When Douglas resigned on his departure to England in 1992, there was a shift in the way New Contrast was run, with multiple editors, editorial collectives, and other ways of running the magazine being put in place. Michael King was appointed sole Editor in 1996 and he ran it for four years before stepping aside to run the business side of New Contrast.

The first five years of the 21st century were unsettled times for New Contrast. A number of people stepped forward to edit the magazine and then found other pressures preventing them from settling into the role. Small editorial teams developed which managed to spread the load a bit, but they also dispersed the focus of the magazine. This practice did however mean that a much wider number of people made their contributions to the magazine. However, there was a loss in momentum and the magazine suffered financially. Subscriptions dropped to about 150 per year, which was hardly viable.

When Hugh Hodge was appointed in 2007, large scale fundraising was successful in restoring some calm, and with it came an increase in subscriptions as well. By 2011, there were over 320 paid up annual subscriptions. For the first time in its history, we were able to pay the Editor and Business Manager a small stipend. With the sad death in 2011 of Stephen Watson, our chief fundraiser (amongst other roles), the flow of donations stopped, and the small payments which were being made to the Editor and the Business Manager came to an end. With further restructuring, the financial crisis we had faced was averted. At present, the Editorial Team and the Business Manager receive symbolic stipends and in 2020 we were able to celebrate 60 years of existence with the publication of our Jubilee Issue (Summer 2020, no.192) which featured a selection of poetry, prose and art celebrating the past six decades of Contrast / New Contrast.

Read more history as in the notes of Jack Cope and Michael King.

Baboon logo

The Baboon logo

by Michael Cope

As I remember it, Jack commissioned the baboon logo for the first edition of Contrast (1960). The original was designed, I think, by Eleanor Esmond-White, who did a linocut. Jack’s idea was two-fold at least  – the baboon stood for Thoth, the Egyptian Mercury, and the inventor of writing according to Plato. It was important that Thoth was an African god. The use of the graphic has been dropped and revived from time to time since 1960.

Editorial Staff

Managing Editor — Robyn Paterson
Editorial Assistant — Niamh Ahern 
Graphic Designer — Megan Ross (Stoep Collective)
Business Manager — Mark Crisp & Carol Goslar
Website Designer — Jennifer Pape


New Contrast can be bought from all good bookstores.

Clarke’s Books, 119 Long Street, Cape Town
The Book Lounge, 71 Roeland Street, Cape Town
Kalk Bay Books, 124 Main Road, Kalk Bay
Love Books, The Bamboo Lifestyle Centre, 53 Rustenburg Road, Melville, Johannesburg
Protea Bookstores, nationally

Current and back issues can also be purchased direct from the Business Manager. Contact details at the bottom of the page.

Legal Status

Contrast was published by the South African Literary Journal, a proprietary company limited by Guarantee. New Contrast was set up In 1989, and was also published by the SALJ. Following the 2008 Companies Act, the South African Literary Journal was set up as a Not for Profit Company without Members. At present, there are five directors; Keith Gottschalk (Chair), Wamuwi Mboa, Archie Swanson, Athol Williams and Karina Szczurek.