Nomination: 100 Most Influential Young South Africans

Hello everyone!

Would you look at that? I have been nominated as one of the 100 Most Influential Young South Africans for 2019! I spent some time reading through all of the profiles of the nominees and trust me, it is such an honour to be recognised among such hardworking individuals! So much of the work I do requires me to be alone and so it’s always wonderful to know that it resonates beyond my work space and the people I directly interact with while I do it. I think it’s really cool that I’m representing for the word workers, poets, imagination builders and children’s literacy advocates. And I always will.

Please do vote for me using this link, it’s free.

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Thank you, Avance Media for the nomination!

New year. New start. New goals.

Happy 2020, dear reader!

I would like to wish you a wonderful start to the new year! In thinking about you, me and this little corner of the internet that we share, I have decided to set some goals for this blog but I’ll tell you more about that later.

I’m currently on holiday in the Eastern Cape. It started in Simon’s Town, then Knysna, Port Alfred, Mthatha and I’m in Port St John’s for a few more hours, then Umhlanga. The weather has warmed up considerably from yesterday so I am finally able to think about something other than how cold it is! I’m quite delighted that it’s a new year. The sun and this gentle breeze have me in a great mood to think, dream, imagine and plan myself into this new season of my life.The year 2019 was really good to me and it stretched my wings further as an author, Anthropologist and poet. My debut children’s book Mpumi’s Magic Beads won the South African Literary Award for Children’s Literature and the IBBY South Africa Award for Best Writer. I presented my research work at conferences in Mumbai, India and Johannesburg, South Africa and had it accepted for publication. I travelled to Asia for the first time and I visited the United States again. I graduated from the Zanele Mbeki Fellowship. I facilitated literary event sessions, collaborated with reputable brands using my poetry and began some collaborative work that will debut in the new year. I got a job at my favourite radio station and, best of all, I graduated! Conferred on 10 December 2019 by the University of Witwatersrand, I am finally a Master of Arts in Social Anthropology.

Me being me, I already began my PhD in August last year and while these past few months have been good for thinking through what exactly it is a want my doctoral thesis to be about, this year and this exact day symbolises a great new beginning for me. However, I underestimated how exhausted I actually am. Although the way I see it, I have no children and no husband so there is no reason why I don’t get to be this multi- meta- person who pursues all of her whims and talents to their logical conclusion. It is difficult to balance my family, social and working lives and to especially give my best to my work but I do it with joy anyway because who am I to deprive myself of this one wild and precious life? (Word to Mary Oliver.) Taking a break is inconceivable to me because I would like to get my doctorate as soon as possible and I really enjoy being in the university system. It’s helpful because I am able to maintain work relationships I have within the corridors and frequently receive information about talks, conferences and funding opportunities.

Holiday reading.

In all honesty, the prospect of how this year will unfold is weighing on me; only because I know that work begets more work and I am supposed to be strict about limiting what’s on my plate. I want to give this degree all I’ve got…but I also want to be available for whatever other blessings come my way. Something has got to give and perhaps that thing will be social media? My workload is already heavy, however, I would like to commit to blogging here on the third of every month (and in between if possible) while being less active on Twitter and Instagram. That way, I can post updates here primarily and use the nifty buttons to share with social media afterwards. So, please feel free to follow, like and comment as we make our way through this fresh and exciting year.

May it be full of blessings and wonder for you and yours. May you give yourself the world!

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Thank you for reading!

Exclusive Books SA Award Winner: Best Writer

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I am so overwhelmed by the actuality that I have won two literary awards in one month. I am grateful for the recognition from the Exclusive Books IBBY (International Board of Books on Young People) as the recipient of their Best Writer Award. Writing this book was one of the best parts of this process. It’s wonderful that children and literary bodies alike see the value of my work. You can read more about it: here.  Congratulations to fellow award winners Nicolaas and Xolisa.

South African Literary Award Winner: Children’s Literature

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It was such an honour to attend the South African Literary Awards on Thursday, 7 November at the Ditsong National Museum of Cultural History as a nominee of the Children’s Literature Award and to end the evening as the winner. I would like to thank David Philip Publishers, all of the translators of the book, Masego Morulane for being the illustrator of my dreams, Cindy van Wyk for being my first editor, the Book of Swag agency for inviting me to be part of the #TODAY campaign that started the entire dream.

The biggest thank you of all goes out to all of the people who bought the book and gifted the little readers in their lives. Thank you, little readers, for allowing my girls into your worlds. You give my dreams wings!

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Thank You, Dear Reader.

I spent this past Saturday morning at the Johannesburg Family Gathering, a monthly event organised by Ashley Whitfield at the Museum Africa that centres on children and families. (The details are on the poster and I encourage everyone to get their babies involved in cultural activities outside of school.) This time, we got together for story time with Mpumi’s Magic Beads.

One of the best parts about what I do is engaging with little readers and their parents. I am so grateful each time a child let’s me know that they have hair like Mpumi or when parents share what this story means for their families. I’ve had a mom tell me that the book is her son’s favourite nightly read and that something about the rhyming in the book and reading it aloud together has also helped with his speech issues. I’ve had a kiddies hair salon owner reach out because there’s a little girl who came in with my book and requested the style on the cover. I’ve had mom’s send me videos of their children reading. Each time this happens, my heart absolutely beams to know that this book is doing what I hoped it would do in the world. Little children love this story just as I loved so many stories when I was a child. Beyond that, little children feel at home in this story, and isn’t that just the best thing?

I’m always in awe when I see children who are super confident with asserting themselves with adults and peers, alike. I always make a mental note that I would love to be the kind of parent who nurtures that in a child. I think it’s quite a remarkable thing to see a child who owns their space and articulates themselves boldly. The portrait above was drawn by one such a special little girl. While I was “performing” the story, she was reading along loudly with me and afterwards everyone drew some self portraits and she came over to give me hers. I was so touched by her gift, I’m going to be framing it soon.

The part that will always stay with me is how her mother shared with me that ever since she got the book, she draws herself with this hairstyle. We also spoke about how she will be challenging the school’s hair policy using the book as an illustration of the kind of cultural awareness that the school should be seeking to foster in how they move forward in creating an inclusive environment for all their learners. Considering that this book is partly inspired by my own academic work in the sleight of hand employed by schools: using neutral language in hair codes of conduct yet clearly being discriminatory in implementation – I am really all for parents furthering that conversation, especially at a young age so less children have to suffer the trauma of being vilified by the school system for the way they look.

So, the portrait here, by a very special girl is a reminder of all the people who continue to give this dream wings. I have always wanted to do my part to make it just a little better for children in this world and I’m so grateful that this work, by Masego and I, is adding a little sprinkle of magic, confidence and self-love in your lives. You keep my heart full.

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Thank you to all the parents and guardians who reach out in person and online to share with me how the story continues to move in your lives, beyond the book.

SA Library Week with ‘Help 2 Read’

It is SA Library Week (19 – 23 March 2018) and I have been doing my part by reading Mpumi’s Magic Beads to primary school learners. As you know, my book is about some girls who are also school pupils and I hope that my audiences this week will be able to relate to that special detail.

I started the morning at Kgololo Academy in Alexandra where I read for two Grade 2 groups. What a special little school. Some of the kids were really into the story so, they would mimic my gestures (which I loved because they’re all so adorable!) so I incorporated it into how I tell the story from now on. Thank you, learners!

As part of the ‘Help 2 Read’ organisation’s reading tour, I visited Iphuteng Primary School in Alexandra. I had so much fun with this vibrant group of learners. My bit of improvisation from earlier worked really well because I don’t believe in making children sit dead still while listening to a story. Let them wiggle and giggle and listen with their bodies too. It makes learning memorable, I think. I certainly believe that this was memorable. They had a lot of energy and I had the best time with them.

Next stop. Diepsloot Primary School!

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Thank you, Kgololo Academy, Help 2 Read, Iphuteng Primary School.