Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Little Hands

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Sindiwe Magona’s formative reading experiences

Once upon a stormy time, in a location called Blouvlei, before anyone ever imagined what an extraordinary future she would have, as prolific author, poet, playwright, essayist, storyteller, actor, inspirational speaker, United Nations officer working to give voice to women’s issues, the plight of children and the fight against apartheid and racism, yes, long before all that, Sindiwe Magona had little hands and this is what she read…

Sindiwe’s earliest memory of books and reading:

Fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and poems. I read these by myself or with my older brother who was already going to school by the time we arrived in Cape Town – I wasn’t. I recall books were things I read instead of going to play outside, not something mother encouraged actively and it certainly could only be done after all chores were done. She encouraged it only as far as it kept me from ‘gallivanting all over the place’ but it was not something she saw as beneficial until much later in my school career.

Sindiwe’s picture books:

No books feature in my early childhood. There were none in the village where I was born and it was when we came to Cape Town and had the exceeding good fortune of a neighbour who worked as a domestic servant for a family with children who read and gave her books and comics to take home that I entered the world of books and reading. My parents never bought books and the only books we ever paid for were school books. But from age five, I made up for lost time …

Sindiwe, as an adult, reading with children:

As a parent, I read with my children and encouraged independent reading as soon as possible—they all read to this day. As a teacher, books and reading were, of course, the centre piece of my teaching. Now, as a storyteller as well as a children’s author, I am enjoying the thrill of storytelling to live audiences, something taken more seriously in the US and the Carribean, where I have told at festivals…

David Attwell interviews Sindiwe Magona during Middfest in Middletown, Ohio, 2 October 1999

ATWELL: Sindiwe, to begin with Mother to Mother and To My Children’s Children, would it be fair to say that in Mother to Mother, you have a different sense of your readership? The event brings the United States and South Africa together through the experience of Amy Biehl’s death, and then the fiction constructs a relationship between mothers across that national division. Is this perhaps a feature of the situation after apartheid, that we are becoming more globalized, that our audience is more diverse?

MAGONA: I would agree with that. With To My Children’s Children, I didn’t think it was a book that was going to be read now. I wasn’t a writer. I didn’t know anything about writing, but I wanted to write about my life, an ordinary life, by any means of looking at it. I thought to myself, South Africa will change one day, and then there will come people who will not know what it was to be just an ordinary African woman, or African little girl, during the time of apartheid. I didn’t think apartheid would disappear during my lifetime. But I had all confidence that in due time it would disappear.

Sindiwe the multi-lingual, multi-genre writing phenomenon:

A prolific writer, Sindiwe’s published works include two autobiographical books, To My Children’s Children, which she translated as Kubantwana Babantwana Bam, and Forced to Grow. She has also published two collections of short stories, Living, Loving and Lying Awake at Night , which has been named one of Africa’s 100 best books, and Push-Push! And Other Stories. In addition, she has published the novel, Mother to Mother, and this year sees the publication of her new novel, Beauty’s Gift.

Sindiwe has also co-written eighteen children’s books and so, she could very well be South Africa’s answer to Mother Goose!

Aims of The Little Hands Trust
• To support initiatives that promote reading for enjoyment.
• To mentor African literary artists, including writers, illustrators and editors, to produce creative, suitable and appropriate children’s storybooks for children of various ages with a focus on early childhood (ages 0 to 9 years).
• To collaborate with African publishers to increase and sustain publication of children’s books in African languages. To initiate and support translations of stories between African languages, from African languages to ex-colonial languages and from ex-colonial languages to African languages.
• To help to orientate and educate adults in the importance and significance of reading to and with children.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    September 9th, 2008 @12:38 #

    My favourite story told by Sindiwe about her reading history was her experience of being told to learn by heart one stanza of Wordsworth's "The Daffodils" at school -- and being so enthused, she learnt and recited the entire poem, with no-one able to shut her up! (This was one of the funniest snippets from her wonderful one-woman play "I Promised Myself a Fabulous Middle Age" -- if it ever comes your way, see it.)


Please register or log in to comment

» View comments as a forum thread and add tags in BOOK Chat