Friday, September 21, 2012

Author's Pie: Zukiswa Wanner


Welcome to Author’s Pie – a segment that I am so proud of! We showcase local authors, be them abroad or upon our shores; who cares they have South African blood running through them and South African books roaming our bookshelves.
Today’s pie is humbling, Zukiswa Wanner graces us with her talent and pure stance as both writer and woman – Thank you Zukiswa for taking part in Author’s Pie, it is an honour and I sit here in awe.

Zukiswa Wanner is a Jack of all Trades and because I cannot summarise her extensive and highly accoladed career here is her bio:

Born to a South African father and a Zimbabwean mother in Zambia, Zukiswa Wanner is the author of the novels The Madams (2006), Behind Every Successful Man (2008), Commonwealth and Herman Charles Bosman Award shortlisted Men of the South (2010). Her two children’s books Jama Loves Bananas and Refilwe will be out in October 2012.
As an essayist she has written The Politics of  Race, Class, and Identity in Education and 2011 Mail & Guardian’s book of Women Introductory essay, Being a Woman in South Africa.
She co-edited Outcasts – a collection of short stories from Africa and Asia with Indian writer Rohini Chowdhury to be published in October 2012. Wanner is one of 66 writers in the world (with Wole Soyinka, Jeanette Winterson, and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams,  among others) to write a contemporary response to the Bible. The works were staged in London theatres and at Westminister Abbey in October 2011. 66 Books: 21st Century Writers Speak to the King James Version Bible’s proceeds benefit disadvantaged art students.
Wanner co-authored A Prisoner’s Home (2010), a biography on the first Mandela house 8115 Vilakazi Street with award-winning South African photographer Alf Kumalo as well as  L’Esprit du Sport (2010) with French photographer Amelie Debray.
She is the founder of ReadSA - a writer-initiated campaign to get South Africans reading more African literature with a particular emphasis on donating locally-written books to school libraries (and where unavailable, start libraries) and  was in the  inaugural writing team for first South African radio soapie in English, SAFM’s Radio Vuka.
She has been a regular participant at the prime literary events in South Africa, Time of the Writer, Franschhoek Literary Festival and Cape Town Book Fair and has also participated in literary festivals in England (London Book Fair), Denmark,  Germany (BIGSAS Festival of African Literature), Zimbabwe (Intwasa Arts Festival), Algeria (Algiers Book Fair), Norway and Ghana (Pan African Literary Festival).  In addition to this, she has conducted workshops for young writers in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Denmark, Germany and Western Kenya.
Wanner has contributed articles to Observer, Forbes Africa, New Statesman, O, Elle, The Guardian, Africa Review, Mail & Guardian, Marie Claire, Real, Juice, Afropolitan, OpenSpace, Wordsetc, Baobab, Sunday Independent, City Press, & Sunday Times.
1.       As a female writer in South Africa what is your biggest challenge?
Perhaps the biggest challenge is the labels. I do not want to be considered, a good black female South African writer as I have twice or thrice seen myself labelled as. I want to be a brilliant writer, full stop. 
2.       Which author’s inspired you to start writing?
I think more than anyone else, Lewis Nkosi should be blamed for my venturing into fiction. He did not so much inspire me as challenge me into doing it.
3.       What topic should writers be writing about?
No-one should ever tell any writer what to write, how to write, when to write, or where to write. A writer should just tell the story they want to tell and tell it well.
4.       Name one book that ‘changed your life’?
It would be gross injustice on my part to name just one book that has 'changed my life.' Every book I have read has changed my life. The good ones push me to aspire to be a better writer and the bad ones teach me how not to be a writer.
5.       What book are you reading at the moment?
I am currently writing so am not reading any book as this distracts from my personal creative process. I just finished reading Margaret Ogolla's Place of Destiny and am planning to revisit Lauren Beukes' Zoo City for the eighth time after I finish my writing.


Zukiswa’s Books

The Madams
Thandi loves her life. She loves her cute son Hintsa, her witty husband Mandla, her comfortably challenging work with the tourism board, and her best friends Nosizwe and Lauren. But she has to admit – it’s tough being Superwoman in South Africa today. Try being the perfect traditional wife and African mother at home, the perfect promotable black woman at work, and the perfect foil for her “Benetton” friends – one black and Xhosa, one white and English! Thandi admits defeat and decides she needs that great South African bourgeois accessory: a maid. And since she doesn’t have the heart to boss about a ‘sister’ in her own home, she decides it must be a white maid.

Behind Every Successful Man

Nobantu has everything a girl could dream of: a brilliant businessman for a husband, two cheeky but adorable children, and two of the best friends a girl could ask for. And yet, on Nobantu’s thirty-fifth birthday, surrounded by glitz, glamour and fame, she realises something important. What has happened to her ambitions? Her career? What has happened to Nobantu?
A funky, witty tale of a mother turned entrepreneur – to the great exasperation of Andile, her husband and BEE tycoon.

Men of the South

Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2011: Africa Region.
A fascinating novel about three men out from three worlds. Mfundo the musician and dad, Mzi - gay, but married, and Tinaye – a displaced Zimbabwean in South Africa.
“The beauty of Zukiswa Wanner’s Men of the South is that she creates, in a compelling prose, effective characters with whom I easily identify. I recognise them and therefore respond to them as people I know and experience daily. In their interaction important social issues of our time emerge organically in an entertaining storyline and are narrated in a voice that is both sensitive and witty.” Zakes Mda


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