Zulu Children’s Author Themba Qwabe: “Parents Must Promote Indigenous Literature”

Themba Qwabe, in jeans and a black t-shirt on the right, with other authors at the 21st Time of the Writer

The 21st Time of The Writer International Festival 2018 kicked off on Monday 12, March. It featured talks with 16 renowned authors from around the globe. The Daily Vox spoke to established South African isiZulu children’s book author, Themba Qwabe, to find out about his writing journey and what inspired him to write for children.

I began writing when I was doing my junior degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg campus in the early 90s. This was after my former lecturer, Mr Hlengwa had asked me to give him four short stories. My first book “Amagemfe” was subsequently published and later prescribed for Grade 12 isiZulu home language.

I write and publish in all Zulu major genres such as novels, drama, short stories, poetry, folklore, and children’s books. I enjoy writing all these. Poems are however my area of special interest.

I don’t normally count the books I have produced. Contracts and copies indicate solo and anthology works are in the region of 100. There are many manuscripts with various publishers as well.

I began writing children’s books after requests and commissioning by Oxford Publishers to write original children’s stories in isiZulu. Later, Macmillan Publishers came with the same requests. I have since published a number of original Zulu children’s books. “Baya kuphi oPhindi?” and “Ngivakashela ugogo nomkhulu” (Oxford ), “Ekwaluseni” ; “UBongani ufunda kanzima” and “Ukwemula ku kadadewethu” (Macmillan) are some of these.

Being a children’s books author takes understanding of their level, interests, and what they need to be taught. Also artistic creativity to produce nice reading and meaningful stories.

Currently there is not enough children’s Zulu books on the shelves and schools for these young minds, especially books that will help them develop in all respects. Books that are relevant to them, their culture, heritage, and history.

Parents should play a crucial role in promoting literature in indigenous languages. They must buy books and read for their kids; there should be television time and reading time. They must encourage their kids to read and allow them to narrate stories to them. It’s their responsibility to feed the minds of kids; libraries should also have these books. It would be more helpful if the department of education was to ensure these books are at primary schools and train teachers how to teach literature at a primary level.

The ATT has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Featured image by Lizeka Maduna