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

Archive for the ‘Childrens Literature’ Category

Meet the two women nurturing a love of stories among Deaf children

A previous version of this article was published with a language error: ‘Deaf’ was spelled with a lower case ‘d’. This article refers to the Deaf community as a whole and the difference Kerrin Kokot and Jayne Batzofin are making in encouraging a love of storytelling among the Deaf community in South Africa.

Carla Lever recently conducted an interview with filmmakers, storytellers and language activists Kerrin Kokot and Jayne Batzofin for Nal’ibali’s weekly column. The three of them discussed Kerrin and Jayne’s latest TV project focused on nurturing a love of storytelling among Deaf children, the education opportunities for Deaf children in South Africa, and heartwarming stories of working with Deaf children.

Kerrin Kokot and Jayne Batzofin


Your latest TV project and envisaged accompanying book for Deaf children – Let’s Pretend With Fumi and Friends – is pretty groundbreaking in South Africa. Can you tell us a little about the story?

KK: In extraordinary storyteller Jay’s home, a curious rabbit called Fumi discovers how to use its imagination to help make-believe creatures solve problems and, by doing so, learns valuable life skills.
JB: Let’s Pretend with Fumi and Friends is a world where stories come to life through imagination and sign language, and problems are solved through creativity and team-work.

What stage of development is Fumi at?

KK: The first project phase (concept development) is complete. We developed everything with Deaf education partners and a television script editor and adapted the story concepts and artworks with feedback from children. Those visuals would feed straight into our visual if we ran a book later.

We’re now in project development stage, working with excellent film and education partners to finalise the project and distribution plan, budget and schedule. Our partners are helping us raise finance for production, as well as a training programme to upskill Deaf animators, designers and other production staff. It’s incredibly exciting!

Concept art for Let’s Pretend with Fumi and Friends


In your experience, Jayne, what are education options and resources like for Deaf children in South Africa?

JB: In the last few years there has been a strong focus to develop teachers’ signing skills and capacity by organisations like SLED (Sign Language Education Development). Sign language resources are still incredibly limited for choice and often outdated in material, though. Deaf children deserve as much variety as hearing children.

Are there enough qualified SASL teachers in South Africa?

JB: For me, we really need more qualified teachers who are Deaf themselves. I watch Deaf teaching assistants make huge progress with children because they share the same mother tongue language, but because of the way our education system is structured, they don’t have the means to qualify as teachers.

How are you using your skills to tackle the problem?

JB: In addition to Fumi, I’m using theatre productions and drama exercises to create playful resources as alternative tools to developing sign language literacy. How dull to only learn a language in a formal classroom setting! Language is learned through acquisition, which is strengthened when taught in a variety of mediums.

Are there any unique considerations to bear in mind when creating literacy resources for Deaf children?

KK: Deaf children seldom get development in creativity and abstract thinking skills – learning is often extremely functional. SLED (Sign Language Education and Development) pushed us to develop unique tools within the programme to boost those skills and animation is a great fit for doing that.

Kerrin, you’ve got tons of experience in making stories visually compelling and fun. What have the challenges been in conceptualising this kind of project?

KK: One of the challenges has been making this series accessible to Deaf children around the world. Sign language is like any language: It is specific to regions. A South African Sign Language (SASL) programme won’t be easily understood by, say, British Deaf audiences, who use British Sign Language (BSL). To combat this, we’ve made the most expensive parts of the production – the animated parts – universally accessible. The show’s live-action presenter, the only character that communicates in sign language, can be sourced regionally and inserted into the animated world using relatively inexpensive post-production techniques.

Jayne, are there any moments working with Deaf children over the years that you’ve found particularly heartwarming?

JB: So many! Obviously the children when they laugh or light up from within because adults besides their teachers are signing with them. But I also love watching the teachers be amazed by how bright and creative their students can be when given a different way to learn sign language.

How can people find out more and get involved with Fumi?

KK: We’d love to share resources with, and learn from, other organisations seeking to promote Deaf literacy. Please get in touch on email at Fans can follow the project on Facebook: @fumiandfriends.

Why is storytelling so important – for adults, as well as children?

KK: Adults and children gain valuable skills through storytelling: language, social, abstract, conceptual, and so many more. Stories are integral to human society, shaping our worldviews, our very existence. A world without stories would be a world of robots!
JB: It evokes and develops imagination, creativity and fantasy! These skills are of fundamental importance in childhood (and literacy) development, and equally essential for adults to connect with each other and their often neglected playful selves.

Reading and telling stories with your children is a powerful gift to them. It builds knowledge, language, imagination and school success! For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of South African languages, visit:

» read article

Read an excerpt from the third book in Bontle Senne’s Afrocentric fantasy adventure, Shadow Chasers

Only the Shadow Chasers, with their magical knives, can save the world from the evil that lives in the dreamworld.

“Scary riveting fun! Escape in this magical and modern South African fantasy.” – Nonikiwe Mashologu, childhood literacy specialist

“I love the book because it’s scary and cool. Nom is a very brave girl.” – Gugulethu Machin, tweeny reader

Flame of Truth is the third in the Shadow Chasers series, an Afrocentric fantasy adventure for pre-teens (9 to 12 year olds.)

Bontle Senne is a book blogger and literacy advocate. She is a former managing director at the Puku Children’s Literature Foundation, a trustee of READ Educational Trust and a part owner of feminist trade publishing house Modjaji Books.
Read an excerpt from Bontle’s extraordinary book:

They hear the piercing scream of the Lightning Bird as another ball of flames falls from the dark sky and explodes on the patch of sand at the cave opening.

Nom and Zithembe lie on their bellies in the dirt, trying to stay low in the shadows so that the Lightning Bird does not come into the cave to find them.

“Nom, when we get out of here … ,” Zithembe whispers bitterly, pressing his cheek to the ground so he can look at Nom and she can see how annoyed he is.

Nom rolls her eyes and shifts her attention to the cave opening. She can’t hear the Lightning Bird, but that doesn’t mean it’s not waiting for them just outside the cave, ready to drop another ball of fire. “There was no way I could have known that it was going to come all the way up to the mountains,” Nom says. “I thought these things stayed in the forest!”

“Who told you that?” Zithembe snaps.

“Rosy! Well, kind of Rosy. I think that’s what she said …” Nom thinks back to a few weeks ago when she and Rosy, Zithembe’s cousin, had come into the dreamworld and were chased by the Lightning Bird. The giant black bird had flown over them, circling, stalking. With its long, curved beak, shaggy chest feathers, two sets of wings, and two long, orange legs, it had terrified her and brought back Rosy’s darkest memories.

Now, when Nom reaches out and her hand finds the cave wall, the stone feels cool and wet. She feels the magic of the dreamworld buzzing lightly through the tips of her fingers. It’s the same feeling she sometimes gets when she holds her knife. A Shadow Chaser’s knife has powers that she and Zithembe are only just starting to understand.

“We could go back,” she suggests, already guessing what Zithembe will think of that idea. Zithembe groans as a clap of thunder booms from outside the cave.

“We cannot just go back,” he says. “We have to find my mother. How can we find her if we go back?”

“Zee, we’re not going to be able to get out of here without getting roasted. We can use the special powers in your knife to get home, and then try another night. We can come back in a few days with – I don’t know – a plan or something.”

It is weird for Nom to suddenly be the one with a plan. She’s never really been known for thinking things through. They got stuck here in this cave because when Nom saw the Lightning Bird she turned and ran before Zithembe could even ask what was going on. They had scrambled further up the mountain they were exploring. Then Nom dragged Zithembe into the cave just as the balls of fire began to rain down on them, burning holes the size of soccer balls into the sand. Nom had been right to be afraid, but she could have at least warned him before she started running.
It was so often “act and then think” with her. At least Zithembe had finally gotten used to that.

“I have a better idea,” Zithembe says. “You should use your knife to turn yourself into a Lightning Bird.”

“What?” Nom asks, even though she’s pretty sure she heard him.

“You should turn yourself into a Lightning Bird,” Zithembe repeats, replaying what his mother had told him about the power of Nom’s blue knife to change her into someone – or something – else. “I’ll jump on your back and we can fly out of here and into the forest.”

If they weren’t trapped, crawling on their stomachs in the dark, Nom would punch Zithembe. “But the forest is where it lives!” she says, feeling deeply frustrated.

Nom remembers the forest from her visit to the dreamworld with Rosy, when they fought the Mami Wata.

She remembers the muffled sounds of moans, crying and wild giggling drifting out to them from inside the dark and unknowable Thathe Vondo Forest. Rosy had explained that the forest exists in the real world and the dreamworld at the same time. In the real world, the people who live near the forest believe that it is full of spirits and monsters. In the real world, the people are just as afraid of the Lightning Bird which they call Ndadzi, as Nom is, here in the dreamworld.

“OK, then we fly to the Clearing or to the Lake of Memories,” Zithembe suggests.

Being annoyed isn’t helping, so Nom sighs and tries to be kind instead.

She says, “Zee, listen to me. There are soldiers of the Army of Shadows everywhere. Even now, the shadow men must be marching towards us. Your knife’s power can get us out of here safely. I know you want to find your mom. I want to find her too, Zee, but not today …”

They are quiet for a few minutes.

Nom isn’t sure whether Zithembe is still trying to think of ways to get out of this cave and keep exploring the dreamworld or whether he is trying to accept the truth in her words. As she waits for him to speak again, Nom sees a cloud of pale orange dust float into the cave.

The dust cloud stops just in front of them, blocking their view of the cave’s opening, and then drifts down low to the ground where they lie.

“Nom … Zithembe,” says the soft, faraway voice of a girl.

Zithembe twists his head to look at the floating dust and then back at Nom.

“Did that dust thing just speak?” Nom asks, saying out loud what both of them are thinking.

“I have a deal for you,” whispers the dust. “Help me rescue my friend fromthe Army of Shadows and I will help you find Itumeleng.”

Itumeleng. Zee’s mother.

“Who – or what – are you? Why should we believe you?” Zithembe asks.

There’s a trace of anger dripping into his voice. He wants to save his mother, but how can he trust a floating cloud of dust? Any of the magical things in the dreamworld could trick him into trapping himself or Nom here.

Book details

» read article

Flame of Truth: third book in the Afrocentric fantasy adventure series, Shadow Chasers, “scary riveting fun!”

Only the Shadow Chasers, with their magical knives, can save the world from the evil that lives in the dreamworld.

“Scary riveting fun! Escape in this magical and modern South African fantasy.” – Nonikiwe Mashologu, childhood literacy specialist

“I love the book because it’s scary and cool. Nom is a very brave girl.” – Gugulethu Machin, tweeny reader

Flame of Truth is the third in the Shadow Chasers series, an Afrocentric fantasy adventure for pre-teens (9 to 12 year olds.)

Bontle Senne is a book blogger and literacy advocate. She is a former managing director at the Puku Children’s Literature Foundation, a trustee of READ Educational Trust and a part owner of feminist trade publishing house Modjaji Books.

Book details

» read article

“We want African stories to be truly accessible to all South African children” – a Q&A with the masterminds behind Book Dash

Carla Lever recently conducted a Q&A with Book Dash co-founder Arthur Attwell and programme director Julia Norrish for Nal’ibali’s weekly column, as published in the Daily Dispatch and Herald. The three discussed fulfilling gaps in the indigenous language storytelling market, the accessibility of African stories, and how you – yes, you! – can get involved with creating a storytelling nation:

You aim for every SA child to own 100 books by the age of five. That sounds overwhelmingly optimistic, but in just three years you’ve already printed over 180 000 books with a price point of R10/copy. What’s your superpower?

Julia: Our superpower is peoplepower! We ask professional writers, illustrators, designers and editors to volunteer their time to create new, high-quality, African children’s books. We waste no time, and we pay no wages. The only cost is printing, and we do that cheaply, too, by working with great printing companies.

Julia Norrish, programme director: Book Dash


You make a point of making your books available in isiZulu, isiXhosa and Sepedi, which means you’re fulfilling a vital gap in the indigenous language storytelling market. What’s the response been like?

Julia: The response has been incredible: we’re thrilled when people request languages other than English, and equally chuffed that we can provide these! We must thank our translation partners for this, most notably Nal’ibali. Of the 183 963 books we’ve printed, 56% have been in English, so it still dominates, but that means there are 79 381 more African indigenous language books in kids’ hands than there were in 2013.

Arthur: Most children’s books published in South Africa are effectively cross-subsidised by textbook sales to government schools – that’s why there are so few. In 2013, of R312 million in local trade publishing revenue, only 0.5% came from books in indigenous languages. The value of mother tongue learning in the early stages of a child’s life has never been as well proven as it is today, and yet the books we’re publishing still aren’t reflecting that. We want African stories to be truly accessible to all South African children.

Your books are all available for free online and through your free Android app. Are they getting widely distributed that way?

Julia: Book Dash’s digital books are particularly powerful because anyone can freely use, translate or adapt the content. Our downloads are in the millions – from as far afield as Turkey, Afghanistan and South America – so we’re having great impact from digital. We’ll always print and distribute physical copies of our books directly to children, though. The authority and power that a print book has is irreplaceable, especially when trying to create avid readers.

How can writers, designers, translators and editors get involved?

Julia: People that are keen can join our mailing list via or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to hear when we announce upcoming events.

Your giveaway events sound like huge fun! Can you tell us about some of the most memorable exchanges with children and educators that you’ve had?

Arthur: My most memorable giveaway is still the first one, at Jireh Community Centre in Mitchells Plain. We gave each child three books that day. One boy, who must have been three years old, took his first book and walked off, so we had to call him back to get another, which made him very happy. And then he walked off again! When we called him back for his third book his eyes were as big as saucers. It’s really important for everyone to start thinking big numbers when it comes to giving books away.

What role do donors and sponsors play in your operation?

Julia: They’re invaluable and we’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the most generous and insightful organisations out there. Our first ever print run was made possible by crowdfunding and we’re still so grateful when people choose to donate. People can also support by purchasing copies of our books from various retailers or directly from us at

Reading and telling stories with your children is a powerful gift to them. It builds knowledge, language, imagination and school success! For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign or to enter its national multilingual storytelling competition, ‘Story Bosso’, running this September, visit

» read article

Nal’ibali launched their third annual Story Bosso contest with Gcina Mhlophe and Marc Lottering

In commemoration of National Literacy Month, Nal’ibali – the national reading-for-enjoyment campaign – is encouraging a wave of storytelling nationwide with their third annual multilingual Story Bosso contest. The contest, which places an emphasis on folktales, was launched on August 31st at the Soweto Theatre and featured a programme which skriks for niks:

Storyteller par excellence, Bongani Madondo, entertained the two groups of school children who attended the launch. Fingers were clicked, hands were clapped, and feet were stamped as the children repeated the catchy phrases uttered (with gusto!) by Bongani.

Gcina Mhlophe, one of the country’s most beloved storytellers, kept the audience enthralled with her passionate, dramatic, and humorous performance of her favourite folktales:

Storytelling goddess Gcina Mhlophe doing what she does best
© Daniel Born


Did you know? By tapping your fingers on your wrist you can recreate the sound of raindrops falling. Ngiyabonga for the fun audience interaction, Gcina!
© Daniel Born


The nation’s future storytellers paying rapt attention to Gogo Gcina…
© Daniel Born


© Daniel Born


The magnificent Ms Mhlophe
© Daniel Born

To help children and adults remember these special stories, Nal’ibali has created a set of storytelling playing cards featuring common folktale characters, settings and objects.

And who better to demonstrate the creative use of one of these cards than one of South Africa’s favourite comedians, Marc Lottering?

And oh-my-’fro, did he have a jol

A storytelling playing card depicting a shaker. (A magic one, at that. It’s magical properties? The ability to transport the lucky person who shakes it to Cape Town. That’s Marc Lottering for you…)
© Daniel Born

Marc’s other card featured two young children; this story ended on a twist! The twist being “…and then he realised it was all a dream.” Hehe ;)
© Daniel Born

Nee, kyk. That’s one riveted audience…
© Daniel Born

Ain’t nothing bothering Mr Lottering!
© Daniel Born

Gcina and Marc even teamed up for a lively rendition of a song consisting of only six words (“Praat / praat u taal met liefde!”) but sjoe, they managed to get the audience to join in:

Gcina and Marc demonstrating how you should praat the taal with liefde
© Daniel Born


Big shout out to photographer Daniel Born who managed to capture this singular day beautifully. From children enjoying the performances, to perusing the books available in their home languages, to admiring the storytelling cards, and – ultimately – having the opportunity to tell their own stories…

All South Africans are invited to submit their entries between 1 and 30 September as audio or video clips online on the campaign’s website (, mobisite (, Facebook page (NalibaliSA), to or via Nal’ibali’s WhatsApp line: 076 920 6413.

» read article

FunDza awarded UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy 2017

FunDza has been awarded the UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy 2017!

The prize, supported by the Government of the People’s Republic of China, rewards work that benefits rural populations and out-of-school youth, particularly girls and women. The award ceremony will take place on International Literacy Day, celebrated on 8 September, at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. This year it focuses on literacy in a digital world.

The event brings together stakeholders and decision-makers from different parts of the world to examine how digital technology can help close the literacy gap and gain better understanding of the skills needed in today’s societies.

Says Mignon Hardie, executive director of FunDza, “We feel deeply honoured by this recognition for our work to get teens and young adults across South Africa reading and writing for pleasure. Thanks go to UNESCO and the Government of the People’s Republic of China for this incredible recognition for our work. Thanks too go to all the individuals and organisations that have supported and worked with our organisation since inception.”

The other two laureates receiving the UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy are:
AdulTICoProgram of the Secretariat of Information and Communications Technologies of the city of Armenia (Colombia), for teaching digital competencies to seniors.

The Citizens Foundation (Pakistan) for its Aagahi Literacy Programme for Women and Out-of-School Girls, which conducts digital educational needs assessments and provides teaching services to support the education of younger girls and older women.

There are also two awards given for the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize, dedicated to mother-tongue literacy education and training, sponsored by the Republic of Korea. These go to:
Centre for the Study of Learning & Performance (CSLP) at Concordia University (Canada), for the Using Educational Technology to Develop Essential Educational Competencies in Sub-Saharan Africa project, which develops and distributes its material internationally free of charge.

We Love Reading (Jordan), a programme with a virtual community that offers online read-aloud trainings for parents, mobilises volunteers to read aloud in community spaces to children and provides age-appropriate material through a digital library.

Click here for the official UNESCO press release.

FunDza’s online platform – – houses a library that is accessible through mobile phones, tablets and computers and is reaching thousands of young readers on a daily basis. FunDza is continuously creating new content for the platform to encourage young people to make reading a daily habit, and to inspire them to write too.

In the last financial year, reached more than 570,000 individual readers. And, at present it is reaching around 70,000 committed readers each month, who read on average for 15 minute periods on their phones.

In addition to the online platform, FunDza is supporting beneficiary groups around the country with locally-created, exciting print books that ignite a love of reading. Since inception, FunDza has supported more than 500 groups who on average reach 100+ individual learners or readers. Through this network, FunDza is getting reading materials into the hands of those who need it most.

Mignon Hardie notes, “We believe that reading stories changes lives. We get incredible feedback from our readers who say that they are now able to read first thing in the morning or last thing at night thanks to They also share how stories are impacting on their lives – not only in terms of language acquisition but also through the power of stories to connect with their hearts and minds.”

Here are just a few quotes from readers saying what reading with FunDza has meant to them:

“What I enjoy on Fundza is I like reading some stories and almost it is true. Some stories made me think of how to be in life, how to fight battles and believe in yourself. I enjoy reading stories on Fundza.”

“Whenever I get an update on the Fundza whatsapp contact about recent stories I don’t hesitate to forward the message to my friends and dive head first into reading them. They are by far the best short stories I’ve ever read and they sure know how to quench one’s thirst.”

“Life and love lessons. I love reading the awesome stories writen by the brilliant writers. Some times i get carried away with reading that i even forget my house chores and burn pots while cooking!”

“I enjoy stories that are told by South Africans writers about South African people. It inspires me because I realize that there is too much talent and I’m happy that fundza is there for people who are book worms because a person who reads is an interesting person and interested in people.”

“It has improved my comprehension skills which still need polishing hence I need to join the online course but mostly fundza has inspired me to learn to be a writer because I’ve got an adventurous imagination and fundza has given me hope that one day I’ll will be able to write an award winning story.”

“Since the stories are almost published in almost every South African languages I get to learn how to read and understand new languages and also learn some of the words I didn’t know that they even existed.”

“From one of the stories I’ve read,I’ve learned that I should report a person who is violating human rights such as mistreating people with disability. Young people give up on their future because of the background they’re coming from, but I’ve learnt not ever to let the background I’m coming from describe who I am and to use the opportunity I’m given to build myself a better future.”

“Fundza is more than just a website where we read but it is a page where we learn, experience and grow … it also helps people to solve their problems … there are stories that some of us relate to and in the end we find solutions…”

» read article

Nal’ibali gets the nation storytelling this September

This September, and in commemoration of Literacy Month, Nal’ibali – the national reading-for-enjoyment campaign, is encouraging a wave of storytelling across the country with its third annual multilingual storytelling contest, Story Bosso.

Placing a special focus on folktales in a bid to preserve this national treasure, the campaign will be hosting storytelling performances and events across the country for the month and is inviting members of the public, young and old, to join them by telling the traditional stories they remember being told, or to have fun making up new ones.

“Storytelling is a forerunner for children’s literacy learning in all languages and forms part of our national heritage. Many of our traditional stories, historically told by grandparents around fires, feature characters such as the jackal and the hare, wise old men and greedy giants. Starting with different phrases: Once upon a time, kwathi ke kaloku ngantsomi, kwasuka sukela; these stories have been passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth and are in danger of being lost,” says Jade Jacobsohn, Nal’ibali Managing Director.

To help children and adults remember these special stories, Nal’ibali has created a set of storytelling playing cards featuring common folktale characters, settings and objects. Together with over 8 000 children’s story books by local authors featuring folktales and other family-friendly stories, these story cards will be distributed and given away at community events to help increase the number of leisure books and story materials available to children and caregivers. They are also freely available for download from Nal’ibali’s web- and mobisites for the month.

“Our stories are an important part of our heritage and collective culture. By encouraging South Africans to tell and share our stories in all our languages, we’re hoping to not only support adults in becoming pivotal players in their children’s literacy development through this simple yet effective method, but ensure this beautiful craft which has the power to connect us all remains alive,” continues Jacobsohn.

Opening the month of storytelling, South Africa’s best-loved storyteller, Gcina Mhlophe, will be telling one of her favourite folktales to children in Soweto before inviting them to enter the contest and stand a chance of being crowned this year’s ‘Story Bosso’. Mhlophe will be joined by comedian, Marc Lottering, who will be infusing an element of fun by demonstrating how to use the cards for improvised storytelling and Soweto-based master storyteller, Bongani Godide, will add local flavour to the event.

Regional storytelling events in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape will be supported by storytellers Sindiwe Magona, Hluma Zakaza, Hlobisile Mkhize, Mpumy Ndlovu and Nolubabalo Rani who will be enchanting children and adults alongside Nal’ibali storytellers, Sanelisiwe Ntuli, Madoda Ndlakuse and Thanduxolo Mkoyi. Further, Nal’ibali Literacy Mentors will be hosting community events in these provinces and more, all helping the campaign to collect its goal of 5 000 stories – a first step towards preserving this unique part of SA heritage. To add to the excitement, Nal’ibali’s will be conducting FUNda Leader reading for enjoyment trainings in each of the above regions as precursors to the Story Bosso events.

And, with prizes in the form of cash, airtime, books and caps up for grabs, there is added incentive to get storytelling. A main prize of R5 000 cash, R1 000 book voucher, R500 airtime and a Story Bosso cap will be awarded to one overall Story Bosso winner. There will also be eight provincial winners, each receiving R1 000 cash, R5 000 book voucher, R250 air time and a Story Bosso cap. Spot prizes of book vouchers, airtime and caps which will be given away to those who enter online throughout the month.

All South Africans are invited to submit their entries between 01 and 30 September as audio or video clips online on the campaign’s website (, mobisite (, Facebook page (NalibaliSA), to or via Nal’ibali’s WhatsApp line: 076 920 6413. A full list of community storytelling and entry events will be available from 1 September on the Nal’ibali website along with the contest rules and guidelines.

For more information about the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign, and to sign up for the FUNda Leader training and the ‘Story Bosso’ contest, visit, or find them on Facebook and Twitter: nalibaliSA.

» read article

“I wrote it for all women of colour who have felt silenced” – a Q&A with author, activist, storyteller and actress Buhle Ngaba

Carla Lever recently interviewed Buhle Ngaba, activist, storyteller, actress and the author of The Girl Without a Sound, for the Nal’ibali reading campaign’s sixth column, as published in the Daily Dispatch and Herald. Buhle discussed the importance of children having access to stories in their own language, empowering young girls in collaboration with KaMatla Productions, and the absence of African literature written by women.

Buhle Ngaba, author of The Girl Without a Sound


Your book, The Girl Without a Sound, is about a silent young girl who meets a mysterious red-winged woman and begins to discover her own voice. What was your inspiration for the story?

My aunt handed me my first book when I was six and I don’t believe I would have been the same person without that introduction to stories. So the little girl in my book is me, but I wrote it for all women of colour who have felt silenced.

A page from Buhle’s remarkable The Girl Without a Sound

Why did you decide to start tackling community storytelling?

It felt like a natural extension of my job as an actress: to share stories as far and wide as I can and to teach others to do the same. Stories can and do change how we see the world, so we have to learn how to tell our own.

Can you tell us a little about the work you do with KaMatla Productions?

A group of us started KaMatla to aid the development of the arts and storytelling amongst young people. At the moment, we are collaborating with Nal’ibali in honour of Women’s Month, meaning Girl Without A Sound will now be freely available for download in English, Setswana, isiXhosa and isiZulu. Because internet access is not evenly distributed, we will also be taking printed copies of the book to schools across the country. Starting in September, KaMatla will be running free workshops at high schools across the country, bringing the empowering teachings of Girl Without A Sound to life. We’re aiming to provide young girls with a lifelong tool kit that can be used to own their unique voices.

Is there any particular moment or piece of feedback that made all your work worthwhile?

The reading club visit with Nal’ibali to Sea View Primary in Mitchells Plain last week was spectacular – to see the book in the hands that it was written for was so special.

Why is diverse representation – in featured characters, in written languages – so important, particularly in South Africa today?

It’s important so that children can see themselves and hear the potential for magic in their own languages. That way, they discover how they can be anything they want to be. The industry doesn’t publish enough women writers and even our sections on African literature no longer reprint books by women that are vital reading. I think that the only way forward is by women writers to actively saturate the industry with our stories. If you are a writer, write! The internet gives people a platform to be what they always wanted and, though it may be imperfect, it should be something we use. I use it to share as much of my work as I can, across borders, waters and skies.

Where to for you from here?

We will keep trying to get the book into as many hands as possible. As for me, I am going to perform a short season of my one-woman show “The Swan Song” in Joburg and Cape Town early next year then I am looking towards film!

Reading and telling stories with your children is a powerful gift to them. It builds knowledge, language, imagination and school success! For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign or to enter its national multilingual storytelling competition, ‘Story Bosso’, running this September, visit

» read article

Win a copy of Ink – a beautifully illustrated picture book exploring a child’s growing awareness of language

Ingrid Mennen’s Ink is a picture book exploring a child’s growing awareness of language, books and reading.

The little girl Tinka becomes aware of words, language and writing. She names her family members one by one: her mum, her dad, her little brother Slip, sister Rosie and baby Jas. She draws a paper doll resembling a girl like herself on a sheet of newsprint. The paper doll is named “Ink”. With her body filled with words, Ink is the perfect companion for Tinka.

Tinka introduces her new friend to all her favourite story books, because, “A book is like a friend, with the best stories to tell”.

Thought-provoking and captivating, this picture book will appeal to young readers 4+, while adult readers will find pleasure in the simple, yet sensitive illustrations.

If you would like to win a copy of this singular book, visit our Facebook page and comment on the competition post.

Ingrid Mennen is an author of picture books including One Round Moon and a Star For Me (illustrated by Niki Daly) and Ben and the Whales. Ingrid lives in Newlands, Cape Town, with her husband. They have three grown-up children. Ink is her second book in collaboration with Irene, her eldest daughter, as illustrator.

Irene Berg is the eldest daughter of author Ingrid Mennen. She studied music in Stellenbosch and Frankfurt am Main and now she works in Germany as a musician and teacher and lives close to the Rhine with her husband, a violinist. Mother and daughter worked together on Ben and the Whales in 2012. Ink is their second book together.

Book details

» read article

Wen ’n kopie van Ink – ’n pragtig geïllustreerde boek wat ’n kind se bewusmaking van taal verken

Tinka word bewus van woorde en taal, boeke en lees.

Sy teken haarself af op ‘n vel koerantpapier. Nou het sy ‘n maat en sy noem haar “Ink”.

Met haar lyf vol woorde, is Ink die perfekte maat vir Tinka. Sy neem Ink na haar kamer om haar beste boeke vir haar te wys, want “‘n boek is soos ‘n maat, met die beste stories om te vertel”.

‘n Meesleurende en diepsinnige prenteboek vir lesers 4+ wat ook volwasse lesers se verbeelding sal aangryp.

Indien jy ‘n kopie van hierdie besonderse boek wil wen, besoek ons Facebook-blad en skryf in deur kommentaar te lewer op die kompetisie-berig.

Ingrid Mennen is ‘n skrywer van prenteboeke vir kinders, waarvan sommige in verskeie tale gepubliseer is. Sy studeer Afrikaanse en Engelse Letterkunde, Kunsgeskiedenis en Museumkunde (UP, US en UK). Ingrid woon in Nuweland, Kaapstad, saam met haar man. Hulle het drie volwasse kinders. Ben en die walvisse en Ink is saam met haar oudste dogter, illustreerder Irene Berg, geskep. Ben en die walvisse is bekroon met die M.E.R.-prys vir geïllustreerde kinderboek 2013 en die Tienie Hollowaymedalje vir Kleuterliteratuur 2015.

Irene Berg is ‘n vryskut-illustreerder en musiekonderwyser, oorspronklik van Kaapstad, en woon en werk tans in Mannheim, Duitsland. Na musiekstudies aan die Universiteit van Stellenbosch en die Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kuns in Frankfurt am Main, voltooi sy ‘n kursus in grafiese ontwerp. Haar eerste twee prenteboeke, Ben en die walvisse (2012) en Ink (2016), is geskep in samewerking met haar ma, skrywer Ingrid Mennen.


» read article