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Zukiswa Wanner, Writing and Publishing African Words for Africans


In this episode, Zeze interviews Zukiswa Wanner, an award-winning South African author and humanitarian. She has published fiction novels, co-authored Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, and started her own publishing house to help bring African literature to the forefront in the African continent.

Zukiswa Wanner believes in changing how African literature is seen and embraced in Africa. She writes not for the European or American masses, but for her fellow Africans. Seeing how the African publishing houses often prioritize foreign markets over their own, she decided to start her own publishing company, as part of her drive to change the self-oppression that has been imposed on African literature.

Zukiswa also discusses the importance of bringing literature to children, providing them with the opportunity to learn and thrive in the world. She also remarks on how accomplished Black African women are often seen as aggressive when they pursue their careers and are good at what they do. Zukiswa highlights the importance of women not second-guessing themselves and becoming part of this narrative.

ABOUT Zukiswa Wanner

Zukiswa Wanner is a Zimbabwan and South African author, co-author of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, a humanitarian, and a recipient of the Commonwealth’s Writer Prize. She has also started her own publishing house, with the goal of distributing African books in the continent, including both adult and children books.

Highlights of the episode:

  • 04:16: Zukiswa Wanner’s journey to becoming the co-author of Nelson’s Mandela autobiography in only 4 years.
  • 10:58: Zukiswa’s love for literature never led her to think she could be a fiction writer. 
  • 14:15: The debate about being seen as an African writer in Africa.
  • 17:59: Writing for the African community and how resonating with Africans is especially valuable for Zukiswa. 
  • 20:45: Zukiswa’s transition from author to publisher and editor.  
  • 25:39: Building bridges across the African continent through different events and literary initiatives.
  • 27:15: The reasons why Zukiswa asks the question “do I make you uncomfortable” in the context of being a black African woman.
  • 30:16: Why African women often feel like they need to shrink. 
  • 32:27: The need for platforms in which African women can talk without having to be a representative of the entire collective. 
  • 34:13: Zukiswa’s passion for helping children have access to learning resources and developing their critical thinking skills.

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Episode 45