For The People

Untangling the colonial tangles of African hair


Sihle Nontshokweni and Mathabo Tlali, who have been good friends for many years, came together and co-wrote a children’s book, titled, Wanda. Wanda is the protagonist in the tale with curly-bushy hair that looks like a cloud.

The title felt quite unique to the authors, “It felt distinctive in that it is a word of assertion and embracement of oneself. Initially we wanted to term it African Rapunzel to highlight the theme of hair and Africanism in the story and we eventually decided on Wanda”, says Sihle.

The book was published in July 2019 by Jacana Media and is available in Isixhosa, English, Isizulu and Afrikaans. “Our wish is to have the book published in all 11 official languages of South Africa, we are currently looking for sponsorship towards that project” they told Solomon Star.

As products of a multi-racial school Sihle and Mathabo understand the complexities of having to switch from two different worlds and how it can affect one’s identity and perception about the world around them. Hair was one of the issues that posed many challenges for them, Sihle and Mathabo decided to co-write a book in an effort to bring awareness and educate kids. The book also serves as a tool for parents to teach their kids about the realities of race, ethnicity and the colonisation of the mind which has affected how African people perceive themselves in this present day. “Our book illustrates many issues ranging from race, bullying, confidence, and how racialization can shape people’s behaviours and self-perceptions” adds Mathabo.

The writers chose to spread this movement through a children’s book because they believe that kids should learn from an early age about the importance of self-love, confidence, heritage, culture, and their history as all these aspects have effects in society. “It is imperative that our kids are able to express their identity in a positive way and liberate themselves from a white-centric perspective” adds Sihle.

 It becomes quite evident that the two friends, are gritty about instilling pride in the African culture and dignity in the way African children and people perceive themselves. In a world where many people are trying to alter their appearance in order to look a certain way, their mission introduces an imperative and missing element to public discourse.

Mathabo is currently a third year Sociology student and Sihle is a Programme Manager, studying towards her PhD focussing on researching the failures and success of schools and racial desegregation in post-apartheid South Africa.

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