Sindiwe Magona 2020


Author Sindiwe Magona was born on 27 August 1943, in the village of Gungululu in the rural former Transkei.  She grew up in Bouvlei near Cape Town, and later worked as a domestic worker, completing her secondary education through correspondence. She graduated from the University of South Africa and after winning a scholarship from Columbia University in New York, USA – graduated with a Master’s of Science in Organisational Social Work.

Dr Magona has produced nine books including four novels, autobiographical works, two collections of short stories, three novellas, an anthology of poetry and more than 150 children’s books. She is one of South Africa’s most internationally prominent writers. Her work is influenced by her experiences as an African woman who has lived poverty, femininity, resistance to subjugation and navigated South Africa’s racially defined socio-cultural-economic landscape as a mother, wife and community leader.

As a worker for peaceful change during the years of struggle in South Africa, she was one of the founding members of the Women’s Peace Movement in the mid-seventies.

She spent 25 years in New York working for the United Nations first in the Department of Public Information on the anti-Apartheid radio programmes until 1994 and then in other parts of the UN until her retirement in 2003. Thereafter, she returned to Cape Town and is currently Writer-in-Residence at the University of the Western Cape and ambassador at large for Sparklekids, Hermanus.

Among her internationally acclaimed work are Mother to Mother; Beauty’s Gift; Living, Loving, and Lying Awake at Night; To My Children’s Children; Teach Yourself Xhosa; and Push-Push and Other Stories. Her plays include I Promised Myself A Fabulous Middle-Age and Vukani! Many of her essays, short stories and poems have been anthologised and her work has been published in the New York Times, The New Internationalist, Fair Lady, Oprah Magazine and Femina among many others.

In giving back to the community and with her inspiration and encouragement, the Gugulethu Writers’ Group meets once a month and nurtures new writers. This group has already published a collection of short stories, Umthi ngamnye unentlaka yawo, and won First Prize in the 2009 Maskew Miller Longman Story Competition.

In 2013, Dr Magona was the voice actor for the character of the Gemsbok Healer in the computer-animated adventure comedy film, Khumba.

She has received numerous awards, including the Molteno Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement for her role in promoting isiXhosa, the Department of Arts and Culture Literary Lifetime Achievement Award, a Fellowship for Non-Fiction from the New York Foundation of the Arts, the Xhosa Heroes Award and the UNdimande Grand Prize. In 2009, she was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and in 2011 was given the Order of iKhamanga; a Presidential Award and the highest such award in South Africa. In 2012 she was joint winner with Nadine Gordimer of the Imbokodo Award.

Dr Magona remains an accomplished motivational speaker, author, poet, playwright and story-teller in her home country and continues to deliver authoritative lectures and key addresses at universities and conferences both locally and internationally.

For her outstanding achievements in literature and playwriting and for using her pen as a weapon in the struggle for peace, social change and freedom, it is an honour for Nelson Mandela University to confer the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (honoris causa) on Sindiwe Magona