Author and musician
Mohale Mashigo’s debut novel The Yearning begins with the phrase “My mother died seven times before she gave birth to me.” The book was born out of Mashigo’s unsatisfactory job in advertising — writing it became a coping mechanism. She would spend her lunch hours in front of her computer and away from colleagues and pretentious office chit-chat.
Mohale started writing the book in 2006 and she finally finished it in 2011 thanks to peer pressure from a very good friend.
The Yearning was published in 2016 to critical acclaim, and it tells the story of Marubini and her quest to manage the realisation that the past is not really past. The Yearning was also longlisted for the 2016 Elisalat Literature award, which uncovers and celebrates new writers on the continent. The book has also just been shortlisted for the UJ Prize.
Mapetla-born Mashigo credits her father for introducing her to books and the transformative power of storytelling. “My dad turned me into a reader. I was a very curious child and my dad would answer my never-ending questions by giving me a book to read.” As a young child, she loved and could relate to Astrid Lindgren’s superhumanly strong and adventurous Pippi Longstocking, but it was specifically Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple that first gave her the idea that she could be a storyteller.
“I was quite young when I stumbled across it, and The Colour Purple was the first book I read that had black people in it. Reading it gave me permission to think I could simply exist, and it gave me a strong sense that I have something to say as well.”
The storyteller also credits regional authors such as Zakes Mda and Tsitsi Dangarembga as her core sources of inspiration along the way.
When she is not writing stories, Mohale tells stories using music, as the talent behind the award-winning moniker Blck Porcelain.
Mashigo believes that there is a space under the sun for all of us and she urges those who are interested in storytelling to simply put down words: “Every story and every writer of it matters.”
— Nomonde Ndwalaza