Zanele Ndlovu

Publisher, author and indigenous instrument player

Zanele has many titles to her name. Among other things, she’s a publisher, author, storyteller, teacher, indigenous instrument player and singer.
Despite having started writing in IsiZulu and English as far back as 2011, Zanele encountered challenges when she tried to get her foot in the door of the South African publishing industry, especially as a vernacular-language writer. “Our languages have taken a back seat in the country, unfortunately,” she says. “This frustrated me and I wanted to work towards changing that situation”.
In the spirit of being the change that she wanted to see in the world, Zanele took a stand. She decided to publish a children’s book titled Umakhwenyana in her mother tongue of IsiZulu, under her own, newly formed publishing organisation, Izimili Zase Afrika. Umakhwenyana, which tells the story of an ancient African storytelling instrument, has been well received by children of all ages — it fosters a sense of self pride and affirmation in African indigenous languages. The children’s book has since been translated into five South African languages as a result of a collaboration with Nalibali, a countrywide reading-for-enjoyment initiative. The book is also available as an audiobook. Since then, Zanele has published another children’s book, Simunye, which is available in IsiZulu.
In addition to having her work commissioned by the department of education, Zanele has also developed a music curriculum for grade R pupils at the Cape Gate Centre. She lists the South African national treasure Dr Gcina Mhlope as one of her editors and mentors.
In thinking about her future prospects, Zanele concedes that the end goal for her is to see her books becoming available in all the official languages of South Africa, and not only just a few. In the meantime, she is committed to continuing with her work of instilling greater mother tongue pride in the people of South Africa, both young and old, by showing them that intelligence isn’t restricted by language and that it is cool to be multilingual.
— Nomonde Ndwalaza