- Award winning story teller Sindiwe Magona life story shows what power there is in never giving up on a dream
- Magona grew up in Gugulethu as the eldest of 8 children, never finished school and fell pregnant at 19
- By 23 she had been left by her husband and lost her job during her third pregnancy leaving her a penniless single mother to three
Sindiwe Magona would have been forgiven for giving up hope that she might ever improve her lot in life.
Briefly.co.za learned that she was determined that even with three children to take care of and an incomplete education, her dreams were far bigger than her circumstances.
Her dreams were also stronger than the lack of qualifications she suffered from as a result of being both black and a female in a society which undervalued both.
Instead of giving up, she turned the dreams and her own big ideas into big plans, and got to work on changing her own life.
Now a writer and acclaimed storyteller, the young Magona spent her childhood in Gugulethu where she was the eldest of eight children.
Without the benefit of having her education made a priority due to a combination of Bantu education policies made worse by gender discrimination, she dropped out of school before finishing and fell pregnant at the age of 19.
She lost the job she was able to get Sindiwe Magona: after her third pregnancy when she was 23. Her husband also left her shortly thereafter.
Turning to domestic work and sleep on a garage floor, she earned enough to feed her children and also worked on educating herself.
However she continued striving and eventually educated herself to the point where she won a scholarship to do her Masters at Columbia University.
While in the USA she found work with the United Nations for 23 years on their anti-apartheid radio station. While abroad she also penned many literary pieces. Her body of work caused Magona to be awarded a well deserved honorary doctorate from Hartwick College.
“There is always opportunity to redress anything that goes wrong,” she says. “Life, until you die, never reaches a point of utter hopelessness.”
Magona is today known as a master storyteller with her style largely influenced by the isiXhosa folktales she grew up with. “Stories are an integral part of socialisation,” she says.
She attributes the moral instruction and ability to imagine a better future for themselves that helps children succeed despite their circumstances to hearing and telling stories.
“Stories can heal our children and arm them for life so that they grow up realising their potential and the gifts they come bringing to the world,” Magona says.
She was awarded the Literary Lifetime Achievement award by the Department of Arts and Culture in 2007, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 2009 and received the Order of Ikhamanga in Bronze in 2011.
The 74-year-old author is humble in recounting the story of her life and says she owes it all to the kindness of friends and strangers.
“No one in this world makes it alone,” she says. “I am made of other people’s generosity and open-heartedness.”
Today, Magona continues to share the stories of her time, and encourages others to record theirs. “We have to take our lives seriously. They’re all we have,” she says.
Most recently, The University Currently Known as Rhodes in Grahamstown awarded this giant of literature in South Africa the ultimate qualification of Doctor of Letters (DLitt).
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