A new children’s book series brings to life the stories of women in South African history. Written by Xolisa Guzula and Athambile Masola, the series is titled Imbokodo: Women Who Shape Us and highlights the contributions of South African women who were healers, educators, writers, leaders, performers, activists, etc. The series is published by Jacana Books and available in Afrikaans, English, isiXhosa, isiZulu, and Sesotho.
According to the publisher’s note, the series highlights “the powerful stories of South African women who have all made their mark and cleared a path for women and girls.” “Imbokodo” is the Isi-Zulu word for rock. It evokes the saying “Wathint’abafazi, wathint’imbokodo, uzakufa! Ubobhasopa!” (“You strike women, you strike a rock, you will be crushed! You should be careful!”)—a chant featured in the fight for women’s rights during the struggle for liberation.
“The importance of the term,” remarks Guzula in an interview with The Conversation, “lies in demonstrating that the strength of women comes in their collective and collaborative efforts. This is why we chose this word for our series. We see in these books how women worked with each other in building and shaping the society we now find ourselves in.”
The series features the likes of Nomzamo Winifred, Zanyiwe Madikizela-Mandela, Zanele Mbeki, Dora Nginza, Mabel Cetu, and many other South African women whose voices need more amplification over patriarchal archives where they have been silenced. In so doing, the series helps to change the culture of exclusion that underrepresents women in official history. Masola and Guzula also notes in the interview that the series aims to represent women change-makers within the community of women who fostered their growth and aided them in their revolutionary work. This helps to challenge the perception that women who achieved great things in the past were outliers. The series celebrates the collaborative spirit at heart of women’s struggle for liberation.
So far, there are three books in the series: 10 Curious Inventors, Healers, and Educators, 10 Extraordinary Leaders, Activists, and Pioneers, and 10 Inspiring Singers, Writers, and Artists. The Imbokodo series draws from the co-authors’ expertise in history and literacy. Masola is a teacher, writer and poet, as well as the founder of Asinakuthula Collective, a women-centered historical project. Guzula is a lecturer in language and literacy studies at the University of Cape Town.
Imbokodo: Women Who Shape Us is a brilliant addition to the growing field of African children’s books. The series is significant in the ways it enriches historical understanding of African women. It is important for children to see African women achieving great things against all odds, as well as building communities and influencing the course of history.
Buy Imbokodo: Women Who Shape Us: Jacana