Photo sourced from Sihle-isipho Nontshokweni’s Instagram.

Sihle-isipho Nontshokweni and her mother Nombeko Nontshokweni stunned crowds at the 2023 Open Book Festival with matching orange outfits. The duo launched Nombeko’s book and documentary uNobuntu at the festival.

uNobuntu is Sihle’s mother’s book, a collection of poetry on life and grief. The book took 40 years to publish as Nombeko began penning poetry after she lost her first daughter uNobuntu.

Sihle remarked that she is proud of her mother’s journey of writing and publishing this incredibly personal book:

Mom lost her first child uNobuntu in 1983, she started writing poetry as a way of making sense of this loss. At the time she was an isiXhosa literature teacher so she used the writing instruments she’d be trained in to write. The manuscript collected dust for decades and when I published Wanda (2019) I was trying to help her publish this book.

The mother and daughter went to the 2023 Open Book Festival to screen the documentary version of the book, where her mom discovers her finished manuscript for the first time.

Check out the trailer of uNobuntu here. Read the synopsis below:

What do mothers do when they experience abrupt loss? “uNOBUNTU”, is a portrait of the quintessential, post-millennial South African family; a devoted daughter helps her mother fulfil her life-long dream of publishing a treasured 40-year-old manuscript. This story of hope, and triumph, goes against the backdrop of prevailing stereotypes about the culture of literacy in Africa. Instead, it lifts a contextual, hidden narrative about black women writing their lives into existence and subsequently shaping intellectual traditions.

Sihle and her mother had a blast at the Open Book Festival. Along with launching the book and documentary, Sihle’s mother Nombeko had her first ever panel on “Motivations for Writing” while Sihle did a children’s storytime and chaired a panel. Sihle added that Open Book Festival is special for her:

The most remarkable experience of Open Book Festival is the love that is affirmed amongst writers, the expression of what our works do for each other, the hearty work that is so inevitable between the sessions. It feeds the soul, it’s so remarkable. It’s love, literature as love at deep work, binding hearts.

Sihle and her mother definitely stole the moment through their matching orange outfits, a symbol of their everlasting mom-daughter bond. She mentioned to us that her mother’s lasting memory of her late little girl was her wearing an orange dress, and so they decided to wear orange for the launch as a way of remembering this cherished bond.

Check out the stunning photos and video of the mom-daughter duo on Instagram:

Sihle-isipho Nontshokweni is a South African children’s book author. She is a University of Pretoria (UP) PhD student and former UP staffer, the producer and host of The Ultimate Book Show on SABC 3, the author of the award-winning children’s book Wanda (2019), and the ambassador for World Read Aloud Day 2021. She has also been recognized as a young achiever by the Mail & Guardian in the category Film & Media.

Congrats to Sihle and Nombeko on the launch of the book and documentary! We love their incredible support for each other and shining portrayal of their mother-daughter bond.


All photos sourced from Sihle-isipho Nontshokweni’s Instagram @officialceehl.