I feel gogo smiling at me when my achievements are recognised, author says

As a young girl living with her gogo in KwaZulu-Natal, Gcina Mhlophe — who receives an honorary doctorate from Rhodes University tomorrow — thought she was "the most travelled thing on two legs".

"My gogo, Mthwalo Mhlophe, was full of adventure and she would spontaneously say 'let's go visit our relatives in Nongoma' or 'let's go to Port Shepstone' and we would hop on a bus and explore the length and breadth of KwaZulu-Natal," Mhlophe, who lived in Hammarsdale between Pietermaritzburg and Durban until she was 10, said.

"Gogo Mthwalo had lost her own children to illness and she started looking after me when I was just two years old and she was in her 50s. She gave me all the love and adventure a little girl could desire. With her, I truly imagined I had seen the world." Then one day Gogo Mthwalo sat her down and explained there was a much bigger world out there.

"She told me that our Hammarsdale is a very small place near Durban and that Durban is only one of many cities in South Africa; that there are many, many other places and a far bigger world out there for me to discover. "Her words were prophetic and I have been traveling for the past 33 years," Mhlophe, 55, said. In this time she has significantly contributed to the revival of the African storytelling tradition, and performed in theatres from Soweto to London.

She has 18 books to her name, including children's books, adult poetry, short stories and plays, published all over the world and translated into German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Swahili and Japanese. Gogo Mthwalo is no longer with us but Mhlophe closely feels her presence. "When I am given wonderful recognition like this honorary doctorate from Rhodes University, I feel her smiling at me."

In 2001 she started the Nozincwadi Literacy Campaign in honour of her paternal great-grandmother Nozincwadi MaMchunu whom her father told her had collected "a suitcase full of words". Mhlophe has a 17-year-old daughter, Nomakwezi, with her husband Karl Becker whom she met while she was on tour in Germany in 1988.

Picture Caption: GCINA MHLOPHE

By Heather Dugmore

Article Source: THE HERALD (Morning Final)

Source:  The Herald

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