'Soweto Tea Party': Dr Nokuthula Mazibuko Msimang shares her childhood

The University of Pretoria fellow Dr Mazibuko Msimang has a new historical picture book for children called 'Soweto Tea Party'.

'Soweto Tea Party' - a children's book by Dr Nokuthula Mazibuko Msimang. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s recent history of apartheid is fresh in the minds of those who lived through it - our parents and grandparents. And the effects of it were also felt by those of us who grew up when the “rainbow nation” was formed when Nelson Mandela was freed and South Africa had its first democratic elections.

Most stories revolve around how the adults fought and some died for freedom and equality.

Ever wondered what it was like for the children of these freedom fighters and how they too fought for freedom in their own way?

“My father, Fanyana Mazibuko, was a highly visible freedom fighter and teacher in Soweto. He taught the 1976 generation maths and science, and took his role as a protector and teacher of the next generation very seriously. The loss of children’s lives during the apartheid years broke his heart. Having a front seat to his story and to critical moments in history was scary, and it made me understand my assignment clearly – that freedom would require us to rebuild from the chaos and tragedy of war.

"I also understood the power of prayer in strengthening the spirit, the power of reading in strengthening the mind, and the power of exercising and taking care of one’s body in making sure that one is centred and powerful,” said Dr Nokuthula Mazibuko Msimang to Eyewitness News.

The University of Pretoria fellow has a new historical picture book for children called Soweto Tea Party.

The book is based on the author’s own experiences about a time when her father Fanyana Mazibuko, then a teacher at Morris Isaacson High and a freedom fighter, was placed under house arrest by the apartheid state during the 1970s and 1980s.

“History gives you grounding and focus. You know what was achieved in the past […or not achieved], with that knowledge, you can find your purpose and contribute to making the world a better place, and hopefully enjoy some good times [vital!],” said Dr Mazibuko Msimang.

Guess who’s coming to Princess and Baba’s Soweto Tea Party. Is it Tat’ Nelson Mandela? Mama Lilian Ngoyi and Mama Nadine Gordimer? Who else is coming? Miriam Makeba?

Writer, academic, producer and broadcaster who holds degrees from the University of Cape Town, the University of the Western Cape and has a PhD in African Literature from the University of the Witwatersrand, Dr Nokuthula Mazibuko Msimang invites you to find out who her tea party guests are in her book for children.

“Struggle stories give young people courage and the mental strength to face their challenges. That really is one of the key reasons we tell each other stories. Yes, of course, stories are wonderful and entertaining. Great stories leave your world inspired, hopeful and changed.”

This slice of Soweto history is brought to life by Samantha Van Riet’s moving and magical illustrations. The book is published by New Africa Books, and will be launched on 16 June at Book Circle Capital - 27 Boxes Mall in Melville 4th Avenue at 2 pm.

“We have it in us to be resilient, joyful and brilliant. Never, ever, ever give up! If you get knocked down a billion times, get up a billion times. And of course, the stories we tell each other – through books and music – make us who we are. They can make us strong and beautiful.”

For over 25 years, Mazibuko Msimang has worked as a writer, academic, producer, and broadcaster creating values-based content for young and old audiences on multiple platforms. She is part of the Puku Children’s Literature network where she consults on special projects. Her academic work also entails supervising Masters students at AFDA – The School for the Creative Economy.

“The coming generations have a much better chance of rebuilding. Gen Z is tech savvy and they can leapfrog us forward into excellence. We can support them by sharing and teaching them culture and history.”

Mazibuko Msimang has published six books for young readers: In the Fast Lane (2003, New Africa Books, translated into isiXhosa by Dr. Xolisa Guzula); A Mozambican Summer (2005, New Africa Books); Spring Offensive (2006, Timbila); Love Songs for Nheti (2006, Vivlia), Freedom Song (2008, Pearson) andQhawe! Mokgadi Caster Semenya (2021, New Africa Books) celebrating the life of the champion gold medalist. Her debut adult novel is titled The Daughters of Nandi (2021, Paivapo).

When asked by Eyewitness News which memory stood out for her from her childhood, she said witnessing the kindness that her family shared with others even when things were going wrong and always being surrounded by music.

“It’s really memories; being always surrounded by amazing music, witnessing my family stay kind through the storms, landing in Cape Town as a 16-year-old on 11 February 1990 for my UCT studies and witnessing the joy that Tat' Mandela’s freedom released in all of us! I was staying at my father’s friend’s home, Bab' Tshabalala, in Gugulethu and what a party that was.”

Copies of her latest offering is available at Book Circle Capital and at www.ethnikids.africa.