Sindiwe Magona was born in 1943 in Umtata (Transkei, South Africa) and grew up in Gugulethu in the Cape Flats near Cape Town. She did both her last two years of high school and her BA, from the University of South Africa, by correspondence. She then got a Masters degree in Social Work from Columbia University in New York. In 1993, she was awarded the honorary doctorate »Doctor of Humane Letters« from Hartwick College, USA. During her time spent at the United Nations from 1984 to 2003, Magona worked in the Department of Public Information where, inter alia, she developed radio programmes that discussed the role of the UN in the fight against Apartheid. In 2003, she returned to Cape Town where she now lives and works as an author, essayist, poetess, storyteller and actress. She is also active as a mediator of literature.
In addition to autobiographical works like her writing début, »To My Children’s Children« (1990) and Forced to Grow (1992), her career as a writer also encompasses short fiction, novellas and children’s books. »Please, Take Photographs« (2009) is her first book of political poems and casts a brutally honest light on the realities of life in contemporary South Africa. Her novel »Mother to Mother« (1998) received international attention. The novel is a fictionalised account of the real events surrounding the killing of Amy Biehl, who, after being attacked by a gang of black youths, fell victim to the Apartheid mindset she had spent her life fighting against. Writing from the perspective of the mothers of victims and culprits, the author depicts the Apartheid era and the population’s extreme readiness to commit violence, fuelled by the daily experience of injustice and humiliation. In »Beauty’s Gift« (2008), Magona wrote one of South Africa’s most important works on the spread of the HIV virus. Margaret von Klemperer wrote of the book’s significance: »She obviously feels that people must speak out on the AIDS issue because the disease can be controlled only if the stigma is removed and the disease can be talked about openly. And she has the writing skill to make the message palatable.« Not only does the novella break existing taboos which deny the danger of the AIDS pandemic for Africa, it also contains a pronounced »Black Feminism«, which addresses, among other issues, the role of women and the degradation in a society dominated by patriarchal structures and Apartheid-thinking.
»Beauty’s Gift« was awarded the White Ribbon Prize for Making a Difference in the fight against the Abuse of Women. The novel was also shortlisted for the 2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Africa). Sindiwe Magona has written more than a hundred children’s books. She lives today in Cape Town.