22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Sonwabiso Ngcowa

Portrait Sonwabiso Ngcowa
© Hartwig Klappert

Sonwabiso Ngcowa was born in 1985 in the village of Mpozisa in the South African province of Eastern Cape, and grew up in the Masiphumelele township near Cape Town. He was one of the few youths there to graduate from high school and after studying business management he worked for a bank as a customer consultant. In 2011 he began human and social science studies at the University of Cape Town.

In 2011 Ngcowa published the chapters of his first novel »Conversations with Lungile« month-by-month through »FunDza«, a non-profit organisation which encourages reading among South African children and youths (»funda« means reading/learning in the language of the Xhosa, »ZA« is South Africa’s country code). His works were among the most popular of the so-called »Mobi-Books«, which can be read not just on computer but also on mobile devices. Ngcowa’s writing allows readers to establish parallels with their own lives, and feedback on the »FunDza« website describes his work as amusing and informative, positive and profound. Among the numerous other stories which the young author has published in both English and Xhosa through »FunDza« are the romance »The Playa!« (2012) und »Umonakalo« (2013; tr: Damage). Another text, »In Search of Happiness«, also appeared in print form in 2014. Based on real events, Ngcowa’s novel tells the story of Nana who lives a sheltered life, raised by her grandmother in an Eastern Cape village. However when the old woman is no longer able to care for the girl, now 15, she is sent to live with her parents in the Masi township on the edge of Cape Town. Despite the cramped conditions and homesickness for her beloved grandmother, Nana finds unexpected solace among her family, which is certainly more welcoming than her new school. There she feels like an outsider, unable to share the other girls’ interest in clothes and boys. When she develops feelings for Agnes, a girl from Zimbabwe, she is both enraptured and imperilled; although South Africa officially guarantees the right to sexual self-determination, open declarations of same-sex love are still regarded by many as »abnormal«, and punished with violence. Here Ngcowa not only confronts the grievances of his society, but also offers encouragement to those affected so that they might defy the obstacles and follow their own path.

Ngcowa acts as a mentor in writing workshops, helping youths to develop their own texts. He lives in Cape Town.