The self-made author taking culture off the shelf

 

Rejection. There’s nothing worse for a writer. Charmaine Mrwebi left the umpteenth publishing house with her spirits battered. This was the last ‘no’ she could accept. Certain about the worth of her book, Mrwebi decided to raise the funds to publish her work herself, and put it on the shelves of the libraries that raised her.

Growing up Mrwebi immersed herself in literature that allowed her to travel the world without leaving Thaba ‘Nchu. But none of the books she read talked about where she was from. Eager to share her culture with others, Mrwebi decided to fill the gap by writing something of her own. After school, she moved to Bloemfontein to work at the town’s public library, where she became enthralled by the work of South African authors. Among the local writing that inspired her, none influenced Mrwebi more than Call Me Woman, by Ellen Kuzwayo. Her grandmother.

Unlike her kin, Mrwebi never received the backing of the industry. “It has taken me a long time to be where I am today,” she says. “Giving up was not something that I entertained.” Children are the focus of her books, which she brings alive at schools through puppeteering. Like her grandmother, Mrwebi has become a role model for black women in the publishing profession. By breaking through barriers set up by our country’s troubled past, she is enriching its future.