CityLife Arts

A small rural book publisher thrives in Limpopo Province

The latest titles published by Vhakololo Press are Bringing Us Back by Mercy Dhliwayo, and Sofina is Not the End by Keketso Mashigo.

By Edward Tsumele

Limpopo being one of the mainly rural provinces in South Africa, is the last province where one would expect the emergence of a potentially vibrant publishing industry that promises to be a game changer in the province.

Yes, the province for a number of years, has been a home to a resilient poetry publishing project, Timbila Project, run by poet Vonani Bila. But now, there is another publishing entity Vhakololo Press, run by author Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho. This is a publishing initiative that promises to turn the province into one of the most vibrant literary homes in Southern Africa, going by the titles it has published so far, and continues to chain out.

The company has already published a number of titles, the latest books out of the publishing company being Bringing Us Back by Mercy Dhliwayo, and Sofina is Not the End by Keketso Mashigo.

Set in a tumultuous era of large-scale migration and disintegration, Bringing Us Back is a collection of short stories that explore the quest for freedom and escape. Love and nationality. Locating itself in between arbitrary worlds and borders that separate foreign from local; men from women; the physical from the metaphysical, the collection zooms into the desolation, violence, hunger; anger, desperation and the naivety (and even the strength, defiance, and resilience) that breeds in the spaces that are either left behind, or that exist beyond borders and the spaces trapped in between.

 Koketso Mashigo

Dhliwayo is a writer of both poetry and fiction. Her work has been published in regional and international journals, magazines and anthologies including: New Contrast; Tyhini (a Rhodes University magazine of MA Creative Writers); Femrites Nothing to See Here (Stories from the 5th Residency for African Women Writers); Karavan Magazine; The Bundle of Joy and Other Stories from Africa (Africa Book Club Anthology Volume 1); East Jasmine Review Volume 2; and Kalahari Review. Dhliwayo, under her stage name, Sista X, released her debut hip hop and spoken word album, The X A-Gender in 2019. Bringing Us Back is her debut short story collection.

This is a collection of nine short stories on varied themes: sex-work, domestic violence, paedophilia, joblessness, child labour, queerness, and a search for one’s identity in a society that ostracises and condemns those different from the rest. This is the kind of society that believes in uniformity but then those who live within its communities respond to violence in different ways as the circumstances necessitate. Above all, Sofina is Not the End provides an uncensored, fresh, honest view into the lives of the other.

Mashigo  is an essayist, poet, and short story writer. He co-authored an essay anthology entitled Shadows of Their Mothers. This freelance journalist is a book reviewer at Pulp Review, translator and researcher at Oral History of South Africa. His work has appeared in different publications including the Loocha Magazine, The New Coin, BNAP Poetry, Pangolin Review, Grey Thoughts, Praxis Magazine Online,AfricanWriter.Com and AVBOB Poetry. Mashigo writes in a village that shaped his voice, Madjembeni, in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga.

Vhakololo Press was established (registered) in 2015 with its offices at no. 8, Maranatha Centre, 98 Burger Street in Louis Trichardt (Makhado), Limpopo. It is a publishing initiative of award-winning writer Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho whose books include The Violent Gestures of Life, Mveledzo na Zwigevhenga and A Traumatic Revenge.

Through the years, the Press has issued titles such as This Time I Shall Not Cry by Phelelani Makhanya, Only This Much by Thendo Savhasa, Lift Me Up! by Bridget Mugivhi-Ramaite,This Heart Only Beats for You by Prudence Bopape, Remember ME! by Ishmael Mugodi, It Was Getting Late by Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho, and The Return Soldier by Tebatso Ramafalo.

“Sofina is Not the End and Bringing Us Back are our first short story books. We publish all genres, mostly fiction and poetry, though. For example, Remember ME! is a relevant book or “message from a former freedom fighter” who feels that he has been turned doormat after independence here in South Africa,” told CITYLIFE?ARTS in an interview.

Mercy Dhliwayo

Well, through the years, people have been responding warmly towards buying and reading our books. We are also fortunate enough to have the kind of authors who are able to sell their own books in large quantities, for today readers tend to buy books directly from authors.

 “As the Press, we are delighted to announce the publication of Bringing Us Back by Mercy Dhliwayo, and Sofina is Not the End by Keketso Mashigo,” the publisher said.

Set in a tumultuous era of large-scale migration and disintegration, Bringing Us Back is a collection of short stories that explore the quest for freedom and escape. Love and nationality. Locating itself in between arbitrary worlds and borders that separate foreign from local; men from women; the physical from the metaphysical, the collection zooms into the desolation, violence, hunger; anger, desperation and the naivety (and even the strength, defiance, and resilience) that breeds in the spaces that are either left behind, or that exist beyond borders and the spaces trapped in between.

However like other publishing companies, the publishing company has had its own share of challenges in an environment that is tough.

“In the first days or years, the biggest challenge had been to keep the office running (rent), but we seem to have floated above that stumbling block. We have arrived at a stage where we are able to keep the office open throughout the year, with a full-time admin,” the publisher said.

However challenges or no challenges,  Mukwevho  remains optimistic about the future of the company in the publishing terrain.

“Southern Africa boosts a fascinating, rich pot of stories and we feel that as the Press we are at the core of launching those stories. While our focus is not only on publishing first-time writers, we take more pleasure and pride on launching the writing careers of writers who have not previously had a full-length book out. In that way, we feel more fulfilling our objective of nurturing a culture of writing by ensuring that we get more new voices heard out there,” he says.

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