Nandipha Gantsho bags prestigious City Press-Tafelberg book prize

Nandipha Gantsho
Nandipha Gantsho

Nandipha Gantsho has won the fourth City Press-Tafelberg Nonfiction Award and R120 000 to finish her manuscript, which will be published by Tafelberg and promoted by City Press.

Gantsho’s working manuscript – Throw Madam From the Train – recalls her decades spent in education in South Africa, starting out as a teacher and finding herself in a cultural melting pot at a predominantly Indian school. She offers valuable insights and solutions to South Africa’s education crisis.

According to the judges, who included previous winner Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, Gantsho narrowly beat finalist Lesedi Molefi, who has proposed a book on his time as a young black professional in a mental health clinic being treated for depression.

Tafelberg has confirmed that Molefi is well on his way to receiving a publishing offer from them for Patient 12A.

But it’s Gantsho’s treatment that impressed for its depth of experience of the post-apartheid condition, its beautiful writing style, its contribution to the pressing issue of education and, in particular, the challenges facing South Africa’s teachers.

The biennial award, the richest of its kind in the country, has proved to be a huge boost to the literary scene by sourcing new voices with compelling South African stories to tell.

Previous winners include Democracy & Delusion by Mpofu-Walsh, Gang Town by Don Pinnock and Postmortem: The Doctor Who Walked Away by Maria Phalime.

Previous winners have found their books being reprinted numerous times and Gang Town has even been translated into Japanese.

Representing Tafelberg, Kristin Paremoer, editor at NB Publishers, said that, given the tough economic climate, it was often difficult to gather the resources to write a book, and the award provided the support for a story to be researched and written well.

“The award has helped encourage the broaching of unspoken truths within the medical community in Postmortem, the seminal work that Gang Town did to analyse Cape Town’s problem with gangs and the justified anger of Democracy & Delusion, with its finger on the pulse of South Africa’s problems,” said Paremoer.

Choosing this year’s winner proved to be a mammoth task as there were more than 120 submissions to consider. The finalists alongside Gantsho included Molefi, Harry Kalmer, Tyrone August and Sara Black.

When City Press spoke to Gantsho, she said of her work: “First, I intend to give hope and inspire resilience and confidence in up-and-coming teachers by drawing on my first teaching experience. It is disheartening to find that the debate about racism in education still continues more than 24 years after the advent of democracy in our country.”

Gantsho’s love for education led to her completing her master’s degree in applied English, and she is currently studying towards a PhD in language education at Wits University.

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July 2020

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