Thabiso Mahlape courtesy Ake Festival

Toni Kan in conversation with Thabiso Mahlape who says – “Remy Ngamije is my favourite author ever and I think he deserves the world.”

Toni Kan: What’s your name?

Thabiso Mahlape: Thabiso Mahlape

TK: Where are you from?

TM: South Africa

TK: And what do you do?

TM: I’m a publisher

TK: Ahah, okay. So what’s your favourite book ever?

TM: I don’t have a favourite book ever. Also I’m, like, afraid of saying it because I don’t want to be judged

TK: Say it, let’s judge you.

TM: My… ok, my favourite book is probably Yesterday I Cried, by Iyanla Vanzant

TK: Okay?

TM: That’s before she started going…(general laughter)

TK: Why is that your favourite book?

TM: I found it… so my mom died when I was twelve, right? And I was raised by my dad who was like – is still incapable of saying things like “I love you, I’m proud of you”. So, when I was reading that book, as a young girl who had also had her mum die at a very young age, and it was her step mother that showed her that her father loved her because of the way the stepmom treated her, made her believe she was important to her dad. Right? And I think also, with the relationships that my dad has had post my mum dying and just how all the women vie for my attention and just like, are dying to kill themselves to have me approve of them showed me just how much my dad loved me and how highly he must speak of me.

TK: So he doesn’t say it but he shows it

TM: Yes, absolutely, and now that I’m older and have children of my own…

Thabiso Mahlape (Photo: Courtesy Ake Festival)

TK: You appreciate that

TM: I appreciate it and I get it

To: What was the last book you read?

TM: The last book I read… Hmm, the last book I tried reading is Someday, Maybe’

 TK: By who?

TM: I’ve forgotten the author, it’s a fairly new book, but it’s Someday, Maybe (Onyi Nwabineli) and I’ve been trying to go through it. I don’t know what the issue is but the last book I enjoyed was The Vanishing Half

TK: By?

TM: Brit Bennett

TK: Ok, Brit Bennett. So, erm, let’s say you’re going to jail for ten years…

Th: Yah? Are you? (general laughter)

To: And you have to pack one book. What book would that be? Just one.

Th: Just one book? Uhm…oh my gosh, this is not a question!

TK: (laughs) It is.

TM: I think I would pack, probably the last volume of – I don’t think you remember that series of ‘Conversations with God’ by Neale Donald Walsch. Yes. I think that I’d pick the last volume of that .

TK: Why?

TM: Because I think when I read it when I was younger, I wasn’t old enough to understand and appreciate some of the conversations in it, but I think I would now

TK: Who’s your favourite author, writer, ever?

TM: Author, writer…(wooh) I would have to say…Rémy Ngamije. Rémy Ngamije, ah…

TK: Rémy Ngamije? How do you spell that?

TM: Ngamije. N-G-A- M-I-J-E

TK: Thanks

TM: As his publisher, I think I am here to call him out

TK: (Laughs) Go ahead

TM: Nah, I think we’ve got to call him out as his publisher but as a writer I think he deserves the world

TK: Yeah, yeah. Tell me, is this your first time in Nigeria?

TM: Eh?

TK: First time in Nigeria?

TM: Yes, first time in Nigeria

TK: Do you think Nigerians read?

TM: Ah, I don’t know about reading because I haven’t explored it, but I know they write. Hmm… good God, they write. I have been in love with Nigerian literature for as long as I can remember and, erm, one of my favourite books from Nigeria is  I Do Not Come To You By Chance.

TK: Ah, really?

TM: Yeah

TK: They’ve just made it into a movie

TM: Is it?

TK: Yeah, it’s now a movie.

Th: Oh wow, I love that book

TK: Yeah, I see you do

TM: I love…

TK: Nwaubani

TM: Yes, Nwaubani

TK: Yeah, I can see

TM: I love that book

TK: Cool, cool.

TM: And then I love Eloghosa Osunde.

TK: Thank you Thabiso.


(Thabiso Mahlape is South African and the publisher of BlackBird Books, a pioneering imprint dedicated to giving young black voices a platform. Interview transcribed by Kunmi Akande.)


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