Lebohang Masango is a Social Anthropology Masters student at Wits University and a poet, author and feminist activist. In December 2017, she released her debut children’s book, Mpumi’s Magic Beads.
How would you describe yourself?
Someone who is incredibly devoted to my path and my path is one that is filled with words of all kinds. I am constantly building a life made up of words in various forms and genres. I am always looking to see how I can broaden my horizons using words. I believe that words are just my things and I was born to work with them.
You published your debut children’s book, Mpumi’s Magic Beads in 2017. Tell us about the book and how you hope it benefits the children who read it.
The book is mainly about friendship, self-esteem, self-love and having a good time in the city. It is a book that wants children to see their city in a different way and wants children in Johannesburg to be able to relate to the book because it is places that they can relate to. Firstly, I hope that it is a story that they fall in love with. Secondly, I hope that the familiarity of the names of the characters and how they look and the places will create a resonance with the children.
Describe the process of writing a children’s book and how did you decide that now was the time to publish it?
The process of writing a children’s story book is incredibly fun, it is something that I always wanted to do. Children’s books are very exciting objects and it was incredibly fulfilling. It all started when a very big brand approached me to do an influencer campaign for them in which the challenge was to do one thing that you had kept putting off. The only problem was that they had to be done in a month or so and that is not enough time to publish an entire book. What it did was get me started and so I was able to do the illustrations and the story in that time. When we’d wrapped up the campaign and it had gone successfully and I had a really good story and illustrations so of course it only made sense to see it to the finish and to complete it. What I’ve done is published myself so it took a lot of research. I’m a perfectionist so I created an entire project plan of how I was going to go about it.
How much of your writing is inspired by your life experiences?
All of my writing is influenced by my lived experiences because in order to be a person who is creating authentically, I have to write from authentic material and those are my own memories and experiences. With Mpumi’s Magic Beads, the characters are named after my little brothers Mpumi, Tshiamo and Asante who have names that work for girls.
What were the most unexpected and challenging things about writing a children’s book?
To be honest, there weren’t really any challenges. I suppose the cost was a challenge because children’s books are the most expensive things to create but I wouldn’t call that a challenge, it just needs planning that is all.
You are currently pursuing a Master’s in Social Anthropology? How have your academics informed your writing and feminism over the years?
It has been interesting because for as long as I have been studying anthropology, I have been a professional poet and performing for large audiences. For me, it has been interesting to see that my poetry definitely influences the stances I take in my academic perspective. As an anthropologist, it requires a person to be incredibly mindful of how they treat the people they work with. How do you represent those people to the best of your abilities? My academic work informs my poetry and my poetry is an anthropological text. I am one person so all of the stuff that I create comes from the same place.
What can we expect from you in the coming year?
I just want to be able to look back and say that every month, something astounding happened to me. I am trying to commit myself to writing and publishing a book every year.