Lesedi publishers gives black authors a voice

Tshepo Nketle founder of Lesedi Publishing Company, Criselda Dudumashe and Bulelwa Mabataung Nketle were in a jovial mood at the official launch of the company.

After 37 publishing companies rejected Tshepo Nketle’s book, he was shattered and started believing that his dream of publishing his work would never be realised.

He was on the verge of giving up when he decided that instead of depending on a publisher, he should depend on himself-and he subsequently went on to sell 5 000 copies of his book, Earn Your Freedom.

He then also made another important decision: to launch Lesedi House Publishers, which is based at Way of Life Church in Makhaya, with the intention of being a platform for black authors.

Mr Nketle said that when he started the company he had no skills or formal training to run a publishing house-and there was no funding.

But, he had support. Family members, esteemed guest and authors such as Vuyani Green of the SABC, TV and radio presenter Criselda Dudumashe, newspaper reporter Szwe Yende, and Dr Mmatheo Motsisi all gathered at Isivivana Centre in Khayelitsha to attend the official launch of the company.

He said that for the past two years they had been operating unofficially but he believed that it was time for him to launch it.

He said the central mission of the company was to promote African literature while inculcating a culture of reading among the black townships.

Mr Nketle said, in his experience, many publishing companies refused to publish books written by African writers or changed the content of their books to fit their own narrative.

He said many writers had been told that their books wouldn’t sell or that their stories would not appeal to their audience.

“Even though we accept and publish any language, our main focus and priority are the African languages, as we see a huge gap in that regard,” said Mr Nketle.

He added that, in an effort to upskill aspiring writers, they hosted reading and writing sessions and planned to establish bookshops in the townships.

He said that when he started his publishing house, he had not anticipated the kind of support he had enjoyed.

There have, however, been challenges.

Among these was getting books into bookshops after they’d been published.

To get around this, he said, they turned to the internet.

“We will be opening an online bookshop so that we can cater for everyone.

“There are those people who are unable to write so we will allow people to tell their stories orally and we will capture it and write it down.

“My story is a testimony that nothing is impossible and dreams do come true.

“This is a platform for African children to tell their own stories the best way they know how. African literature will never die,” he said.

Mr Green said that when he wrote his book he knew that he wanted a black publishing house to handle its release.

He added that Lesedi House Publishers would play a vital role in giving hope to aspiring writers. He said the publishing industry was one of the industries that, to a large extent, had not yet transformed and was sometimes hostile to African writers.

He also praised Mr Nketle for runing workshops which were aimed at equipping black writers with skills and knowledge.