polokwane literary festival

Through the Eyes of the Child -  Gudani Ramikosi

Very few writers are willing to take a step back and see the world through the eyes of a child. They view childhood as that formative stage that deserves no glory. That’s until you meet Gudani Ramikosi (30), a passionate author of children’s literature who regularly steps into those small shoes and seems to enjoy the walk.
“When I was growing up there were lots of Ghanaian authors whose children’s stories I enjoyed. I remember the one about the death of a guitarist husband which’s twist at the end was both amusing and educational. I have always found children’s literature to be an important step in understanding African orature”, Gudani discloses. 
Interesting enough, her early years as a writer were not spent searching for stories to tell. She came into literature through poetry. “It’s easier coming out as a poet since you can voice what you think. That’s how I came out. However I am still interested in poetry, both writing and reading”, she says. For this MuVenda woman the medium she is most comfortable articulating in is her own mother tongue. Advocating for language, Gudani believes it’s only through Tshivenda that she can fully express herself better.
Gudani’s writings are based on Tshivenda myth and mythology. She credits her fascination with cultural themes on having undergone all the initiation rituals a MuVenda woman should before being certified mature for marriage. “It was in 2000 that I finally took part in the domba dance. I also underwent training for womenhood. I didn’t like it at first but I ended up enjoying”, Gudani says. The author adds that one thing that stood out for her during her initiation was the use of metaphors and symbols to emphasize issues such as sex, husband, parenthood etc.
Such use of metaphors fitted well into the manifestation of her early love for children literature and Venda culture. “It is transforming to accommodate the modern working woman and accept the leadership role that VhaVenda women play in the world today”. Metaphors also sparked her creativity to finally put the pen down.
“In 2009 I attended a Room To Read workshop held in Polokwane which is where I learnt about writing for children. While I always had stories to tell the structure was finally given during the workshop”, she confesses. Freshly inspired Gudani wrote Thilli’s Journey, a children’s book illustrated by Limpopo artist Jonas Mailula. Thili’s Journey is a story about a little girl’s adventures with fantastical superstition, folk and mythical beliefs that she has to conquer during her visit to her grandmother.
This brilliant Tshivenda book was translated into seven South African languages and a few overseas ones. Gudani is worried that few Black authors see value in talking to children, let alone in mother tongue. “We depend a lot on English literature. There’s actually few written by Africans”, she gripes.
Being married to Limpopo-based artist Vonani Bila and mothering two young boys, Mhlahlandlela (5) and Samora (3) Gudani says parenthood helped her to understand children’s fascination with animal characters in their stories. Both her sons are still at crèche but she reads them bedside stories from books she borrows at Makhado Library.
In 2012 Gudani published her second book titled in the sacred valley of the rising sun which was illustrated by Melvin Naidoo. The main character is Piggy, a domesticated monkey. It explores identity crisis in a society trapped in materialism and consumptionism.
Inspired by award-winning Dr Gcina Mhlophe and two SALA Lifetime Achievement winners from her village Gudani has an unpublished Tshivenda novelette and a novel manuscripts with the latter funded by the National Arts Council of South Africa. She also headlined the inaugural Polokwane Literary Festival in 2011 and has read her women empowerment poem Zwa uno muta in an episode of the SABC2 Tshivenda soapie Muvhango.
Listening to Gudani speak passionately about Tshivenda literature, poetry and orature it dawns that she was uncomfortable with being limited to the confines of Shirley Village in Elim, but chose to go where angels tread. “Parents should enjoy reading books for their children. Kids will never enjoy if they are not taught by their parents”, Gudani says.

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