Zukiswa Wanner

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Zukiswa Wanner
Wanner discusses anthology New Daughters of Africa in 2020
Born1976 (age 47–48)
NationalitySouth African
Alma materHawaii Pacific University, Honolulu
  • Journalist
  • novelist
OrganizationAfrolit Sans Frontieres Festival
Notable workLondon Cape Town Joburg (2014)
K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award
Writing career
GenreFiction, non-fiction, children's books

Zukiswa Wanner (born 1976) is a South African journalist, novelist and editor born in Zambia and now based in Kenya. Since 2006, when she published her first book, her novels have been shortlisted for awards including the South African Literary Awards (SALA) and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. In 2015, she won the K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award for London Cape Town Joburg (2014).[1] In 2014, Wanner was named on the Africa39 list of 39 Sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define trends in African literature.[2][3]

In 2020, Wanner was awarded the Goethe Medal alongside Ian McEwan and Elvira Espejo Ayca, making Wanner the first African woman to win the award.[4] In March 2024, she returned the medal, depositing it at the German embassy in Nairobi, with her reason for doing so being cited as the German government's role in the ongoing war in Gaza.[5]

Life and career[edit]

Zukiswa Wanner was born in 1976 in Lusaka, Zambia, to a South African father and a Zimbabwean mother.[6] After receiving primary and secondary education in Zimbabwe, she studied for a degree in journalism at Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu.

Her debut novel, The Madams, was published in 2006 and has been called "a racy and hilarious take on the black economic empowerment crowd in Johannesburg".[7] It was shortlisted for the K Sello Duiker Award of the South African Literary Awards (SALA) in 2007.[8] She went on to write three other novels: Behind Every Successful Man (2008), Men of the South (2010), which was shortlisted for the 2011 Commonwealth Writers' Prize (Africa region),[9] as well as the Herman Charles Bosman Award,[10][11] and 2014's London Cape Town Joburg, which won the K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award in 2015.[1]

In 2010, she co-authored two works of non-fiction: with South African photographer Alf Kumalo A Prisoner's Home, a biography on the first Mandela house 8115 Vilakazi Street, and L'Esprit du Sport with French photographer Amelie Debray. Wanner is co-editor, with Rohini Chowdhury, of the African-Asian short-story anthology Behind the Shadows (2012).[11] In addition, Wanner has written two children's books, Jama Loves Bananas and Refilwe – an African retelling of the fairy tale "Rapunzel". In 2018, her third nonfiction work Hardly Working, a travel memoir, was published by Black Letter Media.[12]

She was one of 66 writers to write a contemporary response to the Bible, the works being staged at the Bush Theatre and at Westminster Abbey in October 2011.[13]

She is a founding member of the ReadSA initiative, a campaign encouraging South Africans to read South African works.[6][8] She also sat on the pan-African literary initiative, Writivism's Board of Trustees until September 2016. She is a regular participant at international literary events and has conducted workshops for young writers in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Denmark, Germany and Western Kenya.[11][14]

In 2015 Wanner was also one of three judges of the Etisalat Prize for Literature, a Pan-African literary prize for book-length fiction,[15] and she was the African juror for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2017. She has also been the founder and curator of Artistic Encounters in Nairobi, Kenya. In 2020, in response to the COVID-19 lockdown she founded and curated the Afrolit Sans Frontieres Festival, which first took place on 23 March via Facebook and Instagram, with further editions being held subsequently.[16] The festival has featured prominent African writers including Maaza Mengiste, Fred Khumalo, Chris Abani, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Shadreck Chikoti, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, Mona Eltahawy, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Sulaiman Addonia, Chike Frankie Edozien, and Lola Shoneyin, among others.[17][18]

In 2018, Wanner set up her publishing company, Paivapo, in partnership with her friend and businessperson Nomavuso Vokwana,[19] with a focus on marketing African literature in the Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone African regions.[20][21]

A prolific journalist, essayist and short-story writer, she has been a contributor to a wide range of newspapers and magazines, including The Observer/The Guardian, Sunday Independent, City Press, Mail & Guardian, La Republica, Open Society, The Sunday Times, African Review, New Statesman, True Love, Marie Claire, Real, Juice, OpenSpace, Wordsetc, Baobab, Shape, Oprah, Elle, Juice, Guernica, Afropolitan and Forbes Africa.[11][14][22] Her short story "This is not Au Revoir" is included in the 2019 anthology New Daughters of Africa, edited by Margaret Busby.[23][24]

In November 2023, Wanner released a collection of essays entitled Vignettes of a People in an Apartheid State, reflecting what she witnessed in Palestine, where she went in May 2023 for the Palestine Festival of Literature.[25][26]

Wanner currently lives in Nairobi, Kenya, having visited for the first time in 2008 and moved there three years later.[27]

Awards and honours[edit]

In April 2014, Wanner was named on the Hay Festival's Africa39 list of 39 Sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define trends in African literature.[28]

In July 2014, she was chosen for "Twenty in 20", an initiative to select twenty works of fiction considered as South Africa's best literature since 1994 best stories in South African literature.[29]

In 2015, at the South African Literary Awards (SALA), she won the K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award for her novel London Cape Town Joburg (2014).[1]

In 2020, Wanner was awarded the Goethe Medal, a yearly prize given by the Goethe-Institut honouring non-Germans "who have performed outstanding service for the German language and for international cultural relations".[30]

In December 2020, she was chosen by Brittle Paper as "African Literary Personality of the Year".[31]

In February 2024, she returned her Goethe Medal not as a criticism of the Goethe-Institut but rather the German government, citing the government's complicity in the ongoing Palestinian occupation as a callousness to human suffering.[5][32]



  • The Madams, Oshun Books, 2006. ISBN 978-1770070585
  • Behind Every Successful Man, Kwela Books, 2008. ISBN 978-0795702617
  • Men of the South, Kwela Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0795702983
  • London Cape Town Joburg, Kwela Books, 2014. ISBN 978-0795706301


  • 8115: A Prisoner's Home with Alf Kumalo, Penguin, 2010
  • Maid in SA: 30 Ways to Leave Your Madam, Jacana, 2010. ISBN 978-1431408962
  • Hardly Working: A Travel Memoir of Sorts, Black Letter Media, 2018. ISBN 9780987019813
  • Vignettes of a People in an Apartheid State, Periferias, 2023

Children's books[edit]

As editor[edit]

  • With Rohini Chowdhury, Behind The Shadows. Contemporary Stories from Africa and Asia (2012)


  1. ^ a b c "2015 South African Literary Awards (SALAs) Winners Announced", Books Live, Sunday Times, 9 November 2015.
  2. ^ "Africa39". Hay Festival.
  3. ^ Africa39 authors, Hay Festival.
  4. ^ "First African Woman to Be Awarded the Goethe Medal: Zukiswa Wanner". Literandra. 28 April 2020. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  5. ^ a b Murua, James (4 March 2024). "Zukiswa Wanner Surrenders Germany's Goethe Medal over Gaza Genocide". Writing Africa. Retrieved 5 March 2024.
  6. ^ a b Biographical info: Zukiswa Wanner, Kwela.
  7. ^ "Book Releases: Men of the South by Zukiswa Wanner", The Africa Report, 28 June 2011.
  8. ^ a b Profile: Zukiswa Wanner, The Guardian.
  9. ^ 2011 Commonwealth Writers' Prize shortlists announced Archived 28 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine, 11 February 2011.
  10. ^ "Zukiswa Wanner", Hay Festival.
  11. ^ a b c d Musiiitwa, Daniel (4 July 2013). "Zukiswa Wanner". Africa Book Club.
  12. ^ Edoro, Ainehi (23 February 2018). "Zukiswa Wanner's Travel Memoir, 'Hardly Working,' Is Adventure-filled and Personal". Brittle Paper. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  13. ^ Sixty-Six Books: 21st-century writers speak to the King James Bible, Oberon Books, 2011, ISBN 978-1849432276.
  14. ^ a b Zukiswa Wanner page at Amazon.
  15. ^ Murua, James (19 June 2015). "Etisalat Prize for African literature unveils 2015 judges". Writing Africa. Retrieved 11 May 2024.
  16. ^ Dahir, Abdi Latif (14 May 2020). "An African Literary Festival for the Age of Coronavirus". The New York Times.
  17. ^ Sosibo, Kwanele (23 March 2020). "Afrolit Sans Frontières: Stories and writers in the comfort of your living room". The Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  18. ^ Sosibo, Kwanele (8 April 2020). "Highlights from the Afrolit Sans Frontières Virtual Literary Festival". Brittle Paper. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  19. ^ "About founders". Paivapo Publishers. 18 October 2018. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  20. ^ Malec, Jennifer (19 April 2018). "Exclusive to The JRB: 'I'm going to market the hell out of our stories'—Zukiswa Wanner reveals the details of her new Africa-focused publishing company, Paivapo". The Johannesburg Review of Books.
  21. ^ Ibrahim, Abubakar Adam (22 April 2018). "Zukiswa Wanner floats Afro-centric publishing house". Daily Trust'.
  22. ^ "Women in African Literature: Writing and Representation", South African History Online.
  23. ^ Magwood, Michele (5 July 2019). "'New Daughters of Africa' Is a Powerful Collection of Writing by Women from the Continent". Wanted.
  24. ^ "This is not au revoir – a review". The Culture Newspaper. 21 August 2020. Retrieved 17 June 2021.
  25. ^ Ghosh, Kuhelika (17 November 2023). "Zukiswa Wanner Publishes Essay Collection About Settler Colonialism in Palestine". Brittle Paper. Retrieved 5 March 2023.
  26. ^ Attree, Lizzy (11 December 2023). "Learning from the Palestinians". Mail & Guardian.
  27. ^ Wanner, Zukiswa (13 May 2006). "Two nations and how Zimbabwe and Kenya became one people". Daily Nation.
  28. ^ "List of Artists - Hay Festival 2020". www.hayfestival.com. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  29. ^ "The Twenty in 20 Final List: the Best Short Stories of South Africa's Democracy", Books Live, Sunday Times, 22 July 2014.
  30. ^ "Awardees – Goethe-Institut". www.goethe.de. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  31. ^ Edoro, Ainehi (7 December 2020). "Zukiswa Wanner: African Literary Person of the Year". Brittle Paper. Retrieved 27 October 2022.
  32. ^ Wanner, Zukiswa (4 March 2024). "Never again should be for anybody". Africa Is a Country. Retrieved 5 March 2024.

External links[edit]