29 February 2016

Namibia: 'The Girl Without a Sound'

"Once upon a very long time ago, there was a little girl with a fluff of hair, a mouth the shape of a cherry blossom and brown pools for eyes..."

Wait.

That's not how stories go. At least not the ones most girls were told growing up. Those short, shaping, sticking stories that reflected a world that seemed to think the best of us, the most courageous, the most beautiful and the most worthy of pages had skin like milk, eyes like ocean and cheeks red as roses.

In 'The Girl Without A Sound', acclaimed South African theatre actress and activist Buhle Ngaba has written a story "for the ones with moonlight in their skins".

Telling the tale of a silent black girl with a golden cocoon nestled in her neck, Buhle presents a sweet and sensitive children's book whose issues of black, female representation and voicelessness are given an enchanting and childlike face with photography by Neo Baepi and illustration by Thomaza Mputa.

Unapologetically a book for black girls by a black girl and available to download at www.girlwithoutasound.com with no fanfare or fee, Buhle's book is proudly self-published because it is necessary.

"Representation matters so little black girls need stories written about them and for them," says Buhle. "When I walk into book stores, no sections of black literature are in stock, and definitely none by black women. If we don't use our words and use them loudly, we remain invisible."

Also, making a case against waiting for someone to sign off your stories and lend legitimacy to your voice, Ngaba decided to forgo traditional publishing routes and do what she felt was crucial to do today.

"There aren't enough women of colour being heard so I decided to self-publish because I didn't feel like I had to wait for someone to validate my voice for me," she says. "I also felt the most important thing was for the story to be shared so I didn't want to have to wait to get it out."

Though the book is targeted at young girls between the ages of 9 and 12, Ngaba also describes it as children's books for adults

"Women read it and also identify with the little girl because ultimately it is about one finding their own voice. Which is something we can all identify with as women of colour," she says.

"I wrote it for all women of colour who have ever felt silenced. So it is from me, who was once a black little girl, but for all of us."

A book for all of us and an adorable request to every women of colour to begin the search for our voices, 'The Girl Without a Sound' is Ngaba's first book styled as a message of hope born in pages starring a girl who learns of black queens and kin after taking the hand of a "woman with sun rays in her skin".

Download 'The Girl Without A Sound' free until Wednesday, 2 March at www.girlwithoutasound.com and follow the author @buhlengaba on Twitter.

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