Karavan Press to publish a biography of Thembi Mtshali-Jones – THEATRE ROAD: MY STORY as told to Sindiwe Magona

It is with the greatest of pleasures and literary pride that Karavan Press announces the publication of a biography of Thembi Mtshali-Jones, THEATRE ROAD: MY STORY, as told to Sindiwe Magona.


Growing up in the village of Sabhoza near Ulundi and the city of Durban of the 1950s and 1960s, Thembi Mtshali-Jones listened to her beloved gogo’s stories and marvelled at the voices emerging from her father’s gramophone, but she could never imagine that, one day, her own voice would be enthralling audiences across the globe. Or that she would become so famous that Nelson Mandela would thank her personally for entertaining him in prison where he watched her perform on TV as Thoko in the sitcom ‘Sgudi ‘Snaysi.

As a teenager living under apartheid, Thembi dreamt about getting a decent education and becoming a nurse. Life had other plans. She fell in love with the first man who paid her any attention and became pregnant soon after. Forced to leave Nursing College and her baby behind, so that she could earn a living taking care of other people’s families, she seemed destined to follow in the footsteps of many other women trying to survive their shattered hopes in the townships.

But the daughter of a white family employing Thembi in Durban heard her sing, first recognising the precious gift that fans cherish her for today. She encouraged Thembi to audition for a show. It was her first role, starting her on the path that would take her to stages around the world, where her life would inspire a sell-out musical and she would perform alongside and become lifelong friends with such greats as Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Gcina Mhlophe.

Set against the background of South Africa’s tumultuous struggle for democracy, Theatre Road tells the remarkable story of Thembi’s illustrious career and the people and places who shaped her along the way, her tight-knit family and Durban most prominent among them.

In 2019, Thembi received the Living Legend Award from the National Black Theater Festival in Winston Salem, NC. The publication of Theatre Road coincides with the celebrations of her 70th birthday in November this year.

Sindiwe and Thembi

Thembi told her story to her friend and collaborator, Sindiwe Magona. The resulting biography is a deeply touching and inspiring account of an extraordinary life shaped by love, resilience and creativity.

In a recent interview with BONA Magazine, Thembi spoke about the “dedication and hard work” that have characterised her career as one of the most acclaimed, admired and internationally recognised South African musicians and actors. The Living Legend Award which she received from the National Black Theater Festival in the US earlier this year is the latest in a series of accolades, which include the Arts and Culture Trust Lifetime Achievement Award for Theatre, The Mbokodo Award, Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival and Best Actress Award at The Carthage Festival in Tunisia, to name only a few. She is currently starring in the e.tv drama Imbewu: The Seed in the role of MaNdlovu Bhengu.

Thembi collaborated on Theatre Road: My Story with no other than Sindiwe Magona, a South African legend in her own right.

Thembi and Sindiwe

The two artists first collaborated on a radio recording of one of Sindiwe’s short stories. Then, Thembi read Sindiwe’s famous Mother to Mother, a book based on the tragic killing of Amy Bhiel in Gugulethu in the violence of 1993. Together with Janice Honeyman, Sindiwe and Thembi adapted the book to a one-woman play, exploring the possibility of forgiveness and redemption between the mother of the killer and the mother of the victim.

Sindiwe and Thembi have begun work on Theatre Road a few years ago. The book will be published in November and enthral fans of both artists.

Sindiwe Magona

Born in the Transkei in 1943, Sindiwe Magona finished high school by correspondence. She later completed a BA through the University of South Africa and went on to graduate with a Master’s degree in Social Work from Columbia University in New York. She worked for the United Nations at its headquarters in New York for over two decades before retiring to her native South Africa.

A prolific writer of children’s books, biography, poetry, short stories, plays and novels, Sindiwe is also a translator and highly regarded public speaker. Her books include To My Children’s ChildrenForced to Grow, Mother to MotherBeauty’s Gift and Chasing the Tails of My Father’s Cattle.

Sindiwe’s work has been recognised with numerous awards. In 2007, she received the Molteno Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement for promoting Xhosa culture and language, the Permio Grinzane Terre D’Otrantro and the Department of Arts and Culture Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to South African Literature. She is also the recipient of the Bronx Recognises Its Own Fiction Award (2000), a Fellowship for Non-Fiction from the New York Foundation of the Arts and the Order of Ikhamanga in Bronze (2011), given in recognition of her literary and humanitarian contributions to society. The Xhosa Forum honoured her with a Heroes Award and the uNdimande Grand Prize. In 2012, she was joint winner (with Nadine Gordimer) of The Mbokodo Award, which recognises women who have shown leadership, fostered growth and made efforts to strengthen the arts. She was awarded the 2016 Gold Medal by the English Academy of Southern Africa, affirming her distinguished service to English over a lifetime.

The Hartwick College of New York conferred her with an honorary doctorate in 1993 and the Rhodes University of Grahamstown in 2018.

Sindiwe lives in Cape Town and is currently Writer in Residence at the University of the Western Cape.

Author photograph: Victor Dlamini

Barbara Erasmus reviews Shadow Flicker by Melissa A. Volker in the Sunday Times

Local eco-romance novel will blow you away

There are no blurred lines between the good and bad guys who all get their just desserts – cynical readers must bear in mind that Volker’s genre is romance rather than noir

By Barbara Erasmus

Many South Africans will identify with the heroine of Melissa Volker’s debut novel Shadow Flicker – she experiences panic attacks.

But unlike the gender-based violence currently grabbing the headlines, hers aren’t triggered by rape or murder – they date back to a grisly shark encounter.

This is not the only unexpected aspect in this absorbing debut novel, the first release by Karavan Press, the publishing house recently established in Cape Town by Karina M Szczurek, editor, writer and critic.

Publishing books is a brave venture in an industry struggling internationally in the face of the digital onslaught but Szczurek is well-known in local literary circles, not only through her marriage to André Brink. She is determined to nurture writers who may have been overlooked by mainstream publishers.

Shadow Flicker_LR for web

Shadow Flicker, the novel selected to kick-start this new venture, is classified as an eco-romance, a deserving winner of the Strelitzia Award in 2017, given to the most promising manuscript by ROSA – the local Romance Writers organisation.

Volker explains that the difference between a love story and romance is that the latter has a happy ending – a refreshing change in the current gloom. Her novel has the obligatory romantic ingredients – a good-looking, sexy hero and heroine ranged against a cast of suitably corrupt predators, out to enrich themselves by any means possible. Evocative descriptions lift the story above the commonplace, as well as the well-researched environmental issues it explores. Volker also writes a regular blog about surfing and skilfully incorporates her knowledge of the sport into the novel…

Continue reading review: Sunday Times

John Maytham reviews Breaking Milk by Dawn Garisch

Breaking_Milk_Dawn_Garisch_COVER_SMALLTake a listen to the three book picks for the week by CapeTalk’s John Maytham, among them a wonderful review of Breaking Milk by Dawn Garisch: Books with John Maytham


So many women down the ages have lain awake in the earth’s great shadow, insomniac over their progeny, their sons and daughters intent on escaping their mothers’ intractable worry.

Don’t come, Kate is told by her only child. Jess is keeping her mother at a distance on the day that her own children, conjoined twins, are to be separated during high-risk surgery in London.

Kate wakes on her farm in the Eastern Cape, torn between respecting Jess’s wishes and a longing to rush to her estranged daughter’s side.

A former geneticist disillusioned by the pressing ethical questions posed by her job, Kate is now an award-winning maker of organic cheese. She relies on the farm’s routine and the people and animals in her life to hold steady as her day teeters on a knife’s edge.

Meanwhile, her employee Nosisi’s son is undergoing initiation. Forbidden to have contact with him during this traditional passage into the world of manhood, his mother anxiously awaits his return.

Breaking Milk, Dawn Garisch’s seventh novel, is an evocative exploration of the divisions and connections between humans, animals and the environment.

ISBN: 978-0-6399942-2-2

Review competition: Caroline Gill reviews Shadow Flicker by Melissa A. Volker

Shadow Flicker_LR for webDrawn[ing you] in from the start, Shadow Flicker weaves an entrancing cocoon around the reader, educating them on the hotbed issue of wind farms, and illustrating how communities and individuals respond to life changes, and how it [all] impacts on both sides of the issue. The joining of fiction and environmental issues, with a twinge of romance and mystery, is certainly a genre that is becoming a worthwhile read, and this book is no exception.

It is such a pleasure to read a work that smacks of home, with local dialect and slang sparsely interspersed in an encapsulating story set on our sunny, yet windy South African coastline. The author’s familiarity with the area allows for such a thoroughly descriptive rendition of it, that we are left feeling as if we had just consumed an article from a local travel mag. This story had me sitting with my phone’s map app open, looking up the places and wanting to bucket list them!

The characters are supremely believable, they are our everyday heroes, just going through the motions of life, and trying to make sense of the burdens they carry individually. The plot twist in bringing the two main characters together and the ensuing drama reads like the ebb and flow of the tide.

I find myself wanting to go back into their world, and [to] see how they are doing; always wondering what would be next in their lives as they move forward.
Truly an enjoyable and engrossing read, neither heavy nor too light, and certainly one that I have enjoyed and learnt from!

Review also posted on Goodreads.

Fynboshoek – the inspiration for Breaking Milk by Dawn Garisch

‘Visiting the cheese farm today felt like walking into my novel,’ Dawn Garisch wrote after her recent return to Fynboshoek, the place which inspired the setting of her latest novel, Breaking Milk.

Breaking Milk concerns a day in the life of Kate, a cheese maker.

Don’t come, she is told by her only child. Jess is keeping her mother at a distance on the day that her own children, conjoined twins, are to be separated during high-risk surgery in London.

Kate wakes on her farm in the Eastern Cape, torn between respecting Jess’s wishes and a longing to rush to her estranged daughter’s side.

A former geneticist disillusioned by the pressing ethical questions posed by her job, Kate is now an award-winning maker of organic cheese. She relies on the farm’s routine and the people and animals in her life to hold steady as her day teeters on a knife’s edge.

Meanwhile, her employee Nosisi’s son is undergoing initiation. Forbidden to have contact with him during this traditional passage into the world of manhood, his mother anxiously awaits his return…


The sky is clotted with cloud, but the background blue is clear, rinsed by the night’s rain. The farmer’s need to know the weather blurs with Kate’s artistic appreciation of cloudscapes – the infinite variety of forms: misty wisps and erupted whites above the underlining of the land.
Kate’s small farm appears over the rise, nestled in beside the dam – an oasis of fynbos and indigenous trees that stand out in a vast green desert of pastures and fields. It does feel like home, she thinks… 

Fynboshoek5In the Acknowledgments of Breaking Milk, Dawn writes: Thanks to Alje van Deemter who allowed me to job shadow him on his farm Fynboshoek in the Eastern Cape so that I could detail his cheese-making process and restaurant business – his produce is as delicious as the book portrays.

To discover more about Fynboshoek and the cheese-making process visit the farm’s website and follow their stunning Instagram account.

Stay tuned for details about a launch of Breaking Milk on Fynboshoek in November. Until then, enjoy the novel, learn more about the art of organic cheese making and have some delicious artisan cheese.

Photographs: Fynboshoek Instagram

Dawn Garisch at the Open Book Festival 2019

DAWN GARISCH will be speaking about her novel Breaking Milk at the following events during this year’s Open Book Festival which is taking place between the 4th and 8th of September.

  • THUR | 05/09 | 16-17 | HCC Workshop

DISTRUSTING THE PRESENT: Tracey Farren, Dawn Garisch and Masande Ntshanga speak to Alex Dodd about how the dystopian present informs their work.

  • SAT | 07/09 | 16-17 | HCC Workshop

THERE IS NO TEXTBOOK: Patrick Flanery, Dawn Garisch and Julia Martin speak to Pippa Hudson about the impossibility of preparing for some events.

  • SUN | 08/09 | 12-13 | A4 Ground

GENE THERAPY: Oyinkan Braithwaite, Nicole Dennis-Benn and Dawn Garisch speak to Bonnie Mbuli about dealing with family challenges.

Dawn Garisch by AJ Wattamaniuk


Shadow Flicker launched at Xpression on the Beach

“On Saturday mornings, Kate and her dad used to wake up early and surf for hours at Muizenberg.”

Shadow Flicker on Muizenberg Beach

Kate, the protagonist of Shadow Flicker by Melissa A. Volker, grows up in Muizenberg and becomes a surfing champion before a tragedy puts a stop to her career. Years later, she returns to the sea to face her trauma and to find love and healing.

Last night, Shadow Flicker‘s author visited Muizenberg, the place where she usually catches waves as a SUP champion, to launch her novel at her local surf shop, Xpression on the Beach.

The launch was hosted by surf legend Gary Van Rooyen. Melissa was in conversation with surfer, writer and historian Glen Thompson. Many friends from the surfing and literary worlds joined us for the special occasion, a kind of homecoming for the author and her novel’s protagonist.

A scene in Shadow Flicker is set in the St Francis Brewing Company and Melissa brought a few beers to share with her readers to give them an actual taste of the novel.

Thank you to Gary and all the other wonderful people at Xpression on the Beach for being such generous and enthusiastic hosts, Glen for leading a fascinating conversation and supporting Melissa and Karavan Press, to all surfers/readers who came to celebrate with us, and to Melissa, whose literary wave is becoming more and more impressive with every day!

Next stop for Melissa and Shadow Flicker: Fish Hoek Public Library, Friday, 30 August, 10am. Come and join us for books and tea!

Karavan Press: A LitNet interview with founder and publisher, Karina M. Szczurek

What kind of books would you be interested in printing? And why?

Books I can be passionate about, of any genre, any length, but mainly literary fiction and non-fiction. I read extremely widely, and don’t want to box myself or Karavan Press writers and readers in. I want to nurture authors and their creativity, establish strong bonds between Karavan Press writers and readers, and offer a literary home for those who treasure words and stories. Excellence, integrity, and love for the book as an object are the cornerstones of what Karavan Press is about.

Click here to read the entire interview: LitNet

Review competition: Gail Gilbride reviews Shadow Flicker by Melissa A. Volker

Shadow Flicker_LR for webAn Eco-Romance to keep you on the edge of your seat.

I didn’t plan to read Shadow Flicker in one sitting. I thought I’d read a chapter before I went to bed. At midnight, I turned the last page and breathed out!

Melissa A. Volker took me on an unexpected roller coaster ride. Her protagonist, the vulnerable Kate Petersen, has a secret and she means to keep it. On a renewable energy assignment in an Eastern Cape surfing village, Kate’s resolve is challenged and she has to dig deep in order to hold everything together. She takes a risk and does not tell her boss that he is sending her into the very spot where the tragedy which has shaped her life actually happened.

Kate arrives in St Francis Bay, ready to tackle the inevitable opposition to her company’s planned wind farm. The widowed Matthew Sykes, local vet and surfer, proves to be a distraction, and she tries to ignore him at first…

Local residents begin their protest peacefully. But soon this develops into something more sinister, as other agendas surface. Kate is forced to face her worst fears and her secret is about to be exposed to the one person she’s come to care about. Her unexpected strength lifts this novel into a heroine’s journey.

As the drama develops, it becomes clear that other people have secrets too. The stakes are high for Kate. Both her job and her new relationship are under threat. What she doesn’t realise is that her life is in danger too…

Volker is a trail blazer in the Eco-Romance genre. Her gentle voice is unexpectedly powerful. Thorough research, well rounded characters, and a nail biting plot nudge the readers to sit up and take note.

I, for one, will be on the lookout for her next offering.

Gail Gilbride is the author of Under the African Sun.

Under the African Sun

Review also posted on Goodreads.