/ 18 March 2016

Buhle Ngaba’s words empower the voiceless

The power of reading: Buhle Ngaba's The Girl Without a Sound
The power of reading: Buhle Ngaba's The Girl Without a Sound

‘I think storytelling is how we keep each other alive and relevant,” says Buhle Ngaba (25). The actress has recently spread her storytelling wings and written The Girl Without a Sound, a children’s book she hopes will empower young black girls in South Africa.

The story is about a voiceless girl in search of a sound of her own and the book aims to be a catalyst for young girls to embrace the power of the voices inside them.

Although she was born in KwaZulu-Natal and raised in Cape Town, Ngaba spent much of her childhood visiting the villages of Ganyesa and Tlhapeng in the Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District Municipality in the North West, where her family is from. And family is fundamental to the artist’s perspective and sparked her love for reading and writing.

“Writing began for me as soon as I started interacting with books, from the age of six when my aunt gave me my first one. I was passionate about telling stories and I don’t think I would be the person I am if I hadn’t come to love reading the way I did.”

The story itself is grounded in family. “It is based on my aunt and me, the same aunt who had given me my first book. I was very aware that I had created a rare character in children’s literature – one that looks like me.”

What happened then threw the book and its author into the spotlight. “I made mention of having written the book on Facebook, with no particular aim, but then had people asking me if it was something I would be publishing …

“After asking friends if they would create it with me, it took three weeks for us to shoot, illustrate, edit and design the book.”

Once it was complete, the aim was to get it into as many hands as possible. The response was greater than anything Ngaba could have imagined or anticipated. “There were more than 2?000 downloads of the book in its first week.”

Ngaba says, although this fundamental vision for the project stays the same, its scale is changing as it grows.

“What I love most about what I do is the potential it has to reach people. With this particular story, I hope to encourage other women and girls to write themselves into existence and create their own narrative.”

And as The Girl Without a Sound continues to change the lives of the little girls and women who read it, Ngaba’s focus is to continue creating for black women.

“Whether that’s in the shape of a children’s book, a book for adolescents, or the one-woman show that I am currently working on for myself is irrelevant. What I have been moved by is having black mothers telling me about reading the book to their little girls and why it is that they think it’s important. That is every reason to keep creating.”

Find out more about The Girl Without a Sound at girlwithout­asound.com