Author Sisonke Msimang has written a book responding to and reflecting on the passing of Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and chats to us about it.
Following the death of Mama Winnie we watched as there was a scramble to memoralise her, and SA and the rest of the world saw the gaps in our history and memory of her. What does The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela add to the discourse around Mama Winnie?
The book is as much about Winnie Mandela as it is about our country. So I’ll have to wait for readers to tell me whether it fills any gaps. It’s a take on this political moment we are in, examining why the scramble you point to so eloquently took place in the first place.
When did you realise that there needed to be a book about Mama Winnie? What about her, her story and legacy was important to you?
I had been thinking about it for a few years but wasn’t entirely sure. Then got caught up in my first book thinking I still had time. It’s not a full-length book though. In the weeks following her passing I wrote a lot, and that process made me realise there was quite a bit to say about what she meant to young South Africans. The form – the sort of lengthy essay with footnotes – really suits this moment I think. I’m also looking forward to longer biographies and reflections. I think there can never be enough books about the black women who have led and inspired us.
What does the figure of Mama Winnie tell us about the way in which we make sense of history and its enduring impact on SA?
This is precisely what the book is about and so you’ll have to wait for that!
What themes does the book deal with? Why are these so important?
Memory, love, populism, history, violence and the importance of reflection within our activism.
Does the book deal with why there was such a massive and visceral connection with what appeared to be young women with Mama Winnie?
The book was born out of that visceral reaction and out of the obvious ways in which young women re-birthed her – the ways in which they refused to accept that she should be relegated to a rogue figure, a mere caricature.
What does she represent for young women?
She represents what most women who grow up in our society know all too well – that patriarchy loves you until it hates you. It’s rewards are rich and it’s punishments are painful.
What does she represent for you?
She represents the poetry, tragedy and triumph of South Africa. She also serves as a proxy for the potential of South African women to soar, and the dangers we face when we get too close to the sun.
The Resurrection of Winnie will be available from 24 October.