‘Wanda the Brave’ teaches young girls to love their hair and find their voice

Author Sihle-isipho Nontshokweni has dreams of creating a series of books to help black girls through every development stage of their lives

23 November 2021 - 10:16
Author Sihle-isipho Nontshokweni says her new book 'Wanda the Brave' teaches young audiences about cultural pride through inter-generational transmission of confidence.
Author Sihle-isipho Nontshokweni says her new book 'Wanda the Brave' teaches young audiences about cultural pride through inter-generational transmission of confidence.
Image: Supplied

Young Wanda is a girl on a special mission: she’s exploring ideas of identity and culture formation while learning to embrace her confidence.

In Wanda the Brave, author Sihle-isipho Nontshokweni uses the fictional character of Wanda to encourage young girls to be assertive, even when it may seem scary.

When Wanda visits the hair salon, she knows what she wants and asks for it — but she’s met with resistance from Auntie Ada who wants to straighten her hair using chemicals.

But, with her friend Nkiruka by her side, Wanda is brave in the situation and pushes back because she’s learnt to value the hair secrets her grandmother has taught her.  

Wanda the Brave is the sequel to Wanda which was published in 2019 and co-authored with actress Mathabo Tlali. The book first introduced readers to this young black girl who learns to love her natural hair with help from her grandmother.

'Wanda the Brave' by Sihle-isipho Nontshokweni.
'Wanda the Brave' by Sihle-isipho Nontshokweni.
Image: Supplied

It explores ideas of conformity in school culture and how children’s identity can be formed through bullying and school rules.

“This book teaches young audiences about cultural pride through intergenerational transmission of confidence, as evident in Wanda’s reassuring relationship with her grandmother,” says Nontshokweni.

Wanda learns that her qualities and values are strongly linked to a lineage of black women who are proud of who they are, starting with the texture of their hair.”

While Wanda explores identity formation in the school context, Nontshokweni expands this idea to the hair salon in Wanda the Brave. “Here I’m interested in identity formation in the cultural context where older people such as the hairstylist have power over children,” Nontshokweni says.

And the lessons won’t stop here, says Nontshokweni, who plans on turning Wanda into a series, with the idea of having Wanda editions running parallel with the lives of children.

I want black girls at every development stage to have their lives reflected in Wanda’s journey.

“The experience will be such that the body of work becomes a guide that parents and teachers can refer to, the kind where kids are so deeply connected to Wanda that they stop and think, ‘What would Wanda say?’”

• 'Wanda' and 'Wanda the Brave' are available in English, isiXhosa, isiZulu and Afrikaans at R150 per book. Visit Wanda World or follow @wandathebook on Instagram for more information


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