Travelers who pass through the Eastern Cape are in for a treat at the East London Airport. Book lovers will be enchanted to find Bukelwa Ngoqo, an emerging writer with a keen eye for business, who is bringing a new level of creativity to the region.
Writers are a fascinating breed, compelled to follow their art despite knowing that it seldom pays particularly well. To be creative on the page, they must be imaginative about sustaining body and soul while carving out time to write. Pecking away at her keyboard in poverty didn’t appeal to Bukelwa, who started SunKissed Fashion in August 2015, an Afrocentric retail outlet specialising in regional fashion, art and craft at the East London Airport
Growing up in a Xhosa home, life’s experiences were shared through stories told from generation to generation. “As a writer, I simply observe people and narrate my experiences. Some people can sing, some can dance, I write,” says Bukelwa, who started with poetry and short stories. Now she is working on a book about her other passion, entrepreneurship. Just six months after opening her doors, Bukelwa was one of 46 small business owners chosen nationally to participate in the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme from a field of 2000 applicants. “Her commitment, creativity and her desire to create opportunities for talented artists in the Eastern Cape made her stand out,” said Anton Ressel, who was on the selection panel.
She is fulfilling her ambition to put the art, craft, and fashion of her region on the map and now stocks a rapidly growing section of South African titles. Originally, she displayed just a few contemporary South African books but as the demand grew, she expanded. Her shelves contain an impressive collection of South African authors.
Bukelwa observed that many local writers struggle to access the market. Authors from the area are especially keen to grow their readership through selling their books at SunKissed. “As a book worm and as a writer, I am committed to opening this space for sharing their stories. The positive feedback has been heartwarming.”
This led to SunKissed’s first author appearance on Freedom Day with Struggle heroine, Thandi Lujabe-Rankoe, who was born in the Eastern Cape. She recalled her life’s journey as told in her memoir, A Dream Fulfilled: Memoirs of an African Diplomat. As it happened, this event coincided with an airline strike and the shop rapidly filled with travelers who were all dressed up with no place to go. Guests asked questions until the sun went down. While the author signed copies of her books, book lovers basked in the delicious strains of local jazz musician, Thembelani Batala.
Liesl Jobson is an writer, photographer and musician. Formerly a consulting editor of Books LIVE, she is now Fetola’s media co-ordinator. She is the author of Ride the Tortoise, 100 Papers, (which was translated into Italian as Cento strappi) and View from an Escalator as well as three Book Dash children’s books. She enjoys promoting the success of the small business entrepreneurs who make South Africa work.