FunDza interviewed 10 Fantastic FunDza Fanz! Meet Phumza…

Phumza Funo writes about the world around her – especially the violence and abuse faced by women. Inspired by real life events, Phumza wants her stories to bring comfort to others – just as she was comforted by the stories she reads, too.

Escaping into books at breaktime 

Phumza, now 21, reflects on her childhood in the Eastern Cape. “I grew up in an informal settlement, so obviously the environment was not okay –  but I managed to cope,” she says. “It was a normal childhood, I was used to it.” 

Her family lived without electricity and running water, and Phumza spent the first five years of life sharing a roof with an alcoholic father. She is no stranger to the impact that alcohol can have on families. When her father left, the remaining family was drawn closer together. 

Phumza’s experience of school was not an easy one. Her love of reading and writing led to her being the target of school bullying. “If the teacher was not around, I would take out a book and read and [the other children] would call me a weirdo or a freak.” Reading and writing might have been why Phumza was bullied – but they were also the one thing that she was able to find solace in. “I read to escape the world around me,” she explains.

Callings of becoming a sangoma

Referring to herself as an ‘introvert’, writing has allowed Phumza to “express myself verbally. If I am grieving or going through heartbreak, I put pen to paper and write my feelings down,” she says.

At the age of fourteen, Phumza realised that she had a spiritual calling that needed answering. “I realised I had to focus more on my ancestral and spiritual side,” she explains. “I always knew there was something different about me,” says Phumza. “I’m now a practicing sangoma. I am a healer.”

Reading and writing has been carried with Phumza throughout her life journey. From the young girl who escaped into reading, to the young adult who is a sangoma  – reading and writing has always been there. 

Writing what she knows

As a published FunDza writer, Phumza writes about the social issues that she sees in her community with a focus on “the struggles of women”. Having first hand experience of what many women go through, Phumza feels passionately about writing around topics such as alcohol and drug abuse, rape and living conditions in informal settlements. “I want other women to know that they are not alone,” she explains.

Phumza wants her stories to bring the same comfort to other women as the FunDza stories bring to her. “Whenever I am feeling low, I go on FunDza and read. It brings peace and light into my life.” 

The next move

Along with her dreams of becoming a published poet and short story writer, Phumza wants to be a teacher. Next year, she will be leaving her family for the first time and moving to the Free State to study. This way she can encourage more children to “focus on books and walk with their head held high”-  just as she has done throughout her journey so far.

We asked Phumza:

Why do you like reading on FunDza?
The library is very far from where I live. FunDza makes it very easy – I just go on my phone and there I’ve got a library. 

When is your favourite time to read on FunDza?
Late at night. It’s always my favourite time. When everybody is watching TV or whatever, I’m on my phone reading. 

What’s your favourite thing to read on FunDza or what is one of the best stories that you have read and why?
One of my favourites has to be The Kiss in Egypt. It explores love and romance. Something which we don”t really know about.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time besides reading on FunDza?
I sleep when I’m free.

To read about the nine other Fanastic FunDza Fanz, click here.