Most writers agree that writing is a form of therapy for them; the paper records all your problems but never judges you when you soak the ink with tears. 2016 Short Story Day Africa winner Sibongile Fisher (26) can testify to this.
“My parents separated when I was 16 [and that] tore me apart. Anyone who grows up in a broken home knows the struggle. Our entire lives shifted, emotionally and financially. I then fell into a deep depression and it is in the same year I discovered poetry.
“I would cry for days on end and write, most of it wasn’t so great but it was my only outlet,” Sibongile adds.
Sibongile recalls life before the ordeal of her parents’ separation.
“I was born in the Free State and later moved to Johannesburg at the age of four. I had a childhood like most black kids in the nineties, filled with lots of family and dust. I would visit my great grandmother’s house during school holidays. I was raised by my parents but I have a little brother who is 16 years old.” She admits that the divorce still affects her.
“I don’t think it’s something you get over, you just learn to live with it.”
Writing may be close to Sbongile’s heart, but her new born baby boy is probably closer and her mom keeps her afloat.
“My mother is a strong yet gentle soul. She is the kindest person I know and if I were to be half the mother she is then that on its own would be enough for my son. I don’t think one is ever prepared for parenthood. I’m learning everyday what it means to be a mother. One thing that I want my son to learn is the strength that comes with being gentle.
“We need it. A lot of humanity is lost in acquiring things, the world is getting drunk on consumerism and it’s not going to change anytime soon. Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with acquiring things I don’t want my son to grow up thinking money makes a man when actually it is the man who makes the money,” she adds.
Talking about money, Sibongile’s move to Joburg proved fruitful for her professional life.
“I began school in Joburg. I am who I am because of that move. My thoughts, my perception and my career choices. My life is here in Jozi. I co-run an arts foundation and I facilitate drama workshops for high school children.” She herself studied a B Com in Marketing Management at the University of Johannesburg.
“Education is to intelligence what exercise is to the body. Education is of paramount importance. It increases one’s capacity to reason. It uplifts you emotionally, mentally, and if you are lucky, financially. So the motto is ‘school is cool…Always.’”
Sibongile is grateful for the overwhelming support she’s been getting.
“The community, the schools and the learners are eager to participate and make a success of the work that we do with the foundation. Other organisations such as an outreach foundation have also been very supportive and we are forming partnerships. I am constantly overcoming myself as I am my biggest obstacle.”
She says that another obstacle was the inconsistent income.
“Through my writing career, my biggest challenge is the income. It is not consistent and not enough for me to do everything that I wish to do. I also don’t have the time to write or read as much as I want to.”
However, winning the Short Story Day Africa competition lit her path.
“I had stopped writing when I entered the competition. After giving birth to my son I felt disconnected to my art. Entering the competition was a gift to myself. I didn’t think I would get longlisted let alone win! It is an honour. I learnt that if it’s yours, it’s yours. And I’m writing again, so that’s good. It was the UJ poetry society that shaped my early style of writing.”
Sibongile’s family, son and lover have all been her source of inspiration throughout.
“They keep me going. Life is not a breeze and on days when the air is thick they keep me going. The minute you overcome yourself, you overcome the world. And I’m learning a lot about my path, not comparing myself to others. It hasn’t been easy [but] I always remember where I come from and where I want to go.” Sibongile would love to publish her “first novel and a collection of poetry. Maybe a collection of short stories too.”
Sibongile has a little advice for people who might be going through a rough patch in their lives.
“Breathe. It really does get better. Breathe and find ways to change what you can and accept what you can’t,” she says.
“If you surrender to the wind, you can ride it,” she concludes with Toni Morrison’s quote.