Tribute to trailblazers

Judith Sephuma is one of the women featured in the book Illustration: Jaxon Hsu

National Women’s Month will see the publication of An A to Z of Amazing South African Women, paying tribute to rebels, artists, troublemakers, athletes, dancing queens and freedom fighters who shaped the country’s past – and are changing its future.

An A to Z of Amazing South African Women, published by Modjaji books, contains the stories of 26 trailblazing South African women, ranging from Fatima Meer to Caster Semenya, Natalie du Toit to Dope St Jude.

The publishers describe it as a book about women who ask too many questions, who defy injustice and who refuse to take no for an answer.

The book, by writer Ambre Nicolson and illustrator Jaxon Hsu, a husband and wife team based in Cape Town, takes its inspiration from the worldwide bestseller An A to Z of Rad American Women and will be launched in August.

“When I came across the American edition I immediately wished there was a South African version. Since none existed we decided to make one ourselves,” Nicolson said.

“The result is a book that showcases South African women as we know them to be: courageous, compassionate and resilient.” Publisher Colleen Higgs describes the process of choosing only 26 women for the project as “almost impossible”.

“What we loved about the American version is that the women featured were not the usual suspects, they were such a diverse group of women all united by a certain steely irreverence,” Higgs said.

“We have worked hard to ensure that An A to Z of Amazing South African Women features a really interesting mix of women from all walks of life and all eras of South Africa’s past and present.”

To this end, it is a celebration of the courage and determination of the activists, scientists and storytellers who have gone before us – as well as a recognition of the everyday heroism of ordinary South African woman doing extraordinary things.

Modjaji books has also launched a crowdfunding campaign, through Thundafund, to support the book’s publication.

Supporters of the campaign can not only pre-order their copy of the book but also buy an additional copy at a discounted rate that will be given to a young person who would not be able to afford one through Fundza, the South African nonprofit dedicated to improving literacy among teens and young adults.

The campaign will run for six weeks until June 13.

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