This year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) 2021, delivered by the fallible South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, continues to justifiably receive critique, mostly revolving around trepidations about lack of information about the government’s plans. The first concern has to do with sparse details, about government’s plans to overcome the Corona Virus 2019 (Covid-19) Pandemic, which has locally pestered us since its advent last year, in March 2020. The second concern has to do with the government’s sparse details, about its plans to address numerous matters, which have arisen post SONA 2020. For the susceptible South African public, the source of the latter misery, seemingly stems from the government’s futile economic recovery plans. For persons like myself, keen about plans regarding prospects about the ‘Arts’ and artists, the above two concerns although valid, somehow make light of the paltry reference, SONA 2021 has made to the ministries of ‘Arts and Culture’, ‘Basic Education’ and ‘Higher Education’. The latter trio were, execrably mentioned in passing. This is baffling when considering, that 35 year old ‘black’ writer and performer, Ms. Siphokazi Jonas opened SONA 2021, by reciting her mesmeric poem What does not Sink. Given that Ms. Siphokazi Jonas is deservedly trending lately, I wish to focus on another ‘black’ writer, named Ms. Michelle Nkamankeng.
Ms. Michelle Nkamankeng’s feats, as one of South Africa’s local incipient authors, is quite astounding for a juvenile. This 12 year old starlet of literature was born on the 23rd of December 2008, in Gauteng. She is a grade 7 pupil at Rand Tutorial College, sited in Observatory, Gauteng. Her proud parents are Mr. Paul Nkamankeng and Mrs. Lauritine ‘Lolo’ Nkamankeng. The latter is also her manager. Ms. Michelle Nkamankeng is the third child, from the total of four siblings. According to her mum, Ms. Michelle Nkamankeng begun showing interest in reading, at the tender age of 4, then from five years old she progressed to take an avid interest, in writing. Her quest of writing children’s books, begun when she was 6 years old but only published her first book, aged seven. Such an early venture into writing, has earned her an avalanche of awards. The uppermost award, worth a special mention, is the rare accolade, of being South Africa’s and Africa’s youngest author in 2018. This has catapulted her, as one of South Africa’s looming littérateurs, in the category of being placed among child authors, ranked in the top ten percent globally.
Titles of Ms. Michelle Nkamankeng’s children’s books include Waiting for the Waves (2016), The Little Girl Who Believes in Herself (2018) and The Little Mouse (2019). In brief the initial book “is about a little girl who loved the ocean and the big waves” (Nkamankeng, 2016), it’s a “story that highlights the contradictions of emotions” (Nkamankeng, 2016). The second book is “about a little girl who after conquering her fear starts gaining confidence and begins dreaming big about what she wants to be in life” (Nkamankeng, 2018). The third book is about an “exciting cat and mouse game” (Nkamankeng, 2019). Stirringly the author’s then school principal, Mr. Colin Northmore wrote the foreword to the first book and Prof. Jonathan Jansen, who is currently a distinguished Professor of Education at Stellenbosch University did the same, for the second and third books. The following words are noteworthy “I am inspired by this jewel of a child. She could not have come onto the national stage as a child author at a more critical time in our history. The story of her life is simple- every child can read and write” (Jansen, 2018:7). The fourth book, is titled The Golden Ring but is not yet published. This nascent author, has astonishingly remarked in manifold interviews, that she is busy with what would in time be counted, as her eighth book.
If Ms. Michelle Nkamankeng’s aforesaid literary deeds proceed unhindered, fruits of her labor ought to pay off by propelling her, to eventually achieve the pinnacle status of ultimately becoming a ‘doyen of literature’. Mindful of all the aforementioned details about upcoming local talents, as herein detailed in reference to Ms. Michelle Nkamankeng’s inspirational accomplishments, it can only be read as regrettable how SONA 2021 dismally failed, to place adequate emphasis upon the government’s detailed plans, for South Africa’s treble ministries of ‘Arts and Culture’, ‘Basic Education’ and ‘Higher Education’, both at ‘Provincial’ and ‘National’ levels. I opine that if the South African public, had to seriously ponder about the incredible achievements, of local upcoming literati, as highlighted within this article, as showcased in Ms. Michelle Nkamankeng’s ephemeral profile, they would certainly agree enmasse that the scant reference in SONA 2021, pertaining plans for the ministries of ‘Arts and Culture’ and ‘Basic Education’ and ‘Higher Education’ is a great disservice. The lack of detail from SONA 2021 for artists, keeps even buddying creatives such as Ms. Michelle Nkamankeng in the dark, about information that may be of help to them, when planning for the year ahead. It cannot be downplayed that the meagre reference to the ‘Arts’ and ‘Education’, prolongs loss of income and productivity of plenty artists, eversince the ‘new normal’ which has compelled for limiting reliance, upon virtual platforms.