BY DR TSHEPO MVULANE MOLOI
Tshepo Mvulane Moloi: As jollities of women’s month draw to an end, I wish to wax lyrical about teenager Stacey Fru as an imminent South African literati. Predictably the bulk of the public may retort, to candidly pose the transient question – Stacey who? The inevitability of such a question compels for illumination. Stacey Fru is a 13-year-old teen sensation, as South Africa’s multiple international awards winning child author, activist, philanthropist, edutainer in an online ‘Children’s Television South Africa (CTVSA)’, public speaker and brand ambassador. She was born on 16 February 2007, as the second child of four siblings, to Dr Emmanuel Fru (44), a political scientist and Mrs Victorine Mbongshu Fru (42), a master’s degree graduate in communication science. She is a Grade 8 pupil, at my alma mater Sacred Heart College. Her universal acclaim as a wordsmith has earned her the title of a child prodigy. ‘Doubting Thomas’s of her eminence as an iconic author ought to read her five children’s books, entitled Smelly Cats (2015), Bob and the Snake (2016), Smelly Cats on Vacation (2018), Tim’s Answer (2019) and Where is Tammy (2019). Themes in her books vary from culture, illiteracy, religion, respect, love, health, difference, abuse, role models, trafficking, family, friendship, safety and security. Stacey Fru’s books support why she is surreal for her age.
Astonishingly at just 13 years old, Stacey Fru has incredibly become South Africa’s, Africa’s and perhaps even the world’s, youngest international multiple award-winning authors in the genre of children’s books. Incredibly the first three of Stacey Fru’s books were authored prior to her 11th birthday. Chronologically Stacey Fru wrote her initial book, Smelly Cats, aged 7 in 2014 without her parents’ awareness. Details of how her parents battled to publish her first book are eloquently narrated in her TEDx TALK of February 14 2020 ‘Stacey Fru: living Your Dream’.
In summary, adversities experienced inspired Stacey Fru’s mum to open ‘Profounder Publishing’. This masterstroke resulted in all five of Stacey Fru’s books being published without stress from mainstream palookas. Tribulations experienced explain why the first book was published a year later when its author was aged 8 on 16 July 2015 at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits). I was proud to note that the first book featured an encouraging foreword from the then Head of College of Stacey Fru’s school Mr Collin Northmore.
The message of the first book focused on variances ensuing from social and religious beliefs. Smelly Cats made Stacey Fru the youngest winner of the National Development Agency’s (NDA) Early Childhood Development award as ‘Best ECD Publication 2015: Special Mention Category’, a prize donated by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Furthermore, Smelly Cats has been approved by South Africa’s Department of Basic Education as a recommended text for pupils, from the early childhood phase up to the primary school level. Owing to the location of the launch of Stacey Fru’s initial book at Wits in 2015, also consolidated by her award as the ‘Youngest founding member’ of the Wits University Centre for Multilingual Education and literacy’ in 2016, this may clarify why in her second book, Wits Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Habib, and later in her third book, the Wits Head of School of Literature and Media (SLLM) Professor Dan Ojwang are respectively featured in their opening foreword(s).
In Bob and the Snake (2016), the key message centred on friendship. In the third book, Smelly Cats on Vacation (2018), it should be noted that it was authored as a sequel to the first book Smelly Cats. Its message focuses on study habits, rest and respect. Stacey Fru’s fourth and fifth books, Tim’s Answer and Where are Tammy? were concurrently published in July 2019. The former book deals with the theme of role models and the latter switch its focus to safety and security. Stacey Fru has already stated that her ensuing book will be a novel (I speculate she refers to a novelette). As if the latter feats are insufficient, Stacey Fru has assertively stipulated in recent interviews that she has already set a personal target of having written 12 books by the time she is in Grade 10. Surely we may all agree that this is extraordinary, by any stretch of the imagination, for a teenager.
Stacey Fru’s age-defying accolades are enlisted at www.staceyfru.co.za, however, only a sample will be shared in this pithy article. They include Stacey Fru’s selection as the youngest ‘Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 influential South Africans’ in 2016; winning the ‘African Child Award for Creative Writing and Social Impact’ awarded by the Pan African Leadership and Entrepreneurship Development Centre (PALEDEC), in partnership with the International Human Rights Commission, hosted in Accra, Ghana in 2019; the Egyptian President El Sisi’s acknowledgement of Stacey Fru as the ‘Youngest Promising and Most Inspiring Arab African Youth’, at the World Youth Forum’s Arab and Youth Summit, hosted in Aswan, Egypt in 2019; recipient of ‘The Global Child Prodigy Award’, received in the category of writing, hosted in New Delhi, India in 2019; appointed as custodian of the annual ‘African Children of the Year Awards’ (partnering with UNICEF to celebrate World Children’s Day, every first Saturday of November) and being selected as an ‘Ambassador of the Youth Café (to champion ‘Youth Empowerment in Africa’) in 2020.
Mindful of Stacey Fru’s local and global accolades, I have noticed with disappointment the conspicuous absence of any award from her school, Sacred Heart College. Prevalence of such a grave omission suggests the school has archaic criteria, which fails to recognize a prodigy in plain sight. Stacey Fru’s success compels the school, to rectify this blooper. In the future Stacey, Fru stands to benefit, as a budding South African author, from her predecessors. Foremost in mind are doyens such as Nontsizi Mgqwetho, Noni Jabavu, Bessie Head, Miriam Tlali, Ellen Kuzwayo, Gcina Mhlophe and Sindiwe Magona. The latter two may undoubtedly glee with pride at the blossoming of Stacey Fru. In their eyes, the emergence of Stacey Fru, in our South African literary fray, ought to be embraced as a sign of an imminent literary lodestar marching us into the future. They may retire, knowing that their largely undermined consistency, to uphold the rich storytelling tradition in South Africa, will be assured a pride of place. Amidst others, the advent of Stacey Fru will help to fight illiteracy and fortify opposition against demonic misogynic views, so rampant in a patriarchal world. Stacey Fru is a trailblazer who must be celebrated. MALIBONGWE!