Driven by the wish to promote black authors in South Africa, Thabiso Mahlape founded her publishing imprint, BlackBird Books, in 2015 under Jacana Media.
“My work is really centered around black people, publishing black people, and making black stories heard,” the 34-year-old publisher told FemaleOneZero.
It took her time to discover the world of publishing, first studying four years to become an engineer then attempting to shift to journalism.
She finally sought an internship in publishing in 2010 at Jacana Media after a career counselor advised her to consider a career in the field.
She soon discovered that the South African literature and publishing world was essentially white and decided to take on the challenge of changing that. While female intuition can help in publishing work, she admits that being a black woman sometimes slows her down.
“Authors disrespect you more, and distribution channels owned by men just aren’t willing to see you, even when you do the work that you do… Even with black men—because I don’t always do things the way they want me to—it can be a bit problematic,” she said.
Thabiso Mahlape next wants to take her work outside South Africa. She has recently travelled to Botswana and now wants to help start developing the local book industry in the country.
Despite her workload, she says making time for her 4-year-old daughter, friends, and family keeps her happy and productive.