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The death of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela on 2 April this year unleashed a hailstorm of opinion. On one side, Winnie's legacy was under construction by the media and public in the shadow of her sanctified ex-husband, casting Winnie as history's loser.
Msimang - who in the last few years has reflected extensively on Winnie Madikizela-Mandela - stood on the side of a younger generation, particularly of black women, who sought to reclaim Ma Winnie's identity as an extraordinary woman and fierce political activist. Examining that early impulse, Msimang has written a succinct, razor-sharp book. It is a primer for young feminists, popular culture enthusiasts and those interested in the politics of memory, reconciliation and justice, and a book that is as much about a woman as it is about the country she left behind.
The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela is an astute examination of one of South Africa's most controversial political figures. It charts the rise and fall - and rise, again - of a woman who not only battled the apartheid regime, but the patriarchal character of the society that moulded her. In telling Ma Winnie's story, Sisonke Msimang demonstrates the vital link between reclaiming the lives of one complex woman, and activism aimed at restoring the dignity of all women.
In her much anticipated memoir, Sisonke Msimang writes about her exile childhood in Zambia and Kenya, young adulthood and college years in North America, and returning to South Africa in the euphoric 1990s. She reflects candidly on her discontent and disappointment with present-day South Africa but also on her experiences of family, romance, and motherhood, with the novelist’s talent for character and pathos.
Militant young comrades dance off the pages of the 1970s Lusaka she invokes, and the heady and naive days of just-democratic South Africa in the 1990s are as vividly painted. Her memoir is at heart a chronicle of a coming-of-age, and while well-known South African political figures appear in these pages, it is an intimate story, a testament to family bonds and sisterhood.
Sisonke Msimang is one of the most assured and celebrated voices commenting on the South African present – often humorously; sometimes deeply movingly – and this book launches her to an even broader audience.
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