Mdlalose is the visionary behind the Kwesukela Storytelling Academy, a hub for honing the art of storytelling. Here, she not only offers expert training in the craft of storytelling but also crafts bespoke programs tailored for both corporate entities and individuals. The academy goes beyond just teaching, extending mentorship to community groups and individuals, nurturing their artistic talents and imparting essential business skills.

By Noko Mashilo

Dr Nomsa Mdlalose, a captivating storyteller and dedicated researcher, shines like a shooting star, aiming to illuminate the beauty of African languages and storytelling. At Zintsomi, her company, she cultivates a lively garden of creativity and passion, spreading the seeds of cultural richness like a gentle breeze.

She encourages children to immerse themselves in the enchanting world of reading and writing, much like a talented artist weaving intricate tales that are as captivating as a swirling kaleidoscope. Mdlalose is as committed as a protective lioness, ensuring that young minds are deeply connected to their cultural heritage, like a towering baobab tree.

Her passion acts as a spark that ignites the creativity within these young souls, resembling a burst of vibrant fireworks illuminating the night sky. With the finesse of a seasoned storyteller, Mdlalose seamlessly integrates the significance of storytelling and writing into the very essence of these young minds, much like a skilled seamstress crafting a tapestry of knowledge and inspiration.

“This will inspire their mind, give them content, sharpen their skills and also help their physical being,” said Mdlalose who has published and written several children’s books and academic articles.

Zintsomi is like a bustling marketplace where African tales and their tellers come together, according to Mdlalose. It’s a place that nurtures, champions, and empowers storytellers to thrive in the vibrant world of creativity: “Perhaps that is why it is also known for creating robust storytelling products and services for children and adults interested in African stories,” said Mdlalose from KwaMashu, Durban in KZN but now living in Gauteng.

She expressed her belief in the pivotal role of books as a fundamental element in the pursuit of a better future. “Today, I have gained a deeper understanding of the historical context of my cultural heritage. I am also familiar with the experiences of others. A story can present a problem and its solution from various perspectives,” stated Mdlalose.

Her first foray into the literary world was Coal and Bean, a collection of timeless fables that impart valuable life lessons and societal principles. With an impressive body of work that includes eleven published books, she has made her mark with notable titles like When an Eagle Could Not Soar, Follow Me, My Son, and Ten out of Ten of Storytelling (a handbook for teachers), among others. These resources are accessible in all official languages of South Africa, with additional features, at The Storytelling Centre in Midrand, as well as online and in various children’s bookstores.

Mdlalose has written an audiobook featuring a rabbit, and it’s called Khalulu: “Khalulu played a major role in African stories. She has been always there to solve problems for ordinary persons. This time, Khalulu is the one who tells the stories, and she costs R350. Other books range between R90 and R120 whereas the teachers’ manual is R350,” said Mdlalose who has performed on different stages, both in Mzansi and abroad.

Furthermore, she is the mastermind behind the Kwesukela Storytelling Academy, a hub for honing the art of storytelling. Here, she imparts her wisdom to individuals and businesses through tailored programs and training sessions.

“We provide mentorship to community groups and individuals in art as well as in business skills.”

Mdlalose has quite an impressive academic journey, earning her master’s degree in storytelling from Tennessee State University and her doctorate in folklore with a focus on African oral literature and linguistics from Wits University. Her accolades include the prestigious Imbokodo Award for her exceptional efforts in promoting African languages and storytelling in 2015.

She has certainly made her mark in the literary world, serving on the literature panel of the National Arts Council of South Africa, collaborating with influential figures at the Freedom Park Council, and currently holding a position as a board member for the Southern African Folklore Society.

She described the challenges that arose during the Covid-19 pandemic as a real struggle. “The cost of living just kept climbing, and I couldn’t find ways to earn extra money because of restrictions on movement and gatherings. Eventually, I had to leave my job as a Storytelling supervisor at Freedom Park Museum in Pretoria to chase after my dream of becoming an entrepreneur.”

Mdlalose shared that she first ventured into the world of storytelling back in 1990 when she eagerly invested R150 in attending acting and dance classes at the Market Theatre Laboratory. “I even had the chance to portray Juliet in a production of Romeo and Juliet,” she reminisced. “It was a truly fulfilling experience, and the potential for creativity seemed boundless.”

She also mentioned that she hadn’t planned on delving into children’s literature or storytelling. “I stumbled into this space, guided by my ancestors, and soon realised the importance of sparking children’s imaginations. Stories are the building blocks of a child’s vocabulary,” explained the storyteller, known for her engaging and interactive storytelling style.

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