Internationally renowned South African musician Maya Wegerif, affectionately known as Sho Madjozi, has released her debut children’s book titled “Shoma and the Stars.”
The multiple award-winning singer, songwriter and performing artist recently added another title to her list as an author.
Shoma and the Stars is a unique South African tale with an important message of celebrating uniqueness and being courageous.
Wegerif says the book is a tribute to her younger sister, Makhanani ‘Nyeleti’ Maganye, who died in a tragic car accident in 2019.
“I was inspired by my young fans who became my little sisters when I lost mine. My young fans, whom I call ‘the Sho Madjozi Stars,’ motivated me to keep going,” says Wegerif, who holds a degree in Creative Writing and African Studies from the Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, in the United States.
She briefly explains the book to be a story about a little girl called Shoma who grows up in a beautiful South African village.
“From her parents to the way she dresses and likes to do her hair, it is clear that Shoma was always going to be a little bit different. Luckily, Shoma has a little sister, Nyeleti, who she does everything with, until the day Nyeleti, which means ‘star’ in Xitsonga, disappears to become a star in the sky,” says Wegerif.
With time, she says, little Shoma learns to accept her loss, navigating life as an outsider and eventually learning that her uniqueness is her power. By being herself, little Shoma saves the day and finds a new group of ‘sisters.’
“A couple of days after I lost my sister, thousands of girls rocked colourful Sho Madjozi braids. They were like bright little stars when my life felt so dark. I remember crying continuously when I saw that. It was so touching. My young fans gave me the strength to keep going. They are my biggest inspiration, and with this book, I want to keep encouraging them to celebrate being daring and different,” says Wegerif.
“I have loved words all my life. I have been writing poems and stories since I was seven years old. Even my introduction to music was through writing [lyrics]. I am so glad I was a bookworm, or I wouldn’t be who I am today,” she adds.
She wrote the book during lockdown but only decided to publish it in December 2022. She says the process of publishing is different for everyone, as you have to decide if you want to be an independent publisher or get a publisher.
“It is important to choose what makes you feel comfortable. The benefits of traditional publishing is that they offer assistance with editing, design and getting the book ready for market. Whereas with independent publishing, one does it themselves but has a greater degree of control,” she says.
Various pages of the book include 3D animation elements that can be accessed via a smart mobile device. The typography and imagery of the book is illustrated by artist Katlego Keokgale.
Shoma and the Stars is available at all major South African book retailers for R180.