Sindiwe Magona: Chasing the Tails of My Father’s Cattle


The latest addition to my website is Sindiwe Magona‘s Chasing the Tails of My Father’s Cattle. This is a feminist novel, set in a traditional South African village and follows the life of Shumi, who grows up in the village. Her mother dies giving birth to her and, as her father works in the gold mines in Johannesburg, she is initially brought up mainly by her maternal grandmother, spending time with her father only when he comes home for a few weeks every year. As Jojo, her father, grows increasingly concerned about his daughter’s upbringing, he cuts back his time at the mine and then gives it up altogether, focussing on crop growing and animal rearing. As Shumi grows up, she faces sexism more and more. While Jojo is happy for her to continue her education, his family see no point in a girl being educated. They are even more horrified when Jojo makes a will leaving his estate to Shumi, instead of to his closest male relative, as is the custom. Jojo also defends his sister, who is brutalised by her husband and expects her to accept it. Both as a wife and then as a widow, Shumi holds her own, while trying not to alienate the male power structure too much. It is a fine story and presumably at least partially autobiographical.

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