Written Out: The Silencing of Regina Gelana Twala

Ohio Univ. Jan. 2023. 344p. bibliog. ISBN 9780821425077. pap. $36.95. BIOG
Cabrita (African history, Stanford Univ.; The People’s Zion) exposes the daunting struggle of Zulu writer and ethnographer Regina Gelana Twala to realize her professional and political aspirations in 20th-century South Africa. A talented and prolific author, Twala was the second Black woman to graduate from Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand and the first woman to earn a social science degree in South Africa. This book illustrates how various personal and societal factors—the growing oppression of the apartheid government, economic pressures, failed relationships, and more—transformed the modest Twala into an outspoken social worker and political activist. She rejected the patronizing influence of white culture and advocated for an adaptive modern Africa that blended traditional values with contemporary progress. Twala was particularly concerned with the welfare of African women. Though sympathetic to her subject, the author doesn’t shy away from pointing out the contradictions in her beliefs nor the moral failings of those around her. Threatened by her talent, some white and Black intellectuals blocked the publication of her ethnographic and political writings, effectively erasing the legacy of her work.
VERDICT An honest, sensitive portrayal of a complex, determined woman who deserves recognition.
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