Zukiswa Wanner is a South African journalist and novelist, born in Zambia and now based in Kenya. Since 2006, when she published her first book, her novels have been shortlisted for awards including the South African Literary Awards (SALA) and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. In 2015 she won the K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award for London Cape Town Joburg (2014). In 2014 Wanner was named on the Africa39 list of 39 Sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define trends in African literature.
Zukiswa Wanner was born 1976 in Lusaka, Zambia, to a South African father and a Zimbabwean mother. After receiving primary and secondary education in Zimbabwe, she studied for a degree in journalism at Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu.
Her debut novel, The Madams was published in 2006, and has been called “a racy and hilarious take on the black economic empowerment crowd in Johannesburg”. It was shortlisted for the K Sello Duiker Award of the South African Literary Awards (SALA) in 2007. She went on to write three other novels: Behind Every Successful Man (2008), Men of the South (2010), which was shortlisted for the 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Africa region), as well as the Herman Charles Bosman Award, and 2014’s London Cape Town Joburg, which won the K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award in 2015.
In 2010 she co-authored two works of non-fiction: with South African photographer Alf Kumalo A Prisoner’s Home, a biography on the first Mandela house 8115 Vilakazi Street, and L’Esprit du Sport with French photographer Amelie Debray. Wanner is co-editor of the African-Asian short-story anthology Behind the Shadows (2012) with Rohini Chowdhury. In addition Wanner has written two children’s books, Jama Loves Bananas and Refilwe — an African retelling of the fairy tale “Rapunzel”.
She was one of 66 writers to write a contemporary response to the Bible, the works being staged at the Bush Theatre and at Westminister Abbey in October 2011.
In April 2014, Wanner was named on the Hay Festival’s Africa39 list of 39 Sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define trends in African literature.
She is a founding member of the ReadSA initiative, a campaign encouraging South Africans to read South African works. She also sat on the pan-African literary initiative, Writivism’s Board of Trustees until September 2016. She is a regular participant at international literary events and has conducted workshops for young writers in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Denmark, Germany and Western Kenya.
Wanner was also one of three judges of the sole Pan-African literary prize for book-length fiction, the Etisalat Prize for Literature in 2015.
A prolific journalist and essayist, she has been a contributor to a wide range of newspapers and magazines, including The Observer/Guardian, Sunday Independent, City Press, Mail & Guardian, La Republica, Open Society, Sunday Times, African Review, The New Statesman, True Love, Marie Claire, Real, Juice, OpenSpace, Wordsetc, Baobab, Shape, Oprah, Elle, Juice, Guernica, Afropolitan and Forbes Africa.
She currently lives in Nairobi, Kenya, having visited for the first time in 2008 and moved there three years later.