Sarah Mkhonza was forced to leave her native Swaziland in 2003 following a campaign of harassment against herself and her family. An outspoken voice for women’s rights under the monarchical Swazi regime, Dr. Mkhonza wrote newspaper columns for The Observer and The Swazi Sun that told of the daily struggles of Swazi women and children ejected from their land. In her columns, she employed a “journalistic fiction” style intended to foster a writing culture among Swazi women. As her popularity as a critic of the government’s repressive policies grew, she was told to stop writing. Her refusal resulted in threats, assaults, and hospitalization. At the University of Swaziland, where she was professor of inguistics and English, her office was robbed and vandalized on two occasions — her computer and diskettes destroyed and tossed in the mud.
Dr. Mkhonza has published two novels, What the Future Holds and Pains of a Maid, and is currently working on a third. She has also published several chapbooks of fiction and poetry with Ithaca’s Vista Periodista press. She co-founded the Association of African Women, and the African Book Fund Group at Michigan State University, which has sent over 1000 books to the University of Swaziland and other African institutions, and she is presently living in Ithaca through the Ithaca City of Asylum program.
Sarah Mkhonza read from her work on February 28, 2008, in Cornell’s Goldwin Smith Hall. This interview took place the following May.