Siphiwo Mahala is a literary critic, novelist, short story writer and playwright, plying his trade in both English and Xhosa languages. Born and raised in Grahamstown (Makhanda), he imbibed the arts from an early age and grew a passionate for books.
He is the author of the award winning novel, When a Man Cries (UKZN Press 2007), which he translated into his native Xhosa language under the title, Yakhal’ Indoda in 2010.
His short story collection, African Delights (2011), was selected by The Guardian in 2016 as one of the top ten must-read books in the world. In 2014, the book was published by Bookcraft Africa for distribution in West Africa. In a review published in Nigeria’s The Guardian newspaper, Tade Ipadeola says, “To the West African reader, Mahala’s offering reads like something in-between a Cyprian Ekwensi and a Chinua Achebe.” Writing for the Times newspaper in 2011, Carolyn Meads said, “The strength of Mahala’s work lies in the fact that it is both entertaining and thought provoking.”
His debut play, The House of Truth, was performed by prominent thespian Sello Maake kaNcube and premiered at the 2016 Grahamstown National Arts Festival to critical acclaim. In 2017 the play was published in book form with a foreword by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Mahala’s latest collection of short stories, Red Apple Dreams and Other Stories, was released in October 2019 and has been receiving rave reviews.
He studied literature and creative writing at several universities including the University of Fort Hare, Rhodes University and the University of the Witwatersrand. Mahala holds a doctoral degree in English Literature from the University of South Africa. He served as the Head of Books and Publishing at the National Department of Arts and Culture for over ten years. He currently works for the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation. He is a Research Associate at the University of Pretoria’s Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship and a Research Fellow at the University of Johannesburg’s Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS).