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GLAMOUR Women in Charge: Resoketswe Manenzhe

Resoketswe is a PhD candidate, junior lecturer and author of award-winning novel, Scatterlings. Her list of accolades includes the 2019 Writivism Short Story Prize, the 2020 Dinaane Debut Fiction Award, and the 2021 Akuko Writers Competition, and placed second for the 2019 Collins Elesiro Prize for Literature.

She boasts an impressive resume, and says she was lucky enough to be born in a time where it’s possible to have complete independence and control over her life, “to know that with everything I do, I answer only to myself. It’s very liberating, and it makes pursuing my dreams, however big they may be, a lot easier.” In this instalment of GLAMOUR: Women In Charge series she shares her career highlights, challenges and her approach to occupying space as a writer and engineer.

GLAMOUR: You've achieved quite a lot at a young age, what would you attribute your success to?

Resoketswe Manenzhe (RM): I’ve had a steady work ethic, and on top of that, I’ve been blessed not only with positive female role models overall, but with incredibly supportive female mentors in most of my ventures. But also, it’s fair to say that I'm a very boring person, so I split my time between different types of work – either I’m working as an engineer or as a writer. Both are very demanding, so I suppose I’ve also had to force myself to be a boring person and focus on work.

GLAMOUR: What's your approach to leadership and occupying space in society?

RM: I always try to understand the situations I enter because I personally believe that a lot of the time, simply understanding the fundamentals of a situation can solve a lot of issues. I think leading by example, cliché as it may be, is a very sound philosophy to carry in leadership.

Resoketswe Manenzhe

GLAMOUR: You are currently a PhD candidate and junior chemical engineer lecturer, can we talk about your educational background, and the challenges you've encountered along the way?

RM: Engineering by itself is a very difficult career path. The academic programme is incredibly gruelling; there can be a lot of self-doubt with that. It took a bit of time to convince myself that I truly belonged in that space. Also, because it’s such a male-dominated industry, the self-doubt never really goes away. There’s often a need to not only prove oneself as an individual, but as a representative of my gender. But it hasn’t just been challenging. Engineering is beautiful, elegant, and I’ve loved falling in love with it again and again over the years.

GLAMOUR: What keeps you motivated?

RM: I have a lot of stories I still want to tell. Every story I put out to the world needs to be the best I can do because I have to constantly prove myself to readers. They need to know I’m a reliable narrator, in a way. That means I need to pave the way for the next story, and the next story, and the next one, and so on. I’m always trying to be better because there’s still so much more I want to achieve.

GLAMOUR: Your debut book, Scatterlings, was well received, please take us through your journey as an author?

RM: I started writing at a very early age, but I’ve always done it privately. I wrote mostly poetry, and I wrote for myself – I wrote to comfort myself. Then I started experimenting with different genres and forms. I expanded into short stories and a few of them were published in online journals and magazines. They had a good reception, one of them even won a major Pan-African award (the 2019 Writivism Short Story Prize). So, I expanded my writing even more. I went into novellas and novels, and very soon (by the standards of the publishing industry) I won the 2020 Dinaane Debut Fiction Award, which led to my manuscript being published. The experience has been so extraordinary and humbling because I’ve gone on to win the 2021 HSS Award for best fiction. I’ve also just found out that I’ve been longlisted for the 2021 Sunday Times CNA Literary Awards; going against literary giants like Zakes Mda, Sue Nyathi, Fred Khumalo and Zoë Wicombe.

Resoketswe Manenzhe

GLAMOUR: What sort of conversations do you naturally gravitate towards?

RM: I honestly gravitate towards everything. My personal philosophy is that I know everything that I know, but I don’t know what everyone else knows. If I listen, I will surely learn something. I find it beneficial to be as open-minded as possible and try to learn what I can.

GLAMOUR: How would you define impact?

RM: Impact can be something as simple as touching one person’s life in my opinion. Of course, I’d prefer that the impact I have be positive. That’s not something that can always be guaranteed, however. But I still try. And if something I do can make someone smile or feel somewhat better, or inspire them, or affirm them, that’s a good job done in my opinion.

GLAMOUR: Who would you say has played an instrumental role in shaping the woman you are today?

RM: It would be unfair to name a single person to be quite honest. As a writer, it was difficult when I was younger to find role models I could immediately have access to. Writing was the part of me that I felt needed the most nurturing because it was the part that made me feel the most alive, yet it was the part I saw very little of in my immediate environment. To this day writing is still the part of me that feels the most authentic; so a lot of the people I looked up to tended to be rather far-away in every sense of the term. But of course, my family has played an invaluable role in my overall outlook of the world. Their support kept me focused and motivated. When you’re loved and you know and feel it, it makes a big difference.

GLAMOUR: Which women are on your radar right now and why?

RM: A lot of young African writers. People like Keletso Mopai, Mathabo Tlali, Sihle Nontshokweni, Frances Ogamba, Innocent Acan and many others – I read their work and get inspired because they keep confirming that the future of African literature is in very good hands.

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