Lauretta Ngcobo

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Biographical information

Synopsis:

Feminist writer and activist

First name: 
Lauretta
Last name: 
Ngcobo
Location of birth: 
Ixopo, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa

Lauretta* (1)  Ngcobo was born and brought up in a rural area of Kwazulu Natal called Ixopo.

She is well known as a feminist writer during the early 50’s though her work was only published in the 80s and 90s. Ngcobo was one of the main speakers during the 1956 women’s anti-pass march that was held across the country. She left the country in 1963 escaping imminent arrest, and went into exile with her husband and children, moving from Swaziland to Zambia and finally settling in England where she worked as a teacher for 25 years. Soon after she left South Africa, Lauretta started writing, but it was not until 1981 that her first book, Cross of Gold, was published. This is a book of which she says "I was contemplating what had catapulted my life into exile and how it had all come about". 
Let it be Told (1987) recounts the turbulent thoughts of black women writers in Britain in the 1980's, told in their own words. Lauretta Ngcobo found writing for children, however, gave her the greatest challenge as a writer. She has also written and published many academic papers, attended many writers' conferences, delivered papers in various universities and traveled extensively as a result.

One of Ngcobo’s most well known books is “And They Didn’t Die”. This book is about a black rural community of women who, against the backdrop of the 1913 and subsequent Land Acts, care and fight for their children, the land, and the cattle while their husbands work in the mines and cities. In her focus on the struggles and complexities faced by her female protagonist, Jezile Majola, Ngcobo articulated the personal and public struggles of African women who opposed apartheid amidst the harshness of rural life. “Rural women suffered the most. They had to take care of their children on their own the men had left for the cities” said Ngcobo*(2).  
In her writings, Ngcobo is generous in her criticisms of apartheid and of Zulu traditions that clamped tightly on women. She once made a point saying “A women is not only black, but at the same time must also submit to her husband, who, being oppressed, will find it necessary to oppress his women. Traditiona reinforces this, and elevates man above women.  In our tradition we find customs against which resistance is in vain, especially if one is an isolated individual or part of a restricted group*(3). 

In 1994 she returned to South Africa where she now serves as a member of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial legislature and information officer for the Inkatha Freedom Party*(4).

Notes
* 1: Sources vary with regards to the spelling of Lauretta, some sources use the spelling Laurette. 
* 2: Quoted from Sowetan (10/08/2006, p. 4.) 
* 3: Interview by Itala Vivan’, in Eva Hunter and Craig Mackenzie (eds) Between the lines II [Grahamstown:National English Literancy Museum, 1993] 102
* 4: Details of these positions are unclear.

Selected works
1981. Cross of Gold.
1987. Let It Be Told: black women writers in Britain
1990. And They Didn't Die.
1994. Fikile learns to like other people.

Last updated : 08-Aug-2017

This article was produced for South African History Online on 17-Feb-2011

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