Thakane Rethabile Shale starts a publishing company based on the stories we need to hear


Frustrated by mainstream media, Thakane Shale has decided to launch a publishing company that publishes stories we need to hear. She shared with us on what that means and the transcript of our interview is below.

Tell us about yourself

Lebitso la ka ke Thakane-Rethabile Shale. I grew up in T’sifa-li-Mali, Leribe, and I am a writer and publisher. Well I am a lawyer by profession and I work in construction management but what I am and am passionate about is telling stories.

Tell us about lipsticks and Scars

Lipsticks and Scars is an idea that kept evolving. When I started in 2017 it was originally Lipsticks and Cents because I wanted to work with women and their money stories. I had mild success but I realized that I was not as passionate about finances. I think it is because I was trying to push myself into a mold where I would do what I considered “serious things”, and what could be more serious than money?

In 2018 I then had a column with The Southern Times, a publication based in Namibia and Zimbabwe on Contemporary Gender politics, and one of the things I kept writing about was the way women were represented in media. Another was how black people, especially black women, were being stereotyped.

During that time I realized that the problem was not how other people were writing about us as a people, it was that we were either not telling our own stories or when we did we also played to the stereotypes. I was growing tired of black people always lamenting about “The Africa they do not show you on TV” and other such nonsense because, who is this mysterious “They” and why do we feel that they owe us representation? If I wanted a different narrative on Africans, black people and black women especially, it was my responsibility to create that which I wanted.

I had that dream and it came to fruition in early 2020 when Lineo Matlakala approached me to edit her book. I still have no idea why she chose me since I did not have any editing credentials. I almost turned her down because I was afraid of messing up her work but she was very adamant that she wanted to work with me and so I finally accepted. As I was going through her book, I realized that this was what I had been waiting for and so I dove right in.

The book is called Tales of a Barren Woman and it is a fictionalized version of a personal struggle with infertility in a culture where you hear things like “Mosali ke Mosali ka ngoana”. I may be biased because of my involvement in it but it’s a great book and everyone, both male and female, should read it.

Like I said, I already had Lipsticks and Cents but the cents part was no longer applicable so I changed it to scars. It just sounded right (people keep asking me for the deeper meaning lol) and so we began.  We do publishing but we will definitely be evolving as we go along, but telling stories is what we are about.

What kind of stories are you looking for?

Good ones! Okay, I want stories that are relatable, and stories that advance a narrative about Africa that we can all be proud of. Currently I am only doing fiction but I am open to other genres if they fit into my vision.

Do you hear from your readers much, what do they say?

I must say I have received only positive feedback so far, both in my writing and with our first published offering. No idea if that means people like what I do or people are not being honest with me

What does success mean to you, what is your definition of success?

Freedom! The freedom to do what you want, to impact the world in a way that is uniquely you. To be yourself for me is the highest form of success.

Thakane Shale

You mention you work in construction, how do you balance your day job and your passion?

What is construction if not stories told by buildings! 50 years from now you can look at a structure and say I built that; it’s like a piece of history. It helps that I also love construction and I am honest enough with myself to know that I am fortunate to have my job and I should not just neglect it while I chase my dreams. I also learn a lot from my work and I apply it in my writing. How to be good with people from all walks of life, for example, is something that working in construction has taught me because it’s such a diverse crowd in terms of socio-economics.

I like to think that I bring my writing and views to work in a way that benefits my employer but they would have to confirm that though. It definitely helps that I am so passionate about Lipsticks and Scars that when I get to it after work and on the weekends it does not feel like I am doing more work, it does not tire me.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Oh my God, this is like one of those job interview questions where you are expected to give a motivating answer! I do not know actually, a lot of people, things. Yoh! Can I have a glass of water?

Are you working on anything at the moment that you would like to share with our readers?

Definitely! We are working on a children’s book series called Keratiloe by Rethabile Ntereke Mofoka. I am very excited about it because growing up I always wanted to see a young girl that looked like me in a book and Rethabile has delivered, well 20 something years later, but I am still very excited. The release date is soon to be announced.

Where can writers or any stakeholder get in touch with you?

I can be emailed on [email protected] for general enquiries and also [email protected]

What advice would you give to a young writer, someone just starting out?

I have two actually. One, you have a story that is unique to you so do not try to fit into or become someone else, it’s okay of course to draw inspiration but you have your own voice. Two, charge for your services! This is not to say you should not do free pieces for causes you believe in but when it comes to corporates, always charge! Exposure will not pay your bills.