Thabiso Mahlape

Motivated by her desire to amplify the voices of black authors in South Africa, Thabiso Mahlape established her publishing imprint, BlackBird Books, in 2015 as part of Jacana Media. Her mission revolves around spotlighting black narratives, ensuring that black voices are heard.

Thabiso’s journey into the world of publishing was gradual. Initially pursuing a four-year engineering degree, she later pivoted towards journalism before ultimately finding her passion in publishing. In 2010, following the advice of a career counselor, she secured an internship at Jacana Media, where she delved into the intricacies of the publishing industry. Recognizing the predominantly white landscape of South African literature and publishing, Thabiso resolved to challenge the status quo. However, as a black woman in the industry, she acknowledges facing obstacles. Despite her expertise, she encounters disrespect from authors and resistance from male-dominated distribution channels.

Thabiso is expanding her reach beyond South Africa, to Botswana where she aims to contribute to the development of the local book industry.

Balancing her demanding career with personal commitments, including caring for her 4-year-old daughter, spending time with friends, and nurturing familial relationships, Thabiso finds fulfilment and sustains her productivity.

Job: Author and Founder, Publishing imprint, BlackBird Books
Location: South Africa
Umi100 Honouree 2024