Futhi Ntshingila was born in 1974. She grew up in a Pietermaritzburg township called Imbali Unit 18. After Matric, she worked with young people on leadership training and women empowerment. Despite the financial challenges she faced growing up in a large family, Ntshingila succeeded in enrolling at the University of KwaZulu-Natal eight years later. Here, she majored in English and African Theology and worked as the news editor of the student newspaper, Nux. Upon completion of her Honours in English and Theology, the pull into print journalism led Ntshingila to Rhodes University where she completed a postgraduate diploma in Media and Journalism Studies, before starting an internship at the Sunday Times. She was employed at the same newspaper and worked a five year stint in Durban, before moving to Tshwane. Ntshingila continued to excel academically, later earning a Master's degree in Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies at UKZN.
As a writer, Ntshingila is drawn to telling stories that deal with the marginal, unexplored corners of society. She told the Centre for Creative Arts:
For a long time a large population of South Africans have not had stories that reflect their everyday lives written by people they can identify with. So I try to write stories that can entertain, madden, shock, horrify and affirm my community. I try to address issues that are not normally discussed openly.
In 2008, she published her debut novel, Shameless, the story of Thandiwe, a young woman, who, having grown up in a rural village, moves to the city and sells her body on the streets of Yeoville. In her second novel, Do Not Go Gentle, she continued thematically with a cast of strong women who have little, but are determined to shape their own destinies. Each of Ntshingila’s novels has received a positive reception. Fred Khumalo described Shameless as “the book of our times, speaking as it does about many of the social ills vexing our lovely nation”. Margaret von Klemperer, agreed, commending the book for “telling a South African story in an assured, concise voice”, despite minor faults. Paul H. Thomas praised the transcendent nature of the novel for “collections on women’s issues or contemporary South Africa” and not merely literature collections. Penny de Vries lauded Do Not Go Gentle as “a gut-wrenching novel” while Siyamthanda Skota appreciated Ntshingila’s ability to tell a socially conscious tale that is easy to read.
In light of her efforts she has been invited to participate at several literary events and has garnered many accolades. In 2008, she was part of a a literary session during Newtown’s art programme. She has appeared twice at The Time of the Writer to promote each of her books. This year she is due to appear at the Franschhoek Literary Festival. Do Not Go Gentle has been longlisted for the 2015 Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize. It was also selected as one of This is Africa’s best books in fiction, poetry, memoir and non-fiction, published between 2010 and 2014.
Excerpt from Shameless (2008:15-16):
Kwena, a young and ambitious film-maker, has chosen Thandiwe, for her documentary on the life of a Yeoville prostitute. She’s been observing her from a distance for two months now. The day she decides to approach her, Thandiwe comes out of a black BMW swearing up a storm, ‘Fuck off to your wife. Call her the things you’ve just called me and see if she likes it. You think you can come here and treat me like an animal?’
The man in the car mumbles something that makes Thandiwe shout louder. ‘I said go, you old fart, and never bring your ass-less self back here again!’ She slams the door and the shiny BMW screeches away down Rocky Street towards silent Observatory.
A Jewish family walking to the synagogue narrowly escapes the flying BMW, driven by a man who’s feeling the sting of rejection by a prostitute.
Thandiwe turns towards Kwena and barks, ‘Circus is over darling! Keep moving!’
But Kwena shoots back, ‘What makes you think I am here for a circus?’ She stands her ground with her hands on her hips.
‘Look, this is my turf, so you better get a move on before I see red,’ says Thandiwe, whose day is getting worse by the minute.
‘You can keep your turf, it’s you I want,’ replies Kwena, as she feels herself gaining some ground.
Thandiwe laughs so hard that her eyes begin to tear up. ‘No, no, no, little girl, I don’t do women! Never have and never will. Get your ass down to Candy over there. She will do you. She would do a cat if it could pay her for a fix.’
Kwena’s impatience is getting the better of her. She’s not big on begging so she deadpans her pretty face and says, straight to the point, ‘Look I’m no prostitute and I’m not looking for pussy, but I am looking to document the life of a prostitute in these streets.’ Her hand gestures up and down Rocky Street.
2008. Shameless. Scotsville: UKZN Press
2012. Do Not Go Gentle. Cape Town: Modjadji Books