Miriam Tlai

Miriam Tlali
Lifetime Achievement Literary Award
 Miriam Tlali was born in Doornfontein, Johannesburg in 1933 and grew up in Sophiatown. Tlali enrolled at the University of Witwatersrand, but was not admitted due to the reservation of positions for white students. She later went to University of Lesotho (then called Pius the XII University ), at Roma, but could not complete her studies due to financial difficulties. It was her employment as a bookkeeper at a Johannesburg furniture store that prompted her to write her first novel, Muriel at Metropolitan . Completed in 1969, the book was only published in 1975, and subsequently banned in 1979. An international version published by Longman African Classics, was based on her original manuscript titled Between Two Worlds . Tlali was co-founder and a contributor of Staffrider magazine, which aimed at providing an outlet for anti-apartheid creative writing by blacks and penned a regular column, “Soweto Speaking”.In 1978, Tlali was invited to an international writing program at Iowa State University and gave lectures at San Fransisco, Atlanta, Washington DC and New York . Amandla, a novel based on the 1976 Soweto riots, was published in 1980. It was well-received and sold a remarkable successful 5 000 copies in a few weeks, but was banned immediately thereafter. Both novels were translated into several other languages, including Dutch, Japanese, Polish and German. They were unbanned in 1986. Tlali wrote a play, Crimen Injuria, whilst on scholarship in the Netherlands, and it was presented both in Holland and the USA . Mihloti is a collection of short stories, interviews and non-fiction and was published in 1984 by Skotaville Press, a black publishing house of which she was the founding member. Footprints in the Quag was published initially as Soweto Stories by Pandora Press in 1989.Tlali was a visiting scholar at the Southern African Research Program at Yale University between 1989 and 1990. In 2001, she was honoured as the first African woman to publish a novel in South Africa by the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology. In 2005, she was again honoured by the Department as a recipient of their Literary Lifetime Achievement Award. As a member of the Women’s National Coalition, she assisted in drafting the Preamble to the South African Women’s Charter.

Tlali has played a pivotal role in the literary world and has traveled the world over to highlight the difficulties of being an African woman and writer. She is currently working on a multi-generation novel, Bleeding Shoulders, which represents the lives of black South African women during apartheid and the transition to democracy.


Footprints in the Quag, first published as Soweto Stories, Pandora, 1989
Mihloti, Skotaville Press, 1984
Amandla!, Ravan Press, 1980
Muriel at Metropolitan, changed to intended title, Between Two Worlds . Abridged publication, 1975. Full publication, Longman African Classics, 1979