Biography

I 'm a storyteller, I grew up listening to stories. Everything informs my writing... but I shall say travelling and living in different countries, between cultures and languages  has exposed me to the most incredible experiences. 






Beirut 1974
I'm a writer, educator and activist. I was born by Italian and Greek parents and raised in South Africa. I lived in several countries across Africa, Europe and Middle East.
Living between cultures and languages has shaped the person I am. Definelty growing up in South Africa during apartheid has informed all my life as a woman, writer, mother, educator and activist.

I have worked as a school facilitator in primary and secondary schools within multicultural educational programs. 
I have nearly twenty years of experience working with immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers from children to adults through my writing and theatre projects. 
I have published ten books. Children books: Il mondo a colori della famiglia BwanaVal (Kabiliana 2002), Jabuni e il mistero della città sommersa (EMI 2003), I nomi della pace Amani (EMI 2004), La Storia di Selma (KabilianaPress 2016), Le Fantastiche Storie di Ortensia (KabilianaPress 2016); novels Cercando Lidniwe (Epoché 2007  - KabilianaPress 2014), Il Viaggio capovolto (Epoché 2010); playwrights: Io donna immigrata - I immigrant Woman (EMI 2004), The Cut (KabilianaPress 2016); Poetry: L'Ottava Nota (Prospettiva 2002), Out (Kabiliana Press 2016); Essays: THE CUT Global Voices for Change to break the silence on Female Genital Mutilation (KabilianaPress 2016).
Some of my poems have been published on Munyeri, Alma, Magazine of Italian Studies in South Africa (UNISA) and Pambazuka.
I'm a free lance collaborator of several magazines: Alma, Warscapes, Munyeri, Pambazuka, AIA, IMO, Stilos


I am an active campaigner advocating to raise awareness on Female Genital Mutilation through media and education. I also deliver training programs to students, educators and communities using ART as a tool to create awareness and engage people to take action and make impact.

I'm the founder of the online magazine Kabiliana which promotes diversity in children and young adult's literature and promotes reading in low income communities by providing sustainable libraries.


I'm the founder of the EPOCHE' Art Educational Workshop working with with children, youth ad adults to address social issues in order to create platforms where to explore identity, culture, prejudices,  through which make impact and social changes. 

I'm working on a multimedia project with photo reporter Cinzia D'Ambrosi on Female Genital Mutilation. The project called Hidden Parallels aims to disclose and capture the impact of FGM on women and men in society.

I'm also co founding the online interactive platform  Invisible Cities that aims to explore the lives of ordinary people who live at the margins within a urban context starting from their dreams.



A WRITING LIFE


If I have to set a date of when I started writing I would probably say I was an early teenager. Going back in time and surfing the watery surface of memory I should say that my writing coincided with a turning point in my life, my immigrant experience, that change my life radically. At that point, writing served  as a way to heal and find a way to define who I was, my own identity.

At that time I wrote mainly poems.
At college, I had two wonderful professors who told me I should continue writing and is what I did,  also because I wouldn't really know what else to do.  It's true, the life of an artist is full of challenges, but I wouldn't be able to imagine myself other than that. 
I started seriously writing about social issues and soon became a journalist. I remember the day I bought an Olivetti 33 writing machine where I started my way out in the writing world. 
For many years I wrote stories, poems,  novels but never thought about publishing. I taught creative writing, I used writing as a healing tool working with marginalized people, especially women, people with addictions, immigrants, youth, elders.
It is when I got pregnant of my elder daughter that publishing came in my mind. Sixteen years have passed and I've published eleven books and three are on the way to be published within this year and many more are waiting to be finished.  Thank's to my published books I have traveled all over, met many colleagues, worked with wonderful people, started my work as a school facilitator in multicultural educational programs.
I grew up in South Africa during apartheid, that time the second most important person in my life was my nanny, Sera (to whom I dedicated a poem titled MOTHER which is in my last poetry collection OUT), who told me stories every single day making me dream but also opening my eyes on what South Africa was at the time. I owe her a lot. If it was not for her I wouldn't have known many things.

Two questions I'm often asked when I meet my readers: 

Where is "home" for you?
I consider the nomadic experience, transitioning from one place to another, from one experience to another, the essence of human condition. For this reason when I'm asked where is home, I say home is within me. I carry my roots within my identity, there's no place that I can call home because all the places I lived and experienced have been vital in my life. It's more interesting and challenging the idea of roots that you carry within yourself, than having to think of a fixed place. 

The other questions is What scares you most?
Stillness. I can't see myself without the dimension of the Journey either physical, emotional or intellectual. 

Valentina Mmaka is a writer friends of the forests.

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