Photo: Michelle Nkamankeng
Foreword: This Michelle Nkamankeng article is a part of the Rebrand Africa Initiative which is a joint partnership between Hollywood Insider and philanthropic Humans of our World Foundation. Unlike ‘fake charity marketing’ campaigns carried out by the majority of western media, Africa is a vibrant, beautiful and prosperous continent that is full of talented, ambitious, and innovative people – and Hollywood Insider will continue to showcase the best of the real Africa.
When you were a kid, it felt like anything was possible. You could be anything you wanted to be and the responsibilities of adult life seemed far away on another planet. For 11-year-old Michelle Nkamankeng, that big dream was realized pretty early on. At just seven years old, Nkamankeng made history in 2016 when she released her first book, a beach adventure titled “Waiting For The Waves”. Yes, you read that correctly, she published her first book at age seven. There seems to be no stopping Nkamankeng, who is the epitome of what it means to reach for the stars. I’d say she has a very promising future ahead of herself!
The Book Read ‘Round The World
The beginning of Nkamankeng’s story begins at a bookstore. While visiting a local bookstore, she quickly realized that all the children’s books crowding the shelves weren’t written by children. Instead, they came from adults trying to gauge the point of view of kids. Most kids probably wouldn’t think twice about a thing like that. Instead, they would go about their day and read whatever book is presented to them. But Michelle is obviously not like most kids. After her journey in the bookstore, Michelle felt like it was her mission to let her voice be heard, because if adults can do it then why can’t kids!
Nkamankeng explained to Global Citizen, “I was like, why can’t children also explore and share their own stories with the world, for the world to hear their voices and see their imaginations. Through telling your story, you can inspire the world and you can make people realize that they can also do more in the world.” Pretty wise words from the now 11-year-old from Johannesburg.
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“Waiting For The Waves”, released in 2016, made Nkamankeng one of the top ten youngest authors in the world, and South Africa’s youngest! She teams up with Megan Venter who illustrates the beach escapade, which follows the coexisting love and fear of the ocean’s big waves. Though they weren’t released until later, Michelle completed two additional books in her projected series by just the age of six. Can’t say I was doing the same thing at six years old. In 2019, at ten years old, her second book “The Little Girl Who Believes In Herself” was released.
The book is a continuation of her first release, discussing themes of gender stereotypes and what it means for young girls to truly believe in their ability to conquer anything. Can you believe all of this is coming from an 11-year-old? It’s safe to say she is wise beyond her years, and there’s nothing better than children feeling inspired and wanting to make a change. That is what Michelle is doing with these books, whether she realizes it or not. She is shaping children’s lives, enriching them with a voice among their very own peer group, and letting them know that anything is possible if you have a little faith.
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Michelle Nkamankeng’s Inspirations and Motivations
With two new books in the process of being published (“The Little Mouse” and “The Golden Ring”) Michelle Nkamankeng truly has a lot on her plate. Award-winning author is not the only hat she wears (she was named the inaugural winner of the 2016 Girl of Promise Mbokodo Award) however, she is also an avid reader, motivational speaker, and budding activist. Does it really get better than that? I do not think so. Born in Johannesburg, Michelle has three other siblings–Sheena, Shawn and Marion. When she began school, just at age four, it became clear quite quickly just how much Michelle loved to read. While learning herself just how much she loved to read, she simultaneously began to realize the power of reading and writing.
Michelle told Global Citizen, “Reading is important because it can take you to different places, it can also help you learn more words and help you have a better understanding of the world. I learnt how to write because I read books, and I gain confidence to be able to speak to a lot of people because of reading.”
Aiming to empower more young kids to dig deep and use their voices for good, she started the Michelle Nkamankeng Foundation in 2016 (with some help from mom/manager Lolo Nkamankeng, of course). The foundation focuses on inspiring kids Michelle’s own age to really take stock of the literary works they consume. Through the books, she read Michelle was able to pluck up the courage to turn it into something even more meaningful, with a book, scratch that multiple books, that challenge stereotypes and help kids to be a little more aware of the bigger, more adult things in life. She writes about things like gender norms, and the power of questioning why they are there in the first place. Michelle writes about how young girls deserve to feel empowered, and unafraid to step up and do whatever it is they want in life, no matter who or what tries to tear them down. A lesson I think we should all learn!
Michelle explained to Global Citizen, “Boys tend to like overpowering girls,” she states. “They will tell you that you are not stronger than them, you cannot do this. I want little girls to rise up and realize that they are also strong and they can achieve the same things as boys do, so we can all be balanced and be valued the same.”
Just the fact that she is able to grasp and expand upon an idea so valid and recurring today in society is amazing. It just goes to show that children should never be underestimated, instead, we should pour all of our best resources into them, seeing as they are the future. Kids like Michell Nkamankeng are the future, and we are on the edge of our seat just waiting to see what amazing project she releases next!
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