Makhosazana Xaba is originally from Greytown, Kwazulu Natal but presently lives and works in Johannesburg. Amongst her various qualifications she holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from Wits University. She is a political activist, and a qualified psychiatric nurse and midwife. Xaba is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Johannesburg.
Her deep interest in gender issues and violence against LGBTQ communities have put her at the epicentre of national and international NGOs and media organisations. She is engaged in ongoing research on the life and work of author and journalist Noni Jabavu, and supported Amazwi's development of an exhibition on Jabavu.
Xaba’s writing reaches through many genres: poetry, short stories, children’s books, anthologies and literary history. In addition to her many books she has been widely published in anthologies and literary journals. Internationally, her poems have been translated into six different languages. Her poetry collections include The Art Of Waiting For Tales (2021), The Alkalinity of Bottled Water (2019), Tongues Of Their Mothers (2008) and These Hands (2005 and 2017). Her fiction includes Running and Other Stories (2013) and children's books in English and isiZulu.
Clare Wyllie writes in Agenda that to 'encounter Makhosazana Xaba’s poetry is to enter a space where an activist past and engagement with current social problems are refracted through a unique personal vision that is sharp, witty and ripe with experience.'
Myesha Jenkins, a fellow poet who sadly passed in 2020, ran a programme on SAfm titled Poetry on the Air. On 25 August 2014 Jenkins hosted Makhosazana Xaba. Xaba said that her focus on women’s work in life is necessitated by the fact that so much of women’s work is invisible even when it is right in front of our eyes.
The South African Literary Awards (SALA) awarded the Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award to Makhosazana Xaba for her collection Running and Other Stories in 2014. The title story also won the Deon Hofmeyr Prize for Creative Writing in 2005, and in 2014 was anthologised in 20 Best Short Stories of South Africa’s Democracy.
Makhosazana Xaba has compiled and edited a number of collections of poetry, short fiction and life stories. These include Queer Africa: New and Collected Fiction (2013) and Queer Africa 2: New Stories (2017), both edited with Karen Martin, Proudly Malawian: Life Stories from Lesbian and Gender-Nonconforming Individuals (2016) which was compiled and edited with Crystal Biruk, and Like the Untouchable Wind: An Anthology of Poems (2016). This volume was translated into Spanish by Arrate Hidalgo and Lawrence Schimel and published as Como el viento intocable. These anthologies focus on Xaba’s work in the areas of women’s rights, gender and anti-bias training in the struggle against violence against LGBTQ communities. The first Queer Africa volume won the Lambda Literary Award that celebrates vibrant, dynamic LGBTQ storytelling for the fiction anthology category in 2014
Xaba also contributed an introduction to a new edition of a little-known anthology of poetry by women members of the African National Congress. The original publication, Malibongwe: ANC Women Speak: Poetry is also their Weapon, was published in Germany in 1981 and edited by the late Lindiwe Mabuza. The anthology includes poems by Mabuza as well as the former speaker of Parliament, Baleka Mbete, amongst other poets, all serving the ANC in exile. In her introduction to the new edition, Xaba mentions that she herself served the ANC in Lusaka, where several of the poets were based. The new edition Malibongwe: Poems from the Struggle by ANC Women was published by Uhlanga in 2020.
Our Words, Our Worlds: Writing on Black South African Women Poets, 2000-2018, edited by Xaba, is a ground-breaking, multi-genre anthology that brings together the writings of over 20 contributors through literary critique, personal essays and interviews. The book tells the story of the seismic shift that transformed national culture through poetry and is the first of its kind to explore the history and impact of poetry by black women, in their own voices. It straddles the disciplines of literary theory, feminism, the history of the book and politics, and thus uses interdisciplinarity to decolonise literary culture.
Xaba is engaged in an ongoing academic research project on the life and work of pioneering black woman author and journalist Helen Nontando (Noni) Jabavu. Xaba thus actively supports the work of black women writers with both a historic and a contemporary emphasis.
On The Poetry Archive, Xaba indicates that to her, writing is necessary because it gives a historical perspective to these problems, to speak and to ‘listen to the voices that come’. She often references specific dates and news stories in accordance to the feminist political activist poet Adrienne Rich’s decision to date poems as 'a declaration that placed poetry in a historical continuity, not above or outside history'. Xaba states that we 'must write as much as possible for future generations to understand'.
Xaba has been putting forward the writing of black women writers even more boldly in projects to make found poetry from South African women’s writing. So far, she has published poetry emanating from the work of Lauretta Ngcobo, Barbara Boswell’s Grace, Mohale Mashigo’s novel The Yearning and Lindiwe Mabuza’s Preface to Malibongwe.
In the preface to The Art of Waiting for Tales Xaba says that her work in this manner, 'is a manifestation of what it means to show up for one another as Black women writers. It is a product of a political imagination. This is the kind of imagination that has a higher purpose than an individualised creativity and focus on oneself; it reaches out and pays tribute to the community of writers and readers, and therefore it is a political initiative. It is political-and-feminist because it prioritises another woman’s writing and consequently builds a text-founded bridge of a feminist sisterhood and solidarity'.