Ethnikids Co-founder Khumo Tapfumaneyi takes us through literature and representation

We’re lucky to have Ethnikids’ Co-founder Khumo Tapfumaneyi agree to chat to us about her journey. I have been following the EthniKids journey for a while. It almost borders on stalking the ladies and just fan-girling on them and their brilliant work. EthniKids is an online bookstore which specialises in books that have characters of colour and in different South African languages. Before Covid-19, I had attended some of their African Storytelling sessions and author/book signings and readings. So, it has always been in my plans to sit down and get to know one of five women who are the founders of this amazing company.

Meet Co-founder of Ethnikids Khumo Tapfumaneyi, a passionate woman who prides herself in everything that she does through her work with children’s literature.

Khumo Tapfumaneyi Ethnikids co-founder

Bookamoso Book Club (BBC): Please tell us what your role is in EthniKids and the journey EthniKids has been on since its inception.

Khumo Tapfumaneyi (KT): My role at EthniKids is Sales and Marketing Director. The business was born out of passion by five Mommy friends. We wanted to create something that didn’t exist for our children. A bookstore that only sells children’s books that feature characters that look like them- in our home languages! There are currently three active members. Myself, Mpho- who is in charge of operations and logistics, and Tina who is charge of finance and compliance. We started out as a subscription-based service that grew into an online bookstore and then some! It has been a very interesting journey.

BBC: What are the challenges that came with running a business as a side hustle with friends?
KT: The biggest challenge has been time management. We all have our own personal responsibilities. So, making time for EthniKids-with everything that life requires from us has been testing at times. But what has enabled us to survive is the support and honesty we get from one another. We also have differing strengths, so it hasn’t been a lonely mission!

BBC: Why do you think representation is important for our children?

KT: We live in a diverse world, and it worried us that when it came to children’s books many children’s narratives were being excluded! It’s important for our children’s self-image to see themselves and people that look like them in the stories they read and media they consume. Our children need to know that they matter, and they matter so much that they are featured in books. It’s also important for children of other races to see diversity in their books. To understand more about other cultures, the real world, and to breed tolerance. We have a literacy crisis in South Africa, the majority of children are not showing any interest in reading. We need to present them with material that they can identify and relate with to spark that love of reading.

BBC: What books would you recommend to a parent trying to get their child into reading for pleasure?

KT: Tough question! It depends on the child’s age and interests. My recommendation would be to visit the Ethnikids website for the widest range of inclusive and diverse children’s books in South Africa. We have a collection of comic books, story books, colouring books with text, history books, and audio books. We categorise everything according to age and language to make it easier to navigate.

BBC: What can we expect from EthniKids post Covid-19?

KT: One thing Covid-19 has taught us is not to be too attached to the plans we make! Before this, we were big on events and had experimented with a physical bookstore. All I can say now is we have learnt to be adaptable and will move along with the world in whatever form it takes post-Covid-19! We stay committed to promoting literacy, supporting authors, representation and reading in our mother tongues.

BBC: What are you reading during this lockdown?

KT: I read a lot of children’s books for EthniKids, and for my little one. What I am reading for me is a book called ‘That will never work’. The birth of Netflix and the amazing life of an idea’ by co-Founder and first CEO of Netflix Marc Randolph. Fascinating!

Remember to follow EthniKids on their social media platforms. Head on over to their website to check out and order from their huge selection of local and international books on www.ethnikids.co.za.

Thank you for reading the interview by Omphile Raleie