His love for, and belief in the use of science is infectious! South African Author and Filmmaker Kissinger Nkosinathi Sibanda, is the first African born writer of a major work in hardcore science fiction involving physics (time travel). The Founder of Proteus Film and with an impressive collection of literary works to his name, he is also an acclaimed Speaker on human rights, leadership and science fiction.
In this interview, Ken Sibanda dispenses advice on managing diverse pursuits, writing tips, the dearth of science in Africa and the one thing that is most needful to would-be entrepreneurs.
Have a beautiful week ahead and keep rising!
KA: Kindly share your name, family and ethnicity: We notice your biography bills you as an ‘American’ Attorney?
My name is Kissinger Nkosinathi Sibanda. My parents named me after former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. I am a naturalized American citizen.
I was born in Transkei South Africa in the Qunu communal lands to a Lemba father and mother. My father, Andrew Ziti Sibanda, was Xhosa speaking and as such the house spoke Xhosa; my mother (Lucia nee Taruvinga) was Shona speaking – my mother was born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). I am the sixth of seven children. My middle name means “Emmanuel” in any of the languages Mpondo (Xhosa) or Zulu. I am of Lemba-Jewish stock and our oral tradition is that we come from the tribe of Judah. My last name ‘Sibanda’ is a synonym for lion used by Africans in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
I have family in both South Africa and Zimbabwe.
My family has many friendships and familial relations with the Mpondo (Xhosa) tribe because we share the same totem with them – the elephant; and there are aspects of Mpondo culture that are Jewish ( like blowing the shofars in Mpondo music for example) and ceremonial circumcision. The Mpondo like the Lemba, stand apart and do not like to dilute their heritage, even with other Xhosas! The shofar is a very important instrument to the Jewish people. My father liked to say, Mpondo nguLembana: The Mpondo are similar to us the Lemba.
KA: Why/When did you did emigrate?
I migrated to the United States to attend a writing class at Columbia University in New York in 1997. After this I wrote a series of articles and got a book contract to write a book called “Building Bridges: Confronting the Gap Between Black Africans and African Americans.”
I hold a law degree from the University of London and a Masters from Temple Law. The first was achieved with honors.
KA: Choice of Career and Career path
Look, I am a Film Director first and foremost. My legal profession was the basis for being able to support my family and so I applied myself and did the best work I could. Law is an enjoyable profession especially when you have a good set of facts.
In more concrete terms, I am comfortable being known as a movie director only. The rest is history as they say.
KA: As the author of seven  works of literature I daresay you have achieved success as an author?
Thank you. Success is the feeling that you have helped in creating a body of collective thought. I am thankful to God for that gift.
KA: Do share 5 of the best advice on writing you have ever received.
This cannot be said enough, but write what you know – is the first one. A lawyer writes better when writing about the law. Write every day. Pay attention to rules of basic construction. Don’t try to be like someone else – be comfortable in your own skin.
Be patient and don’t get envious and hurtful about other writers and start writing criticism which in fact is an expression of your deep jealousy and are not a reflection of what the other person has humbly written. Love other writers even if you think you can do a better job ( you again don’t have to think their work is amazing but enjoy their company in social circles), this is the community you must strive and survive in.
KA: You have also achieved success as a Constitutional Lawyer; kindly share a few memorable moments of your Law practise?
The advocacy of African Jewish rights as a freedom of speech issue in Israel, which is on going with the Chief Israeli Rabbi.
KA: What advice would you give to those seeking to follow your steps in law practise?
My advice is to look for an internship as soon as possible while in law school. And don’t be aggressive with other attorneys even if they are on the other side of the proceedings. The practice of law is adversarial but the success of practicing law does not come from being adversarial but cooperative. For example, you should be prepared to give the other side facts that are favorable to their case (The Brady Letter in the US).
KA: Do share with us the vision and mission behind your company, Proteus Film and your interest in filmmaking and directing?
We are a movie producing company. I started writing at about nine and gradually worked myself into the film industry. Also, as an advice to writers start young and write small pieces at first – poems and short stories, that’s the basis of good writing trust me.
KA: What essentials should one consider before embarking on such an entrepreneurial venture?
Passion. No matter how great an idea you have if you are not passionate about it you will fail or you will fail to come back from a setback.
KA: So, how do you marry these diverse pursuits? Are you an expert at Time management or simply a Jack of all trades?
[Laughing] I have done things from age nine. So I have new material that I am writing and it is not realistic to assume I am doing this all at once. At direct times in my life I focused on different aspects of my portfolio. If you look closely from 2001 to about 2011 I did not write any new work, this is the time I was a law student and concentrated on the law. You have to learn how to do one thing at a time with all your heart at that time. Don’t multitask and don’t be a Jack of all trades. Don’t try to use your work to be famous, just do the work and concentrate; and have fun. It’s like a man with many wives; they don’t jump into the same bed all at once.
KA: What stoked your passion for science and science fiction?
I always liked science; in my final “A” Levels in Zimbabwe, where I did my High schooling, I was a pre-med major and took Math, Physics and Chemistry.
KA: Why is there a dearth of science fiction from Africa?
The main problem is that Africans are perceived as not being intellectual enough to advance science. And Africans themselves, I think, we concentrate too much on liberal arts and get caught up with irrelevant details. Right now there is a big debate on South African President Zuma’s Nkandla house – South Africa should be debating the merits of a space program! To achieve scientific objectives as a nation is different from having a few scientific individuals. But you see, the part of the brain that debates is the liberal part, the scientific problem solving part is the one that suggests practical solutions. If you are trained to debate – you debate! Africa needs a science revival from all sectors of society.
- Vindicator (unfinished)
- All Roads Lead to Rome
- Colony Venus
- The Triangle
- The Lemba
- Blood Rhodesia
The Tragic Circumstances of 1948….2015
Bass Reeves is Coming…………..2015
The Return to Gibraltar………..2011
The Songs of Soweto………….2001
If God was a poet……………..1996
Books are available on Amazon here.
KA: Kindly inspire young Africans in one sentence…
Study science and apply that to Africa’s many problems.