Based on true events, Eyes in the Night, An Untold Zulu Story, tells the tale of Nombhosho okaMakhoba, a young girl whose life is unravelled by the ravages of the Anglo-Zulu war and the Battle of Isandlwana. The book is written by Nombhosho’s granddaughter, Nomavenda Mathiane, a journalist working in Johannesburg, who stumbled upon her grandmother’s story when mention was made of it at her mother’s funeral. In a 2016 interview, Nomavenda talks of how per parents had protected their children from this dark family history:
They didn’t ask about it. It was too painful to talk about. But more than that, I’ve discovered they didn’t want us to know what our grandmother went through, because as they say, it will drive us straight into the liberation army movement.
Dispossessed of her home, and with her family separated, Nomavenda’s grandmother survived by hiding in caves, and eating roots and berries, scavenging for rats for meat. Nomavenda compares her grandmother’s story to that of German Holocaust survivor, Anne Frank.
The story, which is told from the perspective of Nombhosho as a child, was collated through intensive research, with Nomavenda going to back to her grandmother’s place of birth and listening to the stories of locals, as well as family members. In the tradition of the Ulwazi Programme, Eyes in the Night, provides a written record of what might otherwise have been lost in the annals of history.