Meet Penrose

From Enslaved Boy to Goat Herder to Hero

On a desperate quest for his identity, Penrose confronts a dangerous world. Will he reclaim his past before the shadows seal his fate?

About Finding Penrose
The Story
Finding Penrose strapline

Allow me to tear you away from that downpour of digital noise on your endless social feed. Let me whisk you away to a stifling hot African hut. 

Your destination... Basutoland, in the heart of Africa.

The sun’s burning down on your head, there’s barely a breath of wind sneaking between the trees, yet, only meters away, elephant hunters are stalking the arid Savannah close to a little boy's mud hut.

Scared? That’s how 12-year-old Tiki Penrose Matsile felt when, in 1922, his innocent world of looking forward to his manhood initiation was ripped apart. Instead of taking the long-awaited ceremony, Penrose was enslaved as a goat herder and spent the rest of his life searching for his identity.

Permit me to fast-forward you to that boy's incredible story...

Finding Penrose

Set against the rich, cultural backdrop of South African history, Finding Penrose tells the story of an extraordinary man who lived most of his life without an identity, finally receiving his documents just a year before his passing. 

Inspired by true events and based on real life characters, this heart-warming novel and equally dramatic screenplay delves into Penrose's courage, explores his search for belonging, the bittersweet joy of rediscovering his past, and the enduring legacy he left behind. It touched me deeply while writing it as I recalled the years of growing up with this wonderful man. I even shed tears when I wrote some parts of his story, and especially the poignant ending!

Based On A True Story

Based On A True Story

This story started its life as a memoir, but I quickly realized that this wasn't a memoir because it wasn't about me. It's about Penrose.

It's based on his true story, with some parts fictionalized to fit a dramatized story structure. That means I had to resist the urge to write myself into a starring role. No matter how tempted I was to paint myself as the dashing heroine! At the end of the day, this story needed to shine the spotlight on the man who lived an extraordinarily inspiring life.

Penrose passed away one year after receiving his ID and finding out his age and Miss Ad throwing him his "first birthday party." To this day, he is remembered with great love and affection by all Miss Ad's family, her children, and their children. I like to think he's still weaving imaginative tales in the great beyond.

When I was twenty and just learning about creative writing, I promised Penrose that I would write his story. Now, finally forty years later, it is written (Sorry for the delay, Pen! But I hope it was worth the wait!)

 Finding Penrose - the story has taken 40 years

Sharing Penrose's Incredible Story

It's a story told with deep respect and an abiding love for my African 'grandfather', who helped to raise more than 50 children in Miss Ad's (my grandmother's) extended family.

A man of peace and goodwill, of kindness and generosity, of love and loyalty that went far beyond a sense of duty.  

Now it's time to share Penrose's incredible tale. His quiet courage in overcoming unthinkable hardship can inspire us today. By supporting this project, you'll help bring his real-life story from the shadows into the light. I like to think Penrose is cheering us on from beyond.

A small person. A giant of a man. Penrose Tiki Matsile will never be forgotten.

This story may resonate with you because the inequality of people around the world is still happening today. Long after Penrose's story ends. But his enduring spirit prevails.

I hope you'll join me in honouring his legacy with a story that reminds us, no matter how dark the night, the human spirit can shine bright. 

Here's the story...

Finding Penrose


In 1922, a young Sesotho boy, on the brink of manhood, is ripped from his home, after witnessing his father's brutal murder, and escapes the clutches of slavery with amnesia and only his name. Under the oppressive South African apartheid, every step is a risk for a young man without an identity.

Haunted by the scars of trauma, Penrose finds sanctuary with a white family in apartheid South Africa, but without an identity, every step is fraught with danger. Torn between loyalty and his own burning desire for freedom, Penrose embarks on a dangerous quest to reclaim his past while risking everything to protect his newfound family. 

As he navigates the treacherous landscape of racial tension and hidden secrets, Penrose uncovers a painful truth that forces him to confront his destiny. Risking his life to shield a friend from a mob's violence unlocks a flood of buried memories, forcing him to redefine what it means to be courageous.

Penrose's life-long fight for identity leaves an indelible mark, his courage and resilience resonating across generations, a testament to the enduring spirit that thrives even in the darkest shadows.

Similar Stories to Finding Penrose

Comparable Stories

Stories that explore resilience and social justice have long struck a chord with audiences and driven impactful change. Films like "12 Years a Slave" reached over 120 million viewers worldwide, sparking crucial conversations about racial injustice. Uplifting stories like "The Pursuit of Happyness" and "The Blind Side" inspired audiences and highlighted the power of perseverance. Literary works like "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "The Help" have reached millions, igniting empathy and influencing education.

Recent films like "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" and "Hidden Figures" garnered acclaim for shedding light on critical issues like renewable energy access and women's rights in STEM. And productions like "Hamilton" and "Driving Miss Daisy" delivered bold social commentary to sold-out crowds.

Finding Penrose fact and fiction

Fact & Fiction

As mentioned above, while Finding Penrose is a work of fiction, it is inspired by and based on true events and real people. The late Penrose Matsile's courageous life story during the apartheid era in South Africa provided the foundation for this tale. His uplifting spirit and lack of formal identity documents until just before his passing are faithfully reflected.

However, some fictional elements were necessary for full dramatization. As publishers and producers require compelling narrative arcs, the story could not remain just a collection of heart-warming anecdotes. Even if those snippets of Penrose's life were inspiring enough for a hundred films! To me, anyway.

Additionally, some parts of Penrose's life remained unknown, since he sadly could not be consulted. But I can just imagine how he's chuckling over the liberties taken to spice up the storyline.

So while imagined narrative and characters enrich the storytelling, Finding Penrose stays true to the essence of this remarkable man and the formidable Miss Ad. Their perseverance through oppressive conditions and uplifting outlook in the face of adversity are authentic. This story aims to pay respectful homage to their real-life resilience that went beyond any fiction.

An example of a Dompass as featured in Finding Penrose

The Dompass

In South Africa's history of apartheid, African people were required to carry a government-issued "Dompass" – a passbook controlling their movement and residence. The Dompass was an example of denying Africans their very personhood and sense of selfhood.

Without this document, Penrose faced severe challenges. He couldn't legally live or work in white areas, access essential services, or freely travel the country he called home. Finding his identity and obtaining a Dompass became crucial, not just for his past, but for navigating his present and future in a society grappling with the legacy of segregation. 

At its core, his tale serves as a powerful reminder that throughout history, authoritarian regimes have tried to strip away the basic rights and freedoms of certain groups through institutionalized discrimination and segregation based on race, ethnicity, religion, or other markers of identity. 

Even today, with apartheid thankfully abolished, Penrose's experience resonates with the countless individuals around the world who remain stateless, undocumented, or deprived of legal recognition due to conflict, displacement, or systemic injustice. His struggle to simply exist and move freely is a solemn reflection of the harsh realities that still face refugees, migrants, and persecuted minorities globally.

Finding Penrose will connect with a global audience who recognize the struggles for identity, the fight against injustice, and the desire for a world where everyone can belong.

Overall, Penrose's story transcends borders and cultures to touch the hearts and minds of people worldwide, offering valuable insights, inspiration, and a powerful reminder of the ongoing quest for justice, dignity, and human rights for all.

(The image alongside shows an example of a Dompass as featured in Finding Penrose.)

Additional Features
Book to Film

The most important reason I wanted to be involved with producing my script is because this story is very important to me. I didn’t want a producer optioning the script and then turning the characters into people they were not. Especially the main characters in the story, who are Penrose and Miss Ad, who were members of my family.

Music Wish List

I would love to use 'Hold On Tight' by Aloe Blacc because his voice is the kind that Penrose loved. And because the lyrics would be so powerful during certain parts of the story.

Kickstarter Campaign

I'm choosing crowdfunding not just for funding (because my publishing house is publishing the book), but for the opportunity to directly connect with readers and build a passionate community around Finding Penrose