Thursday, November 30, 2017


The literary fraternity has been reeling with the recent death of Flaxman Qoopane, a long standing flamboyant journalist, author, poet, and literary activist.

The award winning, incredibly prolific writer, Chief O Bolaji, whilst wrapped in sorrow over Qoopane’s death, briefly went down memory lane this week as he reflected on his close association with the late writer over the decades.  Bolaji said.

"When I first arrived in South Africa over 20 years ago Qoopane was the one who took me under his wing, showing me the ropes as it were. We were so close that many people used to refer to us as twins! Qoopane himself used to say that I was the only real friend he had.

“But this was not strictly true of course, as he was a friendly man, ebullient and effervescent to boot, with so many people he was quite close to. There was the great Gilbert Modise for one; and other people strutting their stuff in arts and culture.

“But it was true that in terns of working together and letting our hairs down too, I was the closest to him,” Bolaji continued. “ Professionally we worked on countless stories, news, articles, features and the like. We wrote for publications like Next, Realtime, Hola, Daily Sun, Mangaung News, Free State News, Kopanang, E and E magazine…

Bolaji laughed lightly, going on:  “You know he (Qoopane) was a born journalist. His glee knew no bounds after his writings came out in any publication – he would issue whoops of delight and canter around like the free spirit he was. He meticulously kept hundreds of stories we wrote over the years; whilst I do not even have just one, myself now!

“As regards relaxation, we did that a lot. He was so generous that whenever any remuneration came in he would insist on buying us drinks first with his own share of the money. We would go to many joints or centres, enjoy beers and fine food (laughing). He has written about this in some of his books like Adventures in Journalism

“We’ll return to the books presently, but I must also stress that he used to be something of a ladies’ man too… as he was so famous,” Bolaji pointed out. “He knew I was very shy but yet he would introduce ladies to me and encourage them to follow me to my place…with that prodding, authoritative baritone voice of his!”

Talking about books, Bolaji stressed: “As for Qoopane’s books, he published over ten of them, more or less all of them important for historical, scholarly, sociological or journalistic reasons. The books included A poet abroad, The Conference, Macufe 2001 and his favourite work, Reneiloe-Mpho’s story which involved his beloved daughter, now a beautiful young woman. I will give you a full list of his books at the end…”

“To be honest, I would need a book to talk about Mr Qoopane, but let me just stress two other things briefly. Firstly at the latter part of his life he was blessed with a wonderful wife, Mme Emily (a writer herself), who gave him much happiness. Secondly, he was a very versatile, finicky, punctilious writer; he published biographies, fiction, criticism, poetry, general works, and lots more. His departure is horrific for arts and culture”

- Feature by Dan Xangaza


A Poet Abroad
Memoirs of a Cultural Activist
Adventures in Journalism
Reneiloe-Mpho's story
Macufe 2001
Women of Talent
Gilbert Modise: the man and the myth
View from my Window
Omoseye Bolaji: Perspectives on his literary work
The Conference
City of Roses and Literary Icons
Scintillating stars from the vibrant soil

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

MINE BOY. By Peter Abrahams

The importance of this early novel from any black or coloured African in the pantheon of African literature can not be over emphasized. Pa Abrahams who sadly died this year after glimpsing becoming a Centenarian was a very good perceptive writer with sensitivity. 
Despite growing up in the hell of a racist enclave – where blacks were considered very inferior - he always managed to write from the “human” point of view with restraint and civility and great intelligence. This is obvious in this work as we zero in on Xuma and his metamorphosis into a man and thinker over the years. From a very simple, naïve country bumpkin he attains awareness late on in a way that would strike clanging chords among all readers…as it did over the decades, with the world realizing how “apartheid’ was a horrific, unbearable thing in South Africa. 
And the work is a fine read too, right from the beginning as Xuma arrives at Malay camp, gets to mix with a medley of people…he gets a job in the Mines and is struck with the way the life of whites – with their many comforts and appurtenants – contrasts sordidly with the life of blacks. Why should whites be free and drink liberally whilst blacks were constrained to carry passes in the land of their birth? And also arrested for selling and drinking “local drink”?
Leah, the powerful ‘Skokiaan queen’ is a splendid woman and somewhat takes the naïve Xuma under her wing. His initial naivety is charming, and his great strength very impressive too. Life would have been fairly okay if not for all the constrictive structures of racism in society. The descriptions are beguiling and unforgettable here, including the colourful weekends in the townships! Hark at the dancing sequences, coquetry, flirting and drinking. 
Xuma himself is not celibate as the story unfolds, and he is very much entranced and “in love” with Eliza who is presented as beautiful; but conflicted and eccentric as she “craves for the fine things of the whites” which she can never have. It is a haunting, somber aspect and we are happy for Xuma as things initially go well between him and Eliza - till she disappears! Eliza has gone…Yet the other woman, Maisy, is always there for Xuma and understands him and handles her own frustration with extraordinary selflessness and maturity. 
Xuma begins to think about things, and the irony is that it is a white man, Paddy, who conscientizes him and lets him fully realize that one should not believe in racial superiority or otherwise, and the “good things of life” should be for everybody, not only whites. That all men should be free and equal. If only it were so…the whole idea grips Xuma and he begins to think along these lines…man as man, never mind colour or race…goodness and fairness and freedom!
It is the making of Xuma, as a series of undesirable and tragic events unfold in the last part of the work. Xuma leads a rebellion in the mines at the end and is none the worse for it,; he is ready to settle down with Maisy at last (once he has left jail). This is grim and halcyon at the same time. A wonderful work indeed.
- Malome Eric

Friday, October 13, 2017

A SIMPLE LUST. By Denis Brutus

Denis Brutus, from southern Africa, was a very polished, assiduous poet. Think about "difficult" rather academic African poets – e.g Lenrie Peters, Wole Soyinka, Dambudzo Marechera - and most would surely plump for Brutus as belonging to this category. This early work of his clearly shows why most categorize him as a "protest poet" which was understandable in view of the egregious, horrifying apartheid system that held sway during that time in his homeland. Brutus created superb poetry despite all these strictures, and African poetry is the better for it. The celebrated poem, "A troubador I traverse..." showcases the poet at his best, as a sublime, subtle versifier. But this collection is redolent with all the accoutrements of fine poetry - personification, rhymes, stunning rhythms, litotes, metaphor, simile, and the entire gamut. An early giant of African poetry, Mr Brutus. Sadly, a few years ago, he and another poet of such ilk, Kofi Awoonor, breathed their last.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

BILAKHULU! By Vonani Bila

Vonani Bila is one of the most accomplished poets from South Africa, never mind being a black man with exceedingly humble roots. Over the years he has published many works of poetry and generally encouraged and published loads of other authors; churning out a plethora of poetic anthologies in the process. His published works include the following: I love Ohazurike, In the name of Amandla , Magicstan fires, Pension money The girl with a golden tooth, Magweya, Mali ya mudende, and Handsome Jita : selected poems by Fred Vonani Bila.

Bilakhulu! : longer poems
by Fred Vonani Bila is of course the very latest work which showcases the poet at the peak of his creativity and work. The poems are generally long and encapsulate the gamut of human experience, including Bila’s own roots and antecedents. He has not forgotten his beginnings as he writes here:

I grew up in a mud hut
Drank water from the wells
Slept on the itchy majekejeke mat on a cowdung-smeared floor
At 10, I was still wetting myself in the night
The millipede powder couldn’t stop the habit either
I showered from a plastic basin
Often used a water-filled mug to wipe my face
And extinguished the rotten rat wreaking havoc in my armpits

Readers of Bila’s poetry over the years know that he does not shy away from polemics, or the chilling violence and death often associated with South Africa over the decades. A harrowing feature has always been the way women can be horrifically killed, tortured, raped and killed, mainly in the townships, and elsewhere in the country. One experiences pathos and horror as we read:

The girl with dark-liquid eyes
Song-bird, leader of the church choir
Eagles discovered her this morning
Lying in a pool of blood
Skirt torn apart, a rag
Her throat throttled
Her sharp, pointed breasts missing
Virgin girl, now a frozen corpse

Mr Vonani Bila started writing poetry as a very young man and he is very much a cosmopolitan writer, academic, man of letters, publisher et al, these days. This new work of his is an accretion of his life and work, sundry personal and vicarious experiences, distilled into malleable, wholesome poetry. Kudos to him!
-         - Malome Eric

Friday, September 22, 2017


By Akeem Lasisi (PUNCH, Nigeria)

The Christopher Okigbo Foundation rallied family and friends and of legendary poet, Christopher Okigbo, to the University of Ibadan (Nigeria), where the 50th anniversary of his death has been marked.
The legacies of poet and activist, Christopher Okigbo (pix, above), were celebrated in Ibadan this week, when the Okigbo Foundation held the 50th anniversary of his death.
Okigbo, author of acclaimed poetry volumes, Labyrinth and Path of Thunder, died on the battle field, fighting on the side of Biafra during the Nigerian Civil War.

At the event held at the University of Ibadan, writers, especially Okigbo’s contemporaries such as Profs. Wole Soyinka, JP Clark, Chukwuemeka Ike and Dan Izevbaye, noted that his contribution to the growth of literature in the country and beyond was enormous.

Some of them, however, situated his adventures in the country’s struggle for identity, justice and progress.

According to Soyinka, Okigbo lived his life on conviction. The Nobel laureate said that he was not just an activist, but also someone who put his life on the line.
He also described Okigbo as a “multi-variant and a renaissance person.

Expressing worries that Nigeria was still stranded in the kind of situation in which Okigbo died, he said, “It’s telling that his anniversary is taking place at a critical period for us as a nation. We are confronting a choice brought up by mis-governance, leadership alienation and lack of opportunities. We are moving slowly, intermittently out of a menace called Boko Haram but which is now being succeeded by cattle rearers who feel they own every square inch of the nation.”

At the programme attended by Profs. Kole Omotosho, Remi Raji and The NEWS publisher, Mr. Kunle Ajibade, Soyinka expressed regret about the Indigenous People of Biafra issue, as well as the military’s reaction,  saying there must be a way out of what he called the periodic cycle of stupidity that overtakes the country again and again.

He also condemned the militarisation of the country and asked the military to probe the video of IPOB youths being punished by soldiers, as they were seen lying in mud.

In his keynote address, Izevbaye highlighted aspects of  Okigbo’s life as an accomplished poet and gave an insight into how musical his poetry is.
According to him, Okigbo was a cosmopolitan poet as evident in the Greek and Latin that echo in his works. He said his forage into war was an act of heroism, adding that the deceased embraced the gun because he knew the limitation of poetry when it comes to missiles and grenades.

Also at the event were the Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Chief Alake Adeyemo; Okigbo’s wife, Ambassador Judith Attah, revered publisher, Chief Joop Berkhout, and Chief Alex Ajayi, who was Okigbo’s principal at Fiditi Grammar School.

The foundation’s head, Mrs. Obiageli Okigbo, who was supported by a former President of the Association of Nigerian Authors,  Dr. Wale Okediran, to organise the programme, noted that several events and projects were being carried out to propagate Okigbo’s ideals.

Courtesy of The Punch (Nigeria) - slightly modified here