Wednesday, October 29, 2008



By Peter Moroe

The literary community in South Africa and the world in general is reeling after the demise of Es’kia (Ezekiel) Mphahlele, one of the all-time greats of African literature. Cliches and superlatives are often carelessly used to describe certain people, but Ntate Mphahlele was a veritable giant in the world of literature and letters. His prolific publications included books and essays (including critical articles). In fact the National English Literary Museum in Grahamstown has hundreds of articles written on the works of this great man.

The achievements of Es’kia Mphahlele were such that by the late 60s he was already regarded as one of the greats of African writing! We recall that the late Richard Rive (in an interview) described Es’kia decades ago as “the grand old man of African literature”. By this time Es’kia had already published excellent works, including the classic, Down Second Avenue.

Just as Chinua Achebe (for example) will always be remembered for publishing Things fall apart, so would many continue to remember Es’kia for the work, Down Second Avenue. In the book, we follow the progress of the young literary prodigy from infancy, with his love for words and his burgeoning proficiency in the English and Afrikaans languages. We realize the great importance and selflessness of “African mothers” in general; and how people could survive despite daunting odds.

We also appreciate the author’s controlled humour. For example when at the end of his tether with an arrogant white lady always referring to him as “boy” (although he was very much a grown man then) Es’kia retorts: “What makes you think I am a boy, and not a girl?” This type of humour - in tow with his always impeccable (literary) style- is a characteristic of virtually all his works.

In the field of fiction, Es’kia contributed to African fiction with excellent works like The Wanderers, and Chirundu. The Wanderers focuses on a peripatetic √©migr√© (rather like the author) who lived in different continents and countries. The work won important awards and still makes interesting reading.

Back to autobiography, (like his Down Second Avenue) Es’kia published a sequel to his first classic, titled, Africa my Music. This book is a must for all lovers of African literature in general, especially the key writers over the decades. Es’kia was personal friends with most of them and it is fascinating reading about when these writers were all quite young – and Es’kia’s astute comments on them. These writers include Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Chinua Achebe, Efua T Sutherland, and Ama Ata Aidoo.

For many years (before he began to write novels) Es’kia was known as a powerful short story writer. Early in life against all odds he published his first collection of short stories, Man must live (in the 40s) The book was fairly successful – and he went on to write many more including acclaimed novellas like Ms Plum. Other collections included In Corner B. And need we mention Es’kia’s successful stint at Drum magazine decades ago when he contributed many excellent short stories?

As for Eskia’s contributions to the genre of literary criticism and scholarship – one is not qualified to go into this. Suffice it to say that he was revered worldwide for his erudition and proficiency. The “ES’KIA” books (containing most of his critical essays) will remain an indelible tribute to him.

Rest in peace, Es’kia Mphahlele.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Stephen Gray vs Zakes Mda

Tiff between revered literary critics

By Raphael Mokoena


The literary scene in South Africa this week has been largely dominated by the literary “brickbats” between two of the country’s greatest academics and writers, Stephen Gray and Zakes Mda. Mr. Gray published a piece in a national newspaper (Mail and Guardian) where he criticised a number of aspects of Mr. Mda’s writing. The latter responded vigorously – both of them rather strongly picking on each other with more than a hint of personal attacks.

The furore awakened what many black African people in the literary business have known for years. The genre of literary criticism does not sit too well with most of our writers, and in the end it becomes difficult to separate authentic literary criticism from personal attacks. Over the decades as African literature grew by leaps and bounds, friendships between writers had been ruptured, with resentment in the air all because of “literary criticism”

Writer and cultural activist, Aryan Kaganof has referred to “mean spiritedness” (accusing Stephen Gray of this). But the history of literary criticism over the years and centuries shows that in so many cases critics can easily be accused of this, even if this might not be their intention. Often literary criticism goes too far and it does seem as if the pertinent critic has something against the writer being “attacked”.

A case in point was the way James Joyce’s immortal masterpiece, Ulysses, was greeted by some top critics after the book was first published. The great Virginia Woolf remarked on it thus: “Ulysses is the work of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples”; DH Lawrence, top writer commented: “The last part of Ulysses is the most indecent, dirtiest, most obscene thing ever written. It is filthy”; literary critic, Edmund Goose said: “The author (of Ulysses) is a charlatan…the book is an anarchical production, infamous in taste, in style, everything”

As regards the “tiff” between Stephen Gray and Zakes Mda, both of them remain formidable literary activists and writers. I can not agree with the suggestion that a literary figure can only be judged on their prolificacy and having books on the shelf almost on a yearly basis. Whether Chinua Achebe published any more novels after his classic Things fall apart came out fifty years ago, he would always be revered for his pioneering masterpiece (indeed, Achebe has not published any new novel for over 20 years). Stephen Gray is ensconced as a very important critic and imaginative writer whose works have been published world-wide, with many different editions.

On his own part, despite the fact that Zakes Mda began publishing novels less than fifteen years ago, he has already proved that he’s at the top of his craft, and he has quickly joined the elite of the all time great novelists in the continent. Works of his like Heart of Redness, Madonna of Excelsior, Ways of Dying belong to the top drawer. Of course he is also a veritable academic too. He and Stephen Gray know only too well that the genre of literary criticism is often an acerbic one. But one always regrets seeing personal attacks between illustrious people (in this case, wordsmiths.)
Mr. Mokoena, a literary activist, lives in Qwaqwa.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gcina Mhlophe struts her stuff in Bloemfontein!

Gcina Mhlophe struts her stuff in Bloem!

By Flaxman Qoopane

Dr. Gcina Mhlophe, an award winning storyteller, poet, director, playwright and performer wowed the Free State with her considerable talents in September (2008). She was invited to do storytelling at Botlehadi Primary School in Mangaung townships.

Molaodi Matobako, co-ordinator East Region from the Mangaung Library Services had said: “In celebration of Literacy Week, the Mangaung Local Municipality jointly with the Mangaung Library Services invited the renowned storyteller Gcina Mhlophe to Bloemfontein to raise public awareness of literacy among our children by telling some of her wonderful African tales at Botshabelo Library, Wilgehof Primary School, Fitchard Park library and at Botlehadi Primary School”.

The staff and learners at Botlehadi Primary School, officials from the Free State Department of Education, the South African Police Services and the representatives from the following sponsors: Shoprite/Checkers, Vodacom, Netcare, Pelonomi Private Hospital, Maskew Miller Longman Free State could not hide their excitement at seeing Mhlope live, taking the stage! Indeed she was warmly welcomed by the audience.

She thanked the Mangaung Library Services for inviting her to the Free State to showcase her skills as a storyteller. She emphasized the importance of Literacy Week. “Ideally, it is about reading and writing in all our languages” she pointed out. She shared some of her stories with the audience.

During the occasion, Kananelo Rabele, a Grade One learner at the school read from a book Ntja ya ka (“My dog”) to her school mates in celebration of Literacy Week.

During the programme, the school choir led by teacher Ruta Moses, rendered several songs. A group of Mohobelo Cultural Group entertained the crowd with Sesotho dances. Another cultural group that took part at the event was Tshwaraganang Cultural Group. Invited guests ate and drank traditional food and African beer.

Donald Bojang, Regional Manager of the Maskew Miller Longman in the Free State said: “On behalf of Maskew Miller Longman Publishers, I have brought a box of reading books for Botlehadi Primary School,” The books were handed over to Lucas Mlamleli, the School Principal, by Gcina Mhlophe – the lady of the moment!

Thursday, September 11, 2008


A trenchant play

Review by Peter Moroe

Play: The Subtle transgressor
Author: Omoseye Bolaji
Publisher: Eselby Junior Publications (South African edition)

The Subtle transgressor is a powerful drama, shocking in some respects and with convincing (grassroots) dialogue the author is noted for. The play addresses a number of social issues in this our increasingly sophisticated world. Alas as society advances it appears the moral fibre continues to be undermined. It is a reality we have to face.

The pressures assailing the young can be clearly seen in this play – especially young ladies. They become aware of their sensuality and attractiveness to members of the opposite sex; they have their own desires and foibles; for those from rather poor backgrounds (as the protagonist Kate is) the pressures multiply even further. There are many men and “boys” out there ready to take advantage of them, realizing their vulnerability.

Needless to say a young woman (note that the play focuses not only on Kate but her two close female friends too) must “take care of herself” – she needs the basics, including toiletries; nowadays many of them hanker for “airtime” “credit” for their mobile phones. The “sugar daddies” swoop in also. It goes on and on.

In this play Kate’s father Job initially comes across as a man battling against odds to “discipline” his daughter, maybe teach her some values in life. That he goes as far as stabbing her (!) smacks of some sort of desperation. In the modern world with so many rights, this could have led to punitive measures for him if Kate had for example reported the matter to the Police. But she does not.
Hence we realize that there is some sort of intriguing relationship between Kate and her father Job. Other characters like the loquacious “Uncle” contribute to the particular ambience of the play. Kate certainly seems to understand her father well – a man who frowns upon his daughter’s closeness not only to “boys” but also to her best female friends. There can be no possibility that Kate would desert her friends. Or vice versa.

As characteristic of Omoseye Bolaji’s fiction it is only at the end of the play that we realize that Job has been abusing his own daughter sexually since she was a kid! This extraordinary revelation is presented quite convincingly with Job being utterly humiliated, but hardly punished for his deeds. We now realize that he is doubly guilty of abuse – not only has he stabbed her with a knife, but had abused her sexually throughout her young life.

Job is the ultimate hypocrite: his trenchant outbursts - claiming he is “principled” and only out to foment discipline in his daughter assumes a very hollow ring. He is a villain: an authentic subtle transgressor. And what about his poor abused daughter? Is it not likely that she would always feel inadequate, somewhat depressed and traumatized? Under the circumstances we can only but admire her feisty attitude and character.

We live in an age where the young ones (particularly females) are subjected to terrible things. We are not only thinking of rape or domestic abuse at home, but with increased reports of “date rapes” – e.g the male “spiking” the drinks of a female to render her unconscious and then going on to rape her; sometimes with a gang rape of the hapless female taking place… it seems as society becomes more advanced women become even more vulnerable.

The subtle transgressor tries to address some of these societal problems from what one might call the “tap root” – incest perpetrated by a father on his own daughter. In other words a dysfunctional background for a young female – what prize that this traumatic experience would not follow her around even as she grows up?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Gomolemo Mokae: Medical Doctor cum accomplished writer

Medical Doctor cum accomplished writer

By F. Qoopane

Dr. Gomolemo Mokae is well known for his writings, both in English and his mother tongue, Setswana. Recently this writer caught up with him and briefly probed him on his contributions to arts and culture.

Mokae has published the following novels Masego and Kaine le Abel, in Setswana. The novel, Masego, won the 1994 African Heritage Literary Award, and became runner-up in the 1994 M-net Book Prize. His other novel Kaine le Abel won the 1995 African Heritage Literary Award. His most famous English novel is The secret in my bosom.

In August 1995, Dr Mokae became a joint winner of the Betrams VO Literature of Africa Award, together with Lazarus Miti – an African languages lecturer at the Swaziland University. They shared the R15 000 prize.

As a short story writer, Dr. Mokae has published short stories in numerous local and overseas magazines. His short story, The Good Women do won a prize in a competition run by the National Arts Coalition in 1994. He has published a collection of his short stories – Short not tall stories; and also Nnete ke Serunya, a Setswana short story anthology.

Dr. Mokae has also written many plays; his stage play, The way the cookie crumbles reached the finals of the 1993 Amstel Playwright of the Year contest. His other dramas, Gaabo Motho and Lisenetheni were screened for TV drama on SABC 2.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Top poet releases new book

Top female bard releases new book

Lebo Mashile, probably South Africa’s most outstanding black female poet, has published her latest book, ‘Flying Above The Sky’. It is her second published collection of poems.

Going through Lebo Mashile’s new work, she continues to confirm her promise. Already she is an icon of modern South African poetry – and her second collection of poetry lives up to what one would expect from this talented and magnetic individual.

The new volume is titled ‘Flying Above The Sky’ and it follows her acclaimed 2005 collection ‘In A Ribbon of Rhythm’ which earned Mashile the prestigious NOMA Award for Publishing in Africa for 2006, a fantastic achievement.

And if her first collection established Mashile as a formidable voice, ‘Flying Above The Sky’, some pundits have suggested, takes things further and showcases her range and talent, adumbrating on the variables of the society that moves her.

Lebo Mashile, a talented writer and visual verbalist, is already a role model for many as regards South African poetry. In addition to these, Lebo Mashile has been forging her own creative identity over the years. It was almost ten years ago that the eclectic lady emerged on the Johannesburg arts scene. Infused with a great deal of energy and dynamism, she is now a multi talented artist: a published author, executive producer, actress, poet, independent record producer, corporate and independent event MC, life skills facilitator/speaker and television series presenter. She is something of a triton among the minnows.

For example some five years ago, Mashile co-founded the Feela Sistah Spoken Word Collective alongside Napo Masheane, Ntsiki Mazwai and Myesha Jenkins – all great names in arts and culture. Indeed the four of them have been making great waves, taking poetry many steps forward.

As regards her literary output so far, Mashile says: “This is a far more personal collection than the first,” She continues: “For me, ‘In A Ribbon Of Rhythm’ was very much the start of putting my poems into the larger public realm, but there were many that I left out. To be honest, I was too afraid to let them move away from my own personal space, but over the past three years things have changed. I’ve journeyed in a way that has really made me more confident about my work and sure of myself and I feel the time is right to give more of my work to my readers.”

The result of this is ‘Flying Above The Sky’ (2008) which is as bold, defiant and candid as ever. Themes include feminism, what it means to be a woman in the modern age, issues of identity and spirituality. But there are other spheres and vistas in her new work.

Unequivocally, one of these new areas for Mashile is the idea of “travel”. She explains: “I am very interested in how movement shapes our identity as individuals. It fascinates me that when we leave home, we take pieces of it with us on our journey and when we return, we bring new things from where we have been that then find a place in our homes.”

Strangely enough – in view of the recent spate of extraordinary xenophobic attacks in the country, Mashile briefly dwells on this phenomenon in one of her poems, titled: “‘Kwere-Kwere”. “You can see that here I make the point that all of us are essentially travelers” she says.

She also takes sides firmly with the ordinary man in her latest riveting verses. She does not use a mallet to grind the masses into the ground! On the contrary she empathizes with them. In one of the poems titled: ‘What Tomorrow Looks Like’ we have lines like:
“Mr. President tell us what tomorrow looks like
Can you see it in the darkness of prisons
Is it in the look in the eye of a peaceful man
Who is killed in front of his two children
Is it somewhere beyond our own plane and time
Is it inside the walls that we live in/Is it the property of the privileged few
Or is it understanding that humanity is privileged

In poems like this, and many others in the collection, Mashile shows her introspective nature, and leadership qualities, becoming more or less a voice of the nation.

Mashile also includes some deeply personal poems in her new work – among them, ‘I Want To Be Touched’ which many would regard as sensual. Also the revealing ‘A Hole Called Depression’. Poems like these expose the intrinsic human side – even vulnerability of the poet, despite all her achievements. She herself confesses that as human beings we all have a “common humanity”. As she puts it: “It’s been said so many times before but what binds us together is our common humanity and my deepest wish is that when people read the collection (her latest book), it will strike a chord within them that then joins us together in an instant.”

It is likely that the poet would get her wish. Earlier, in 2005, Mashile published with Struik and Mutloatse Arts Trust, her first collection of poetry In A Ribbon of Rhythm, which won her the prestigious NOMA Award for Publishing in Africa for 2006. Her new collection Flying above the sky will be distributed via African Perspectives Publishing.
* Information, courtesy of the Eclectic Writers’ Club (Bloemfontein)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Two great Zimbabwean female writers

(Above) Yvonne Vera

Two great Zimbabwean female writers

By Peter Moroe

The article on African female writers (elsewhere on this blog) I found fascinating. I found myself focusing on the two great Zimbabwean female writers and wishing to write something about them. So let us focus a bit more on Tsitsi Dangarembga and Yvonne Vera (who sadly died at a young age) who are renowned for their literary works.

Dangarembga was born in 1959 then spent part of her childhood in England. She went on to study psychology at the University of Zimbabwe and began to write and get involved in drama. She went on to publish a play called She Does Not Weep. It was however her superb novel, Nervous Conditions that made her world famous; winning her the African section of the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 1989. The book was the first (English novel) ever written by a black Zimbabwean woman.

After many years Tsitsi wrote a sequel to Nervous conditions, titled The book of Not (2006). Her career in movie making meanwhile blossomed internationally. Her other books include The Letter(1985) and She no longer weeps (1987).

Yvonne Vera was born in 1964 (and died in 2005). She was a powerful novelist who depicted women skillfully in her works; her range included topics like rape, and gender relationships. She won a number of important awards for her writing. In Zimbabwe she taught English literature at a high school then travelled to Canada where she educated herself further, and got married.

She published Why Don't You Carve Other Animals (short stories) in 1992. Then came the powerful novels: Nehanda (1993);Without a Name (1994), which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Africa; Under the Tongue (1997) ; Butterfly Burning (2000), which won the German Literature Prize 2002 – it was also chosen as one of Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century in 2002. In 2002 she also published The Stone Virgins (2002).

It is thus no surprise that Vera’s works continue to be studied and celebrated in literary circles world wide. It is generally agreed that she never shied away from writing about so-called “taboo” subjects. She had a strict writing regimen which she adhered to, and in all senses of the word she could be called a “professional writer”. Zimbabwe has done well to produce two such world class female writers.
Peter Moroe is a literary critic who has published several articles – and books – on black African literature.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

City of Roses and Literary icons


Author: Flaxman Qoopane

Flaxman Qoopane, a journalist, poet and author, has published his latest book titled City of Roses and Literary icons.

He said: “In this new book, I debunk the general belief in many quarters that the Free State, Bloemfontein, in particular, is something of an outpost as regards major, pivotal trends in literature.

“I demonstrably show in the book that Bloemfontein, over the years has hosted a conglomeration of distinguished wordsmiths, and even taken the lead in orchestrating cardinal literary meets,”

According to the author, in the book, we get to learn the details of such literary occasions that got off the ground in the “City of Roses” (Bloemfontein); the galaxy of such literary icons who have graced its shores – including Kgotso Maphalla, Don Mattera, Lauretta Ngcobo, Jim Mokoena, Prof Lewis Nkosi, Prof Keorapetse Kgositsile, Don Matterra, among many others.

“The new book also proudly details the goings-on at the 2006 South African literary Awards which were held in Bloemfontein,” Qoopane said. “At this occasion very important literary awards were given to many of the all-time greats of South African literature. It was also at the gala that Prof Kgositsile was named the current National Poet Laureate.”

This is a book to be read by all lovers of literature and the arts and culture in general. The Free State Provincial libraries immediately ordered some one hundred copies of the book.

“Qoopane indeed shows his effulgent love for writing and writers in general. He puts together many unforgettable occasions of literary orientation hosted in Bloemfontein; this book gives the lie to the belief of so many that the Free State is something of a literary backwater,” Omoseye Bolaji, distinguished author, said.
Review courtesy of Phoneix Literary club, Ladybrand

The "underworld" in Omoseye Bolaji's Tebogo and the Haka

The “underworld” in Omoseye Bolaji’s Tebogo and the Haka

By Raselebeli Khotseng

To many people, the world of pubs, women of easy virtue, alcohol is that of the “underworld”. A common comment about many of Omoseye Bolaji’s works of fiction is that a lot of the action is often centred in taverns or shebeens! This is particularly true as regards the Tebogo Mystery series. There is plenty of action in shebeens in Tebogo Fails and Ask Tebogo as usual.

Hence it is no surprise that in his latest work, Tebogo and the Haka (2008) a lot of the action takes place at the Club or shebeen, strangely called The Haka itself. We see Tebogo Mokoena the investigator visiting the place every time during his stay in Ladybrand, and he certainly enjoys himself, relaxing, quaffing, drinking, meeting all sorts of people.

Really many might wonder: how important are shebeens- for black people? The answer is obvious enough: apart from so many taverns and shebeens in towns and cities targeting the black people, it is fascinating that in the townships, virtually every street has at least one or two shebeens frequented by so many.

So what are the attractions of shebeens? Obviously the first is the alcohol itself, biri . In the shebeens the alcohol always flows and the sellers often make sure it is ice cold– you can buy at almost anytime of the day, especially during the weekends. Many people go into debt heavily not minding, so long as they can pay their debts at the end of the month or when convenient. I have seen cases of some people owing as much as a thousand rand monthly to settle debts for alcohol.

At shebeens there is always this ambience of excitement and fizz, people throng the places, talk, exchange quips and even share bottles together. During big matches,– especially soccer,– many people gather to support their local team or the national team,– at the 2007 Rugby World Cup many people enjoyed the games at the shebeens.

Then there is the music – at such places assorted music is played often till late in the night during weekends. The atmosphere is informal and people can also bring their own beloved brands of music. It is an excuse for music unlimited, with loudspeakers blaring forth very loud music with the patrons enjoying; all the while the drinks are flowing.

Needless to say at the shebeens and taverns there are many women who come and add spice to the whole atmosphere. Whilst it is not true that most of the ladies who frequent shebeens are cheap or waiting to be picked up, a fair number of them are. At worst they believe they can get men to buy drinks for them at such places, and if anything happens afterwards? Ladies, after some drinks, become liberated and become the heart and soul of such assemblages.

Omoseye Bolaji, time and again uses riveting scenes from the shebeens to make his fiction more exciting. In Tebogo and the Haka, with Tebogo’s wife Khanyi thousands of kilometres away overseas, the protagonist can enjoy the company of ladies at the shebeen or Club, the likes of Brenda, Maki and Charlotte. Of course he still succeeds in solving the mysteries as usual talk of mixing business with pleasure!

Africa's female black writers

(Above) Sindiwe Magona

By Marika du Plessis

At a literary workshop in South Africa recently, young black ladies who love reading imaginative books hardly knew anything about outstanding black female authors over the years in the African continent. But we had some experts who helped us out; and at the end of the day everybody’s knowledge was enhanced.

In South Africa the leading lights among the female writers include Miriam Tlali, Sindiwe Magona, Lauretta Ngcobo and Ellen Kuzwayo. The late Kuzwayo’s literary reputation rests mainly on the publication of her major work, Call me woman. Tlali was the first black woman to publish a major novel, Mirriam at Metropolitan. It was moving learning about Sindiwe Magona who had three kids by the age of 23, seemingly destined for a very hard life, but she went on to educate herself, work overseas and publish a number of excellent books, including To my children’s children and Mother to mother.

But not only South African women have been making waves in writing. Indeed black female writers from West Africa in particular started the trend. Ghana produced the late Efua Sutherland who was a fine dramatist; and also Ama Atta Aidoo, novelist, short story writer and dramatist. Nigeria produced Flora Nwapa and the outstanding Buchi Emecheta of whom I enjoyed reading her book, Head above water, so much

Also from western Africa was the great Senegalese female writer Mariama Ba who published So long a letter. The book was originally written in French but has now been translated into other major languages world-wide. The book focuses on the travails of women in a particular society and an attempt to handle such problems with some dignity.

From eastern Africa (mainly Kenya) African women like Grace Ogot, Barbara Kimenye, Rebeka Njau have been writing quality books for decades. Njau’s Ripples in the pond would appeal to most ladies, a very fine piece of work (as Mr. Lebohang Thaisi the writer would say)

Apart from South Africa, neighbouring Zimbabwe has also churned out outstanding black female writers. Most people would immediately think about Tsitsi Dangarembga whose novel, Nervous conditions still remains a classic some twenty years after publication. But also, Yvonne Vera with her powerful novels was world class too (pity she left this world prematurely)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Nelson Mandela at 90!

Mandela at 90!

By Raselebeli “Magic” Khotseng

For many decades he felt the weight of prison cell
Surrounded by sharks
Demarcated by Ocean and Cape Colony
Today the nation and world
Sing his fulsome songs of praise
Happy Birthday Madiba
A happy birthday?
Or 90 years of resistance?

It was nearly three decades of breaking stones on the island
Demanding freedom like a child demand’s his mother’s breast
But now it’s a moment of singing a different tune
As the world brings a cornucopia of gifts
Your sterling courage led to victory

Being a freedom fighter for human rights
Being hunted and banished for years
He returned, wearing a new mask of peace and reconciliation
Uttering a world reconciliation to forgive his persecutors
Global enchantment hovers on your birthday
But this is not an ordinary birthday Tata
But 90 years of resistance
That saw the birth of a rainbow nation

Monday, July 21, 2008

Milestones for Achebe, Ngugi, and Ayi kwei Armah

Milestones for Achebe, Ngugi, and Ayi Kwei Armah

By Pule Lechesa

African black literature has been celebrated for decades now. Our best writers can easily hold their own in the international arena. Authors like Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Chinua Achebe, Ben Okri, Ayi kwei Armah, Dambudzo Marechera, Bessie Head are all highly regarded world-wide. Hence milestones as regards their literary work or lives continue to be celebrated.

This year (2008) we have had quite a number of milestones, with a trio of them (the writers) probably outstanding. For many, even after so many decades since publication, Chinua Achebe’s Things fall apart remains the all-time best of African creative writing. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of the ground-breaking work.

As for Ngugi wa Thiong’o, the world celebrated as he marked 70 years of age early this year. The man is famous for his brilliant fiction and his polemical, illuminating essays. We mention Ngugi and our mind goes to works like Weep not child, A grain of wheat, Petals of blood, Matigari, Wizard of the crow etc.

Another African great, Ayi kwei Armah celebrates the 40th anniversary of the publication of his unforgettable work of fiction, The beautyful ones are not yet born. Remember that when the book first came out it was acclaimed as being among “in the first rank of novels published anywhere.” Observers further point out that what looked like Armah’s pessimism as regards Africa forty years ago, has come true anyway!

Next year, (2009) promises to be another year where African literary milestones would be celebrated. To give just one example – in 2009, Es’kia (Ezekiel) Mphahlele would turn 90. This is one of the all-time greats of African literature. Also in 2009 the world will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Down Second Avenue, Mphahlele’s timeless classic.
(Pule Lechesa, poet and essayist, is the author of books like Four Free State Authors, The Evolution of FS Black Literature, and Omoseye Bolaji…on awards, authors, literature)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Black African Literature (Poems by two young African lady poets)

By Julia Lithebe

The sun rises and shines
Incorporating the happiness of the day
Happiness reflecting in everything
It’s shining in my eyes
It’s shining refulgent every single day

The sun rises gloriously like it’s the first time
Reminiscent of a new baby
Look outside; hark, it’s shining!
Happiness radiates throughout the world
Basking in the glow of the sun

The sun shines all over
Incandescent the world over
Even a candle brings light
Meagre compared with magnificence of the sun
Radiating all over the nation

People are looking for the brightness
The radiance of the comely sun
Appreciate the beauty of the flowers
Indeed without the Sun’s glow
There is no life and future

The heat of the sun brings warmth
We living things bask in the light
Cavorting and gay under the light
Things are made Technicolor by the sun
Herein is the beauty of the sunshine!


By Neo Mvubu

Mighty eyes that see the troubles we live in
Mighty eyes that puff away their lives with miniature noses
Mighty eyes that drink away their futures
One two three glasses
They destroy their potential

Mighty eyes with dreamless lives
Only knives cutting away prison walls
With hopes of freedom

Mighty eyes with grandmothers
In bedrooms
And babies in bushes

Mighty eyes steal lives
They kill
And worst of all
We ignore
And we find comfort in brutality

Black African Literature (Chieftaincy for Writer)

Omoseye Bolaji, a well known black writer based in South Africa will be conferred with a prestigious traditional Chieftaincy title by the Olubadan (King) of Ibadan city in Nigeria (West Africa) next month.

Omoseye has over the years managed to build up a very impressive literary body of work, and is being honoured mainly for his contributions to black African writing. Ibadan for decades was the most populous black city south of the Sahara, boasting the first Television Station in Africa, the Cocoa House skyscraper, the Liberty stadium etc.

Omoseye Bolaji has contributed in awesome fashion to African black writing, publishing well over 20 books, with his literary works discussed, evaluated in many articles, books and on the Internet. Some of his works include The Termagant, Impossible Love, The ghostly adversary, The guillotine, People of the Townships, Poems from Mauritius, and the Subtle transgressor

South African writer, Flaxman Qoopane, a close friend of Omoseye was elated to hear about the chieftaincy. "It's rare indeed for a writer to be given a traditional chieftaincy title just on the strength of his writings. I am so happy for Omoseye. He could have had an easy, comfortable life but he largely sacrificed everything all for his love of literacy and literature"

Omoseye Bolaji, who lives in the Free State, has garnered a string of awards over the years, thanks to his writing prowess. Last year alone (2007) he was given a Lifetime Achievement award by the Free State government; and the University of the Free State conferred the Chancellor's Medal on him. His father the late Chief SL Bolaji was a proud Ibadanman who was also an acclaimed writer. Omoseye will be conferred with the “Onigegewura” (Golden Pen) of Ibadan on August 18, 2008

Raselebeli Khotseng (PRO, Phoenix Literary Club, South Africa)