Monday, March 13, 2017

Adieu, South Africa's first Black female novelist

Miriam Tlali - A Powerful Fascinating Pioneer of African Literature

By M. I Soqaga

It is absolutely gruesome to see early pioneers of African literature departing this world rapidly!  For the past years Africa has been reeling over its literary giants who departed this world, icons like Chinua Achebe, Es’kiaMphahlele, MbuleloMzamane, Grace Ogot, Lauretta Ngcobo, BuchiEmechete and recently Miriam Tlali. 

And now Miriam Tlali has done a very wonderful work as a fervent African writer.  It is important for one to reckon that her literary fame was not an easy achievement.  From the onset since she begin to write, her works were disrupted and thwarted by apartheid in South Africa.  Miriam Tlali is known by her masterpiece-a novel which makes her to be recognized as the first female African writer to write a novel in South Africa.  As things are-we are all aware how she struggled to be published especially her first novel Muriel at Metropolitan which was finally published in 1975 after six years of rejection by white publishers in South Africa.

However, we need to ponder that Miriam Tlali works became famous through incredible sacrifice of critics who ensured that her works are scrutinized.  It is vitally important to comprehend that it is via critics that MriamTlali works flourished worldwide.  Nevertheless this literary genre has been view as problematically nuisance and uninviting obstacle that is advocated by other iconoclastic writers whose interest is to besmirch African literature.  As far as things are, African writers always believe that whatever they produce literary must be automatically being venerated and unanimously celebrated.    

Imperatively, criticism in literature is not something that is preposterous; but its role in literature is to ameliorate literature.  It is absolutely absurd for some people to reject their works to be criticised.  Writers need to appreciate this type of literary genre because its role in literature is graphically significant.  Africa has lot of talented writers and because of being obstinate to literary criticism its writers are not well known in the world.  Miriam Tlali as critic herself will feel dejected if Africa continues to shun out critics in literature.  During her life time she understood the enormous value critics add to promote literature.  Consequentially writers or whoever aches to be part of literature need to be familiar with this type of literary genre.  For instance, in football there are rules and a football player cannot ignore them.  Like a player cannot use a hand to score a goal but instead he/she is anticipated to use a leg, head and so on.

Furthermore, it can be argued as whether what apartheid censorship did especially towards many African writers in South Africa was critical correct to banned their books.     Apartheid censorship was not immersed in literature but its existence was basically racially biased.    Like Miriam Tlali would elaborate that “Oh, I suffered a lot of harassment by the system in South Africa, by the police.  They used to visit my house long after midnight and harass us, with Saracens and Casspirs, fully armed and so on, in their efforts to discourage me from writing.  I wrote a lot about it.  Articles of mine have been printed abroad.  The Index on Censorship printed two lengthy articles of mine where I speak about this kind of harassment and what I was suffering, and about censorship in general against South African writers.” (Reflections: Perspectives on Writing in Post-Apartheid South Africa).  Edited by Rolf Solberg & Malcolm Hacksley, Nelm Interviews Series Number Seven.

Miriam Tlali literary contribution will invariable remain immortal inspiration to lot of literary aficionados in the world.  Her passionate affection to literature began at the time when she was in school until she was ultimately published.   Her courageous love and unflinching demeanour for literature make her one of the awesome literary giant that the world had ever produced. 

Selected bibliography
·         Muriel at Metropolitan, Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1975. Longman, 1979.
·         Amandla, South Africa: Vivlia Publishers, 1980, ISBN 978-0869751893.
·         Mihloti, Johannesburg: Skotaville, 1984.
·         Footprints in the Quag, David Philip Publishers, 1989, ISBN 978-0864861269. As Soweto Stories, London: Pandora, 1989.

Further reading
·         BernthLinfors and Reinhard Sander, Twentieth-Century Caribbean and Black African Writers, Detroit: Gale Research, 1996.
·         Derek Attridge and Rosemary Jane Jolly, Writing South Africa: Literature, Apartheid and Democracy 1970 - 1995, Cambridge (UK) and New York: Cambridge University Press (New York), 1998.
·         Christina Cullhed, Grappling with Patriarchies: Narrative Strategies of Resistance in Miriam Tlali's Writings. Doctoral dissertation, 2006. Published by Uppsala University.
·         Sarah Nuttall, "Literature and the Archive: The Biography of Texts", in Carolyn Hamilton (ed.), Refiguring the Archive, Cape Town: David Philip, 2002.

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