Giant of African Literature Deserved More Recognition

Cape Times (South Africa), November 5, 2008 | Go to article overview

Giant of African Literature Deserved More Recognition


It is only after their death that those who have been ignored are suddenly recognised.

Ezekiel Mphahlele was, like Mazisi Raymond Kunene, undoubtedly a giant of African literature. Both their contributions were ignored post-apartheid, although the Department of Arts and Culture under Pallo Jordan did give Kunene a long-overdue award in recognition of his literary abilities.

Kunene was expelled from the ANC for being an African Nationalist by the white and Indian members of the South African Communist Party who took over the ANC at the Morogoro Conference.

Ever since, the Group of Eight have been reviled and demonised for being "narrow nationalists" (sic) without their case ever being heard.

I worked with Ezekiel on Drum; more specifically, I worked upstairs with Golden City Post, while Drum was downstairs, but we interacted in fierce intellectual debates, in which Ezekiel and Can Themba were outstanding presenters, Themba always ironical and cynical, the more argumentative one.

Already then, Ezekiel was recognised as an outstanding intellectual, and his analysis and essays were read avidly. Some of them were published in foreign journals.

He was associated with the ANC, and was highly regarded as an intellectual within its ranks.

Ezekiel was among the first to disagree with the policy of non-racialism as he mentions in his latter book of essays Afrika my Music, a meandering journey through his life, written under post-apartheid conditions.

That criticism said a lot of the political view he had eventually arrived at, given that earlier on he had been critical of Leopold Senghor's Negritude while in exile. …

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