It is with sadness that we have learned about the passing of Mafika Gwala on 8 September. Gwala was born and grew up in Verulam and spent most of his adult life in the semi-rural township of Mpumalange KwaZulu-Natal. His working life there, and in Johannesburg, included stints as secondary school teacher, legal clerk, factory worker, and industrial relations officer. He wrote his MPhil on Politics in 3rd World Developing Countries at the University of Natal.
Read Minister of Arts and Culture, Nath Mthethwa's, statement on Gwala's passing.
In remembrance, here is an extract from one of his best-known poems and a link to Lesego Rampoleng in Conversation with Mafika Gwala at the Chimurenga Chronic.
Extract from “Getting off the Ride”
My boots jar me
as I take the corner off Grey Street
Into Victoria’s busy, buzzy Victoria
Beesy Victoria’s market area.
Some black mamas kneeling
their hands on the sidewalk
their second-hand clothes before them,
They kneel as if in prayer.
A white hippie bums towards them
with what shapes into a pair of
fawn corduroy jeans:
‘They are fishbottomed’, the aunt tilts
the deal. The seller hooks a feigned smile
with his cagey chin,
Looks like they both have no choice
So the limp deal is sealed.
With unease the hippie moves off
You’d swear he’s left a bomb to detonate;
I radar his moves
whilst yarning my eyes onto the mama,
the mama still on that solemn kneel
that’s accompanied by somber looks
from close range.
Where’s that hippish fixer?
Into the market lanes for a blow-up;
And the black mama to scrounge a sale
after a wash of these sweaty pants
that can only be bought by some black brother
whose boss won’t give him enough to afford
a pair of decent trousers.
And again I know I’m being taken for a ride.