Benedict Wallet Vilakazi (1906-1947) was born at Groutville Mission Station. He was a Zulu scholar and teacher. In the early 1930s, Vilakazi began to publish his poetry in various journals, including ILanga lase Natal, UmAfrika and The Bantu World. Three of his novels appeared in the 1930s: Nje nempela (Really and Truly), Noma nini (Forever and Ever) and uDingiswayo ka Jobe (Dingiswayo, Son of Jobe). With Professor Doke, he compiled a Zulu-English Dictionary.
Now I do believe that he has died,
Because when the sun lights up the earth
I see animals grazing in the morning,
Whisking their hairy tails,
Which are white like the cows at umHlali,
Extract from ‘Now Do I Believe That He Has Died’
Dianne Stewart is a prolific author who writes full time from her home on the North Coast, near KwaDukuza. Throughout her career, Stewart has worked extensively in the field of the oral tradition. This inspired many of her children’s books including The Dove and The Gift of the Sun which has been translated into many languages. Her study of African Languages inspired her edited collection of African proverbs called Wisdom from Africa. For her Masters degree in South African literature she collected the songs of rural Zulu women from North Coast sugar-cane farms. Some of these powerful examples of socio-political oral poetry appeared in Women Writing Africa: Southern Region.
Aziz Hassim (1935 - ) spent his formative years fraternising on the streets of the Casbah. In an interview he states that “the area had a kind of romance and bittersweet lifestyle during the fifties and sixties, which lives on only in the minds of those that inhabited it at the time”. Hassim's debut novel, The Lotus People, won the 2001 Sanlam Literary Award and spans the events of this era. His second novel, Revenge of Kali, is centred on the history of indentured labourers.
Chief Albert John Luthuli (1898 – 1967), also known by his Zulu name Mvumbi, was the first African to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960 for his role in the non-violent struggle against apartheid. Trained as a teacher, Luthuli held posts around the country before accepting the position of chief in Groutville in 1933. In 1944 Luthuli joined the African National Congress (ANC) and was instrumental in organising nonviolent campaigns to defy discriminatory laws. His political stance resulted in repeated bannings by the apartheid government, restricting him to the area around his home in Groutville. In 1962 he published an autobiography titled Let My People Go. In July 1967, he died in a train accident near his home. A close friend of Luthuli’s who was born in Mapumulo, M.B Yengwa of the ANCYL, wrote praise poems about Luthuli and izibongo on his surname.
Mafika Pascal Gwala (1946 - ) is a poet and editor, writing in English and isiZulu. Gwala spent his early years in Verulam, emerging as a significant writer in the 60s and 70s as part of the black South African Student Organisation.
I’m the naked boy
running down a muddy road,
the rain pouring bleatingly
in Verulam’s Mission Station
Through expressing the political and social hardships of those victimised by apartheid, he was closely associated with the Soweto Poets. His poetry collections include Jol’iinkomo (1977) and No More Lullabies (1982).