Shabbir Banoobhai (1949 - ) was born in Durban and lived there until his move to Cape Town in 1995. Of necessity he shared the fate of the larger black community of South Africans, and his poetry reflects that struggle. He has also identified with victims of oppressive regimes elsewhere, including the Balkans, where he travelled with a journalist friend on a mission to Sarajevo in 1992. One of the central poems of his latest volume, Sarajevo, for which he received the 2001 Thomas Pringle Award for poetry, records this experience. Shabbir Banoobhai's poetry is interwoven with spiritual, political and personal themes. Douglas Livingstone said of his first volume of poetry: ' An obsessive and talented poet, a precocious master of the word and a fine lyricist to boot, almost every line of the work was subliminally ignited by the ancient great Islamic poets. He shares their prime qualities: sensuality, passion, brilliance of imagery, a holistic approach to nature, and of course, love of God.' Banoobhai's mystical writing has become more clearly directed against narrow-minded and exclusive religious thinking, perhaps influenced by South African society. He has a personal website, Veilsoflight.com, where he writes philosophical meditations, some of which were published under the title Lightmail (2002). His personal poetry is chiefly for his two daughters and his wife, a teacher of Arabic, and for his friends. After his second book was published in 1984, he did not publish again (though he continued to write) until 1999 when he brought out, as a private publication, a book of brief poems and spiritual reflections, Wisdom in a Jug - Reflections of Love. In 2002 he also published Inward moon outward sun, which was launched at Poetry Africa in the same year. Banoobhai has continued to publish prolifically, both in print and on his personal website. These publications include Book of Songs (2004), If I could write - Ramadan letters (2006), Water would suffice - Reflections of love (2007), and A mountain is an upside down valley (2008).
from Inward moon outward sun (2002)
yesterday you left the sun behind it did not set it simply burst like a grenade deep inside your mind
you left the mountains that you loved you would not have left but they crumpled under the bombs meant for you
you left your village and your family but that's not true like your freedom they were taken forcibly away from you
you drank water from a stream that was dying saw the reflection of the sky looked for yourself and found a dark rain-cloud drifting by
it was then that you left the sun your village and your family behind searched out the door of death blew it up and stepped in
yesterday you left death behind the sun is back, mountains really do not die other villages will grow, other families return to live in, love, the land you softened with your blood
your eyes are begging-bowls not even the sun can fill they are like the dark spaces that inhabit the universe they devour the light of your people all laughter, even its memory, is gone from their land
in you the song of their struggle has become a dirge of bones being crushed ploughed into the ground - to blossom into sunflowers in sealed-off courtyards
when you approach, even children are embarrassed the morning hastily retreats behind clouds that promise but deliver no rain - those who have vanquished you no longer bother to notice your outstretched hands.
1980. Echoes of my other self. Johannesburg: Ravan Press. 1984. Shadows of a sun-darkened land. Johannesburg: Ravan Press. 1999. Wisdom in a Jug - Reflections of Love. (private publication). 2002. Inward moon outward sun. Durban: University of Natal Press 2002. Lightmail. Durban: Africa Impressions. 2004. Book of Songs. Johannesburg: Wits University Press. 2006. If I could write - Ramadan letters. (private publication). 2007. Water would suffice - Reflections of love. (private publication). 2008. A mountain is an upside down valley. (private publication).
2009. Lyrics in Paradise. Cape Town. Peter Strauss Publishers
2009. Dark light - the spirit's secret. Cape Town: Shabbir Banoobhai
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 04:24
Elleke Boehmer (1961-) was born to Dutch parents in Durban, South Africa in 1961. She was educated in South Africa and at Oxford University. She taught at the School of English at Leeds University and has published four novels: Screens against the Sky (1990), An Immaculate Figure (1993), Bloodlines (2000) and Nile Baby (2008). She has also published short stories in magazines, journals and anthologies. Her research is in postcolonial writing and theory, feminism and the literature of empire, and at the moment she is the Hildred Carlile Professor in Literatures in English at the University of London. Amongst her non-fiction works are Altered state? (1994); Colonial and Postcolonial Literature: Migrant Metaphors (1995), Empire, the National, and the Postcolonial,1890-1920: Resistance in Interaction (2002). Boehmer edited the anthology Empire Writing: An Anthology of Colonial Literature, 1870-1918 (1998), Scouting for Boys: A Handbook for Instruction in Good Citizenship by Robert Baden-Powell (2004) and Cornela Sorabji’s India Calling (2004). She produced a special edition in the journal Kunapipi on the writings of the Anglo-Boer War (1999) and her study Stories of Women: Gender and Narrative in the Postcolonial Nation was published in 2005. Boehmer is also the author of Mandela: A Very Short Introduction (2008), part of highly popular Oxford University Press series.
Sipho took up the story-telling thread from Rosandra. It was a good thread, he said, but maybe he could bring it down to earth. He told a story of his grandmother, an upstanding fierce old woman who was a devout Catholic and yet went about the amulets of her ancestors’ faith sewn into the hems of her church dresses. This woman, Lindiswe Frances Nyembe, lived in a township close to the place where the old Indian prophet, the man who believed in justice and peace, what was his name, Gandhi, once set up a communal centre. She used to tell the children in that area – there were many children, many houses in all directions – about this old prophet. She would tell them that his spirit still lived there in that place and they should honour it. But as the years went by the pressure on that land grew very great. There were so many people, so little land, and so much anger in the people that it became more and more difficult to tell them to show respect for that special piece of earth and the spirit of the man who onced lived there. And so the day came, Sipho said, that the people were so severely pressed against the walls of their shacks and – even though their bellies looked like balloons – so hungry, that they moved and built their tin-can homes and cardboard-box shacks even where the prophet’s house had been. And so they forgot about him. And then the grandmother, feeling the anger and distress of the people but also the distress and sadness of the spirit of the place, asked why in this land must everything that was good and strong and long-lasting be trampled into the earth? Why could the prophet’s place not be preserved while at the same time giving room to the people? She asked her children and her grandchildren this question, over and over again, and she went also to the city authorities and asked it there. People could not completely ignore her because she was an old woman and demanded respect. Every so often – to this day, Sipho imagined – she went into town to visit the municipal offices and ask these difficult questions, and every day she prayed, and so she tried to keep a piece of history surviving on the land. (pg. 205)
Fiction 1990. Screens against the Sky. London : Bloomsbury. 1993. An Immaculate Figure. London : Bloomsbury. 2000. Bloodlines. Cape Town : David Philip Publishers. 2008. Nile Baby. Oxfordshire: Ayebia Clarke Publishers.
Non-fiction 1994. Altered state? Aarhus: Dangaroo Press. 1995. Colonial and Postcolonial Literature: Migrant Metaphors. New York: Oxford University Press. 2002. Empire, the National, and the Postcolonial,1890- 1920: Resistance in Interaction. New York: Oxford University Press. 1998. Empire Writing: An Anthology of Colonial Literature, 1870-1918. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004. Scouting for Boys: A Handbook for Instruction in Good Citizenship by Robert Baden-Powell. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005. Stories of Women: Gender and Narrative in the Postcolonial Nation. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 2008. Nelson Mandela: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Sterling Publishing Company.
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 04:24
Roy Campbell (1901 - 1957) was born in Durban, the son of Dr Samuel George Campbell. Roy Campbell co-edited (with William Plomer and Laurens van der Post) the magazine entitled Voorslag in 1926. Campbell is the author of a long poem entitled The Flaming Terrapin (1924), as well as poetry collections entitled Adamastor (1930), Flowering Reeds (1933), Mithraic Emblems (1936) and Talking Bronco (1946). He wrote long satirical poems entitled The Wayzgoose (1928) and The Georgiad (1931) on the South African way of life and intellectual climate. Campbell's autobiographical works include Broken Record (1934) and Light on a Dark Horse (1951). He lived in England and Spain before settling permanently in Portugal where he died in a car accident at the age of fifty six. Campbell was fluent in Spanish and translated poems of St John of the Cross, Baudelaire, Lorca, Paco d'Arcos and novels by Ea de Queirs.
He also wrote critical studies entitled Lorca (1952) and Wyndham Lewis which was completed in 1931 but first published posthumously in 1985. His non-fiction works on travel and social commentary include Taurine Provence (1932) and Portugal (1957). Campbell also wrote an adventure story for children entitled The Mamba's Precipice (1953).
Literary studies on Campbell include David Wright's Roy Campbell (1961), Rowland Smith's Lyric and Polemic: The Literary Personality of Roy Campbell (1973), John Povey's Roy Campbell (1977) and Peter Alexander's Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography (1982). Joseph Pearce is the author of a well received biography and literary study of Campbell entitled Bloomsbury and beyond: The friends and enemies of Roy Campbell (2001, Harper Collins), in which he affirms Campbell's merits as a poet and portrays him as having been greatly under-rated in literary circles. In 2011, Remembering Roy Campbell: The Memoirs of his daughters Anna and Tess, edited by Judith Coullie, was published.
Thanks to The Guardian/NPG for permission to reproduce Jane Brown's 1951 portrait of the author.
The Zebras from Adamastor (1930)
From the dark woods that breathe of fallen showers, Harnessed with level rays in golden reins, The zebras draw the dawn across the plains Wading knee-keep among the scarlet flowers. The sunlight, zithering their flanks with fire, Flashes between the shadows as they pass Barred with electric tremors through the grass Like wind along the gold strings of a lyre. Into the flushed air snorting rosy plumes That smoulder round their feet in drifting fumes, With dove-like voices call the distant fillies, While round the herds the stallion wheels his flight, Engine of beauty volted with delight, To roll his mare among the trampled lilies.
1923. The flaming terrapin. London; Jonathan Cape Publishers. 1928. The wayzgoose; a South African satire. London: Jonathan Cape Publishers. 1930. Adamastor. London: Faber and Faber. 1930. The gum trees. London: Faber and Faber. 1931. The Georgiad: a satirical fantasy in verse. London: Boriswood Limited. 1931. Choosing a mast. London: Faber and Faber. 1932. Taurine Provence. London: Desmond Harmsworth. 1932. Pomegranates. London: Boriswood Limited. 1933. Flowering reeds. London: Boriswood Limited. 1934. Broken record. London; Boriswood Limited. 1936. Mithraic emblems. London: Boriswood Limited. 1936. Flowering rifle: a poem from the battlefield of Spain. London: Longmans, Green and Co. Publishers. 1941. Songs of the mistral. London: Faber and Faber. 1946. Talking bronco. London: Faber and Faber. 1951. Light on a dark horse. London: Hollis and Carter.
1952. Poems of Baudelaire: a translation of Les fleurs du mal. New York: Pantheon. 1952. Lorca: An Appreciation of his Poetry. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1953. The mamba's precipice. London: Frederick Muller. 1954. Nativity. London: Faber and Faber. 1957. Portugal. London: Max Reinhardt. 1960. Poems of Roy Campbell. (Edited by Uys Krige). Cape Town: Maskew Miller. 1985. WyndhamLewis. Durban; University of Natal Press. 1985. Collectedworks. (Edited by P. Alexander, M. Chapman and M. Leveson). Johannesburg: Ad Donker Publishers. 2002. Selected Poems. (Edited by J. Pearce). Johannesburg: Ad Donker Publishers. 2005. SelectedPoems. (Edited by M. Chapman). Johannesburg: Ad Donker Publishers.
2011. Remembering Roy Campbell: The Memoirs of his daughters Anna and Tess. Winged Lion Press