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Kriben Pillay PDF Print E-mail

KRIBEN PILLAY is the College Dean of Teaching and Learning in the College of Law and Management Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is also a prolific writer across many genres. His poems appear in four South African anthologies, and his short stories appear in two. He was a finalist for the Bertrams African Literature Award in 1992, and was nominated for the 1995 CNA Literary Prize for his play Looking for Muruga, which now appears in a historic collection of plays from the South Asian diaspora – Beyond Bollywood and Broadway – published by the University of Indiana Press (2009). He is the editor of Noumenon, a journal that critically investigates issues of transformation. His writings on transformation feature in a number of international publications. An Australian book, Drama for Life: Stories of Adult Learning & Empowerment, features a chapter by him, while his book, Radical Work: exploring transformation in the workplace through The Work of Byron Katie, has been published in both English and German. His children's book on transformation, entitled The Story of the Forgetful Ice Lollies, was a finalist in the 2004 BASA Awards and it was nominated for the 2004 Vivian Wilkes Award. At the end of 2005, Kriben was awarded a National Arts Council Grant for Literature, while in 2007 he was awarded a National Arts Council Grant for Theatre. His latest scholarly work is Nondualism and Educational Drama and Theatre: A Perspective for Transformative Training.

In 2014, Pillay released Three Poisons, a collection of three short stories.

Selected Works

Eyes (Staffrider, 1980, Vol. 3, No. 4, p. 30.)

I remember your eyes

when they spoke of me,

of my race, of my god

of the way I danced.

They were not your eyes,

but the eyes of years gone by,

shaped by sights of images

too big to see,

and left alone...

in the dark.

Those eyes, archaic,

of years gone by,

had to be plucked,

and in the unwanting sockets,

I put

mine in yours,

yours in mine.

I remember my eyes now,

when they spoke of you,

of your race, of your god,

of the way you danced.

Staffrider, 1980, Vol. 3, No. 4, p. 30.

From a work-in-progress

‘What the hell,’ said Lucky to himself, ‘my thesis is both politically correct and incorrect; it’s simply a matter of how you’re looking at it.’

Indeed, Lucky’s intellectual labour of three years was highly novel. With breathtaking creative scholarship, Lucky set out to prove that Shakespeare was African. Not just African because of themes which resonate with the African mind, but literally African. Hence the title: Shaik Peer, Shakespeare and Shaka’s Spear.

In a leap of linguistic licence, Lucky argued with meticulous attention to scholarly detail, that the honorific title Shaik, which was accorded to Arabic tribal elders and great Islamic scholars, was the root of the name Shaka, the leader who unified the Zulu people. And in a wheel of transforming connections, Shaik Peer was actually the real Shakespeare; the name of the former travelling with nomadic tribes from Northern Africa to the furthest south, to take root finally in the heroic leader Shaka, the founder of a nation. Lucky found a curious bit of historical synchronicity: Shaik Peer was a writer and linguist of unsurpassed genius, and he not only intimated his real identity in the name of a relatively unknown rural English actor, but was also part of an international Brotherhood of Intellectuals across religions, whose patron was the great Greek goddess Athena, the ‘Shaker of Spears’. This synchronicity, more than two centuries after Shaik Peer’s time, was to come full continental circle; his name arising in the great Zulu leader with a spear. Shaka’s Spear. Such was Lucky’s thesis: The Dark Lady of the sonnets was not a mystery; she was African. And so was the writer.

For Lucky, his theory was just as probable as all the other constructed ones.


1982. Letter to Bandi. In Voices From Within (anthology). Chapman, Michael; Dangor, Achmat (eds.),   Craighall: Ad. Donker, p. 187.

1982. Eyes. In The Return Of The Amazi Bird: Black South African Poetry 1891 – 1981. Couzens, Tim; Patel, Essop (eds.). Johannesburg: Ravan Press, p. 366.

1986. A Mind In Revolt. East London: Self-published.

1988. Learning to See: Self-Discoveries Through Theatre. Durban: Asoka Theatre Publications.

1989. Replica: Oribi Gorge. In New Coin 25/25: Twenty Five Years of English South African Poetry. Bunyan, David, (ed.). Grahamstown: ISEA, Rhodes University,  p. 14.

1993. Two Poems and Two Responses – Criticism and the Writer: A View. In Writer’s World, No.9, pp. 19–20.

1998. Finding an identity – South African Indian Theatre in Spain. In South African Theatre Journal, May/September, No 1&2, Vol. 12, pp. 178–184.

2002. They no know Mandela. South African Indian Writings in English. Chetty, Rejendra (ed.) Durban: Institute for Black Research/Madiba Publishers, University of Natal,  pp. 151–153.

2003. The Story of the Forgetful Ice Lollies. Wandsbeck: The Noumenon Press.

2007. Nondualism and Educational Drama and Theatre. Wandsbeck: The Noumenon Press.

2009. Looking For Muruga: Beyond Bollywood and Broadway – Plays from the South Asian Diaspora, edited by Neilesh Bose. Bloomington & Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, pp. 450-480.

1997. Narrative Devices, Time and Ontology in Black South African Theatre with Special Reference to Sizwe Bansi is Dead. In Contemporary Literature from the African Diaspora. Salamanca: University of Salamanca,  pp. 151–158.

2009. From Self-Study to Self-Inquiry: Fictional History and the Field of Discovery. In Making Connections: Self-Study and Social Action, edited by Kathleen Pithouse, Claudia Mitchell & Relebohile Moletsane. New York: Peter Lang, pp. 223–234.

2014. Three Poisons. UK: Non-Duality Press.