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North Coast Writers Trail PDF Print E-mail

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).

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South Coast Writers Trail PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 06 July 2011 12:42

Lily Moya/Mabel Palmer/Sibusisiwe Makhanya

In 1949, Lily Moya, a young African scholar, started a correspondence with Mabel Palmer, a well-known educator and activist. This correspondence was later published as Not Either an Experimental Doll (1987), edited by Shula Marks. Moya began by requesting help with her education – ‘Mine is a very sad case’ – to which Palmer agreed, funding her schooling at Adams College. The letters show that Lily was also hoping for a mentor and a friend, roles Dr. Palmer was unwilling to fill. The letters between the two grew increasingly agitated as Lily accused Dr. Palmer of neglecting her and Dr. Palmer withdrew her assistance, calling in social worker Sibusisiwe (Violet) Makhanya from Umbumbulu to intervene.

Prithiraj ‘Pritz’ Dullay (1946 - ) was born in Port Shepstone. Dullay’s early experiences with racial discrimination and apartheid resulted in him choosing an uncompromising path of confrontation with the government. His early exposure to the writings of Gandhi mapped out the paths he would follow in life. He became a student leader at Springfield College and his exposure to leaders such as Steve Biko, Strini Moodley and Dr Rick Turner shaped his political consciousness. He was later granted political exile in Denmark in 1978, remaining there for fourteen years. He returned to South Africa with his family in 1992, joining the Durban University of Technology. Dullay’s book Salt Water Runs in My Veins was launched in 2010.

Daphne Rooke (1914 - 2009) was born in the Transvaal, of an English father and Afrikaans mother who was a writer and ‘marvelous storyteller’. Rooke grew up in Durban where she attended Durban Girls' High School. She later moved to Zululand, where A Grove of Fever Trees was set. During the 1930s, she worked as a journalist, marrying an Australian, Irvin Rooke, and moving to Australia. There she wrote Mittee (1951), her international bestseller. A Grove of Fever Trees appeared in 1951, followed by a series of striking novels on turbulent South African themes. Ratoons, set in the South Coast sugarcane fields, was reissued in 1990 by Chameleon Press. In 1997 Rooke received a honorary doctorate from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She died in England.

Mazisi Kunene (1930 - 2006) was an epic poet who lived in Durban. He studied at the University of Natal, and won the Bantu Literary Competition Award in 1956. He left South Africa in 1959, taught in Lesotho, and later became Professor of African Literature and Language at the University of California in Los Angeles. For Zulu Poems (1970) Kunene collected and translated into English his early poems which reflect his social and cultural inheritance. Emperor Shaka the Great (1979), inspired by the rise of the Zulu empire, was followed by Anthem of the Decades (1981), a Zulu epic dedicated to the women of Africa. His reputation was further enhanced by the collection The Ancestors and the Sacred Mountain (1982).

Michael Cawood Green (1954 - ) was born in Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal. He studied for his Masters degree at Stanford, California, and at the University of York for his doctorate. In South Africa, his academic career brought him to the University of Natal in Durban. In 1997 Penguin published his historical fiction, Sinking: A Verse Novella. In 1999, Green spent a year in London as a Research Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Here he began a novel based on the Trappist monks who came to South Africa in 1878 and founded Mariannhill Monastery, together with other mission stations. This novel, For the Sake of Silence (2008), won the Olive Schreiner Prize.

Victor Frank Stiebel (1907-1976) was born in Durban, attending Michaelhouse school in the Midlands. He moved to Britain in 1924 to study at Cambridge and opened his own fashion house in 1932, where he had great success, designing for, amongst others, Princess Margaret. His autobiography captures his time in Natal from the age of four to seventeen, including memorable summer holidays at Isipingo in the early 1900s.

Es'kia Mphahlele (1919 - 2008) was a writer and academic. He was born in Marabastad, Pretoria, but educated at Adams College. He was fiction editor of Drum magazine in the mid-1950s but left South Africa for Nigeria in 1957, spending the next 20 years in exile. Author of the memoir Down Second Avenue (1959), Mphahlele was awarded the Order of the Southern Cross for services to literature in 1998 by President Nelson Mandela.

Voorslag (Roy Campbell, William Plomer and Laurens van der Post), meaning ‘whiplash’, was a literary journal published in Durban (but largely written in Sezela) in 1926 and 1927. It was founded and edited by Roy Campbell and William Plomer, with Laurens van der Post as the Afrikaans editor. The journal’s aim was, in Plomer’s words, ‘to sting with satire the mental hindquarters, so to speak, of the bovine citizenry of the Union [of South Africa]’.

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Midlands Writers Trail PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 24 November 2010 00:00

Imraan Coovadia (1970 - ) was born in Durban and attended Hilton College. He currently resides in Cape Town where he is a Professor in the English Department at UCT. His debut novel, The Wedding, published simultaneously in the USA and SA in 2001 has been translated into Hebrew and Italian. It was shortlisted for the 2002 Sunday Times Fiction Award, Ama-Boeke Prize (2003) and the IMPAC Dublin International Literary Award (2005).  His recent books are Green-eyed Thieves (2006) and High-Low In Between (2009).

Wilbur Smith was born in 1933 in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia. He was educated at Michaelhouse, and at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape. As a child he shared his mother’s interest in novels, especially adventure stories, where he could immerse himself in the lives of the characters and the places. His concern for the environment and the people of his native land are strongly reflected in his many best-selling novels, beginning with When the Lion Feeds (1964) and, more recently, Assegai (2010).  In an article in The Guardian Smith described how his time spent at Michaelhouse “taught me stoicism and to endure.”

John van de Ruit (1975 - ) was educated at Michaelhouse and the University of Natal (now UKZN). Van de Ruit has performed in a number of productions and highlights include the Johannesburg Naledi award for best comedy performance for Green Mamba (2004), together with Ben Voss. Most recently, he is known as the author of the successful Spud books set at Michaelhouse which trace the escapades of the eponymous hero.  The school looms large as setting, decribed in detail in the book: "The main quadrangle is surrounded by buildings, which remind me of those medieval castles on our old history books at primary school.  We head towards a building that looks older than the rest.  Its red brick has faded to peach brick and the moss and ivy are thick as a hedge.  The prefects lead us up a dark narrow staircase, through a long dormitory containing about fifteen empty beds and into another dormitory, this one dark and creepy with low hanging wooden rafters and dark brick walls.  It is small and cramped with just about space for eight beds.  It feels spooky and smells like old socks and floor varnish.  One of these eight beds is mine." Spud has been turned into a feature film starring John Cleese.

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