“Sing, how can we sing
with chain blocks barring us
the Malombo Sound?
Play, how can we play
with games turning into nightmares?
Talk, should we not talk with deep open voices?
Wait, should we wait till the cows come home?”
Mafika Gwala in Bonk’ahbajahile
The 2021 Mafika Gwala Annual Lecture that started in 2015 as a collaboration between the College of Humanities at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and South African History Online and the National Institute of Humanities & Social Sciences (NIHSS) will be presented as a live-streamed panel discussion. The panel discussion will take a pivotal place on the opening day during the UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts 25th Poetry Africa Festival on Monday 11 October at 5 pm.
Director of the Centre for Creative Arts, Ismail Mahomed, said, “The annual Mafika Gwala Memorial Lecture celebrates and highlights the extraordinary work of literary legend, public intellectual and social justice defender, Mafika Gwala. He was one of South Africa’s finest poets known for his writings in both English and Zulu. He used his pen to speak out against the injustice of apartheid, actively served in the Black Consciousness Movement and was a member of the Black South African Student Organisation as well as the Black Communities Project, in Durban. This year’s Poetry Africa festival is inspired by the line “talk, should we not talk with deep open voices” from his poem Bonk’ahbajahile”.
This year’s keynote address titled: “What the Left forgot about the Left since Mafika Gwala?”, will be delivered by Professor Imraan Coovadia, who is a writer and scholar who has been director of the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Creative Writing since 2011. Coovadia will speak about what was original and necessary in the left perspective of Gwala and others, and why they combined poetry and political activism, and what has disappeared in today’s left in South Africa with its emphasis on statism and racial quotas and the defence of mob violence.
Author and academic, Dr Betty Govinden and professor emeritus at UKZN, Dr Michael Chapman, will join the panel, moderated by Omar Badsha, the founder and director of South African History Online (SAHO).
“Since the inaugural Mafika Gwala annual Lecture, activists from the community of Mapumalanga Township have annually organised a number of literary projects with schools in the township and in Pietermaritzburg. SAHO has also published Gwala’s collected work,” said Badsha.
Poet, writer and editor, Mafika Pascal Gwala was born on 5 October 1946 in Verulam, outside of Durban. Gwala was a member of the Black Consciousness Movement and contributor for the Black Review and Staffrider. He produced two collections of poetry and collaborated on a third with Liz Gunner. Gwala performed at the 10th Poetry Africa Festival in 2006. He sadly passed away on 6 September 2014.
The Poetry Africa Festival will be presented by the Centre for Creative Arts with the support of the National Institute for Humanities, The French Institute of South Africa, and Total. Unmute: Power to the Poet will be the theme for the 25th edition of the virtual festival, which is freely accessible and can be watched via www.facebook.com/poetryafrica and www.youtube.com/centreforcreativearts.
The Mafika Gwala panel discussion will take place at 17:00 on Monday 11 October. You can RSVP here to join the Zoom Room: Please click the link to join the webinar: