Mbulelo Mzamane: poet, academic, author (1948 – 2014)

Poetry Potion | March 4th, 2014 | current issue, poet muses | No Comments

Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane spent much of his literary career as an educator and academic having lectured in English literature since 1976. Seen by others as not a serious writer, Mzamane always considered himself a teacher first. His debut book was Mzala: the Stories of Mbulelo Mzamane (1981). A collection of short stories with was republished as My Cousin Comes to Johannesburg and Other Stories a year later. His other books include The Children of Soweto (1982), Hungry Flames and other Black South African Short Stories (1986), Words Gone Two Soon: Tribute to Phaswane Mpe and K. Sello Duiker (2006), Children of Paradise (2011) plus numerous essays in various publications. Mzamane has also edited the poetry collections of Mongane Wally Serote, Selected Poems: Mongane Wally Serote (1982), and Sipho Sepamla, Selected Poems: Sipho Sydney Sepamla (1983).

Mzamane was, until his passing, the director of the UKZN Centre for African Literature.

In African society, art has traditionally been functional, and the poets of the Soweto era identified with this tradition. They created poetry based on the ideas, problems, experiences, and aspirations of their people. Their poetry is a communal event, and they are the izimbongi come to life. They carry the functions of the izimbongi into the midst of the fractured lives of the prisoners of apartheid. They are the sympathetic observers who voice the hopes and fears, aspirations and frustrations, of others. But sometimes they advise and at a crucial juncture they advocate action.Ӡ

For many, Prof Mzamane’s death, this February, was unexpected. Those close to him, his friends, colleagues and family have lost someone they care about. South Africa has lost a griot; we thank him for leaving us with so many gems.

RIP Prof Mzamane and condolences to his loved ones.



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Gaylard, R. P. 1999. An unusual freedom: Mbulelo Mzamane. English Academy Review: Southern African Journal of English Studies, 16(1);101-112, 10.1080/10131752.1999.10384461.

† New Poets of the Soweto Era: Van Wyk, Johennesse, and Madingoane. Mbulelo V. Mzamane Research in African Literatures, Vol. 19, No. 1, Special Issue on Black South African Literature since 1976 (Spring, 1988); pp. 3-11

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