Alert! BOOK SA has heard from two individuals that Noni Helen Nontando Jabavu, author of two landmark works of writing on Africa – Drawn in Colour (1960) and The Ochre People (1963) – passed away yesterday at the age of 88. I haven’t been able to confirm this via public news sources yet.
Most of the biographical sketches of Jabavu list her year of birth as 1919, but one book, Women Writing Africa: the Southern Region, gives it as 1920. Fortunately for us, this book also provides a sample of Jabavu’s work – an excerpt from The Ochre People called “Bus Journey to Tsolo” – via Google Books. See the link below.
The same book, published in 2003, mentions that Jabavu was then living in Zimbabwe – so perhaps that’s where she died. Here’s a very brief sketch of her life up to The Ochre People, taken from that book’s blurb:
From the age of thirteen, Noni Jabavu was schooled in England, and continued to live there for many years. In 1955 she returned to South Africa for a three-month stay. She visited her father, Professor D.D.T. Jabavu, of Fort Hare, as well as relatives in the Eastern Cape and Johannesburg. The Ochre People, first published in 1963, is a poignant account of her trip, and contains vivid and perceptive memories of the country she loved and of the people she met.
The “Author’s Note” from Drawn in Colour may also be of interest:
I belong to two worlds with two loyalties: South Africa, where I was born, and England, where I was educated. When I received a cable sent by my father, I flew back to South Africa to be amongst my Bantu people, leaving my English husband behind in London. Later that year, he and I went to live in East Africa, to be near my only sister who had married out there. I’ve told here something of my own background and circumstances. This is a personal account of an individual African’s experiences and impressions of the differences between East and South Africa in their contact with Westernization.
To read a section from The Ochre People, go to Google Books:
BOOK SA will post more information and links related to Jabavu as they come to light.