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RIP Mbulelo Mzamane (1948 – 2014)

The Children of SowetoChildren of ParadiseAcademic, poet and storyteller Prof Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane passed away yesterday.

The Director of the Centre for African Literary Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and former Vice-Chancellor of University of Fort Hare was called a “visionary leader, [and] one of South Africa ‘s greatest intellectuals” by Nelson Mandela.

Victor Dlamini recorded a podcast with Mzamane for Books LIVE in 2008, remarking that the professor “has the ability to plunge straight into the belly of a narrative and bring forth its gentle resonances”.

Muxe Nkondo wrote about Mzamane in an obituary for the Mail & Guardian:

Part of Mbulelo Mzamane’s creative brilliance was his capacity for being nakedly himself. He kept his unique individuality unsmudged and preserved a kind of purity of self even in the most ordinary of occasions.

Add to this Mzamane’s unabashed, indefatigable interest in the self of ordinary men, women and children, and the complexity of that self – rare, anomalous, magnificently interesting, curious, tremendously suggestive – and one sees how Mzamane’s creative writing and his public discourses may be one of the great autobiographies of literature.

This great loss to the literary community was mourned by many on Twitter:

Paul Mashatile, the Minister of Arts and Culture released a statement paying tribute to Mzamane:

Press release:

Minister of Arts and Culture, Paul Mashatile, Pays Tribute to the late Prof. Mbulelo Mzamane

It is with a deep sense of shock and sadness that we learned of the passing of Prof Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane yesterday. The arts and academic communities have been robbed of a creative genius whose wisdom has touched many lives.

Mzamane was described by the late President Nelson Mandela as a “visionary leader and one of South Africa’s greatest intellectuals”. He was born in 1948 in Brakpan, Johannesburg. He attended High School in Swaziland where he was taught by distinguished writer and journalist, Can Themba. He held academic positions in Lesotho, Botswana, England, Nigeria, USA, Germany, Australia and South Africa. He also spent years in exile in Nigeria and the USA and spread SA literature there and conscientised people on the South African struggle. He was the first Vice Chancellor of the University of Fort Hare in a democratic South Africa. He was the 2012 recipient of the African Literature Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, The Fonlon-Nicholls Award, for creative writing, scholarship and human rights advocacy.

Mzamane served South Africa, the African continent and the diaspora with laudable excellence. He worked closely with Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and Nawal El Saadawi as co-chairs of BUWA! African Languages and Literatures into the 21st century. He was appointed by both former presidents Mandela and Thabo Mbeki into various advisory boards. He was also involved with some aspects of the National Development Plan. When former Minister of Arts and Culture, Dr. Z Pallo Jordan received a shipment of African Classics, he ensured that it went to Prof. Mzamane who was Director of the Centre for African Literary Studies located at the Pietermaritzburg campus of UKZN. In June last year he was the guest speaker at the inaugural Can Themba Memorial Lecture alongside Nadine Gordimer and Joe Thloloe. At the time of his death he was the Project Leader and General Editor of the Encyclopedia of South African Arts Culture and Heritage (ESAACH).

“We extend our heartfelt and deepest condolences to his family, friends, and everyone who have benefitted from his wisdom, friendship and generosity. His incisive views, impeccable wisdom and abundant sense of humour will be sorely missed. South Africa has lost yet another great mind,” concluded Minister Mashatile.

Prof. Mzamane’s legacy will live on through all his writing and his students whom he had impacted greatly.


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Recent comments:

  • Lindsay
    February 25th, 2014 @13:18 #

    An event is bring held today in Celebration of Life & Legacy of Prof Mbulelo Mzamane at 5:30 PM at the State Theatre, 320 Pretorius St, Tshwane.

  • ThembaRSukumane
    February 26th, 2014 @21:40 #

    I treasure the years I spent with you at Roma and lately the few hours at the National Library in Pretoria. Thank you for enriching my appreciation of poetry. Lala ngekuthula mfowethu Njingalwazi Mbulelo V Mzamane.


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