Zakes Mda, who was awarded the Silver Order of Ikhamanga recently, says the state honour will not curtail his criticism of President Jacob Zuma.
The Order of Ikhamanga, a medal granted for achievements in arts, culture, and and sport, is awarded annually. Receiving silver this year along with Mda were Olympic swimmer Cameron van der Burgh, actress Sandra Prinsloo, and former Bafana Bafana coach Jomo Sono.
In an interview with Jennifer Malec of Books LIVE, Mda says despite owning a display cabinet containing “over twenty awards” from his peers and his readers, it still means a lot to be recognised by his country. However, he adds that being honoured by the state will not compel him to tone down his writing.
Books LIVE: Congratulations on receiving the Silver Order of Ikhamanga! What does this particular honour mean to you?
Mda: It’s a big deal. As a writer and creator of art I am not doing it for awards. But it is gratifying to be recognised. I am sure you are aware that my work has been celebrated in many countries and has won numerous awards in South Africa, the USA and Italy. In addition to that my peers in the academy have honoured me with honorary doctorates at the University of Cape Town, University of the Free State and Dartmouth College. But this Order of Ikhamanga is particularly special because it is from the country. Through it the President of South Africa is telling me: “We are aware of your contribution in uplifting your country and putting it on the map, and we say thank you.” That is super gratifying. South African artists always complain that they get recognition abroad but never at home. For me things have worked differently. I have received great recognition at home at many different levels: local, provincial and national. For instance, the town of Sterkspruit where I was born celebrated a Zakes Mda Day last August. They stopped their ongoing riots and service delivery protests to celebrate a writer. At a provincial level the very same week I received the Order of Inkhamanga in Silver the premier of the Eastern Cape, Noxolo Kiviet, gave me the Premier’s Award for my contribution in the development of the province.
Did President Jacob Zuma have any special words for you at the ceremony?
President Zuma congratulated me and encouraged me to continue unabated with the good work. This, of course, gives me the green light to continue unabated with the good work of criticising him.
When you started out as a writer, did you expect your career to be so long and glittering?
I expected it to be as long as I live. Glittering? I don’t know about that. What makes you think it is glittering?
What are you going to do with your medal; do you have a display cabinet ready and waiting?
Pawn it. Just kidding. My display cabinet is full of more than twenty awards. Since this one is a medal that one wears during august state occasions it will stay in its box.
Mda’s new novel, Rachel’s Blue, is expected this year.
- The Sculptors of Mapungubwe by Zakes Mda
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Image courtesy of Brenda Veldtman