President Jacob Zuma will bestow the 2016 National Orders Awards on a group of distinguished local citizens and foreign nationals this week.
The orders are awarded to those who have “played a momentous role towards building a free democratic South Africa and who also have made a significant impact on improving the lives of South Africans in various ways”.
Author Marguerite Poland and the late poet and novelist Benedict Wallet Vilakazi will be honoured with the Order of Ikhamanga, which recognises South African citizens who have excelled in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport.
Benedict Wallet Vilakazi (6 January 1906 – 26 October 1947) was a distinguished Zulu poet, novelist, and linguist. He wrote the first book of Zulu poems to be published, and in 1946 became the first black South African to receive a PhD. He was also the first African senior lecturer at a “white university”, joining the Department of Bantu Studies at the University of Witwatersrand as a lecturer in 1935. Vilakazi was a prolific writer, publishing his first novel, Nje nempela, in 1933, and his first book of poems, Inkondlo kaZulu, in 1935. He is credited with the establishment of a unique poetic genre, combining traditional Zulu praise-poetry with blank verse. Vilakazi also contributed many articles to scholarly publications and co-authored a Zulu-English Dictionary. Vilakazi Street in Soweto – famous as the place where two Nobel Prize winners, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, once lived – is named after him.
Vilakazi reflected on his impressions of Wits in the poem “Wo, Ngitshele Mntanomlungu” (Tell, White Man’s Son):
Such massive and majestic columns,
Drawing my gaze where, high above me,
Doves are perched whose noisy cooing
Is like the bellowing of bulls.
Thus, as I gaze around in wonder,
I realise beyond all doubt
That I am lost! Yet well I know I came
To serve my own beloved people
Aware of them always, I hear them cry:
”Take up your burden and be our voice!”
Marguerite Poland grew up and was educated in the Eastern Cape, and is fluent in Xhosa and isiZulu. She is a graduate of Rhodes and Stellenbosch Universities and the University of KwaZulu-Natal and has a BA in Xhosa and Social Anthropology, an Honours degree in Comparative African Languages and an MA in Zulu Literature. Poland writes for both children and adults, and her landmark 1979 book The Mantis And The Moon is credited with establishing a market for indigenous children’s books in English in South Africa. Her adult novels have won several prestigious awards, and she has also written a number of academic papers and reports. Her most recent novel is The Keeper.
Other notable recipients of National Orders this year include the late journalist and editor Zwelakhe Sisulu (Order of Mapungubwe, gold, Posthumous), the late entrepreneur Marina Nompinti Maponya (Order of the Baobab, gold, Posthumous), Winifred “Winnie” Madikizela-Mandela and Sathyandranath Ragunanan “Mac” Maharaj (both Order of Luthuli, silver).
The ceremony will take place on Thursday, 28 April, at Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria.
Full list of 2016 Order of Ikhamanga recipients:
The Order will be bestowed in Bronze on:
- Laurika Rauch: For her outstanding contribution in the field of music and raising awareness on political injustices through music. She bravely deployed her artistic talents to highlight the injustices and tyranny of the apartheid rule.
The Order will be bestowed in Silver on:
- Thomas Hasani Chauke: For his excellent contribution to the development and promotion of Xitsonga traditional music in the country. His prolific song-writing and performances have put Xitsonga music in the forefront.
- Sylvia “Magogo” Glasser: For her excellent contribution to the field of dance and transference of skills to the young people from all racial backgrounds, fostering social cohesion in the time of apartheid.
- Marguerite Poland: For her excellent contribution to the field of indigenous languages, literature and anthropology. Her literary works are taught widely in South African schools.
The order will be bestowed in Gold on:
- Benedict Wallet Vilakazi (Posthumous): For his exceptional contribution to the field of literature in indigenous languages and the preservation of isiZulu culture. A world famous street in Soweto, where two noble prize winners once resided, bears his name.
- Professor Rosina Mamokgethi Phakeng: For her excellent contribution in the field of science and representing South Africa on the international stage through her outstanding research work.
Benedict Wallet Vilakazi image courtesy of Ulwazi