Mafika Gwala Memorial Lecture Opens Poetry Africa Festival in Durban
The Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) within the College of Humanities recently hosted the 2022 Mafika Gwala Memorial Lecture.
The lecture was launched in 2015 as a collaboration between the College of Humanities, South African History Online (SAHO), and the National Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS).
‘The annual Mafika Gwala Memorial Lecture celebrates and highlights the extraordinary work of this literary legend, public intellectual and defender of social justice,’ said CCA Director, Dr Ismail Mahomed. ‘He was one of South Africa’s finest poets who was known for his writings in both English and isiZulu. It is a highlight in our festival programme and offers a dialogue with the younger generation of poets to find inspiration and leadership from veteran poets and to further interrogate their own work to build and reshape the country.’
Professor Sihawukele Ngubane of the School of Arts added, ‘This lecture series honours the legacy of Gwala and we are proud as a University to keep his memory and contributions to the isiZulu literary works alive.’
The keynote speaker was poet, journalist, communication specialist and literary translator, Mr Sandile Ngidi who commemorated the vision and spirit of Gwala for justice, equality, and light. Ngidi addressed the following questions: Why are we hurting ourselves and embracing stubborn emblems of blood and hate again? How long has the sun been gone? How long have we lost words that heal and give hope to her famished rhythm?
‘Poetry provides the possibilities to undergo deep introspection and to fight injustices, poverty and inequality. By sharing parts of ourselves through literary works, we give different perspectives and insights into societal problems and possible solutions,’ said Ngidi.
He first encountered Gwala’s work as a student at the former University of Natal (now UKZN) citing that the poet’s work was his most treasured item as it related to Black consciousness. ‘Gwala’s work appealed to me not only because of its political nature, but as a great literary work from a proud Black man. His poetry also taught me about the Black condition under apartheid. Reading Gwala’s poetry gave me a new language that was radical and bold.’
Ngidi noted that Gwala understood cultural identity. ‘He put art into action for the liberation struggle. Looking at the South African landscape now, Black pain and suffering are generally left to the occasional politician. We need to find that liberation language and Black Consciousness because it mobilises and unites us as South Africans to fight against poverty, inequality and injustices.’
Words: Melissa Mungroo
Photograph: Rogan Ward