Late Poet and Writer Mafika Gwala Remembered Fondly at LectureAgriculture, Engineering & Science

Poet and writer Mandla Langa (second left) seen with some of Gwala’s friends and family.Poet and writer Mandla Langa (second left) seen with some of Gwala’s friends and family.

The second annual Mafika Gwala lecture was delivered at UKZN by South African poet, short story writer, and novelist, Mandla Langa, who spoke about Gwala and his quest for a humane society.

The lecture was hosted by the College of Humanities together with South African History Online and the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences. It coincided with the second anniversary of the death of Gwala - poet, writer, editor and member of the Black Consciousness Movement.

Representatives of Gwala’s family, including his eldest sister, Rosemary, attended.

In his address, Langa recalled fond memories of his friendship with Gwala linking them to how Gwala, often through his literary works, managed to contribute to the dismantling of apartheid.

‘Through his many works, he captured the essence of the struggle and gave his best to help heal people affected by apartheid. We were in exile together, and talked about the struggle in a different country. It gave us a different perspective. We still face adversities in our country but we must remember that hope always lies ahead,’ said Langa.

Three books, Mafika Gwala Collected Poems, edited by Mandla Langa and Ari Sitas; Alfred Qabula Collected Poems edited by Ari Sitas, and The Flight of the Gwala Gwala Bird by Ari Sitas, were launched at the lecture.

The books are seen as an important contribution to restore the power of the voice of one of the most influential poets and political activists in the 1970s and 1980s.

The book launch led to a discussion between Langa and Sociologist, Writer, Dramatist and Civic Activist Professor Ari Sitas with both speakers agreeing that Gwala’s poems are also symbolic in terms of the contemporary period. ‘Gwala’s works are contributing to the continuous process of decolonisation,’ said Sitas. ‘He stimulated this. We see the current generation fighting for this. The Arts and its poets and writers have a role to play for transformation and decolonisation.’

Acting Dean for Research Professor Pholoho Morojele said the lecture promoted transformative thinking and engaged with critical issues of transformation, social justice and equity. ‘Gwala’s poems resonate with the current situation of the country and can influence younger minds to take the country forward,’ he said.

CEO of South African History Online and good friend of Gwala, Mr Omar Badsha, said the lecture was not only a celebration of Gwala’s work but significant as it spotlighted the work of many other artists who were prominent in the apartheid struggle. ‘It also allowed for a discussion on contemporary issues relating to artists, the current situation in the country and the role of the Arts in decolonisation,’ said Badsha.

Melissa Mungroo