First Mafika Gwala Lecture: The Arts of Resistance - Mafika Gwala and South African Poetry by Ari Sitas

At first I thought that a reading and a republishing of my Traditions of Poetry in Natal2 which attempted to situate Mafika Pascal Gwala’s work in the late 1980s would be appropriate in marking his legacy. The more I re-read what I had said then the more despondent I got about the fate of the poetic and what I hear around me as what is appropriate for our times and what was inappropriate in those times. I have kept my analysis of his poems of the 1970s and 1980s largely unaltered, hoping that I could expand on his newer stuff that he promised he had in piles back home. To my horror, I found out from Omar Badsha that in a bout of absent-mindedness he had left it all in a bag in a taxi as he was going to get them copied in town. What remained where the number of conversations I had with him since, his anger at the “academic crawl” and what the suburbs had done to the township and its poetry. Remembering Mafika Pascal Gwala brought with it a haunting sensation. It was about the landscape that threaded together, Umlazi, KwaMashu, Inanda, Mpumalanga, Edendale, Dambuza, Sobantu and Mpophomeni. It was a common landscape of black experience, hope and fire. It was where, the poet found the Children of Nonti Nzimande and found them…resilient.

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References:
• Mafika Pascal Gwala’s, two volumes were published by Ravan Press in 1977 and 1982 respectively. Exiles Within, was put together under the banner of Writers’Forum. And was self-published in Cape Town in 1986. Musho! Was published by Michigan State University.What he thought of the emerging worker and popular democratic movement of the 1980s is in Staffrider vol 7 no. 1.(1988).
• My traditions piece was first published by Writers’Notebook in Durban 1990, before Liz Gunner pulled it in to her special edition of the Journal of Southern African Studies in 1991. Lesego Rampolokeng’s interview with Mafika Gwala was published last year in Chimurenga Mag.
• or those in doubt about Soho’s prowess in Kentridge’s work, please revisit his great animations of the late 1980s and late 1990s.