The life and times of Es’kia Mphahlele

I always encourage people to travel to South Africa, because so much of the turmoil, conflict and transcendence of race and racial identity is reflected in that nation and its people, cultures and writers. One of these great writers, Es’kia Mphahlele, left South Africa in the early 50s and chronicled life under apartheid in his acclaimed autobiographical novel, “Down Second Avenue.” After decades of living in exile, Es’kia Mphahlele made the unusual choice to return to South Africa, in August 1976, during the heart of the Soweto riots and the most dangerous era of apartheid repression. A year later Steve Biko was killed in detention while South Africa continued to spiraling through  seemingly unending war and violence. Nonetheless, Mphahlele followed his intuition held strong in his determination to stay in South Africa, when virtually all exiled writers chose to carry on the struggle against apartheid in Europe, the United States and Africa. Mphahlele found strife as well as new life in his home and his return, and he found his Ancestors, his guidance and providence. In the summer of 2005 I had the great honor of meeting Mphahlele on his last trip to the States, a few months after this beautiful film was made. (He passed away on October 27, 2008.) It tells Es’kia Mphahlele’s life journey – through West and East Africa, Europe and the United States – in its full perspective and his return to his home and muse, his beloved South Africa.  Somehow, by his extraordinary life path Mphahlele was able to touch upon and embody a vast depth of East and West African culture, history and experience that he describes in his vision of African humanism.

Those of us who have in interest in Africa and the Diaspora, as well as the African-American society and its destiny, would do well to read Es’kia’s writings and study his words. There are many ANSWERS here.


Categories: Africa, Apartheid, South Africa

Tags: , , , , ,

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