Africa mourns ‘mother of SA literature’

By Sharon Kavhu

HARARE – The recent death of the first black South African woman to be published, Miriam Tlali has robbed Africa of its pioneers in literature.

Tlali died last Friday at the age of 83 after a long illness.

She is remembered for the books she wrote such as “Muriel at Metropolitan”, which was the first to be published by a black South African woman in 1975.

Some of her books include ‘Amandla’ (1980), ‘Mihloti’ (1984) and ‘Footprints in the Quag’ published in 1989.

In her native land, the late Tlali is remembered as the ‘mother of literature’.

South African Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, described Tlali as a literary legend and a literature pioneer who told the African story on the international arena through her reputable novels.

“Mama Miriam Tlali has earned her stripes as the real mother of South African literature,” said Mthethwa as he poured out his heart on social media.

“In Mama Miriam Tlali, South Africa and the entire African continent, has lost a literary giant.

“An African proverb says ‘when an old person dies a library burns to the ground’. What then happens when an old writer, a man or a woman of great knowledge, like Mama Tlali dies? Do a thousand libraries burn to the ground?

“The late once said just a book by itself, if it has the right messages in it, can change the whole human being. It can remake a person.”

He said Tlali was a trailblazer having been SA’s first black woman to publish a novel.

Zimbabwean celebrated artist and novelist, Albert Nyathi, in his tribute message said Thali did not belong to South Africa alone but the whole region.

“A writer carries the history, hope and aspiration of a nation or continent.  A writer like the late Mama Tlali, does not only belong to South Africa but, she belonged to the whole region,” said Nyathi.

“Writers are observers coming from the community and are also affected with what affects the community; I believe Africa will continually give birth to writers such as the late Mama Tlali.  Although the continent may not have the exact hand of the late in literature, her legacy lives on to inspire writers of the current generation.”

Several condolence messages for Tlali – ranging from novelists, readers and literature fanatics across Africa are still flooding the social media.

“Mama Tlali shall forever be remembered for giving birth to South African literature. In her time, she was one of the female novelists who pioneered the dismissal of gender and racial discrimination in literature in Southern Africa,” said Lekhetho John from Lesotho commenting on Minister Mthethwa’s recent posts on social media.

According to SA Ministry of Arts and Culture department, Tlali was born in Driefontein and grew up in Sophiatown.

March 2017
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