Poet celebrated online

George Pemba’s painting “The Poet” which is likely a portrait of his friend, Samuel Edward Krune Mqhayi. Picture: Supplied

George Pemba’s painting “The Poet” which is likely a portrait of his friend, Samuel Edward Krune Mqhayi. Picture: Supplied

Published Sep 23, 2023


Durban - Monday will see the launch of an online presentation to celebrate the life and works of Samuel Edward Krune Mqhayi, widely considered among the most important poets and authors in South African literature.

The presentation by the Emandulo platform at the University of Cape Town, is based on the archive of his work curated on the platform.

Born in 1875, Mqhayi’s life spanned the crucial era from the late colonial era wars to the cusp of apartheid, and the extensive body of creative work he produced in isiXhosa included novels, anthologies of poetry, history, journalism, hymns and translations over a career which spanned five decades, an Emandulo press release read.

Among his works are Ukutshona kuka Mendi – about SA’s biggest World War 1 maritime disaster that saw 636 deaths with the sinking of a vessel carrying members of the SA Native Labour Corps – and contributions to Nkosi sikelel' Afrika.

“The significance of SEK Mqhayi’s work and life is carefully outlined in an introductory essay by Sanele kaNtshingana, who points out ‘the care with which he handled his narratives, his daring attitude that pushed against the grain of both missionary and colonial administration attitudes, his unrelenting truth-speaking and the centring of his people, their experiences, and their philosophies in his work’’’.

“The essay offers an overview of Mqhayi’s intellectual biography for those unfamiliar with his work, as well as valuable new insights based on kaNtshingana’s research for those already acquainted with Mqhayi.”

Among the works now available online is an anthology of Mqhayi’s own account of his life, UMqhayi waseNtabozuko, published in 1939.

“Alongside these new and original texts, the SEK Mqhayi presentation on Emandulo uses a variety of media to engage the viewer. Most striking of these is a 1970 painting by George Pemba, titled “The Poet”, which is likely a portrait of Mqhayi as the two men were friends and Pemba greatly admired Mqhayi,” the Emandulo release added.

“The painting was on display at Aspire Art in March 2023 when it was sold by auction, and the gallery hosted a panel discussion on March 11, 2023, between Athambile Masola, Sanele Ntshingana and Anelisa Mangcu, which was chaired by Phillipa Duncan, to discuss the history of isiXhosa publications published by Lovedale Press in the context of Pemba’s portrait.”

The presentation also provides a link to this panel discussion on the Aspire Art Instagram page.

“A unique recording of Mqhayi’s voice, believed to be from 1932, provides the opportunity to hear the poet declaim the praises of two prominent amaXhosa chiefs of that era.

“Two sides of a Columbia Records 78rpm recording comprise almost 14 minutes of poetry recital and are the only known examples of his voice to survive.

“The first izibongo is titled A! Silimela, which is a eulogy for Chief Silimela Makinana of the Ndlambe, while the second is A! Velile! and praises Chief Archie Sandile of the Ngqika. The exceptional value in these recordings lies in the spoken qualities of isiXhosa izibongo, which cannot be conveyed in written text, and thus the recordings allow these two examples to be heard in the format they were composed in.”

Visit http://emandulo.apc.uct.ac.za

The Independent on Saturday