Foundational african writers


The essays in this collection were crafted in celebration of the centenaries, in 2019, of Peter Abrahams, Noni Jabavu, Sibusiso Cyril Lincoln Nyembezi and Es'kia Mphahlele, all of whom were born in 1919. All four centenarians lived rich and diverse lives across several continents. In the years following the Second World War they produced more than half a century of foundational creative writing and literary criticism, and made stellar contributions to institutions and repertoires of African and black arts and letters in South Africa and internationally. As a result, their oeuvres present multifaceted engagements and generative insights into a wide range of issues, including precolonial existence, colonialism, empire, race, culture, identity, class, the language question, tradition, modernity, exile, Pan-Africanism, and decolonisation. The range of the centenarians' imaginations, critical analyses and social interventions spanned disciplinary divides. This volume, in the same spirit, draws on approaches that are equally transdisciplinary. Two aims thread through the contributors' reflections on the complexities of black existence and of intellectual and cultural life in the twentieth century. The first is the exploration of some of the centenarians' key texts and cultural projects that shaped their legacies. In doing so, the volume contributors trace a number of divergent intellectual and aesthetic lineages in their works and organisational activities. The second aim is a consideration of the ways in which these foundational writers' legacies continue to resonate today, confirming their status as crucial contributors to modern African and diasporic black arts and letters.