The essays in this collection were written 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.
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This is an important and visionary project, assured of its own ethical and political worth, and the
work of years of collaboration across generations, regions and intellectual traditions; it maps
that which it also creates through the groundbreaking world-making of the research network.
— Carli Coetzee, Editor, Journal of African Cultural Studies
This well-crafted collection recovers the seminal position of four of the most important
twenty-first-century African writers who have been absent from the canon and recalibrates the
distinctive development of African literature.
—Mpalive Msiska, Associate Professor and Programme Director, Department of English and
Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London
The essays in this collection were written 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 the founding and enhancement of institutions and repertoires of African and black arts and letters in South Africa and internationally. As a result, their lifeworlds and oeuvres present sharp and multifaceted engagements with 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 analysis and social interventions spanned conventional disciplinary divides. This volume, in the same spirit, draws on perspectives and approaches that are equally transdisciplinary in their modalities. 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, in which the chapter authors consider questions relating to the socio-political antecedents and
repertoires that shaped Peter Abrahams, Noni Jabavu, Sibusiso Nyembezi and Es’kia Mphahlele and that, in turn, constitute their legacies. In doing so, the authors trace a number of intellectual and aesthetic lineages that can be identified in the works and organisational activities of the centenarians, and explore the convergences and divergences, contradictions and paradoxes of these lineages. The second aim of the essays is to consider ways in which these foundational writers’ legacies continue to resonate today, confirming their status as crucial contributors to the genealogies and institutions of modern African and diasporic black arts and letters.