Ezekiel Mphahlele

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Ezekiel Mphahlele, also known as Es'kia or Zeke (1919-2008). Poet, playwright, novelist, academic and cultural leader.


In 1957 he went into exile to live in Nigeria, Paris and Nairobi, Kenya (where he became a leading figure in the literary landscape in both East and West Africa. He then moved to the USA.

He died in October 2008 at the age of 89.


He taught Afrikaans at Orlando High School in Soweto in the late 1940s and early 1950s and contributed to Drum magazine as journalist.

He lectured for a while at the University of Denver, before returning to South Africa in 1979 to become Professor of Comparative and African Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

Dramatised A Tale of Two Cities, which toured Transvaal.

As headmaster of Orlando High School in 1945, he introduced drama into the school. He later became director of the African Music and Drama Association (AMDA). Because blacks were prohibited from going to theatres or concert halls, he formed the Syndicate of African Artists, with the aim of exposing blacks to "serious" music and the arts.

His autobiography - Down Second Avenue (1959) - recounts his earlier life in South Africa.

His plays include Oganda's Journey (1979). His short story, The Suitcase, was adapted to the stage in 2005, starring Mbulelo Grootboom and directed by James Ngcobo.


(See De Beer, 1995; Gosher, 1988) [TH, JH]

The Star, 30 October 2008; 12 November 2008.

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