Borders Literature Online

Sometimes There Is a Void: Memoir of an Outsider

By Zakes Mda | Reviewed by: Olatoun Gabi-Williams

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Interview with Zakes Mda, Renowned South African Writer & Visual Artist

My guest this week is the renowned and much-loved South African, Zakes Mda. He was born in South Africa in 1948. This was the year when Apartheid, the enshrining of white supremacy, became the law, subsequent to the election to power of the Nationalist Party. Born to the respected freedom fighter, AP Mda, what a rich, sprawling life, this uncommonly - and powerfully - gifted man has lived! A childhood inhabited by freedom fighters who would one day soon become legends of Africa's political history. Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo. A childhood lived out against the dramatic canvas of liberation politics institutionalized in the African National Congress and the Pan African Congress of Azania. A youth defined as much by sexual adventures as by the discovery of his own abundant talents as a composer of music, a writer and visual artist. That his gifts were significant was obvious to everyone that encountered them and these gifts would take him on a riveting journey to the pinnacle of world arts and culture.

Holding up a mirror to the history and current realities of South Africa, his prodigious work includes radio and stage plays and novels that have been translated into 21 languages. For his contributions to the canon of contemporary African literature, he has received some of the most important awards: The Playwright of the Year in South Africa twice, the Commonwealth Writers Prize, the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. The Madonna of Excelsior, the novel in which I encountered the unbridled imagination of Zakes Mda, has been listed as one of the top 10 South African Books published in the Decade of Democracy.

Currently lecturing in Advanced Academic Programs at Johns Hopkins University, Zakes was until recently, Professor of Creative Writing in the English Department at Ohio University.

Olatoun Gabi-Williams
Reviewed by Olatoun Gabi-Williams
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