Page last updated at 14:58 GMT, Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Anti-apartheid writer dies in SA

Es'kia Mphahlele (Picture: Es'kia Institute)
Mr Mphahlele became the University of Witwatersrand's first black professor

Prominent South African academic and writer Es'kia Mphahlele has died at the age of 88.

He was best known for his autobiography Down Second Avenue, telling of his life as a herdsman, teacher and journalist for the celebrated magazine Drum.

It ended with his exile from apartheid South Africa in 1957.

He returned 20 years later and became the University of Witwatersrand's first black professor and founded the school's African Literature Department.

African literature is an awakening
Es'kia Mphahlele

During his exile he spent time in Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia and France and gained a doctoral degree in the United States.

In 2002, he set up the Es'kia Institute, a non-governmental organisation to nurture the arts and preserve African heritage.

After the end of apartheid in 1994, former President Nelson Mandela awarded him the Order of the Southern Cross, one of the highest recognitions granted by the government.

"African literature is an awakening," Mr Mphahlele wrote in 1983.

"It represents moments of consciousness when we have been jolted into awareness of what Europe did to us and what we have been doing about this disinherited personality we now possess.

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Country profile: South Africa
18 Oct 08 |  Country profiles

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