- Category: PA 2002
Shabbir Banoobhai was born in Durban in 1949 where he lived until his move to Cape Town in 1995. Of necessity he shared the fate of the larger black community of South Africans, and his poetry reflects that struggle. He has also identified with victims of oppressive regimes elsewhere, including the Balkans, where he traveled with a journalist friend on a mission to Sarajevo in 1992. One of the central poems of his latest volume, Sarajevo, for which he received the 2001 Thomas Pringle Award for poetry, records this experience. Shabbir Banoobhai's poetry is interwoven with spiritual, political and personal themes. Douglas Livingstone said of his first volume of poetry: " An obsessive and talented poet, a precocious master of the word and a fine lyricist to boot, almost every line of the work was subliminally ignited by the ancient great Islamic poets.
He shares their prime qualities: sensuality, passion, brilliance of imagery, a holistic approach to nature, and of course, love of God." Banoobhai's mystical writing has become more clearly directed against narrow-minded and exclusive religious thinking, perhaps influenced by South African society. He has a website www.veilsoflight.com where he writes philosophical meditations, soon to be published under the title Lightmail. His personal poetry is chiefly for his two daughters and his wife, a teacher of Arabic, and for his friends. After his second book was published in 1984, he did not publish again (though he continued to write) until 1999 when he brought out, as a private publication, a book of brief poems and spiritual reflections, Wisdom in a Jug - Reflections of Love. His latest publication, inward moon outward sun, will be launched at Poetry Africa 2002.