- Category: PA 2001
Mazisi Raymond Kunene, born in Durban in 1930, obtained an M.A. from the University of Natal in 1962 for his widely quoted dissertation An Analytical Survey of Zulu Poetry, both Traditional and Modern. After teaching for four years he moved to England to further his studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, where he became a founder member of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in Great Britain and also Director of Education for the South African United Front. In 1968 he moved to Cairo as an Executive member of the Afro-Asian Writers Committee and became founder member of various other organisations in different countries, before returning to academic life as visiting professor at Stanford University in the U.S.A. He later accepted the position of Associate Professor in African Literature and Languages at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1993 he returned to South Africa to take up the position of Professor in the Department of Zulu Language and Literature at the University of Natal.
At the time he had 13 volumes of published work (including translations) plus 38 individual published poems, two film scripts, and a play. Prof. Kunene’s two major epic poems, originally written in Zulu, but translated into English by the author himself for publication in Great Britain, were examined for the granting of the D.Litt. degree. These poems constitute a modern reflection on Zulu cultural ideals, and on the events which have shaped the history of South Africa and especially Natal. Mazisi Kunene has been honoured by the London Observer which selected both Anthem of the Decades and Emperor Shaka the Great as Books of the Year. The University of Natal conferred an honorary degree upon Professor Mazisi Kunene in recognition of the contribution he has made to Zulu poetry, to the appreciation of African Literature and Culture, as well as to the struggles for liberation in Africa. In 1993 he was appointed African’s poet laureate in the United Nation’s Education, Science and Culture Organisation.