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LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT FOR PROF MZILIKAZI KHUMALO (article first published : 2007-06-29)

In its 16th year, the M-Net Literary Awards serve to acknowledge and celebrate the exceptional riches in indigenous prose. Mandla Langa, acclaimed author and patron of the M-NET Literary Awards, said at the recent awards ceremony that the evening left most with the “distinct recent impression that there has been a tremendous increase in the quality of our prose”.

Winners were announced in four categories: Afrikaans, English, Sotho and Nguni.

The standard of the English entries was exceptionally high. For his range of contemporary South African preoccupations – with the dynamics and repression of memory, with the relation between trauma and identity, and with the intersection of individual, familial and national history – the M-Net Award in the English category for 2007 was awarded to Shaun Johnson for his novel, The Native Commissioner (Penguin Publishers).

The winner of the Sotho category was awarded to Kabelo Duncan Kgatea for Ntshware ka letsogo (Tafelberg: Setswana). Thelma Tshesane, one of the judges from the University of the Witwatersrand, said “in almost all the novels in the category there is an indication of poverty, oppression, the violation of human rights and insensitivity to other people’s plight.” The judges found that Kgatea achieved the best book, depicting such harsh events.

The winner in the Nguni category is Kula Siphatheleni for his novel, Elowo Nalawo (Illitha Publishers: isiXhosa). Innocentia Mhlabi, a judge from the University of the Witwatersrand, commented: “The general trend of most narratives explored aspects of poverty, abusive relationships particularly within the family, despair, hope and revival of morals and traditional values. The changing cultural values of African contemporary society were also taken into consideration.” The Sotho and Nguni winners found, the judges argued, the most creative way of exploring these changing values.

In the Afrikaans category, Ingrid Winterbach received the award for best Afrikaans prose for her astounding work, Die boek van toeval en toeverlaat (Human & Rousseau). Judges commended Winterbach for her clever way of balancing the sublime and the banal, the cosmic and the intimately personally in this subversive story which has enriched the genre of the Afrikaans novel.

In addition to all the categories, M-Net also awarded one writer, who has made an outstanding contribution to the literary fraternity, with a Life Time Achievement Award. The prestigious accolade was presented to Professor Mzilikazi Khumalo.

Langa concluded after the glittering evening that the thirst for writing among South Africa’s scribes seems “as vibrant as the hope for a renaissance of our country and continent”.

Professor Khumalo has a long and distinguished career in choral conducting and composition. Four honorary Doctor’s degrees were bestowed by UNISA and the Universities of Zululand, Stellenbosch, Fort Hare respectively for promoting African music. He created an awareness of the African idiom not only nationally but also internationally. Professor Khumalo contributed immensely to music in South Africa as composer, arranger, choirmaster and adjudicator, as well as Chairman of the National Anthem Committee whose work resulted in our present national anthem.

Some of his well-known choral compositions include the songs Ma Ngificwa Ukufa and Izibongo ZikaShaka while some popular arrangements of traditional songs include Ingoma ka Ntsikana and Akhala Amaqhude Amabili. In 1985, he wrote the vocal score of the music of UShaka KaSenzangakhona, an epic cantata in music and poetry, the latter by Professor Themba Msimang, with the orchestral score written by Dr Chris James and Robert Maxym. In 2002, he completed the vocal score of the opera Princess Magogo KaDinizulu. The libretto was again written by Professor Themba Msimang while the orchestration here was the work of Michael Hankinson.

Professor Khumalo was the first black academic at the University of the Witwatersrand to rise through the ranks from Language Assistant to Lecture, Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor and finally full Professor and Head of the Department of African Languages. On his retirement the University conferred on him the title Professor Emeritus. He also serves on the board of SAMRO as Vice-Chairman.




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