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ADRIAAN’S A DOCTOR (article first published : 2000-05-28)

An honorary doctorate in literature was recently conferred on Adriaan Donker by the University of Natal. “Until Ad Donker and a small number of others came along, publishing in South Africa was largely a matter of coffee table books about flower painting, or worse, English cooking, and the only nudity allowed on the South African silver screen were close-ups of the big five”, said Professor Daniel Herwitz.

Adriann Donker published the first anthology of what became known as “Soweto poetry”. To Whom It may Concern. He published the unknown with the same care as the well-known. The result? Collections by Mtshali, Serote, Gwala, Livingstone, Campbell, Plomer and Butler. Since such publishing was never profitable, the Ad Donker Publishing Hose was financed by the publication of its reference books. This in turn allowed Donker to produce books like A Century of South African Short Stories, a standard work even today in universities. He also published the works of authors in the 1980s such as Bloke Modisane (banned at the time) and Dikobe wa Mogale (in jail at the time). Mogale is, interestingly, the nom de plume of Ben Martins, now a member of parliament.

Ad Donker was brought out of retirement to develop the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of Natal. In the three years of his tenure he revitalised the Durban International Film Festival, establishing the Poetry Africa Festival and the Time of the Writer Festival.




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