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Book: The Representation of African Humanism in the Narrative Writings of Es'kia Mphahlele
Author: Lesibana Jacobus Rafapa
Publisher: Stainbank Associates
Reviewer: Zenoyise Madikwa
The cover of this book is intimidating. So is the long title, but a thorough reading communicates the other side of the book.
How I wish all those who have been entrusted to lead the people in the post-apartheid era would read this book. It would help them understand their mandate and the African renaissance and "Africanness".
This book restores dignity and self love to Africans. It is a well- researched thesis that pays homage to Es'kia Mphahlele's philosophy.
Rafapa takes the reader on a stroll through Mphahlele's way of doing things and a search for identity within the new world created by colonialism and apartheid.
The thesis makes great use of Mphahlele's articulation of African humanist perspectives. It establishes Mphahlele's writings within their Afrocentric, post-colonial historical and theoretical context.
The author also explores Mphahlele's philosophy that responds to what he perceives as skewed western critical opinion about the nature of Africanness.
This is evident in one of the chapters where he explores how Mphahlele challenges David Hume, a British philosopher who questioned the intellectual capacity and status of Africans as human beings.
Rafapa also strives throughout the thesis to maintain a distinction between Eurocentrism and racism in the way Mphahlele makes the point never to confound the two.
If you are in search of personal, intellectual and cultural identity, this is the book for you. In a South Africa controlled by greed and capitalistic tendencies this book is a reminder of where Africans come from. It is a remedy for self-doubt and selfishness. It reveals a great compassion for humanity and celebrates an indomitable human spirit.
Mphahlele was born in 1919 in Pretoria. A novelist, short story writer and critic, he was dismissed from teaching for his opposition to Bantu education in 1952.
He joined Drum magazine as a political reporter and fiction editor. He gained a master's degree at the University of South Africa in 1956 and the next year went into exile. He returned to South Africa in 1977.
During his exile, he taught at universities in Africa and the US, and gained a PhD at the University of Denver.
He retired in 1987 as professor of African literature at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Among other books, he has written Down Second Avenue (1959), Afrika My Music (1984), The Wanderers (1968), which earned Mphahlele his doctorate and a nomination for the Nobel Prize for Literature.