Mphahlele is peerless

Book: Es'kia

Book: Es'kia

Editors: Sam Raditlhalo and Taban Lo Liyong

Publisher: Stainbank and Associates

Reviewer: Victor Mecoamere

Es'kia Mphahlele, the humanist, philosopher, teacher and author is a lucky man.

He has monuments to his name and his status is being built while he is still alive.

He is acknowledged as a special contributor to the advancement of education, African humanism and culture, social consciousness and literary appreciation.

Es'kia pays tribute to Mphahlele through praises, tributes, acknowledgements and testimonies by recognised South African and international writers and academics, among them his peers.

The book features more than 40 authors, poets, novelists, philosophers and academics giving individual and collective presentations delivered at two conferences: the Zeke In Y2K: Row B Conference, and Give Me Drums And Whistles.

The conferences were held at two universities - Venda and the then University of the North respectively.

Contributors include Nadine Gordimer, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991; the late and former journalist Arthur Maimane; former journalist Meshack Mabogoane; Herbert Vilakazi; Ngoato Takalo; Lebamang Sebidi; and Mafori Mphahlele.

Most of these contributors are themselves respected and influential teachers, philosophers and academics like Mphahlele.

The editors acknowledge that there are many who have been touched by Mphahlele.

This former Afrikaans and English teacher turned his back on Bantu education and went into exile.

This is where he was exposed to different cultures, traditions and morals of the world.

Just like in John Allen's Rabble-Rouser For Peace, a book about Archbishop Desmond Tutu, this publication portrays Mphahlele as a man who chose modesty over pomposity and knowledge over ignorance.

Mphahlele is also recognised for his excellence in observing, interpreting and analysing the environment.

His polished writing skills make it easy to connect with his readers.

He could touch his readers' souls and make them cry or laugh spontaneously.

Researchers and students find Mphahlele's works useful in their quest for more knowledge in humanities and literature.

He taught many of us to write. My first short story, The Potion, was inspired by his tutorials: Let's Talk Writing: Prose - A Guide for Writers and Let's Talk Writing Poetry - A Guide for Writers.

The Potion won a merit award in a writing competition organised by the African Writers Association.

His teaching methods were amazing. He allowed you to imagine expansively, giving his charges freedom to use almost anything for inspiration.

Compared with the contributors featured in Es'kia, I am a lesser mortal.

It will take a long time to produce a prolific author like Mphahlele, who is recognised way beyond our borders.

He is one of the peerless giants.