Don Mattera is 'the natural poet'

Donato Francisco Mattera was born in 1935 in Western Native Township, now Westbury adjacent to Sophiatown in Johannesburg.

Donato Francisco Mattera was born in 1935 in Western Native Township, now Westbury adjacent to Sophiatown in Johannesburg.

His paternal grandfather was Italian, and he has Setswana, Khoi-Khoi and isiXhosa blood in his veins.

He lived during the vibrant colourful era that was Sophiatown of the 1940s and 1950s.

A former gangster, "Bra Zinga" as he was known was largely influenced by activist Anglican priest, Father Trevor Huddleston who helped him swop the knife for the pen.

The 1955 forceful removal of blacks from Sophiatown and the destruction of the multicultural society of that area saddened Mattera who produced a series of poems, stories and plays of force and originality.

This resulted in Mattera imprisoned and tortured. Eventually the apartheid machine banned him for 10 years.

It was during this time that he wrote Azanian Love Songs which reflected on the tumultuous era.

"For the children of our beautiful land, and to the memory of our freedom fighters who gave their lives...

"May freedom reign!"

These words spring from the sleeve of Azanian Love Song, the reproduced poetry book by renowned journalist and writer Don Mattera. The book was first published in 1983.

Ten years later in his introductory essay to the second edition of the book, the Es'kia Mphahlele, wrote: "I think the time is ripe for an essay in appreciation of this ageless literary activist who makes music with his poetry to hear his resonant voice speak his poetry is also to wish that he would make tape recordings of his reading. He is a natural poet."

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