Gustavus to Host South African Writer Dr. Zanemvula Mda

Posted on February 22nd, 2013 by

Dr. Zanemvula (Zakes) Mda

Dr. Zanemvula (Zakes) Mda

Award-winning novelist, poet, and playwright Dr. Zanemvula (Zakes) Mda will visit Gustavus Adolphus College on March 5 to give a public and inaugural lecture for the new African Studies program. Dr. Mda’s lecture is titled “Write What You Don’t Know: Readings from the Novels of Zakes Mda,” and will take place at 7 p.m. in room 127 of Confer Hall. He will also visit several classes in the College’s English Department during his visit.

Dr. Mda holds a bachelor of fine arts degree from the International Academy of Arts and Letters in Zurich, Switzerland; master’s and master of fine arts degrees from Ohio University; and a Ph.D. from the University of Cape Town in South Africa. He has previously taught at Northwestern University, University of Vermont, University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, and University of Lesotho. He is currently a Professor of Creating Writing in the English Department at Ohio University.

Dr. Mda is a founding member and currently serves on the advisory board of African Writers Trust, a non-profit entity which seeks to coordinate and bring together African writers in the Diaspora and writers on the continent to promote sharing of skills and other resources, and to foster knowledge and learning between the two groups.

Dr. Mda’s novels have been translated into 21 different languages and in 2012 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Cape Town for his contributions to world literature. His first novel, Ways of Dying, was published in 1995 and received South Africa’s M-Net Book Prize. The story takes place during the transitional years that marked South Africa’s transformation into a democratic nation and follows the character of Toloki. After finding himself destitute, Toloki invents a profession as a “professional mourner” and traverses the violent urban landscape of an unnamed South African city, finding an old love amidst the internecine fighting present in the townships and squatter settlements.

His 2000 book The Heart of Redness won the Commonwealth Writers Prize, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and the Sunday Times Fiction Prize. His other novels include The Madonna of Excelsior (2002), The Whale Caller (2005), Cion (2007), Black Diamond (2009), The Sculptors of Mapungubwe (2012). Dr. Mda’s memoir was published in 2011 and is titled Sometimes there is a Void: Memoirs of an Outsider.

Dr. Mda’s lecture on Tuesday, March 5 is free and open to the public. His visit is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the African Studies Program, the English Department, and the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. For more information, contact Professor of French and LALACS, and Director of the African Studies Program, Paschal Kyoore at paschal@gustavus.edu.

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