Thabo Mothibi, Managing Editor, email@example.com
The Sol Plaatje University in the Northern Cape’s city of Kimberley held a seminar on Solomon T. Plaatje’s novel Mhudi under the title: Mhudi and the critics.
Solomon Plaatje was described as a great writer, a defender of his native language Setswana and a man whose work should be honoured by the presenter Dr Brian Willan.
Dr Willan is a United Kingdom (UK) historian, researcher and author. The UK historian has done a considerable amount of work on the said subject comprising of the biography of Solomon Plaatje, titled; A Life of Solomon Thekiso Plaatje.
The South African icon and author of Mhudi was a journalist, activist, publisher, writer and a translator who he is best known for his boldness and contribution to literature and politics.
Dr Willan took the audience through a sequential presentation on critics of Mhudi. The book was written around the 1900’s and published in 1930 by lovedale Press. Mhudi is a novel that unravels the battle between South African tribes.
According to research, the female character Mhudi is a heroin in the story and offers a voice for women in general.
He further described the novel as the first comprehensive book written in English by a black African. Although the book has been said to have been largely ignored or considered unworthy in literature, the presenter felt that the book had in fact received some “positive interest” and is “a significant historical piece of writing.”
According to Dr Willan, the book showcases the importance of oral history tradition because of the style of writing that the author applied. Dr Willan acknowledges that this may be the reason people may have found it difficult to engage with the book thus it ended up being ignored.
“Apartheid also had a role to play in the book not receiving the credit that it deserved,” he stated.
“In order to understand Mhudi one should read the biography of Solomon Plaatje,” he added, also noting that the preface explains his intentions with the book.
The well-researched scholar of Sol-Plaatje’s work articulates that the author has excelled in depicting the relationship between whites and blacks, and in demonstrating the root causes of the present day issues pertaining to racial problems in South Africa.
One may wonder how, an academic, from the UK, in the 1970’s has studied Sol.T Plaatje for over a period of 40 years.
“I came across a book written by an African author in 1973 when it was published. The book was a form of a diary written in the 1800’s. I became curious about the black writer’s work and life, with a name like Plaatje which sounded like an Afrikaner.”
When the scholar was doing his PhD, the South African author became his subject of study.
“I am also co-editing a book with Mr. Sabata Mokae, which is a collection of letters written by Sol.T Plaatje. The South African icon wrote over a 1000 letters which somehow disappeared over time, we were however able to track about 300 letters that had been archived in several countries. A fifth of the letters are written in Setswana. The book will make its debut next year, in 2020,” explained Dr Brian Willan.
By Faith Chabalala
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Place of Birth: Northern Cape, Kimberley
Education: St Boniface High School (2006), Central University of Technology (2008- 2011) and UNISA (2018)
Faith Chabalala works for the Department of Education in the Northern Cape as a training Officer. She is also a freelance journalist with a passion for telling stories about people, events, trends, lifestyle, book reviews and issues of social justice.
She has a Degree in Political Science from the Central University of Technology and is currently busy with her Honors Degree in this same field.
She is the founder of the Literary House Book Club, which aims to encourage reading and learning in her community. She is also the founder of an HR & Marketing Agency, which seeks to breach the gap of unemployment, scarce skills, and career management.