David Rubadiri

Poet, academic and diplomat David Rubadiri has passed on. The Malawian’s family announced that he had moved to the ancestral plane on September 15, 2018.

David Rubadiri was a Malawian diplomat, academic and poet, playwright and novelist ranked as one of Africa’s most widely anthologized and celebrated poets to emerge after his country’s independence. He was born in July 19, 1930, where his father served as a District Officer while his mother was a homemaker who took care of the children as his father worked across the border in Tanzania. Rubadiri crossed over to Uganda in search of better education and attended both primary and secondary education at King’s College, Budo, near Kampala From 1941 to 1950. He later joined the prestigious Makerere University between 1965 and 1975 for his bachelor’s degree in English literature and History before flying out to the University of London where he studied for a BA in Literature, History and Geography, and graduated with a first class honours degree. His MA in Literature was at Cambridge.

His only novel, No Bride Price, was published in 1967. It is in the poetry space where he shone editing, alongside David Cook, the 1963 anthology Modern Poetry of Africa (East African Publishers), and appeared in international publications including Transition, Black Orpheus and Présence Africaine.

Rubadiri, the former vice chancellor of the University of Malawi, was only a few months ago feted by his countrymen for his contributions to theirs and the continents literary scene. On his passing, there were many messages for the departed scholar and we sample a few from Facebook and Twitter;

Goretti Kyomuhendo, author, African Writers Trust founder.

Dear Prof. David Rubadiri,

I will forever treasure this (handwritten) letter you wrote me in 1998. My first novel, The First Daughter had just been published the previous year, and I think I must have sent a copy to you? But how could I have gotten your address? or even the courage to write to you? I had never met you in person, only through your brilliant work. You were living and working in New York then, according to the address on the letter. And I had never been to NY. Anyhow, whichever way you got my book, the most important thing is that you read it thoroughly, and found the time amidst your (very) busy schedule, to write this letter (and post it!). It was the most encouraging, humble (on your part) honest, inspiring feedback to my novel- which I treasure to date, and from which I learned a lot. In the letter, you said: ” I notice I dog eared page 126 for the chapter which follows (19). I had a feeling – as most writers of words tend to get- that you were beginning to flag down a bit- a feeling of hurry to get it over with. Guard against this…” And then you concluded: “You managed to rescue the end very well indeed…”

Safe journey to the next world, Weaver of Words. Your work and reputation lives on.

Onjezani Kenani, lawyer and writer.

Prof. David Rubadiri. My greatest memories of him go back to the time he was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Malawi, when he would invite me for a night at his house. Sitting there in his well-stocked library talking literature until the deep and dark hours of the night was bliss. As Kenyan playwright David Mulwa says, “David Rubadiri was a great philosopher, if I ever knew of one.” He was that, yes, and he was also a diplomat and a leader. Rest in peace, my dear friend and mentor. Rest in eternal peace.

Ayeta Wangusa, author, CDEA Dar es Salaam founder.

An African literary giant croses over – Prof David Rubadiri. Rest in peace Uncle David. You made your contribution to the literary arts and many will remember you for co-editing of Poems of East Africa with the late David Cook. We will foundly remember you for how you made us feel when we read poems like An African Thunderstorm, Stanley Meets Muteesa and Death at Mulago.

An African Thurderstorm

By David Rubadiri

From the west
Clouds come hurrying with the wind
Turning sharply
Here and there
Like a plague of locusts
Tossing up things on its tail
Like a madman chasing nothing.

Pregnant clouds
Ride stately on its back,
Gathering to perch on hills
Like sinister dark wings;
The wind whistles by
And trees bend to let it pass.

In the village
Screams of delighted children,
Toss and turn
In the din of the whirling wind,
Babies clinging on their backs
Dart about
In and out
The wind whistles by
Whilst trees bend to let it pass.

Clothes wave like tattered flags
Flying off
To expose dangling breasts
As jagged blinding flashes
Rumble, tremble and crack
Amidst the smell of fired smoke
And the pelting march of the storm.


Victoria Rubadiri, Granddaughter, Media personality.

Juliet Okot Bitek, Poet.

Joyce Nyairo, scholar.

Charles Onyango-Obbo, Journalist.