Haji Gora Haji and Prof Bhekizizwe Peterson, two of the most respected names in African letters, passed away recently.
Haji Gora Haji
Haji Gora Haji (1933 – 2021) was a Swahili-language poet, lyricist, and writer from the Zanzibar archipelago. The literary ancestor who passed to the other side on June 11 channeled his expansive knowledge of the culture and society of the Swahili coast, especially his homeland of Tumbatu, into his works. For his work inspired by the seascape of his home, he has been called “The Old Typhoon”. He had worked in a multitude of forms, from songs, stories, and epics to a full-length novel. His compositions and verse were frequently on Tanzanian radio.
His work included Kimbunga: Tungo za Visiwani (Collection of poetry in Swahili 1994), Utenzi wa visa vya Nabii Suleiman bi Daudi (“The Epic of Prophet Suleiman, Son of Daud”, an epic poem about Solomon in Swahili, 1999), Poems (A collection of poetry translated to German, 1999), Maisha Yangu, 1993 – 2001 (“My Life, 1993 – 2001”, an unpublished autobiography), Kunganyira (a children’s book in Swahili, 2004), Nahodha Chu (“Captain Leopard”, a children’s book in Swahili, 2004), Ujanja wa sungura (“The Cunning of the Hare”, a children’s book in Swahili, 2004), Jogoo na Kanga (“The Cock and the Guinea Fowl”, a children’s book in Swahili, ISBN 9966010866, 2004)Kamusi ya kitumbatu (A Ki-Tumbatu – Swahili lexicon, 2006), Siri ya Ging’ingi (“The Secrets of Ging’ingi”, a novel in Swahili, 2009; English translation, 2011), and Shuwari (“The Calm”, Swahili with English translations, 2019)
Read Justus Kizito Siboe Makokha’s tribute to the late Haji Gora Haji by clicking here.
Prof Bhekizizwe Peterson
Bhekizizwe Peterson was born in 1961 in Alexandra Township, Johannesburg. He started his career at University of Witwatersrand as a Junior Lecturer in 1988, and progressed through the ranks to Full Professor (2012 to 2021). He served twice as the Head of the Department of African Literature during his career at Wits. He held a BA in Drama and African Studies (UCT, 1982), a BA Hons in African Literature (Wits, 1985), an MA in Southern African Studies (York, 1988) and a PhD in African Literature (Wits, 1997).
Professor Peterson was internationally renowned as an award-winning film writer and producer; a leading practitioner of working-class theatre; a literary critic and a public intellectual. He was also known for being a generous mentor to numerous young people in various spheres of the arts and academia.
The passed away on June 16.
Read news on his passing from the University of Witwatersrand.