Call to re­store Noni Jabavu legacy

The fam­ily of es­teemed writer, ac­tivist ap­peals for as­sis­tance in hon­our­ing South Africa’s grand lady of jour­nal­ism, writes

Daily Dispatch - - Dw Atch Life -

THE fam­ily of the late lit­er­ary gi­ant and ac­tivist He­len Nontando Jabavu, who was af­fec­tion­ately known as Noni, is ap­peal­ing to all South Africans to as­sist them in re­in­stat­ing her legacy as part of the coun­try’s her­itage restora­tion.

Schooled in Eng­land from the age of 13, Noni Jabavu was one of the first African fe­male writ­ers and jour­nal­ists.

In 1961 she be­came the first woman and African to be an ed­i­tor of the Bri­tish-pub­lished lit­er­ary mag­a­zine, The New Strand, which was be­ing re­vived af­ter its 1950 clo­sure, then called The Strand.

She also worked for the Bri­tish Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (BBC) as a pre­sen­ter and fi­nally as a pro­ducer.

She later set up a film of­fice in Uganda un­der the Bri­tish colo­nial government.

Although her ed­i­tor­ship with The New Strand was short-lived, her pi­o­neer­ing pres­ence lived on.

In 1977 Noni be­came a weekly colum­nist for the Daily Dis­patch, un­der the ed­i­tor­ship of Don­ald Woods – a po­si­tion he had held since 1965.

She pub­lished her first book, The Ochre Peo­ple, in 1963 about her jour­ney back to South Africa when she vis­ited her fam­ily in 1955.

Her other book, Drawn in Colour (1960), was also hailed by crit­ics as “bril­liant” and “fas­ci­nat­ing”.

In her books she wrote about is­sues of iden­tity, trac­ing her ori­gins in both Eng­land and South Africa.

She was awarded a life­time achieve­ment award by former Arts and Cul­ture Min­is­ter Dr Pallo Jor­dan, as well as a best lit­er­a­ture award in the East­ern Cape by the then sports, art and cul­ture MEC Nosimo Balindlela.

Jabavu’s grand­son and the fam­ily rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Siyabonga Jabavu, said the fam­ily was in the process of mak­ing a mini-doc­u­men­tary about her life when funds pro­vided by the East­ern Cape Arts Cul­ture Coun­cil ran out.

Siyabonga said the project, which was started by Duma kaNdlovu of Mu­vhango TV se­ries on SABC, could not be com­pleted due to this prob­lem and they were now ask­ing for third par­ties to come on board and as­sist.

“We ap­proached Duma kaNdlovu as a fam­ily to as­sist us in cre­at­ing a doc­u­men­tary about the life and times of Noni Jabavu. He was very sup­port­ive of the project and agreed to help but we ran out of funds be­fore it was com­pleted,” said Siyabonga.

He said the project was very im­por­tant to the fam­ily be­cause they wanted to hon­our and re­store her legacy as one of the most prolific and pi­o­neer­ing writ­ers of her gen­er­a­tion, whose con­tri­bu­tion to the South African lit­er­a­ture land­scape was un­matched.

“We ap­peal to the de­part­ments of arts and cul­ture, the her­itage coun­cil and any­body or in­sti­tu­tions that can as­sist us to com­plete this project to come for­ward,” he said.

Siyabonga said they were also try­ing to trace and col­lect all of Noni’s writ­ings and art­works from all over the world for ar­chive pur­poses.

The Na­tional Her­itage Coun­cil (NHC) said its fund­ing pro­gramme, which runs an­nu­ally, is specif­i­cally aimed at as­sist­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

It could fund projects up to the value of R500 000 and in some ex­cep­tion­ally crit­i­cal cases the fund­ing could reach R1-mil­lion.

The NHC’s mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager, Danny Goulkan, said they were look­ing for her­itage sto­ries that in­spired the na­tion about the peo­ple’s cul­tures and tra­di­tions.

“The one way to achieve our vi­sion – ‘build­ing a na­tion proud of its African her­itage’ – is to pro­duce in­for­ma­tion and make it pub­lic. We ac­knowl­edge that we can­not do it with­out the involvemen­t of the peo­ple them­selves,” said Goulkan.

“We recog­nise that our com­mu­ni­ties have not had ex­po­sure to for­mal fund­ing but have very im­por­tant her­itage sto­ries to share with the world. Our main re­quire­ment is for the com­mu­nity project to qual­ify as her­itage,” he said.

Goulkan said the NHC ad­ver­tises na­tion­ally ev­ery year to ask the pub­lic to sub­mit pro­pos­als that are eval­u­ated by an in­de­pen­dent com­mit­tee.

Born on Au­gust 20 1919 in Alice into a lit­er­ary fam­ily, Noni died in June 2008 at the age of 88.

The daugh­ter of the late Pro­fes­sor David­son Don Tengo (D D T) Jabavu, who was first black pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Fort Hare, Noni be­came ex­posed to ed­u­ca­tion and lit­er­a­ture at an early age.

Her mother, Than­diswa Florence Maki­wane, was the founder of Zen­zele Woman’s Self-Im­prove­ment As­so­ci­a­tion, which was aimed at teach­ing women how to be self­sup­port­ive. Noni’s aunt, Ce­cilia Maki­wane, was the first reg­is­tered pro­fes­sional black nurse in South Africa and an early ac­tivist in the strug­gle for women’s rights.

She was a pro­tester in the first an­ti­women’s pass cam­paign in 1912.

Ce­cilia Maki­wane Hospi­tal in Mdantsane is named af­ter her.

While at Fort Hare, D D T played a huge role in shap­ing the young minds of then fu­ture po­lit­i­cal lead­ers such as Z K Mathews, Robert Mu­gabe, Nel­son Man­dela and many oth­ers.

Noni’s grand­fa­ther, John Tengo Jabavu, a politi­cian turned jour­nal­ist, founded and also be­came the ed­i­tor of the first black­owned news­pa­per in 1884, Imvo Za­bantsundu (black opin­ion).

He was also a found­ing mem­ber of the South African Na­tive Col­lege, which was later re­named the Univer­sity of Fort Hare.

“I would say she was one of the great­est in­tel­lec­tu­als of the time es­pe­cially in fe­male ac­tivism in the ad­vance­ment of lit­er­a­ture in our so­ci­ety,” said Siyabonga.

To con­tact the fam­ily, call Siyabonga Jabavu on 082-327-9708. —

Pic­ture: FILE Pic­ture: SUP­PLIED

IN­FLU­EN­TIAL FAM­ILY: Noni Jabavu and her grand­son re­ceiv­ing the Or­der of Luthuli in Gold award on be­half of John Tengo Jabavu from former pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki PROLIFIC WRITER: The late Noni Jabavu was one of the first suc­cess­ful fe­male African writ­ers...

Pic­ture: FILE

WELL-CON­NECTED: Noni Jabavu and Vic­to­ria Maki­wane at­tended the un­veil­ing cer­e­mony for their aunt, Ce­cilia Maki­wane

Pic­ture: FILE

OLD FRIENDS: Au­thor Noni Jabavu, left, is re­united with Zim­bab­wean au­thor Vir­gina Phiri in East Lon­don. Phiri helped Jabavu when the East­ern Cape writer was in ex­ile in Zim­babwe

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