Tribute to the Mother of SA Literature: Mirriam Tlali


The South has gone blind

What kind of nation sends its children to war unarmed? What kind of children see the devil for what it’s? What kind of nation loathes and reveres itself whilst living together? What kind of nation explicitly amends its very own ‘co-existence’ when times are tough? What kind of nation puts its children behind when doing the forecast? 
South Africa, Africa and the world lost one of the most preciously gifted dwellers of its universal spaces. Little did we know that we needed to embrace the grace of thy trace when time afforded us the opportunity. Our hearts feel betrayed by our defects- the self-inflicted pains for our failures calling for action.
Indeed, we’re saddened. Saddened by the passing of the mother of African literature.  The very same who became fascinated about the idea of an idea, epitomizing the love for education and also through some of her work, was able to give us a window to South Africa’s Southern Western Township when many of her generation feared to begin the race to Soweto. 
It’s rather shameful of South Africans that we know more about William Shakespeare and other foreign writers than we know about our very own heroes and sheroes like Maya Angelou would say. Our African mother, too, needs to be amplified. For she’s a woman ahead of her time. She saw much further standing on ground level because in her time, there was no giant shoulder to stand on. She was her own giant spokesperson speaking her truth through her writings. South Africa owes her.
Our mother was a scholar, novelist, short story writer and activist. She wrote until there’s no more ink in the pipe.  Those who drank from her well of wisdom will narrate about ‘Between the Two Worlds, Amandla, Footprints in the Quag, Crimen Ijuria and Mihloti among others which afforded her numerous national and international accolades including but not limited to: The Inaugural South African Literary Award as a Lifetime Achiever and the Silver Ikhamanga Presidential Award.
Under difficult circumstances, our mother eloquently articulated realities facing women of her times in South Africa, conscientising the world about her world, her experiences through the power of pen and paper as a writer. We lost library.
Our mother’s extraordinary character was made up of virtues that are rarely found together. She stood out as an unsurpassed person of action, but she was not only that – she was also a person of visionary intelligence and broad culture, a profound thinker. 
She was both an idealistic and action-oriented woman.  She encompassed the virtues that may be defined as the fullest expression of the virtues of a revolutionary: total integrity, supreme sense of honour, absolute sincerity, stoic and Spartan living habits,  and arguably one whose conduct not one stain can be found. She constituted, through her virtues, what can be called a truly model revolutionary woman. Mosadi sadi. Imbokodo. 
Through her life, she must be a model of what future humans should be, not only for our people but also for people everywhere in the world.  She carried to its highest expression revolutionary stoicism, the revolutionary spirit of sacrifice, revolutionary combativeness, the revolutionary’s spirit of work. She brought the ideas of Marxism-Leninism to their freshest, purest, most revolutionary expression. No other person of our time has carried the spirit of proletarian internationalism to its highest possible level like our mother of literature did.  
However, per dictates of our democratic project we may confidently argue now and then at our command that if there is another person to whom all these characteristics can be attributed, it’ll always be our African literary mother.
Indeed, your passing leaves us with questions: Did we warmly embrace you enough? Did you feel appreciated by us? Did we make you proud? For your passing leaves us with mixed emotions: sometimes sad that we didn’t know you’d leave us so soon; sometimes scared that we may not sustain your legacy and at times guilty that we don’t practise your teachings. 
It’s universally known that people like ourselves hardly show expressions, and only make a fuss over our people when they’re no more. We watch with ignorant hearts the episodes playing themselves continuously and we stare at the unknown future ahead of us only to end up embracing our selfish thoughts in isolated spaces till our time arrives when we’ll be carried in shiny corpse grand paraded for our tiny earthly contributions. History repeats itself.
Most among us write because you wrote. We travel because you also travelled. We try by all means possible to impart knowledge onto our successors because you did the same to us. We mimic fearlessness, bravery and heroism because you encompassed all of it.
As you join the entourage of great African thinkers, may the great African Angels dreamers and travellers traversing tide like Es’kia Mphahlele, Steve Biko, and Nelson Mandela welcome you in the heavenly palace, for we’ll continuously hold your name is positive light, like you have brought us that light.  
When all is said and done, we remain grateful for your life. 
Robala ka khutjo Mme Miriam Tlali.
Photo credit: Human Rights Watch

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