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Frantz Fanon’s Uneven Ribs

Taban Lo Liyong is the author of several books of poetry including Frantz Fanon’s Uneven Ribs and Another Nigger Dead. He has also published some collections of essays, the most recent being Images of Women in Folktales and Short Stories of Africa.  He spoke to Sam Raditlhalo (circa 1997, when he was still a professor of literature at the University of Venda.).

What were the first influences on your writing?

TLL: It would be difficult to say who influenced me. I’d prefer to say so and so lit the fire, gave me the courage or gave me the urge to write. What started me on writing was not other writing, it was hearing stories told by the fireside. When I went to school, in 1945, we had a period for telling folktales in the vernacular. This came every Friday. During that period each student was to tell a story, and it went in turns. There was no way you could escape it. If you had no story, you would sit down in shame in front of the students, facing them. So, I heard a lot of stories, including stories which were told so well that I envied the tellers — my fellow primary students. Sometimes I write my stories as a tribute to them because they told far better stories than I could ever tell.

Some of my teachers were writers themselves and so the mystery of the world being translated from the spoken to written had been broken a long time ago. I was taught by people who had written. I just said OK, this is the sort of thing that you do when you have the time. So when it came to my own writing, it was the coming together of all those things, plus other books that I read.

Looking back to the 60s, when you first started writing, do you feel you adequately served the needs of creative provocation on one hand, what Chris Wanjala once termed the Tabanic genre? Given the chance to do it all over again what would you do differently?

TLL: East Africa was the centre of turmoil, literary and cultural turmoil. Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, with Makerere hosting the Commonwealth Writers Conference in 1960. It was all part and parcel of that political movement. Politics went first and then cultural and literary activities followed closely behind. It was cosmopolitan. Whether you were Kenyan, Ugandan or Tanzanian, if you were in Nairobi you were accepted, if you were in Makerere you were accepted. You did not think of yourself as being a foreigner, you just participated. So we did a lot of things then which cannot be done now because of the intensification of nationalism.

You wrote a denouncement of what you termed eunuch scholars. That to me is the essence of the Tabanic genre, the dislike of writers and scholars sold into bourgeois power groups. Could you elaborate on that?

TLL: I don’t like a scholar who just reads and accepts; or merely reads to gather facts, datas. I prefer to have scholars who put themselves and their positions into their reading. In Africa, you don’t just go to a funeral to cry for the person who has just died. You go there so as to mourn your own dead. The same with reading — when you are reading Shakespeare or Ngugi or Achebe you should think about yourself, your own predicaments. When you are reading The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, you don’t laugh at it and say “this is what the Ghanians do to their people.” That thing that happened in Ghana can also happen somewhere else including South Africa.

“Search for knowledge everywhere” — that is a Muslim injunction. The question is why should anybody limit himself? If they are going to be in the English department then for goodness sake let them know everything about English, know everything: Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare. Search everywhere. It is only when we have blinkered scholars who hold that Karl Marx is only for the political economists, Darwin only for the biologists, that I quarrel. The type of scholar I prefer is the one, who after he has understood what is going on, would like to do something about it. Yes, practice must be part of it. Every reading must be in the context of the reader’s personal and communal position: as a call to a debate, an invitation to action.

In keeping with your early expectations and optimism, the piece “Student’s Lament” first published in the East Africa Journal in 1966, still stands out as a central piece, at least to my mind, of doubt about the pace of the change. 

TLL: Let me tell you how it came about. As students we used to burn up a lot of those midnight candles: study, study, study, study. Here I am trying my level best to master difficult concepts, later to go back with these things to fertilise the home. But at home people are saying, “Oh he is difficult.” But isn’t it the measure of the material that I am handling which is difficult rather than me trying to be difficult? What was I sent abroad for if I’m not supposed to master those difficult things and transmit them home? Was I supposed to concentrate on the soft, easy matters only? So I sat down to write that thing. I wrote it, wrote it, wrote it for 36 hours without sleep. After I finished it I took a big breakfast and went to the library, where I worked, to shelve books. Fifteen minutes later I was caught by the librarian, sleeping on my feet, holding the books. He took me to his office and sat me down. I said “I was working . . ..” He said, “Then you should not work here also.” And fired me. Nobody till today has ever referred to it.

How do you respond to the charge by certain critics that your poetry is more cerebral than emotive? I think of lines such as these from Another Nigger Dead: “to give up and curse God / to despair too soon / even the blind struggle to see / have courage everybody.” 

TLL: Some time ago I decided I will write essays in which I will explain things; I will write poems in which to hide things; and I will write stories just to laugh or to have fun. So in my poems I follow up some trends of thought. It is like someone making an etching, a picture, a mural picture. You don’t do it in one sweep. You do this and that and that and that. So go through the etchings and you finally will arrive at some answers. Follow the line(s) of thought and you will get its meaning, or some meaning, at any rate. “To give up and curse God” — that comes from Job. Job did not despair, so why should we be the ones to give up too soon?

Ngugi wa Thiongo decided to go local, to live traditional. Somehow or other I don’t like it very much. He is a man who should be challenging, to reach for higher ideas, higher ideals: but to curtail himself and say `I turn my back against using English’ — that is the same as despair. Maybe even Ngugi has despaired on the intellectual side of things and so he is going back to the people, his people. So this despair is there. It affects us all. Whether it is Okot p’Bitek, Ngugi, Ayi Kwei Armah. Our generation has gone through a lot and we have seen the rise of nationalism and also the failure of African national leaders. We have seen it all and hated most of it.

How do you analyse the failure of African nationalism?

TLL: There were two parties in Kenya, Kenya African National Union and Kenya African Democratic Union. The Americans and British said they, the parties, should become one party and they agreed. Then Oginga Odinga wanted to start another party, Kenya People’s Union, the Americans came and had him banned. Later on the Americans came again and said there should be multi-party politics in Kenya and Oginga Odinga should start another party. So the question becomes: if you as a nation do not keep in mind what exactly you are going to do then the nation will be pushed left and right by foreigners, especially those with money. Today they say this, tomorrow they say that, then they say another thing. So you end up losing your way.

Initially writers were needed to boost nationalism. But it seems that as soon as they weren’t promoting the parties in power, they were kicked out or persecuted.

TLL: That literary conference of 1960 was held because Makerere University literature staff, English department realised they needed to light the fire from West Africa. So they bought across from West Africa Gabriel Okara, Chinua Achebe, Christopher Okigbo, John Pepper Clark and others to come to Makerere. And when they came there Ngugi gave Chinua Achebe his A River Between to read, and Achebe read it and gave him some comments about it. So the fire had been lit, passed from West Africa to East Africa.

Things were going fine — except at the political level things were not going fine. Obote wanted to eliminate the Kabaka of Buganda and other native rulers. At one time Kwame Nkrumah had eliminated the native rulers in Ghana. That is why Obote kicked out the Kabaka too, because Nkrumah had done it. When Nkrumah introduced the idea of African High Command, Julius Nyerere opposed it. Only later on to shoulder the liberation wars in Southern Africa.

In Kenya the Kikuyu, a majority tribe, were in control and the Americans and British, at that time liked it. Their logic was that a bigger tribe should be supported because it already has a lot of people who can man the state. And they never even thought that at a future time, a ruler could come up, like Arap Moi, who is not a Kikuyu. They never thought that could happen. So they gave all the help they could give to the Kikuyu and Kenyatta including the muscling of all the opposition. They said we have pinned all our hopes on Kenyatta and Kanu, and any other position is going to mess up the categories we have brought in here.

We saw this happening. Some of us tried to say something against it. But rural politics is different from any other. So I wanted to say in my writings what was hurting us. If this is how things are, what is the use of staying here? Why witness future murders? The seeds are now being sown and there is no way we can do anything about it. But a writer has to be the trumpet blower. Or the whistle blower. If there is an off-side or handball, or foul, you blow the whistle. That is what I was thinking about.

What are your views about literature in African languages?

TLL: In East Africa we do not have African languages and literature studies. In 1945, when I went to school, we were taught in the vernacular for the first three years and then after that we started learning English leading progressively to learning in English only. Only the bigger languages were taught school subjects: Luganda, Swahili, Kikuyu, perhaps. But otherwise African languages were left behind.

South Africa is a bit different, thanks, left-handedly, to apartheid. Apartheid preserved African languages and some parts of African culture. So you had and have departments of African languages and African literature in an African country. These were never seen elsewhere before. In the South African context people have been writing in the vernaculars all along. So for you to say a Zulu wants to write in Zulu is old hat. You have done it all along. But in the East African context, Ngugi’s novels will be the first major novels written in Kikuyu.

Did you know Dambudzo Marechera? His work reminds me of yours in certain ways.

TLL: Marechera was my godson intellectually and culturally. We came together for the first time in 1979 in West Berlin but by that time he had already got in touch with my writings. We studied without boundaries, delved in intellectual enquiries without limits. Ayi Kwei Armah is the third member of our trio.

He did well for his short life. He accepted the challenge of Oxford, but it blew his mind. He found himself singing alone and out of tune because there was no other African at Oxford of like mind. That is what the problem is. You get students who go to the aged and reputed universities like Oxford. In the context of their behaviour and the behaviour of the white youths in Oxford, he was just a normal student. But in the African context everyone would have said: “You are going to Oxford, that is where the English are studying. You are supposed to come back a better scholar, a better gentleman,” and so on. But when you actually go to Oxford you find out that the Oxford undergraduates are scoundrels, scandalers, fun-making aristocrats. Few go there to study hard. They play games. They socialise. They are sons and daughters of kings and lords. You meet them and find out more hollowness in their inner circles. But if one of our boys goes there and comes back and behaves in the same way, people will say what is wrong?

Isn’t it difficult for an African studying in Europe to accept that the intellectual contribution of Africa is never acknowledged? 

TLL: Terence, a dramatist, one of the humorous comic writers of Rome, was a negro. Aesop was a black fellow from Ethiopia. Plato, Pythagoras and others, the pre-Socratics, had been to Egypt before returning to Greece. Some of the ideas of the Greeks are of African origin but the Greeks never acknowledged their theft. That’s how it is. If there is something that is African in Egyptian languages, it should have its correlative in the present African languages. The French-speaking West Africans have Egyptologists: Theophilus Obenga from the Congo and Cheikh Anta Diop from Senegal. So the question is — and I am struggling with it — why shouldn’t we also learn Greek and Ancient Egyptian to learn about ourselves in ancient times?

What evidence is there that Africa had its intellectual excellence?

TLL: The library of Alexandria contained a lot of ideas, not only African ideas but also Asian and European ideas. Egypt was an intellectual centre, an intellectual thoroughfare. Plato came there after the death of Socrates and studied for ten years before going back to Greece to write and teach. Timbuctu was not a hundred percent black university. It had everybody including Asians, including Europeans. Where a place is a magnet for intellect then everybody brings their intellect there and comes and participates. We have had times when we were already interacting with the outside world. That is also why something or other in the black man in America makes him take his African past very very seriously.

Why, in your view, did Europeans divide Africa into north of the Sahara and south of the Sahara, with only the south inhabited by Africans? Hegel, for instance, in his Philosophy of History, says that Africans occupy the territory south of the Sahara, and that Egypt was Africa connected to Asia.

TLL: They went by race and by colour, in evidence of the Mediterranean littoral, around the Mediterranean sea. The African coast had been inhabited for some time by Arabs, “coloured people” in quotes, who were already a mixture of races like what you would call coloured people in the Cape — people who have black blood in them as well as foreign ingredients. So when European racists wanted to talk about Africa, they would leave out their cousins: the coloured people of Northern Africa were excluded. They said these are not the real Africans — for the real Africans go to Africa south of the Sahara. But strangely enough they got their information about the Africans from the Arab historians. People like Ibn Khaldun had done a lot of travelling in Africa.

If you are a white racist and you are faced with a human being who is black, how do you tackle him? How do you confront him intellectually? The answer is simple — find some way of categorising him. Look at the stories that were told about us, even in Shakespeare’s Othello. Othello is wooing Desdemona by talking about some people whose heads were beneath their shoulders and so on. In the white man’s mind, the black has always been a problem because the metaphysics of Europe are told in either/or, white/black. Black is the colour of darkness, the colour of the devil. In the white man’s mind there lurks a big black god or a big black devil and he doesn’t know how to come into contact with it so he fears it and therefore he has to find some ways of numbering it amongst those things which have to be destroyed. And so racism developed out of that, that which lurks at the back of your mind, which frightens you at night.

European thought and political power has dominated the world for over 500 years. How do you envisage the end of its hegemony?

TLL: European hegemony is not going to end that quickly. Until Europe becomes poor, Europe is not going to leave its own prejudices. It is only when people are poor that they begin to realise that their categories were wrong. When they realise that they have failed then they say, look, maybe the way we have been looking at the world is wrong. Maybe other people have some other valued approaches, outlooks towards life, and we might as well learn from them. This has been going on already. Europe, and its extension into America, they are becoming aware of this. Anthropologists like Margaret Mead were interested in saying, how does a child in a poor third world area survive under conditions which would have killed a white child? How do blacks, how do Bushmen, the Australian aborigines, how do they or how did they survive without the benefit of modern medicine, science and so forth. How do they survive? If poverty comes to America or Britain, will the white child be able to survive? Because they are more concerned with their survival as the white race and custodians of the values of the white world.

But it has started to change. During the Korean war all the American GIs who were arrested and detained, when they were tortured, they spoke out very, very quickly. Whereas no Korean would confess or inform. And the poor Koreans defeated the Americans, right? Then the Vietnamese defeated the French and defeated the Americans too. So it is only when things change that people start to change their attitudes. Like here, in this South African context, till this change of 1994 came, few whites had believed that there would ever come a time where the tables would change. So now white people are talking about affirmative action. And now some of the things that blacks have been doing are also being tried by the whites. Some whites are appreciating African ways, becoming humans.

The Europeans, when they came here, found us with our pants down and they defeated us. So we went to Europe or America, we went in order to study the secrets of the conqueror. Why did he come and conquer us? And if we are still activists, we should still continue studying in order to look to future confrontation with that system so that we can recover ours. And then we can build a better one, between our recovered culture and the one that the Europeans have. So we are to study the European ways in order to overcome them, in order to challenge them, in order to find out how they operate. In order to master them. And to transform them to take in African ingredients.

If you leave the world to be led by the categories of the white man, these categories always ask for confrontation: either/or, good/bad, black/white. One of these categories is going to overthrow the other, right? That’s the danger of following the white man and his either/or philosophy. What we should be doing is say, this is the African way, this is the Chinese way, this is the Indian way, and so on — non-binary opposition, but polygamous co-existence; acceptance of horizontally lined multiple choices. All these categories, all of these ways are ways of rescuing man from going headlong into oblivion. It is our task, Africans, Asians, to bring to the table of nations all the heritage that belongs to us and do it very forcefully.

And it is also up to Europeans to see where theirs have failed in order also to integrate ours within their categories. But when they are still very rich and powerful, they are not going to do that in a hurry.

You trace the modern African identity to the 13th century…

TLL: Yes, when the nations of Islam were powerful, pushing towards Africa, towards Asia, towards Europe. They crossed to Spain. They took over Spain and were only defeated in France. In Africa, we ran. We ran because we couldn’t be Muslim. Or we ran because our kings, who had total power over us, could not hold us any more. People at the peripheries could run, so they did. And continued looking for safety, taking with them whatever gods, and ideas of their gods and of their cultures as they could. And also tactics for defeating the next group. This, according to me, is the single most important cause why Africans ran, why Africans migrated southwards. Now fortunately or unfortunately it is because we ran that black Africa is not Muslim. Because those who remained in Northern Africa are mostly Muslim now. Most of Nigeria is all Muslim. Northern Nigeria, Northern Ghana, Northern this or that — Senegal is mostly Muslim.

What is Ali Mazrui’s position regarding Islam?

TLL: Mazrui was an African when he was in Makerere. When Mazrui went to America he recovered his Muslim standing since his people directly came from Oman and there was no more reason to identify fully with Kenya, Africa. His great-grandfathers had come from Oman and they used to be rulers on the East African coast. So Mazrui has recovered his standing in the Muslim world. He is their best scholar, he is their best informer on us and against us. Underline that one, against us. There is now even a Kenyan Muslim Political Party and he is a founding member of it. Last year he was in Zambia promoting the advent of a Muslim Party there. Like most Muslims, when they become older they become devout believers because they want to square matters with their maker. And he is gloating at the fact that Islam has a foothold in Africa. He used to go to Nigeria a part of the year to do research there — his scholarship gave him the chance to do that. Every quarter of the year he would come to an African country to do some studies. I mean that programme he did for the BBC “The Africans”, it glorifies Islam rather than anything else, he even runs down the traditional African culture.

How would you characterise African philosophy?

TLL: The African family system is unique. In all our traditional languages we have a word for all members of our extended family. Knowing who you are related to, therefore knowing how wide the tree is. Knowing that you are not alone, you are with others and they are also with you. When it is a funeral or marriage or so forth, the whole tree comes together. Nobody grudges the other anything. Everything is shared. The idea of sharing, and knowing that no human being is a human being by himself or herself. This is the African way which unfortunately both Christianity and Islam are wrecking. It is something which is really unique.

Then of course, there’s another one also, outlook towards life, towards fate. Rather than think foolishly, we actually are great optimists, we are very, very optimistic. And Mazrui also said somewhere that Africans are forgiving. We make sacrifices and we forgive. Why? Because we are very optimistic. We actually don’t think the darkness will last. We don’t think any darkness will last and if Mulungu is strutting like a god we sometimes laugh at him because we know he is not what he pretends to be. So we can easily forgive him because we know he is far from reality, he is putting on a show and at the end of the day the show will come to an end.

That attitude towards life has kept us going through thick and thin and since we have reached the twentieth century without crumbling there’s no way anybody is going to make us disappear any more. There are some areas where our survival tactics are better than what other people think.

You’ve said that the clues of what Africa is or will be can be deduced from what Africa was or has been. History, in its wider sense, more than any other discipline, holds the key to the self-knowledge of a people without written records. 

TLL: We should never forget about history, either of our past high performances or the history of our subjugation, of our being down- trodden. And also the history of others who were downtrodden and arose from there and climbed up. This is where the Jews are different from everybody else. They say “Don’t forget — never forget.” You can forgive but never forget, because if you forget the same thing can be repeated. The same thing that hurt you before can come back in another guise and you’ll never even notice it. If you had been burnt before you know how fire burns. So please remember that we have been burnt and we should not allow ourselves to sleep otherwise we will be burnt again.

If somebody makes you think that we are now equal whereas the naked reality is that there are differences between where we live and where others live, then you are a fool. History is something we should worry about. You should read and envy. Jealousy is destructive, but envy can make you challenge, make you accept challenges. You envy somebody his cows and sheep and say, why are they fat? why shouldn’t mine be fat? If you’re jealous you’re going to kill them. Better take up the challenge to say, I would also breed cows that are bigger and sleeker than his. That is the path of envy: accepting a challenge. Wrestling with a challenge.

What is your view on the direction of contemporary African writing, given that your generation had written so prolifically about the demise of colonialism and the future of nationalism?

TLL: I think it would be better for today’s writers to follow the fates of individuals. Not write about Africa this, Africa that. A priest, who is head of a breakaway church, what are his hang-ups? The head of the army, what are his plans? So we need to go for individual types. It is better to delve in-depth on individuals and find out what their problems really are and reveal them from within. Because otherwise it is generalisation. Otherwise it is simplification, over-simplification. Glossing over nasty facts about our people. Being protective of African characters. Partial revelations are half-lies. He or she is no writer if she lies. You have to go into depth. It would be better, really, to choose a theme and explore it in depth.

Obviously you think it’s important for writers to study…

TLL: Yes, they should know their craft. You can’t write if you don’t read. Just as you can’t be a good dancer if you don’t go to see other people dance. If you can’t sing how can you write songs? So it calls for professionalism, really. New writers should be aware of all that has been written. Even about writing. So when you are writing you should write that which is in your blood, in your backbone, in your back yard: you should already know what has been written by other South Africans.

If you can read Afrikaans, read their novels, poems, plays. And also find what they have said about you, about other characters. For somebody who knows Afrikaans, it is foolish of him to read only novels in English about the South African situation. As the Arabs would say, seek for knowledge everywhere. Don’t blinker yourself. Political prejudices should not prejudice you against using another language. Until you’ve read them how do you know what they said?

Never forget this: the story being told is one thing: the moral being displayed is another thing. A story is never a story but it also has a central idea, a central thesis. Writers also think, have ideas. And embed their ideas in their works.

Your dislike of Negritude was as fierce and as direct as Mphahlele’s and Soyinka’s, if not more. There are lines that move some of us like “strange news called negritude.” What would you make of what I perceive as essentially a return of Negritude in another guise?

TLL: Yes, Negritude cheated us. Senghor should have created Senegal as a Negritude state. Nkrumah should have created Ghana as African personality state. Then we would have seen Negritude in action, African personality in action. But they philosophised and left it at that. Since they were not only philosophers but politicians they should have put into practice what they were believing. That is what the fundamentalist Muslims do. They do not only advocate an idea but they also put it into practice. That is what the Boers here did. When they believed in apartheid they put apartheid into action. At least Nyerere with his Ujaama villages, and moving people from one place to another, tried to put into practice what he believed.

For me knowledge is very powerful. Any knowledge has claws and teeth. If you don’t see the teeth and the claws then it is useless, then somebody has emasculated it. When ideas are conceived by people in the realm of action but those people don’t put them into action, that’s where the problem is. These ideas then become dreams. To be realised by who? nobody can tell. So if we are going to have a Renaissance, well and good but let us have it fully orchestrated, fully ramified throughout all walks of life.

How would you propose we build an African literary culture? 

TLL: Please let us shy away from Africa . Africa is too big. Your area is South Africa and Southern Africa really. Leave the Eastern Africans to do their own thing, and the Central Africans, the Western Africans, the Northern Africans. It is when we want to be continental in our conception that we end up just making a dot here and a dot there and so on and call them African.

In this SADC region, you need to translate books not only into English but from one African language to another including books written in Mozambique, in Botswana, in Zambia and Zimbabwe. We need to have access to the books that have been written. It should not just be a Vendan writer or teacher recommending Vendan books: it should be someone else who is not a Vendan, who knows the relative importance of Vendan books, or Tsonga books, or Sotho books who does the identifying and recommending.

You need translation centres for translating these books. Then you also need exchange of scholars and exchange of writers so that they move around as our children, not as foreigners. You need literary and other competitions within the SADC areas, including even a version of the NOMA awards for SADC countries. Maybe it will be sponsored by Castle Beer, I don’t know. In Europe they used to have aristocratic or rich patrons. Here we need also cultural ambassadors, not the radicals who cannot wear suits but do their hair like yours. We need ambassadors who can go a De Beers board meeting and say “Ladies and Gentlemen, do support art — do support this idea, it is a good idea.” You need those. It requires a lot of doing, and a lot of planning and if you plan it the wrong way, if you do it precipitately, it can be knocked down.

Doesn’t this contradict something you said in your inaugural address here in Venda, that the problem with most African social scientists and writers is that they limit themselves to specific tribes and specific religions.

TLL: I was talking about tribalists. Because even amongst the Sothos there are Bapedi and that is not the end of it. How can anyone just specialise in the Bapedi and not know how the Bapedi are joined to middle and southern Sotho? You have to do it like the kite. The kite has two types of eyes, one for seeing the world below and another one for seeing a rat, right? You are out there and you are 50 yards up, you can’t see a rat but the kite can. Even some of the doves, they can see a small grain on the ground, they adjust their lenses. They can see panoramically and they can also zero in. So that is what I am talking about. It doesn’t matter if we have those who zero in so long as we have the people who can put things into context. The ones who are going to talk about continental Africa, they should be able to see a variety of things. That would be it.

Critics have not been very kind to you. They say that your writing echoes bourgeois or even racist criticism, propaganda. “His thoughts are permeated with Indo-Western decadence.” How have you reacted to this?

TLL: The lucky thing about it is that the only literary criticism that I’ve read about myself is this one by Christine Pagnoulle. Otherwise I have just continued doing my own thing. I have never read whatever other writers and critics have said. For one simple reason — knowing them and knowing their limitations, their intellectual limitations — I am likely to be infuriated. And then, secondly, I think I explore a wider field than most of them, not just of Africans but of other people, so I feel few of them can do me justice. So I am ready to go through life like Cassandra. Cassandra in one of the Greek myths is a prophetess, but she’s doomed not to be respected, not to be believed. When she tells the truth nobody takes action. So I’ve accepted it. It is my fate because I am still active. I mean it is easy to pontificate when somebody is dead and the work he has produced is over. But if he is still producing, whatever report you make it is an interim report. I’m not interested in reading interim reports about me because I’m also an activist in the field and in that way I rub other people up the wrong way. So if I am supposed to listen to what they say, they will tell me to go the wrong way, to go their way. So I think they better do their own thing and I do my own. Maybe by the end of this century, when I have stated most of my major theses and have had them published, will I have the luxury to sit in the gallery and follow the debates on the floor.

Sam Radithlalo lectures in the English Department at the University of Venda for Science and Technology. This interview was first printed in New Coin in 1997.

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