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Borrowing its name and image from township slang for black youth who rode the overcrowded African sections of the racially segregated commuter trains by hanging onto the outside or sitting on the roofs, Staffrider had two main objectives: to provide publishing opportunities for community-based organizations and young writers, graphic artists and photographers; and to oppose officially sanctioned state and establishment culture.

Produced by the same Durban “moment” that saw Steve Biko begin the South African Students Association, Staffrider had a view of literature with a small “I”: it’s base was popular rather than elite and it sought to provide an autobiography of experience in its witness of daily black life in South Africa. The magazine’s nonracial policy and choice of English as a non-ethnic mode of communication attracted a cross-section of writers, artists and other contributors to the magazine. Debates around Staffrider‘s “self-editing” editorial policy were ongoing and the magazine eventually adopted quality control measures under the editorship of Chris van Wyk. But the magazine’s early flexibility ensured that the work of previously unpublished writers and artists appeared alongside that of many South African notables including Nadine Gordimer, Lionel Abrahams, Rose Zwi, and Mtutuzeli Matshoba.

A Film by Khulile Nxumalo & Tracey Rose

“Here platform politics rhythmically play out the politics of the land; white against black, rich against poor, workers against bosses, people against machines. But the staffriders lived and died in that little space between train and platform, between roles.A split second of misreckoning and it’s all over. Here timing is a matter of life and death. “

Of “Brothers with Perfect Timing” – An Essay by Mike Abraham

” The resonance of such a simple idea is almost impossible to recapture now, but in the demented, divided space of apartheid it was bracing. All the other borders the magazine crossed between fiction and autobiography, written and spoken word, lyrical flight and social documentary rest on that first idealistic gesture. The magazine belongs to all who live in it.”

Staffrider – An Essay by Ivan Vladislavić

“Famed, Nobel laureates, wilful amnesiacs, first millionaires, years soweto’s only legit nightclub, the super-astral, the subterranean, original spot-runners, groaners & croakers, mass child-murderers, priests pimping for more than just Jesus, blades having dice & eyes vie for space in the dust between the intestines & the worms… boots squashing all… muddy beginnings, those… Call Me Not a Man, the searing bleeding cry of a book was titled… chopped & cut up bits first floated to surface in Staffrider.”

Staffriding the Frontline – An Essay by Lesego Rampolokeng

traduction française par Maymoena Hallett

Empruntant son nom et son image de l’argot du township pour les jeunes qui voyageaient dans les sections africaines bondées des trains racialement ségrégués, se pendant aux portes ou s’asseyant sur les toits, les deux objectifs principaux de Staffriderétaient: de fournir des opportunités de publication aux organisations de communauté et aux jeunes écrivains, graphistes et photographes ; et d’officiellement opposer l’état sanctionné et la culture d’établissement.

Produit par le même ‘moment’ sur Durban qui vit Steve Biko commencer la South African Students Association, Staffrider avait un point de vue de la littérature avec un petit ‘l’: sa base était populaire plutôt qu’élitiste et cherchait à pourvoir une autobiographie d’expériences dans son témoignage de la vie de tous les jours des noirs en Afrique du Sud. La politique non raciale du magazine et le choix de l’anglais comme mode de communication non ethnique attira toutes sortes d’écrivains, d’artistes et autres contributeurs. Les débats autour de la politique éditoriale ‘d’édition par soi-même’é taient constants et le magazine finit par adopter des mesures de contrôle de qualitésous la direction de Chris van Wyk. Mais la flexibilité des débuts du magazine garantit que des écrivains ou artistes qui n’avaient jamais été publiés parurent aux côtés d’éminents Sud-Africains tels Nadine Gordimer, Lionel Abrahams, Rose Zwi, et Mtutuzeli Matshoba.


Mothobi Mutloatse, Mike Kirkwood, Kay Hassan, Njabulo Ndebele, Achmat Dangor, Paul Weinberg, Mafika Gwala, George Hallet, Mzwakhe Nhlabatsi, Sam Nhlengetwa, Malopoets, Es’kia Mphahlele, Kelwyn Sole, Chris van Wyk, Andries Oliphant,Thami Mnyele, William Kentridge, Gerard Sekoto


  • The Classic (1970)
  • Pen Johannesburg (1978)
  • Wietie (1980)
  • Botsotso (1994)


  • Staffrider on Wikipedia
  • Ten Years of Staffrider, Oliphant, A. and Vladislavic, I. (eds.), Raven Press: Johannesburg, 1988.
  • Oliphant, Andries. Staffrider Magazine and Popular History: The Opportunities and Challenges of Personal Testimony. Temple University Press: Johannesburg, 1991.
  • Gardiner, Michael. South African Literary Magazines, 1956-1978. Warren Siebrits Modern and Contemporary Art: Johannesburg, 2004.
  • “Rose Zwi in conversation with Mothobi Mutloatse,” Interview conducted 09-09-2006.
  • Gwala, Mafika. “Writing as a Cultural Weapon.” In Momentum, Margaret Daymond, Johan Jacobs, and Margaret Lenta (eds.). University of Natal Press: Pietermaritzburg, 1985. 37-53.
  • Manganyi, Chabani N. Looking Through the Keyhole. Ravan Press: Johannesburg, 1981
  • Mutloatse, Mothobi. Forced Landing. Ravan Press: Johannesburg, 1980.
  • Ndebele, Njabulo. Rediscovery of the Ordinary. Congress of South African Writers: Johannesburg, 1991.
  • Newell, Stephanie. Readings in African Popular Fiction. Indiana University Press: Bloomington, 2002.
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