Rhodes University honours S.E.K Mqhayi

Celebrating the life and work of S.E.K Mqhayi
Celebrating the life and work of S.E.K Mqhayi

By Sibusiso Khuzwayo, fourth-year BA Humanities student 


Rhodes University’s African Languages and Linguistics department held its first series of S.E.K Mqhayi tribute events this week.

These events are held annually to celebrate the life of S.E.K Mqhayi, who is regarded as the “father of Xhosa Poetry“.

Samuel Edward Krune Loliwe Ngxekengxeke Mqhayi was a Xhosa dramatist, essayist, critic, novelist, historian, biographer, translator and poet whose works are regarded as instrumental in standardising the grammar of isiXhosa and preserving the language in the 20th century. He was born on 1 December 1875 near Gqumahashe in Alice. 

Ululations and chants filled the atmosphere of Eden Grove Blue as students and academics set the tone for the discussion.

In her presentation Relocating Mqhayi in an African Feminist discourse in the times of #MenAreTrash/Asile Amadoda, Master of Arts candidate Zikho Dana spoke about Mqhayi as an advocate for equal education for women and men at a time when supporting women was not popular. “Mqhayi believed that women should be educated because they also have a contribution towards the building of society,” she said.

Ntombizethu Nyakambi, a PHD fellow, explored Mqhayi’s views on how the youth should be pioneers in leadership and education. “Mqhayi believed that the youth, especially those that attained a higher education, should strive to eliminate unemployment and not wait for the government to employ them,” she said.

Xholela Bhenayo presented Mqhayi’s thoughts on black consciousness. He spoke about Mqhayi as an African Philosopher, and his views on black solidarity and using literature as a liberation mechanism. Bhenayo touched on Mqhayi’s novel u-Samson, and the manifestation of black solidarity in Ityala lamawele. He shared a reading of Mqhayi’s poem Aah! Zwelimnyama, iTshawe Lase Britani (Inzuzo 1943) and how it warned about the rule of Britain.

Students, academics and other guests were given an opportunity to ask questions, give commentary and provide suggestions. One of the academics commented on how the celebration of S.E.K Mqhayi could aid in the advancement of the Xhosa language in the 4th Industrial revolution.

The celebration of the life of Mqhayi took place at Rhodes University from 29 July to 2 August 2019.