Zakes Mda , full name Zanemvula Kizito Gatyeni Mda, was born in Herschel, Eastern Cape, South Africa, in 1948. His father, Ashby P. Mda, was an anti-Apartheid activist, a founding member and president of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League. In the 1960’s, his father was imprisoned and the family had to leave South Africa. Zakes Mda finished his schooling in exile in Lesotho. Later on, he went to the USA, studied drama and mass communication at Ohio University, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Cape Town in 1990. After thirty two years in exile, he decided to return to South Africa where he worked as a Professor of Drama at the University of the Witwatersrand, and later became a full-time writer, painter and film maker. He is currently a literary consultant at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg and Professor of Creative Writing at Ohio University in the US. During the 1970’s and 80’s, the theatre was Mda’s foremost interest. Beginning with the early drama »We Shall Sing for the Fatherland« (1977) many of his around thirty plays have repeated the premonition that a new government, being as corrupt and craving for power as the old one, would betray the ideals of resistance. In Mda’s style, the African oral narrative tradition is interwoven with elements of the Xhosa Intsomi Theatre, with magical realism and the European Theatre of the Absurd. His plays have been awarded numerous prizes. »The Plays of Zakes Mda« (1990) has been translated into South Africa’s eleven official languages. Mda’s novels reflect the collective internal conflict of tradition and materialist consumerism prevalent in post-Apartheid South Africa. They are told from the blacks’ perspective; whites only play a peripheral role. The much acclaimed novel »Ways of Dying« (1995) depicts Toloki, a self-proclaimed mourner, wandering from one township funeral to the next. Slowly, the reader learns that almost all the victims’ ways of dying were inflicted on them by their own fanatic, greedy and violent community. »Heart of Redness«, published in 2000, looks back at the colonial past. The Xhosa were prophesied by ancestral spirits a victory over the British if they slew their cattle, which left the tribe ultimately divided. Mda vivedly describes how the tragic effects of this rift have continued up to the present day. His latest book »Madonna of Excelsior« (2002) is based on a sex scandal between white Africans and their black maids in the 1970’s and was awarded the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in 2005. His most recent novel, “the Whale Caller” (2005), tells of a love triangle consisting of a woman who loves a man who in turn tries to bewitch a female whale with the melodies of his horn. The oft-awarded writer lives in South Africa and the USA and engages in many activities. He teaches creative writing at the University of Ohio, works as a bee-keeper in Eastern Cape, puts plays on stage in Johannesburg’s Market Theatre and is director of the Southern African Multimedia AIDS Trust.
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