Tatamkhulu Ismail Afrikas life was a fugue of intertwining identities. He was,a novelist, a soldier, a prisoner of war, a miner, a political activist, a poet. He was born in Egypt on December 7 1920 of an Arab father and a Turkish mother.
South Africa Description of Work: Tatamkhulu was brought to South Africa in 1923,
orphaned, and raised by foster parents. He served in World War II, and
was a POW for three years. After the war he was, inter alia, a miner, a
barman, shop assistant, bookkeeper and a jazz drummer. He moved to Cape
Town in 1964, when he reconverted to Islam and joined the resistance to
apartheid. Arrested in 1987 for terrorism he was listed for five
years as a banned person and until his death drew a pension from
Umkhonto we Sizwe.
Interests: Politique, Education, Culture
Place of Origin: Egypt
Since 1990, Tatamkhulu Ismail published eight volumes of poetry and four prose works. At the age of 17 he finished a first novel, Broken Earth,
which was published by Hutchinson (UK), but did not write again for 50
years. His new swell of creativity brought in prizes for poetry,
including the CNA Debut Prize, Pringle Awards, and Olive Schreiner and
Sanlam Poetry Prizes.
In the latter part of his life he lived simply and frugally in
a wooden hut in the backyard of a house in the Bo-Kaap. A generous and
compassionate man, he gave a large portion of his income to establish
an Islamic centre in Guguletu and to run a crèche. He died on 23
December 2002 of complications from being in a road accident after
having been knocked over by a car.