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Tatamkhulu Ismail Afrika

South Africa

Tatamkhulu Ismail Afrika’s 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.

More by user: miba
Created: 18th Apr 2008
Modified: 18th Apr 2008
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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.
Biographical Information
Tatamkhulu Ismail Afrika
(At a Glance)
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.

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