Tribute to Lewis Nkosi by the Minister of Arts and Culture, Ms Lulama Xingwana MP

8 Sep 2010

I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing away of Professor Lewis Nkosi. Professor Nkosi made major contributions to our literary heritage as a playwright, novelist, and as a fearless social and literary critic. 

To speak of Lewis Nkosi in isolation from the colleague’s he lived and worked with in the early stages of his development would end up taking him out of context. Like almost all of the writers of his generation, he started off as a newspaper reporter. The legendary Can Themba, who

quit teaching and became editor of the Golden City Post after Verwoerd introduced Bantu Education, recruited Lewis Nkosi from Ilanga Lase Natal. 

It was at the post and drum, at the height of the Treason Trial, in the company of colleagues like Henry Nxumalo, Casey Motsisi, Nat Nakasa, Stan Motjuadi – to name a few – that Nkosi came to prominence as a journalist and intellectual of note. 

In 1960 he was awarded a Nieman Fellowship to study at Harvard. He left on an exit permit because the apartheid regime denied him a passport. In exile he continued to be productive as a writer and critic.He was a recipient of a number of literary awards in recognition of his contribution to the development of African literature and literary scholarship. Among the awards he received were: the Dakar Festival Prize (1965); the C. Day Lewis Fellowship (1977); the Macmillan Silver Pen Award (1987); and, in 2009, the Presidential National Order of Ikhamanga: Silver (OIS). 

Professor Nkosi also taught at the University of Zambia and at a number of universities in Europe and the United States. 

The world has lost a great writer and intellectual. He will be deeply missed though he will continue to live in us through his work. We convey our sincere condolences to his twin daughters Louise and Joy and to his wife Astrid Starck.