BY Fredrick Ngugi, 4:00pm January 30, 2017,

Exiled South African Author Peter Abrahams Dies in Jamaica

South African-born author and journalist Peter Abrahams looks on. Jamaica Gleaner

Peter Abrahams, a renowned South African-born author, has died in Jamaica at the age of 97.

The celebrated writer, whose book “Mine Boy” recounts the different forms of racial oppression that existed in South Africa during Apartheid, died at his home in St. Andrew Parish, Jamaica, on January 18th, reports IOL. The cause of death is yet to be disclosed.

Abrahams is considered to be one of South Africa’s most-acclaimed Black writers. His writings reveal the varied afflictions racism caused not just in South Africa, but around the world, and demonstrates Black people’s historical and political awareness that came out of the initial feeling of inferiority, which had been instilled by White people.

While growing up, Abrahams enjoyed reading works created by Black writers of the Harlem Renaissance, which motivated him to consider Blackness as a subject for his literature.

His Beginnings

Abrahams was born in 1919 in Johannesburg, South Africa, to an Ethiopian father and a colored Mother, whose Black Father was married to a White French Mother.

He fled South Africa at the age of 20 to England, where he began his career as a writer. He later moved to France before settling in Jamaica.

Great Work of Literature

Abrahams’s first collection of stories, “Dark Testament,” was published in 1942, a year after he arrived in London. Several other novels followed that recounted life in the South African slums, including the “Song of the City,” which was released in 1945.

His breakthrough as a writer came, though, when he published “Mine Boy” in 1946. The book tells the story of “Xuma,” a Black worker in South Africa’s diamond mines, and his moment of political awareness.

“Mine Boy” discusses the various forms of racial discrimination that Black workers in South African diamond mines were — and continue to be — subjected to by their White employers.

“The only place where Xuma was completely free was underground in the mines. There he was a master and knew his way,” Abrahams wrote.

Although most of his novels are written in a naturalistic style, Abrahams also employed special narrative techniques obtained from African oral traditions in his works.

At the same time, his desire to activate political liberation movements in South Africa and Africa, in general, led him to work with the African political heavyweights of the 1940s, including Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, and George Padmore of Trinidad.

Through his writings, Abrahams was able to spur the narrative of decolonization in Africa by speaking to the hearts and souls of colonized Africans.

Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: January 30, 2017


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