Press release: The launch of Can Themba, the making and breaking of the intellectual tsotsi

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Celebrate World Book Day with the in-person launch of Siphiwo Mahala’s biography of Can Themba, the making and breaking of the intellectual tsotsi.

Siphiwo Mahala will be in conversation with Dr Nokuthula Mazibuko and Sello Maake kaNcube will perform a short extract from Can Themba’s The Suit.

When: Saturday 23 April 2022 @ 13H30 for 14h00
Venue: Sun International Auditorium, The Kerzner, Auckland Park, University of Johannesburg, Bunting Road Campus
RSVP: by noon on Fri 22/04
Proof of vaccination will be required

This rich and absorbing biography of Can Themba, iconic Drum-era journalist and writer, is the definitive history of a larger-than-life man who died too young. Siphiwo Mahala's intensive and often fresh research features unprecedented archival access and interviews with Themba’s surviving colleagues and family.

Mahala’s biography takes a critical historical approach to Themba’s life and writing, giving a picture of the whole man, from his early beginnings in Marabastad to his sombre end in exile in Swaziland.

Mahala, a master storyteller, deftly follows the threads of Themba’s dynamic life, showcasing his intellectual acumen, scholarly aptitude and wit, along with his flaws, contradictions and heartbreaks, against a backdrop of the sparkle and pathos of Sophiatown of the 1950s.

Can Themba’s successes and failures as well as his triumphs and tribulations reverberate on the pages of this long-awaited biography. The result is an authoritative and entertaining account of an often misunderstood figure in South Africa's literary canon.

Siphiwo Mahala is an award-winning novelist and short-story writer, playwright and literary critic. He is a senior lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Johannesburg and a research fellow at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study. He is the founder and editor of Imbiza Journal for African Writing.

Zakes Mda, novelist, poet and playwright, Professor Emeritus of English, Ohio University and Creative Writing Lecturer, Johns Hopkins University, says:

An engaging read, well-researched and accessible. It offers new insights not only on Can Themba – the subject of the book – but on his era, his peers, and the movement that later became known as the Sophiatown Renaissance. Mahala captures the period and its politics so vividly that he makes the reader critically aware of how it felt to be in those events, rather than merely chronicling them.

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