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Kessie Govender PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 04:17

Kessie Govender (1942 - 2002) was born in Durban. His grandfather Veeraswami Govender came to South Africa from Poolioor in South India as an indentured labourer. On gaining his freedom he bought land in Cato Manor and started a market garden.  Govender's father, Mariemuthoo, was a bricklayer, and when Govender left school at the end of Grade 10, he became one too.

He was introduced to the theatre by his cousin Ronnie Govender. By the early 1960s, theatre in South Africa meant mostly white theatre staging classics such as Shakespeare and bedroom farces. It bore no relation to the lives of most South Africans, it didn't reflect indigenous language or humour, and it had nothing to say about the issues of the day.
Few, if any, resources went into theatre that was not white. To remedy this, Ronnie Govender and a small group of others brought the eminent Indian director Krishna Shah to South Africa to run a clinic. The result was the Shah Theatre Academy, which ran workshops to encourage and train young actors and writers to fill the gap in the local drama scene.
Among the first to attend was Kessie. The fact that the academy existed to help create more enlightened drama did not mean that it didn't have its fair share of backbiting and snobbery, and Govender was looked at askance as an untutored upstart.
When Ronnie chose him to fill the lead in his play Beyond Calvary, there was no end to the hissing. "How can you put this monkey on stage?" demanded one furious speech and drama graduate who had coveted the role.
Kessie, never short of confidence in his abilities or his cause, went storming ahead regardless, and drew the first of many accolades from the local press.

In the 1970s he began writing and directing as well, to fill the void of suitable pieces on issues he felt needed addressing. "So much was starting to come to the boil, politically, and there was so little available that expressed the situation, so I got down to it and began writing and staging my own plays," he recalled in an interview.
His first - and one of his few real commercial successes - was Stable Expense, after which he named his Stable Theatre.
Money was definitely not one of Govender's driving passions, and he made so little of it that those who knew him never ceased to wonder how he managed to keep body and soul together, let alone support a wife (whose teacher's salary was invaluable) and two children.

Despite this, he was always ready to help some struggling artist get a bite to eat or pay for transport. And, no matter how pressed he was, he always made time to read scripts brought to him by young hopefuls. A number of would-be actors and writers now working in mainstream theatre owe their start to Govender.
He died of a heart attack in 2002 and is survived by his wife, Jayshree, and two children. In 2013 Stable Theatre honoured Govender by presenting a revival of his first play, Stablexpense, in 2013.

(Adapted from Chris Barron's "Working class hero of theatre for the people" Sunday Times. 3 Feb 2002)


Selected Work

from Working Class Hero - a stage play in two acts

Period - 1976. About three months before the Soweto uprising. Location - A building site in a suburb close to Durban.

People in the play

Frank: Unskilled builders' labourer (African)
Jits: Bricklayers' chargehand (Indian)
Siva: Artisan bricklayer (Indian)
Anand: Third year law student at University of Durban Westville (Siva's brother)
Grievenstien: Building Industry Labour inspector (White)

Stage or performing area to depict a building site. Scattered about are builders' scaffoldings, a medium sized ladder, a doorframe, motar boards, bricks in piles and packed in stacks. A few empty cement bags lie crumbled. The action and props are permitted to spill outside the allowed conventional working space. Entrances and exits of characters are decided to suit chosen venues. The play is a continuous performance without scene changes, there is a short tea break for the characters on stage, during which time the audience is free to do as it pleases. Stage props are listed on the last page of this book.

Act One

The curtains are up before the audience enters the theatre. (preferably there should be no curtains) The house lights are low. The stage or performing area is to create the impression that the place has not yet been cleared and made ready for a performance.. This is to stimulate the audience to feel as curious intruders rather than detatched spectators. There is no set, and as there are no conventional chairs, actors would have to improvise their comfort needs. An incomplete raked brickwork corner of a building stands starkly out of place. Words from the song 'Working Class Hero' are heard as the houselights are lowered. Performance lights to indicate early morning. In the diffused light FRANK wheels in barrow of bricks and tips them randomly. Turning his barrow he exits. Reloads and returns. He stops close to the pile of bricks but does not empty the barrow. Leaving the barrow, he walks to an already packed stack of bricks, on top of which is a partly eaten unsliced half loaf of brown bread and a chipped mug of tea. Picking up the bread he takes a bite pulls the cement bag over the paint container, seats himself on it, continues eating and sipping tea. At the end of the song, lights fade in gradually to normal visibility.

(Enter Jits. He is carrying a kit bag in one hand and a newspaper in the other.)

FRANK : (as Jits walks past him.) Yebo Baas.
JITS Ya(barely acknowledging Frank.)
(walks to a stack of bricks) What time do you start work'?
FRANK : Dala Baas, long time, must be sometimes apas six.
JITS : Then what you still sitting on your arse for?
(removes tea flask from kit bag.)
FRANK : Awa ngidila iblekfasti Jits.
JITS : Is Temba coming today?
FRANK : Angazi. I dunno.He was sick Friday
JITS : Ya I know that story. Every Friday he's sick,
and every Monday he's absent. Right then, you better mix the daka.(pours tea into cup.)
FRANK : Ow xovile gaate. That time I'm getting up I'm mixing the daka everything.
JITS : Then come on, move it with the bricks man. What you waiting for? (reaches into pocket for cigarettes.)
FRANK : (empties barrow, exits.) (sounds of bricks clattering into barrow is heard offstage.)
JITS : (it's his last cigarette, he squashes the packet and flings it away, looks towards Frank and calls.) Frank, (receives no response, shouts.) Hey Frank, you bastard.
FRANK : (above the sound of bricks thrown into barrow.) Yebo Baas.
JITS : Get me a packet of cigarettes.
FRANK : (offstage) In' Baas'?
JITS : Lo ugwayi man, you bloody shit. You got cement in your ears what?
FRANK : (enters with barrow loads of bricks. stops his barrow and removes bricks by hand, after packing some of them into a stack, he walks to Jits, collects money, looks down at the money in his hand.) Ow Jits borrow me one rand please.
JITS : What one rand? One rand, one rand, one rand. What do you think I am'? Your father or something? Do you know how much you owe me?
FRANK : Ow siza Jits, I want to tenga some inyama.
JITS : Well use your own money, you got paid last week.
FRANK : Ow Jits, siza bo, hambisile mall ekhaya.
JITS What's that?
FRANK : I'm sending the mall to the farm. I'm never going to the farm, musbe three months. I'm sending the money for my wife and my children.
JITS : Hey shit man, that's your wife and your children, and I hope you're not blaming me for any of them.
FRANK : (walks towards barrow, takes a few steps then turns around as if a new though has struck him, walks back to Jits.) Hey Jits, shiya zonke le zinto leaving it all that one rand everything and giving it me only one twenty cents.
JITS : Alright, take it from the rand.
FRANK : Ow Baba, wanyisiza kakhulu (goes down on one knee in mock gratitude.)
JITS : You just give me back my money, that's all.
FRANK : Not to worley Jits. I'm giving it back your money.
(resumes packing bricks.)
JITS Hey, how much you taking there now?
FRANK : Twenty cents.
JITS : Didn't you say that you were going to buy meat? What meat you going to buy for twenty cents? You don't take fifty cents and say you only took twenty cents. You hear?
FRANK : You mus'nt think I'm a lobber Jits. I'm getting it a inyama for the twenty cents. I'm going there by the butcher, I'm saying there by him, I ley wena, the baas he say lie want the amadogbones for twenty cents. When I say that, lie say, Which baas? I say the baas for the building. Ow when I say that, he pick it all the nice, nice amathambo and he gimme lot, lot inyama. (pause, scratches his head in puzzlement.) Ow, hey Jits, I don't know why he give the baas's dog, lot, lot ama bones, goto that time I say that it is for me, he give it me leetle bit amabones, no inyama nothing.
JITS : Maybe he doesn't like you.
FRANK : How he can saying he don't like it me, He not knowing me nothing (pause) (as if it suddenly dawns on him) Noo. He know that the baas is a Mulungu, he get flightened. But me? I'm clever me, anything I want it, I say the Baas he want it, the baas he want it.
JITS : Alright, alright, leave all that and get my cigarettes.
FRANK : Awright



1974. Stable Expense. [s.n.]

1975. Tramp –you, Tramp – me. [s.n.]

1975. Ravanan. [s.n.]

1976. Working Class Hero. [s.n.]

1977. The Decision. [s.n.]

1978. The Shack. [s.n.]

1979. Ka-goos. [s.n.]

1981. On the Fence. [s.n.]

1984. Black Skies. [s.n.]

1998. Underground. [s.n.]

1991. Stablexpense. [s.n.]

1994. God Made Mosquitoes Too. [s.n.]

1995/6. Alternative Action. [s.n.]

1996. Herstory.  [s.n.]


Rider Haggard PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 04:16

Sir Henry Rider Haggard
(1856-1925) was born on 22 June at Bradenham, Norfolk. His academic career was undistinguished and after failing the Army Entrance examination he was sent to London to study for the Foreign Office examination. There he became unofficially engaged to Mary Elizabeth Jackson, known as Lilly, but the romance was put on hold when in 1875 Haggard's parents arranged for him to join the staff of Sir Henry Bulwer, Lieutenant-Governor of Natal.

In Pietermaritzburg, the Natal capital, Haggard met Theophilus Shepstone, Secretary for Native Affairs, who became his friend and mentor. In 1876 while accompanying Bulwer and Shepstone on a tour of Natal Haggard witnessed a Zulu ceremonial dance that provided the material for his first article written for publication. The Zulus named Haggard Lundanda u Ndandokalweni - "The tall one who travels on the heights".

In December 1876 Haggard joined Shepstone's mission to annex the Transvaal. During the trek to Pretoria Haggard "heard many a story of savage Africa" from his travelling companions and also from Mhlopekazi who, as Umslopogaas, features in Allan Quatermain (1887), Nada the Lily (1892) and She and Allan (1921). Another black man, Haggard's Zulu servant, Mazooku, with whom he had several adventures, features in Haggard's autobiography The Days of My Life (1926) and Diary of an African Journey (2000), and the novel The Witch's Head (1884).

Haggard helped run up the British flag in Pretoria on May 24, 1877. Shortly afterwards he was appointed Master and Registrar of the High Court. In Pretoria Haggard met Arthur Cochrane and together they built a small cottage, "The Palatial". Here Haggard learned that Lilly Jackson had decided to marry someone else. The news "left me utterly reckless and unsettled." He had an affair with a married woman, Johanna Catherine Ford, who became pregnant with his child – a girl named Ethel Rider - who subsequently died.

Looking for a new start, Haggard and Cochrane resigned from the Pretoria Horse and bought a small farm, Rooipoint, just outside Newcastle, where they intended to farm ostriches. The farmhouse was named Hilldrop and still stands today used as a guesthouse filled with Haggard memorabilia.

In August Haggard went on a visit to England and in 1880 Haggard married Louisa Margitson. The couple returned to South Africa just as the First Anglo-Boer War broke out. The British were defeated in three battles fought close to Newcastle: Laing's Nek, Ingogo and Amajuba. Hilldrop was rented by the authorities to negotiate the peace terms. "It was a strange fate which decreed that the Retrocession of the Transvaal, over which I had myself hoisted the British flag, should be practically accomplished beneath my roof."

Haggard's first child, Arthur John Rider (‘Jock’) was born at Hilldrop on 22 May 1881. But the change in British fortunes convinced the Haggard family to leave South Africa.

Back in England, while studying for the Bar, Haggard wrote Cetywayo and His White Neighbours (1882), a work of non-fiction. This was followed by two novels: Dawn (1884) and The Witch's Head (1884). Haggard's third novel, King Solomon's Mines (1885), proved an instant bestseller. On the strength of this success, Haggard quit law and embarked on a literary career. A series of popular novels followed, including She (1886) and Allan Quatermain (1887)

The death of Jock in 1891, however, signalled the end of Haggard's most creative period and, as he emerged from his grief, the beginning of Haggard's life as a farmer and "man of affairs". He ventured briefly into business and also stood for parliament but failed to win a seat. Haggard's agricultural studies, A Farmer's Year (1899) and the two-volume Rural England (1902), brought him recognition as an authority on land issues. He travelled to the United States to investigate schemes for the resettlement of the urban poor and also served on the Royal Commission on Coast Erosion and Afforestation. He was knighted in 1912 for his public services.

Haggard revisited South Africa in 1914 while serving on the Dominions Royal Commission. During the trip Haggard returned to old haunts, toured Zululand, interviewed John Dube, first president of the African National Congress, and was reunited with Mazooku.

During World War One Haggard toured the dominions to investigate the post-war settlement of serviceman. He briefly visited Cape Town in 1916.

Haggard died on 14 May 1925.


Selected Work

From King Solomon's Mines (1885)

Behind and over us towered Sheba's snowy breasts, and below, some five thousand feet beneath where we stood, lay league on league of the most lovely champaign country. Here were dense patches of lofty forest, there a great river wound its silvery way. To the left stretched a vast expanse of rich undulating veldt or grass land, on which we could just make out countless herds of game or cattle, at that distance we could not tell which. This expanse appeared to be ringed in by a wall of distant mountains. To the right the country was more or less mountainous, that is, solitary hills stood up from its level, with stretches of cultivated lands between, amongst which we could distinctly see groups of dome-shaped huts. The landscape lay before us like a map, in which rivers flashed like silver snakes, and Alp-like peaks crowned with wildly twisted snow wreaths rose in solemn grandeur, whilst over all was the glad sunlight and the wide breath of Nature's happy life.
Two curious things struck us as we gazed. First, that the country before us must lie at least five thousand feet higher than the desert we had crossed; and, secondly, that all the rivers flowed from south to north. As we had painful reason to know, there was no water at all on the southern side of the vast range on which we stood, but on the northern side were many streams, most of which appeared to unite with the great river we could trace winding away farther than we could follow it.
We sat down for a while and gazed in silence at this wonderful view. Presently Sir Henry spoke.
'Isn't there something on the map about Solomon's Great Road?' he said.
I nodded, my eyes still looking out over the far country.
'Well, look; there it is!' and he pointed a little to our right.



1884. Dawn. London:  Longman, Green and Co.
1884. The Witch's Head. London: John and Robert Maxwell publishers.
1885. King Solomon's Mines. London:  Macdonald.
1886. She. London:  Longman, Green and Co. 
1887. Jess. London:  Smith, Elder and Co.
1887. Allan Quatermain. London:  Hodder & Stoughton.
1888. Maiwa's Revenge. London:  Longman, Green and Co. 
1889. Cleopatra. London:  Longman, Green and Co. 
1889. Allan's wife and other tales. London:  Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh.

1889. Doctor Therne.  London:  Longman, Green and Co.  

1890. Colonel Quaritch, V.C : A Tale of Country Life.  London: Longman, Green and Co. 

1892.  Beatrice: A Novel. London:  Longman, Green and Co. 
1892. Nada the lily. London:  Macdonald.
1894. The People of the Mist. London: McKinlay Stone & Mackenzie.

1896. Heart of the World.  London: Longman, Green and Co. 
1896. The Wizard.  London: Kessinger Publishing.
1899. A Farmer's Year. London: Cresset Library.
1899. Swallow: a tale of the Great Trek.  London:  Longman, Green and Co.
1900. Black Heart and White Heart and Other Stories. London: Longman, Green and Co.
1900. The Last Boer War.  London:  Keagan Paul, Trench and Trubner. 
1902. Rural England.  London:  Longman. Green and Co.
1905. Ayesha: The Return of She. London:  Ward Lock. 
1905. A Gardener's Year.  London:  Longman, Green and Co.
1906. Benita. London:  Cassell Publishers.

1906. The Brethren.  London:  Cassell Publishers.
1908. The Ghost Kings. London:  Cassell Publishers.
1910. Queen Sheba's Ring. London:  Eveleigh Nash. 
1912. Marie. London: Macdonald.
1913. Child of storm. London:  Macdonald. 
1916. The Ivory Child. London: Macdonald.
1917. Finished. London: Macdonald.
1917. Elissa: the Doom of Zimbabwe. Fairford:  Echo-Library.

1918.  Love Eternal.  London:  Cassell Publishers.
1920. The Ancient Allan. London:   Cassell Publishers. 
1920. Benita: an African romance. London: Cassell Publishers. 
1921. She and Allan. London:  Hutchinson Publishers.
1923. Wisdom's Daughter. London: Hutchinson Publishers.
1923. Heu-Heu or the Monster. London:  Hutchinson Publishers.
1926. The days of my life: an autobiography. (2 vol.). London:  Longman, Green and Co.
1980. The Private Diaries of Sir Henry Rider Haggard 1914-1925 (ed. D.S. Higgins).  London:  Cassell Publishers.
2000. Diary of an African Journey: the return of Rider Haggard (ed. Stephen Coan).  Durban:  University of Natal Press.
2007. Mameena and Other Plays: The Complete Dramatic Works of H. Rider Haggard (ed. Stephen Coan).  Durban:  University of Natal Press.
2008. Short Works of Henry Rider Haggard. Charleston:  Bibliolife.


Author Map (Battlefields)

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Aziz Hassim PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 04:15

Durban-born Aziz Hassim (1935 - 2013), spent most of his early years fraternising on the streets in Durban's Casbah area. The Casbah, a predominantly Indian - but also multicultural - area had a kind of romance and bittersweet lifestyle during the fifties and sixties, which lives on only in the minds of those that inhabited it at the time. Hassim's debut novel, The Lotus People, which won the 2001 Sanlam Literary Award for an unpublished novel, spans the events and moods of this era and served as a form of catharsis for Hassim. While he calls the cleansing process his "personal TRC", he also wished to record a past he is convinced has disappeared forever for the younger generation who think he is "making up stories" when he tells them about that era. Although Aziz Hassim carried the novel within himself, it is by no means autobiographical, but rather a product of the environment he lived in during those days. Of this novel, poet and author, Stephen Gray says, "Hassim's unputdownable tale is the sort that vindicates what Sanlam is doing. It is one of those one-off, unpredictable things ... an absolute masterwork that has never seen the light of day."  Hassim launched his latest novel, Revenge of Kali, which takes place in Durban's Warwick Triangle in the 1960's and 70's, in July 2009. This second novel, which has come under some scrutiny for the title's allusion to the Hindu deity Kali, tells the tale of indentured Indian South Africans and the infamous "Grey Street System".  The book is dedicated to the veteran struggle activist and author Phyllis Naidoo.  In Hassim's words, "While The Lotus People is a novel about what the apartheid regime did to the Indian community, Revenge of Kali is about what the Indians did to themselves".

Aziz Hassim passed away in 2013. His death received considerable media attention with tributes published by The Daily Maverick and Books Live. In 2015 a new annual literary award in honour of Hassim, the Minara Aziz Hassim Literary Awards, was initiated and sponsored by the Minara Chamber of Commerce (MCC).


Selected Work

From The Lotus People (2002)

Within a few minutes they were back on the street, at the corner of Commercial and Grey Streets. At last, Jake stopped and lit a cigarette. "The Casbah is another world, Sam. Another country. When you know your way around an army of cops wouldn't find you. You could disappear for weeks, move around freely. And don't ever think this is the only such place. You can lose yourself just as easily in the Dutchene or May Street or in any of a dozen other mini Casbahs."
"But we're not ducking from anybody, Jake. Why didn't we just walk on the pavements?"
"It's not wise to be seen all the time. The less anyone knows where you are the better. It's a good rule to follow."
Jake was on the move again. A hundred yards in front of there was the West End Hotel, at the corner of Pine Street, and he headed for it. After a few minutes, they entered the non-European bar. Sam saw Sandy, sitting on a stool. As soon as Sandy saw them he stood up and signalled to the elderly barman and whispered something in his ear. The barman nodded and jerked his thumb over his shoulder, pointing to a room behind him. Sandy ducked under the swing top and Jake and Sam followed.
They settled around a rickety wooden table, the uncomfortable globe chairs creaking under their weight. Sandy wasted little time on preliminaries, getting straight to the point.
"Sam, there's something we would like you to do for us. It's very important and if you're game we'll make sure you do well out of it. It isn't anything heavy and, if you're sharp, you won't get into trouble. How do you feel about it?"
Sam simply shook his head up and down, feeling a little excited at the prospect of being a part of whatever Jake and Sandy had in mind.
Sandy studied him carefully for a long while before he spoke again, choosing his words with care. "How much do you know about the gangs in town?"
Sam's forehead began to crease as he thought about it. "I've heard of the gangs, we talk about them in school all the time. But I only know some of the Dutchene guys, to say hello to ..."
Sam had led a fairly cloistered life and was still too young to understand the structure of the many street gangs that operated in the various Indian and Coloured communities around the city. Their status was clearly defined and, although all of them were of mixed orientation, mainly Indian and Coloured, there were a few African members within each grouping. Regardless of which race group predominated, the leader was always the best street- fighter or the most fearless and daring amongst them. In the school-grounds it was these leaders whose names were mentioned in awe and a touch of hero worship.



  • 2002. The Lotus People.  Johannesburg: STE Publishers.
  • 2009. Revenge of Kali.  Johannesburg: STE Publishers.

Author Map (Grey Street)

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