26 May 2014

South Africa: Fifty Years Later, Time for Nat Nakasa to Return Home


The announcement that South African government offices are trying to repatriate the remains of exiled journalist Nat Nakasa encourages J. BROOKS SPECTOR to contemplate exile and the rainbow nation in Nakasa's life and writing.

A few years ago, a sometime co-author, an economist working in Washington, and this writer got to talking about exiles and their place in South African culture, one night over dinner. It turned out this hard-nosed resource economist, following a hard day of number crunching, liked to listen to jazz recordings by bassist Johnny Dyani, one of the key members of the Blue Notes, a group led by pianist Chris MacGregor. The Blue Notes had been South Africa's first truly integrated professional jazz band. But, as a result of the pressures of Apartheid restrictions on their performances and work together, MacGregor, Dyani and the rest of the group eventually left South Africa in 1964. Dyani finally settled in Scandinavia where he lived and worked until his death.

And then, of course, there was Dumile Feni, the artist whose fans and critics came to call "the Goya of the townships" because of the emotional intensity about his subjects evident in so much of his work. Feni, too,...

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