World renowned Kenyan writer and literature scholar Professor Ngugi wa Thiong’o has suggested the rename of the South African city of East London to be renamed after the late great African scholar Samuel Edward Krune Mqhayi.
The literature scholar suggested the name change during a public dialogue lecture at the University of Fort Hare’s ABC Hall at the East London campus. In his keynote dialogue speech, he said something needed to be done urgently to the colonial towns and streets to reflect the identity of the majority of the inhabitants, according the Daily Dispatch reported.
Ngugi told the gathering, which consisted of academics, students, business moguls and politicians, that SEK Mqhayi city would be an ideal change from East London, or the city could be renamed anything which reflects its people, language or African identity.
“You need to do something about the name of this city and its streets. You need to take all those names, put them in an envelope and write return to sender,” Thiong’o said.
The city of East London is situated on the Southern coast of South Africa of the Eastern Cape Province. It lies at the mouth of the Buffalo River along the Indian Ocean, and dominated by the Xhosa people.
Named by the British colonial settlers about in 1834 in replica to the East London of Great Britain, the city has the best beach resort facilities, built mainly on the east bank of the river, it has wide straight streets and gardens and a terminus of the South African Railways line servicing the Free State province goldfields and one of the best tourist city in the country.
From City of East London to S E K Mqhayi city
Samuel Edward Krune Mqhayi was born in the Cape Province, trained as a teacher and later started promoting and helping in editing journals in the Xhosa language. In about 1905 he became a full-time author where he would help in standardizing Xhosa grammar and writing.
Mqhayi later became a journalist between 1896 and 1944 and wrote several articles for the Xhosa newspapers. In 1907 he wrote what is considered by some to be the first novel in the Xhosa language, U-Samson. In 1914 he published Ityala Lamwele (‘The Lawsuit of the Twins’) an influential Xhosa novel and an early defense of customary law and Xhosa tradition.
He is best known and most celebrated today for his authorship of much of the poem, “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika”, which was to form part of a free South Africa’s national anthem. His autobiography is titled, UMghayi waseNtab’ozuko (Mghayi of Mount Glory). In 1929 he wrote Utopia, UDon Jadu and later became the recipient of the May Ester Bedford Prize for Bantu literature in 1935.
A honor befitting Mqhayi, will be renaming the city East London after him to commemorate his literary work and it will be an honor to many African leaders whose contributions have never been recognized in the post colonial era.