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South African writer Es'kia Mphahlele dies at 88

The celebrated South African author, best known for his vivid autobiography "Down Second Avenue," passed away Oct. 27. He was an eloquent proponent for nurturing the arts in a culture traumatized by oppression.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Es'kia Mphahlele, a politically active South African writer celebrated for his vivid autobiography about the hardships of apartheid, has died. He was 88. Mphahlele died Monday evening at a hospital near his home in Lebowakgomo, in northern South Africa, said Raks Seakhoa, a close family friend. The cause of death was not given, but Seakhoa said in an interview on Tuesday that the writer had been in poor health for some time. Mphahlele is best known for “Down Second Avenue,” an autobiography published in 1959 that describes his early years in rural northern South Africa and later in a bustling Pretoria black township. The book ends with the writer's exile from apartheid South Africa in 1957. Mphahlele lived in Kenya, Zambia, France and the United States, earning a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Denver. He returned to South Africa in the 1970s. With the end of apartheid, the writer emerged as an eloquent proponent of the need to nurture the arts to feed a culture traumatized by colonization and oppression. Achmat Dangor — another South African writer whose resume includes anti-apartheid campaigning and censure by the former white government — told The Associated Press that Mphahlele was “a remarkable person, wise, creative and fearless. His writing and its ethical roots inspired so many of us.”Seakhoa said a memorial service would be held Thursday or Friday, and that Mphahlele would be cremated in northern South Africa on Saturday. Mphahlele and his wife, Rebecca Nnana Mochedibane, who died in 2004, had five children. Mphahlele is survived by four of his children.