Nearly 50 years after prolific South African author and journalist Nat Nakasa tragically died in the United States, his remains have been brought home. TheMediaOnline reports.
As a young writer, talented and ambitious, Nakasa came to stand against an impossible choice: take up a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University; or stay in the country you love. The Durban-born journalist was offered the education opportunity of a lifetime, but the price he paid was perhaps too high. At the time, in 1964, the South African government afforded him a one-way exit permit, but he had to relinquish his South African citizenship. He moved to New York in 1965, where he is said to have suffered from increasing homesickness and isolation.
He died that year, after falling from a high-rise building in New York. Two days before his death, he reportedly told a friend, ”I can’t laugh anymore and when I can’t laugh I can’t write.” He was 28-years-old.
It was the end of a career in journalism that started at DRUM magazine and the Golden City Post, but he is probably best known for being the first black journalist to work at the Rand Daily Mail. He also founded the literary journal, The Classic, a creative outlet for black writers, a phase in his life where Nakasa closely worked with Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer.
He could not be brought home after his death and was buried at Ferncliff cemetery in New York.
But on Tuesday, Nathaniel Nakasa, born 12 May 1937, came home.
In an emotional statement at the ceremony receiving his remains in Durban, the SA National Editors’ Forum executive director, Mathatha Tsedu, quoted from Diana Ferris’s ‘Poem for Sara Baartman’ written in 1998:
“I have come to take you home, I have come to soothe your heavy heart
I offer my bosom to your weary soul
I will cover your face with the palms of my hands
I will run my lips over lines in your neck
I will feast my eyes on the beauty of you
and I will sing for you
for I have come to bring you peace.”
Tsedu described the arrival of his remains as “proud moment that vindicates our efforts to keep his name live through the years with the Nat Nakasa Award for Courageous Journalism”.
“Nat is our own as a nation, and all the efforts of so many in all levels of government and outside too made today possible show that we will indeed go to the end of the world to get our own back, to give peace to the wandering souls of South Africans lying in strange lands,” said Tsedu.
In remembrance of Nakasa, TheMediaOnline has compiled some quotes on him and by him:
“If I shall leave this country and decide not to come back, it will be because of a desire to avoid perishing in my own bitterness — a bitterness born of being reduced to a second-class citizen.” – Nat Nakasa, in 1964.
“I may shut up for some time because of fear. Yet even this will not make me feel ashamed. For I know that as long as the ideas remain unchanged within me, there will always be the possibility that, one day, I shall burst out and say everything that I wish to say – in a loud and thunderous voice.”– Nat Nakasa.
“The very conditions under which we live incite us to insubordination,” Mr Nakasa wrote. “Just being African in itself is almost illegal.” – Nat Nakasa.
“The truth is that he was a new kind of man in South Africa. He accepted without question and with easy dignity and natural pride his Africanness, and he took equally for granted that his identity as a man among men, a human among fellow humans, could not be legislated out of existence, even by all the apartheid laws in the statute book, or all the racial prejudice in this country. He did not calculate the population as sixteen millions or four millions, but as twenty. He belonged not between two worlds, but to both. And in him one could see the hope of one world. He has left that hope behind; there will be others to take it up.” – Nadine Gordimer, The World of Nat Nakasa
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