South Africa Reclaims the Memory of Famed Anti-Apartheid Journalist

Following an exhumation of Nat Nakasa‘s remains last Friday and New York City memorial service over the weekend, South African Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa arrived back home this afternoon bearing the late journalist’s remains. It has been nearly five decades since the reporter died of an apparent suicide in New York; next month, he will be returned to the ground in his hometown of Chesterville, KwaZulu-Natal.

NiemanFoundationLogoNakasa died in 1965 after completing a Nieman fellowship at Harvard. At the time, the South African government had made it impossible for him to return home. From a BBC report:

It is fitting that one of the country’s most celebrated writers should return home as South Africans celebrate 20 years of freedom.

He once wrote: “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.”

Among the five recommended reads about Nakasa suggested by South Africa’s leading newspaper Mail & Guardian is a recent New York Times piece by Daniel Massey:

Mr. Nakasa was short and skinny, with a boyish, mischievous face. He never finished high school, but became a top writer for South Africa’s most popular black magazine, the first black editor of a South African literary journal and the first black columnist at a leading white newspaper. But the circumstances surrounding his death often overshadow his all-too-brief life. To understand how he wound up crashing to the pavement on the Upper West Side on the morning of July 14, 1965, is to grasp both the cruelty and the absurdity of apartheid.

Nakasa will be buried in South Africa on September 13. RIP.

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