H. Vilakazi 1

I first met the late professor Herbert Vilakazi at Ntate Gwagwa’s place in the early 1960’s in new york city.

Ntate Gwagwa’s place was like a bee hive to all south african exiles in the usa

They came from many corners and cervices of the usa.

Ntate Gwagwa’s place was indeed like a refugee camp for all South Africans who were overwhelmed by the skirmishes of New York City

Whenever you paid Ntate Gwagwa a visit you were likely to find a mosiac collectivity of South Africans who  were young at heart and defiant of apartheid rule of law.

They came under many pretext to his place, some to be consoled for their loved ones who had just passed away back home.

Some came out of severe bordom of New York City, a concrete jungle ,others to satisfy the spell of hunger with pap and vleis and morogo, a special palatable dish that only baga Gwagwa were capable of preparing

Unlike most of us who were often referred to as intellectual casualties ,by the late Eskia Mphahlele,  our late brother Herbert Vilakazi was one of the exception to this rule. He looked very sanguine among us who were more choleric or ectomorphic according to old psychological behaviour.

When the libation was over,  that is when our late brother Herbert Vilakazi became an assert to some of us. I was among those who accompanied him for some form of accommodation in the late hours of the night .   Without any hesitation Herbert would take as many of us to his small apartment filled with books and no intoxicating drinks.

His impressive african collection was second to none at that time. After a few minutes at his place he would give us an unsolicited lecture on the quest for meaning in life. specially when the tyrrany of time and space still allowed us, to cultivate human excellence regarding the development of the individual in a hostile environment that was thrift at its arrest.

I can safely say, without his kind words of wisdom specially in the african mode of thinking ,  I would not have become a budding intellectual that I’ am today. Oh sorry I just remembered that self praise does not yield any recommendation. Allow me colleagues  to reiterate that our late brother Herbert Vilakazi was according to African American slang a good people who never came in singular terms.

Our brother Herbert Vilakazi did help many to swallow their pride and be conscious of their africaness. Those who were unfortunate not to have known him, may still be trapped in the syndrome that was  articulated by paul lawrence dunbar who said.

We wear the mask that grins and lies, it hides our cheeks and shades our eyes this debt we pay to human guile; with torn and bleeding hearts we smile, and mouth myriad subtleties;

In conclusion, may this poem Birago Diop  bring solace to all of us who loved and adored the scholarly works of Herbert Vilakazi. And it reads like so…

Those who are dead are never gone

Those who are dead are never gone.

They are there in the thickening shadow.

The dead are not under the earth:

They are in the tree that rustles,

They are in the wood that groans,

They are in the water that sleeps,

They are in the hut, they are in the crowd,

The dead are not dead.

Those who are dead are never gone,

They are in the breast of a woman,

They are in the child who is wailing

And in the firebrand that flames.

The dead are not under the earth:

They are in the fire that is dying,

They are in the grass that weep,

They are in the wimpering rocks,

They re in the forest, they are in the house,

The dead are not dead.

Dr. S. S. Mncube

H. Vilakazi 1

Dr. Stephen S. Mncube and Prof. Herbert Vilakazi