The National Writers Association of South Africa (NWASA) pays homage to its founding President Nana Kefuoe Walter Chakela who passed away on the evening of Friday 15 May 2020 at his home in Midrand and will be buried on Saturday 30 May 2020 in Mahikeng. To NWASA, Nana Chakela is a father to an entire generation of artists under his tutelage across all social contours in South Africa, a peer to a congregation of bards no words are enough to decorate them with, a thought-leader, lateral thinker, visionary, magnetic leader and listener to all voices, and an arts administrator.
While his peers were and are accredited for making huge impact on the literary landscape within South Africa’s borders, Nana Chakela was a river running thorough the African continent. He was not a convenient African but a pan-African par excellence in thought and deed. He is a theatre guru who did not entrap himself in the confines of artistic conventions and partisan cultural enclaves. Since his presidency at the Congress of South African Writers (COSAW) and to date as the NWASA foundation president, he has endeavoured to bring arts practitioners and supporters to Africa and Africa to them. For this, his name has been anointed into the royal realm through the bestowment of the title of Nana by the Ghana-based Pan African Writers Association (an umbrella of writers’ formations in Africa) on the same day alongside the country’s
He was also a friend and peer to others in the African Diaspora like Amiri Baraka and Young Hughes. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. In Ghana, the title Nana denotes social eminence is bestowed to people through nobility, advanced aged and other position of high social status.
In South Africa, on 25 May 2018 (Africa Day), Nana Kefuoe Walter Chakela brought together erstwhile members of COSAW and AWA to his Kwa-Langa Estate, Midrand, in order to form NWASA. He was appointed as the organisation’s founding President with a National Steering Committee consisting of Lebogang Lance Nawa (Secretary-General), Barbara Schreiner (Treasurer), Mphutlane Bofelo, Mpho Matsitle, Veli Nhlapo, Frank Meintjies, Mike Van Graan, Thandile Kona, Malik Sello Arafat and Abdul Mogale. Currently, NWASA has more than 280 registered members including icons like South Africa’s Poet Laureate Mongane Wally Serote, Njabulo Ndebele, Fatima Dike, Maganthrie Pillay, Mothobi Mutloatse, Darkie Africa, Vusi Mahlasela, Ari Sitas and Barry Gilder. The organisation was in the process of arranging its inauguration, following financial sponsorship by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, when President Nana Chakela departed to the realm of African sages like Credo Mutwa, Atukwei Okai, Chinua Achebe, Harry Garuba, JM Ntsime, Nadine Gordimer, Miriam Tlali, Stephen Chifunyise, Mazisi Kunene, Mbulelo Mzamane and many others.
Nana Chakela will be buried on Saturday 30 May 2020 in Mahikeng. NWASA was busy preparing for its inauguration (following financial support by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture) when his illustrious career was cut short by deteriorating health since the stroke that struck him on 13 November 2013 and confined him to a wheelchair.
Whilst he was a Gauteng resident in his adulthood, Nana Chakela’s roots are anchored in the North West Province. He was born on 13 April 1953 in Vryburg to Chateau and Harriet Chakela. He started formal education at Mokgosi Primary School, and advanced to Huhudi High School where his talent and love for the arts germinated; and blossomed as he went through the University of North West (then Bophuthatswana) and ultimately to being a professional practising arts administrator at the Mmabana Cultural Centre where he not only successfully managed the institution but also staged numerous productions, mentored young aspirant artists (actors, dancers, musicians, painters, etc), and attracted collaborations with distinguished cultural practitioners from the country’s others provinces.
His stature grew beyond the province to the national, continental and international spheres when he was appointed as the Chief Executive Director and Artistic Director of the Centre from 1993 to 2004. It is at the Windowbrow where he proved to be a visionary and pioneer in breaking artistic conventions. He turned the Window from being a traditional theatre to a centre for arts genres cross-pollination, creative intellectual engagements, and global networking.
From the theatre perspective, his annual production of the adaptation of Bessie Head’s novel, Maru, for the stage gave thousands of township students access to theatre. At that stage, Maru was a high school set-work. He also directed Blame Me on History, an adaptation of Bloke Modisane’s autobiography by Mothobi Mutloatse, James Mthoba’s Mehlondini, his own play Crisis of Conscience, as well as and Zakes Mda’s We Shall Sing for the Fatherland and You Fool, How Can the Sky Fall?
Nana Chakela spread his reach into the African continent through the adaptation of the West African folktale Kweku Ananse, as well as the Nigerian author Segun Oyekunle’s Katakata for
Sofahead. The sum total of plays he has produced is 23 and directed many others per invitation or commissions. Among a galaxy of actors who appeared in his plays, including at the Windowbrow, are: Peter Sephuma, Nomsa Nene, Sello Make ka Ncube, Job Kubatsi, Nomsa Manaka, Owen Sejake, Arthur Molepo, John Ledwaba, Patrick Shai, Thembi Mtshali, Margaret Williams, Dieketseng Mnisi, Tinah Mnumzana, Alister Dube, Nomsa Nene, Nomhle Nkonyeni, Shoki Maredi, Pamela Nomvete, Xoli Norman, George Lamola and Richard Nwamba.
At the Windybrow, Nana Chakela opened a new avenue for literary engagements uncommon during his tenure at theatre venues through poetry readings and workshops. Initially hosted by his PR & Marketing Officer Lance Nawa in collaboration with COSAW, the literature programmes involved wordsmiths like Sipho Sepamla, Mothobi Mutloatse, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Don Mattera, Dennis Brutus, Zakes Mda, Lesego Rampolokeng, Barbara Schreiner, Boitumelo Mofokeng, Frank Meintjies, Nomsa Pretty Tokwe, Annemarie Van Niekerk, Siphiwe Ngwenya, Steven Gray, Ike Muila, Isabella Motinyane, Kaizer Nyazumba, and Willie Tshaka.
Music performances and collaborations at the Windowbrow showcased the likes of Mike Makhalemele, Alen Kwela, Khaya Mahlangu, Prince Lengoasa, Vusi Mahlasela, Mcoy Mrubata, and Bheki Khoza. Nana Chakela was also the executive producer of SABC Shift television show and his poems appear in several national and international publications.
As a cultural activist, Nana Chakela belonged to several arts organisations some of which he helped in their establishment. These include the African Writers Association (AWA), Soyikwa Institute of African Theatre, Molopo Experimental Theatre Group (a theatre wing of the Molopo African Writers) and COSAW. During this period, he interacted with cultural activists like Matsemela Manaka, Ingoapele Madingoane, Maishe Maponya, Don Mattera and Motsumi Makhene. He served three terms as COSAW President during which he was instrumental in nudging the organisation to affiliate to PAWA. He continued with his commitment to PAWA even after his tenure at COSAW ended; hence it was fitting that PAWA bestowed on him the honorary title of Nana on the same day with the country’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo. Nana Chakela is also a recipient of several national and international decorations including the Gauteng Provincial Government Lifetime Achievement Award.
Nana Chakela also served in various capacities on initiatives like the Africa Exchange Programme, International committee for the Walker Museum of contemporary arts, African Association for theatre for development Practitioners, South African Literature Awards, and Chakela & Associates.
Nana Chakela’s burial is provisionally set for Saturday 30 May 2020 subject to the approval of the request for a Provincial Funeral Status by the North West Government. NWASA undertakes to erect a tombstone in his honour and as well as to compile a Tribute Booklet that would contain the funeral speeches, programme, obituary, tributes, personal reflections, some of the deceased’s literary works, and so forth. The booklet will be unveiled at NWASA’s inauguration as the initiation of NWASA Founding President Legacy Projects.
Go well to your eternal home, Lepele…
Dlambulo ka Khuboni
Ntuli ka Mphemba ka Godide
Qunta ka Mbovani ka Mabandla
For further enquiries and tributes, kindly contact Dr Lebogang Lance Nawa, NWASA Secretary General at +27 (0) 64 615 7918, firstname.lastname@example.org