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Wed Sep 28 19:06:26 SAST 2016

End of exile for Nakasa

Jean Huisman | 19 May, 2014 00:20
"This is not just about the reburial of remains," said Mahala. "It is about reclaiming our history and the vision of Nat Nakasa." File photo
Image by: Lifestyle Magazine

The remains of the South African short story writer, journalist and activist Nat Nakasa might soon be returned to our shores.

Nakasa left South Africa on an exit visa in 1964 after being awarded a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism at Harvard University, in the US.

The apartheid government denied his application for a passport so he knew that his decision to leave meant that he would not be able to return to his home country.

Effectively exiled, Nakasa described himself as a "citizen of nowhere". But he grew increasingly depressed and isolated, and committed suicide by jumping out of the seventh-floor window of a building in New York in July 1965.

He was 28.

"Nat Nakasa comes from an historic generation of black journalists in South Africa," said Siphiwo Mahala, spokesman for the department of arts and culture .

"He was the glue that brought black and white readers together. His articles had a crossover appeal," he said.

Mahala's department was asked by Nakasa's family in 2005 to repatriate his remains.

An American law firm took the repatriation request to the US Supreme Court, which is expected to rule on it before the end of next month.

Nakasa is buried in Ferncliff Cemetery, just outside New York City. His grave is within sight of that of US civil rights activist Malcolm X but it was unmarked until a few years ago.

"Though we obtained our political freedom 20 years ago Nakasa's spirit remains not free until it is brought back home.

"It is significant that his remains are to be returned to his home soil almost 50 years after his demise, and on the 20th anniversary of our freedom," said Mahala.

If the repatriation appeal is successful Nakasa's remains will be reburied in Heroes' Acre, in Chesterville, Durban.

"This is not just about the reburial of remains," said Mahala. "It is about reclaiming our history and the vision of Nat Nakasa."


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