Big award for giant of SA poetry

James Matthews, 89, was honoured with an award by Minister for Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa.

Legendary writer, poet and publisher James Matthews 89, was honoured with an award from Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa.

Mr Matthews, from Silvertown, was among those who received the Iconic Award in the inaugural Usiba Creative and Cultural Industries Awards. Others who received awards include playwright Ronnie Govender and poet and author Don Mattera.

Mr Matthews is known for speaking out against the apartheid system through his writing. His first collection of poetry, Cry Rage, which he co-wrote with Gladys Thomas, was banned by the apartheid government in 1972.

Categories in the Usiba Creative and Cultural Industries Awards in-
cluded language and publishing; performance and celebration – for which Dr John Kani was honoured; arts and education; heritage and museums; design and technical; audio visual and creative; indigenous wisdom and visual arts and crafts.

Mr Matthews said he was
honoured to be one of the recipients.

“This is the most awesome award I have ever received. I have received awards before, but this is an apex. I’m the only one who received such a big size award. The others who received awards, theirs were all smaller than mine. I don’t know if the minister was biased towards me,” Mr Matthews giggled.

He added: “At the award ceremony, I joked with Mr Mthethwa that I can call him on his first name, because I am a tatomkhulu (grandfather). The minister understands artists, and that I appreciate about him.”

Mr Matthews also said that as difficult as it was for him, he had to accept that his writing “has come to an end”. His memory is not what it used to be, and he said he suffered from a condition he refered to as “mental epilepsy”.

“This is the worst for anyone, but especially creatives. Sometimes words don’t form properly in my mind then I cannot pronounce it, because the letters are wrongly arranged in my head. A small consolation is that I can read the stuff I have written. I am grateful that I have written a volume of poetry.”

The last poetry he wrote is a collection of love poems.