William Wellington Gqoba (1840-88) was prominent among the African intellectuals emerging in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa towards the end of the nineteenth century. By trade he was a wagonmaker, licensed preacher of the Free Church of Scotland, teacher, historian, poet, folklorist and editor. For much of his brief life he served on mission stations as a catechist, and ended his career as editor of the Lovedale newspaper Isigidimi sama-Xosa, to which he contrived to contribute subversive poetry outspokenly critical of Western education, the European administration of black people and the discrimination suffered by colonised blacks. Gqoba fashioned the figure of the Xhosa man of letters. Unrivalled in his time in the generic range of his writing, he was the author of letters, anecdotes, expositions of proverbs, histories and poetry, including two poems in the form of debates that stood for over fifty years as the longest poems in the Xhosa language. This book assembles and translates into English all of William Wellington Gqoba's clearly identifiable writings. They offer an insider's perspective on an African nation in transition, adapting uncomfortably to Western mores and morality, seeking to affirm its identity by drawing on its past, standing on the brink of mobilisation to resist white control and to construct its social, political and religious independence of European colonialism.
Jeff Opland recently retired after a career teaching at universities in South Africa, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. He is the author of numerous studies of Anglo-Saxon and Xhosa literature, and is currently editing and translating a series of texts drawn from his collection of Xhosa literature. Wandile Kuse studied at the University of Fort Hare and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA where, influenced by A.C. Jordan, he earned an MA on iziduko and izibongo and a PhD on S.E.K. Mqhayi. He returned to South Africa in 1983 as Director of the Bureau for African Research and Documentation at the University of Transkei, South Africa and retired in 2001. Pamela Maseko holds a PhD in Socio-linguistics. She taught at the University of Cape Town, South Africa and is currently teaching Sociolinguistics and Applied Language Studies at Rhodes University, South Africa.