Exiled South African poet and antiapartheid activist Mazisi Raymond Fakazi Mngoni Kunene was born in Durban and raised in Amahlongwa. He earned a teaching certificate at Maphumulo Teachers’ Training College and an MA at the University of Natal and continued his study of Zulu poetry at the School of Oriental and African Studies. In London, he helped establish an office of the African National Congress and later became chief representative of the African National Congress for Europe and the United States. In 1966, the South African government banned his work; in 1972, he organized the South African Exhibition Appeal.

Kunene wrote primarily in Zulu. Many of his books are available only in Zulu, such as Igudu lika Somcabeko (1997) and Isibusiso Sikamhawu (1994). His work in English includes Echoes from the Mountain: New and Selected Poems (2007) and his 1,700-line, 17-book version of Emperor Shaka the Great: A Zulu Epic (1979). Kunene edited the anthologies Zulu Poems (1970) and The Ancestors and the Sacred Mountain (1982).

Professor emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles, Kunene also taught at the National University of Lesotho and the University of Natal. He returned to South Africa in 1993, following the end of apartheid. In 2005, he was appointed the first South African poet laureate. Kunene died in 2006 in Durban after an extended illness.
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