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Phaswane Mpe
Posthumous Literary Award
 Phaswane Mpe was born on 10 September 1970 in what is now Limpopo Province . He attended St Bede’s High School near Polokwane, matriculating in 1988, and went on to study at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg , where he completed his MA in African Literature in 1996. This was followed by a Diploma in Advanced Study in Publishing at Oxford Brookes University , Oxford , in 1997.

Between 1996 and 2001 Phaswane lectured in African Literature and Publishing Studies at Wits University , where he was held in high esteem by students and colleagues alike. Language and literature were his passion and he involved himself in every aspect of their promotion and exploration. He published numerous articles in local and international journals, contributed chapters to book anthologies, and submitted articles and book reviews for several newspapers. He also freelanced as an editor and reader for publishers. He was generous with his support for the creativity of others, actively encouraging the writing potential of his students and helping to set up the campus literary journal, Jala.

In 2001 his debut novel, Welcome To Our Hillbrow was published by the then University of Natal Press and went on to take the literary world by storm, both in South Africa and abroad. The novel received much acclaim and was shortlisted for several awards, including the Sanlam Literary Prize for Fiction in 2001 and the Sunday Times Fiction Award in 2002. It was included in the Mail & Guardian’s 101 books for Christmas (December 2001) and received a Meritorious mention in the NOMA Awards of 2001.

The pressure was on for Phaswane to produce a follow-up masterpiece, but his immersion in academics pulled him in competing directions. He received a sought-after doctoral fellowship from WISER – the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research – and initially planned to do his PhD on issues around child rape and HIV/AIDS. But he later changed his area of research to sexuality in post-apartheid literature.

In November 2004, battling his increasingly bad health, Phaswane gave up his WISER fellowship and put his doctorate on hold in order to ‘follow the call of his Ancestors’ and train as a traditional healer, as his grandfather had done before him. He died unexpectedly on 12 December 2004 at the age of 34.

He was honoured with the Literary Posthumous Award in 2007 by the South African Literary Awards