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Felix Thuketana
Lifetime Achievement Literary Award
 Felix Alois Thuketana was born on 5th December 1933 at Bugersdorp (Shiluvane) in the Letaba District. Born to an ordained Minister of the Evangelical Presbyteran Church (Swiss Mission in South Africa ), he grew up at Ladyselborne in Pretoria where his father was doing pastoral work. It was here at Ladyselborne where he received both his primary and secondary education.

At a fairly early age, Thuketana showed his latent talent of writing by writing humorous comic strips to the delight of his impressionable and ever zealous companions. Movies which were the main source of entertainment and pastime for the township youngsters in those days sharpened his skill in the art of narration and storytelling. His friends would always look forward to the time when the young Felix would come to narrate (om te sny) to them with his ever captivating art which kept them spell-bound and yearning for more – a budding author.

An avid reader even in his youth, he had as his favourite, literature with a moral hue, the likes of Charles Dickens, Ethel Dell and Phillip Lindsay.

He received his teaching training at Lemana Institute. Unable to secure a teaching post on completion, he took up employment with Pretoria Light Industry – a private company. He later struck up a teaching post at Bordeaux School in his home district. After teaching at several local schools, he was promoted to the post of Principal at Gavaza Combined School – a post he held until his retirement in 1997.

Thuketana made his debut as a writer and artist with the publication of “Kheleni ra Tihele” – a translation into Xitsonga of a Sotho narrative, “Sekoting sa Dihele” by D.P Lebakeng.

The first Xitsonga work to flow from his pen is “Xisomisana”, a novel that broke a completely new trend in the Xitsonga literature, contrary to the then missionary inspired “Jim Comes to Joburg” tradition. Through this popular and widely acclaimed novel, Thuketana became a household name. Goodman Ngulele, a traditional singer of note, adapted it to a lyric titled “Xisomisana”, and “Xisomisana” has since become Thuketana’s pet name amongst the thousands of his admirers to whom he has become almost a living legend.

More publications were later to flow from his desk, “N’waninginingi ma ka tindleve” – a crime busting novel which takes the reader to the dark secrets of the underworld, to be followed by an equally captivating and absorbing narrative on passion and romance, “Ndzi ngo tinciki”.

Thuketana’s multi-faceted talent also manifested itself in the publication of “N’wambilu Makokorho”, an admixture of folklore, proverbs and riddles which won a first prize in the Xitsonga Language Board Writers’ Competition in 1987.

Inspired by his innate sense of fair play and social justice, Thuketana translated works on religious and moral issues namely, “Hanyelo ra Mukriste”, “Mayana ku Hanana followed by “Ndzi Rhandze Jaha” and “Ndzi Rhandze Nhwana” – a series of correspondence between a pastor and his young catechumen. He was in a team that translated the Deuterocananonical / Apocrypha books into Xitsonga under the auspices of the South African Council of Bishops, in which capacity he visited the state of Israel .

Thuketana who was given a scholarship by the Swiss Mission in South Africa to study journalism at the Mindolo Ecumenical Centre – a forerunner to the University of Zambia, came back to found a monthly magazine, “Pusela” which reported on topical local issues. The cartoon column by this humorous writer also became a feature of the circulation. Thuketana remained editor and reporter of its successor, “Marungula”.

Thuketana’s novels, which are so far the biggest in the Xitsonga publications are characterized by humour, satire and suspense with a high sense of moral justice where retribution is swift and immediate. This is clearly influenced by his Christian upbringing and sense of moral perfection, an allegation he is likely to refute. In all his writings, Thuketana is at war with an imperfect world, which he would like to reform and make it a better place to live in. Whether Thuketana succeeds in this, is a matter of conjecture. Through his writings, Thuketana fills his readers with fury and disdain and connives with them to destroy the villains he has created – he never lets them down. He currently has a manuscript of a novel, “A hi fambe Mnghaname”, which will be another thriller.

Thuketana, a traditionalist and ardent lover of his culture and people, is a much sought-after praise singer at public occasions and festivities, where the frenzy crowds throng to the fore as he takes to the podium.

Thuketana whose pastime is watching boxing tournaments, traveling, reading, listening to jazz and blues, is married to Louisa with five children.

In 2007, Thuketana was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Literary Award by the South African Literary Awards, a project of the wRite associates in partnership with the national Department of Arts and Culture, Sowetan and Nutrend Publishing.