28 February 2017


South Africa and the literary world mourn the passing on of Miriam Tlali, a world-renowned award-winning anti-apartheid crusading author and South Africa’s first African woman to publish a novel. She was 83.

Miriam Masoli Tlali-Lehutso was born in Doornfontein in Johannesburg, in the then Transvaal (now Gauteng) and grew up in Sophiatown.

She’d wanted to study literature at the University of the Witwatersrand but was not admitted due to the reservation of positions for White students. She later went to study at Pius the XII University (now University of Lesotho).

Unfortunately, she couldn’t complete her studies due to financial difficulties.

No longer able to study, Tlali found a job as a bookkeeper at a furniture store.

In 1969, Tlali had written and completed a novel titled Muriel at Metropolitan, a semi-autobiographical work. The novel was only published six years later in 1975. It was the first novel written by a Black woman to be published in South Africa. In 1979, the novel was banned by the Apartheid government; however, it was published internationally under the title Between Two Worlds by Longman African Classics. In 1980, Tlali published her second novel, Amandla, (meaning Power) which was based on the 1976 Soweto uprising. Sadly the
novel was banned only weeks after it was published. Just like her first novel, Amandla was translated into several languages, including Japanese, Polish, German and Dutch. Both novels were unbanned in 1986.

In 1984 she wrote a collection of short stories, interviews and non-fiction titled, Mihloti, (meaning tears). In 1989, Footprints in the Quag, (initially titled Soweto Stories) was published by Pandora Press.

As an author, Tlali has travelled the world and represented South Africa in several countries. In 1978 she was invited to an international writing programme at Iowa State University in the United States of America. Between 1989 and 1990, Tlali was a visiting scholar at the Southern African Research Program at Yale University.

For her contribution to the literary profession, Tlali has received many accolades, including being honoured with the inaugural South African Literary Awards’ Lifetime Literary Award category by the wRite associates and the national Department of Arts and Culture and, in 2008, she received the Presidential Award, Ikhamanga Silver.

Tlali co-founded the publishing house, Skotaville Press. As a member of the Women’s National Coalition, Tlali assisted in drafting the Preamble to the South African Women’s Charter.

At the time of her passing on, she was the Patron of the Miriam Tlali Reading and Book Club that was established in 2009 by the wRite associates.

Tlali was in the process of finalising writing her autobiography and is survived by her two grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Mme Miriam Masoli Tlali departed this world on 24th February 2017 after a long struggle with the debilitating effects of a stroke she’d survived for over 5 years.

The Memorial Service in honour of author, activist and scholar, Mme Miriam Tlali, is on:

Thursday, 2 March, 2017

From 12:00 to 15:00

At Trevor Huddleston Centre, 71 Toby St, Sophiatown.

Her funeral service is on:

Saturday 4/03/2017

At: 07:00

At: St Francis of Assisi Anglican Church, 1988 Nuse Street, Moroka, Soweto.

She’ll be buried at:

09:00, Wes Park Cemetery, Weltevreden Park, Joburg.

Robala ka khotso, Mme.

May your soul rest in graceful and eternal peace.


Released by the wRite associates

Contact: 078 6114654