Five good reads on Nat Nakasa

“I may shut up for some time because of fear. Yet even this will not make me feel ashamed. For I know that as long as the ideas remain unchanged within me, there will always be the possibility that, one day, I shall burst out and say everything that I wish to say – in a loud and thunderous voice.” – Nat Nakasa

As the body of prolific South African author and journalist Nat Nakasa makes its way home on Tuesday, we remember him in five extracts from other writers.

Nakasa’s brave voice showed no inhibition when exposing the devastation caused by apartheid. As a result, the young writer was forced to leave South Africa as the government at the time refused to issue him with a passport when he was awarded the Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University.

In 1965, Nakasa was 28 when he died from an alleged suicide in New York after falling from a building. The struggle writer’s body has since assumed its resting place at the city’s Ferncliff Cemetery.

Earlier this year, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mhtethwa announced that the Supreme Court of New York granted the government permission to exhume and repatriate Nakasa’s body.

Nakasa’s body returns home to KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday. We remember him in five tributes by other writers:

1. Nat Nakasa: Writing to the beat of a different drum – In this piece, writer Tiisetso Makube unravels and tries to lay bare the literary contributions made by South African journalist Nat Nakasa.  

2.  The legacy of Nat Nakasa – “Therefore my wish is that you, the reader of these words, will also feel encouraged by the annual remembrances of Nat Nakasa – a person whose legacy reminds us of our past and which also takes us forward,” says academic Professor Guy Berger about the honour and surprise felt at receiving the annual Nat Nakasa award in 2006 – a prize usually reserved for journalists with integrity and bravery. 

3. Boxed into dead-end despair – Stephen Gray reviews the biography A Native of Nowhere: The Life of Nat Nakasa by Ryan Brown and finds that the book leaves the Nakasa picture rather incomplete and one-sided.

4.  After decades in exile, a South African writer’s remains will head home – The New York Times remembers Nat Nakasa’s time in their city in this great piece by Daniel Massey and also says goodbye as they announce that his remains are heading home.


5.  Fifty years later, time for Nat Nakasa to return home – This piece was written prior to the confirmation that Nakasa’s body would return home. But the announcement that the South African government were trying repatriate his remains urged J Brooks Spector to consider the culture of exile and South Africa in Nakasa’s writing.

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