Archibald Campbell Mzolisa Jordan (1906 - 1968)
The Order of Ikhamanga in
Profile of Archibald Campbell Mzolisa Jordan
Archibald Campbell Mzolisa Jordan was born on 30 October 1906 at the Mbokothwane mission station in the Tsolo district of Pondoland, the son of an Anglican minister. He was educated at St John's College in Umtata and Lovedale College at Alice. He was able to follow his dream of becoming a teacher when he won a scholarship to Fort Hare University College, where he obtained a BA degree in 1934 – the start of an exceptional academic, political and literary career.
He taught for 10 years in Kroonstad, where he mastered Sesotho and was elected president of the African Teachers' Association. Some of his poetry was published in the Imvo Zabantsundu newspaper. In 1940 he started working on his only novel, Ingqumbo Yeminyana , a tragic epic about the conflict between Western-style education and traditional beliefs. This novel was to become a landmark in Xhosa literature.
In 1945, having earlier obtained an MA on the subject of the Nguni and Sotho groups, Jordan began teaching in the Department of African Languages at Fort Hare. In 1957 – the year he achieved a doctorate with a phonological and grammatical study of Xhosa – he was appointed to a lecturer's post in African languages at the University of Cape Town.
There he evolved a new method of teaching Xhosa to speakers of other languages and became an inspirational teacher of Xhosa culture and languages, as his students were later to testify. But his tenure was brief. Like many others, Jordan became involved in opposition to the government's racial policies, and when he took up a Carnegie bursary for research work in the United States of America, he was refused a passport.
Jordan opted to leave South Africa on an exit permit and settled in the USA, where he was made a professor in African Languages and Literature at the University of California’s Los Angeles campus, and later at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. There, after a long illness, he died in 1968.
Yet his voice continued to be heard long after his death. In 1972 his critical study of Xhosa literature was published, and in 1973 a collection of short stories in Xhosa was translated into English under the title Tales from Southern Africa. His great novel Ingqumbo Yeminyana was published in English as The Wrath of the Ancestors (1980), in Afrikaans as Die Toorn van die Voorvaders (1990) and in Dutch as De Wraak van het Voorgeslacht (1999). In 2004, 36 years after his death, the University of Port Elizabeth conferred a doctorate in literature on him.
In geographical terms Archibald Campbell Mzolisa Jordan travelled far afield during his time; spiritually, however, he remained a son of South Africa whose life was dedicated to examining and preserving the culture of the Xhosa people, although never to the exclusion of his fellow citizens of other origins.
The award was collected by Dr Pallo Jordan (Son).