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Henry Segome Ramaila (1924 - )

The Order of Ikhamanga in

Henry Segome Ramaila (1924 - ) Awarded for:
Excellent contribution to the development of indigenous languages as a prolific fiction writer of sepedi literature.

Profile of Henry Segome Ramaila

Henry Segome Ramaila was born in December 1924 in Phokeng, Rustenburg. Ramaila has one sister who is a school principal. Teaching seems to be a family tradition for the Ramailas. His mother was a teacher and his father a church minister.

Ramaila was heavily inspired and influenced by his father, who loved writing. It was thus hardly surprising that after completing his Junior Certificate in 1940 at Emmarentia Geldenhuys Secondary School in Warmbaths, Ramaila went to Botshabelo Training College to complete a teacher’s course.

In 1949, Ramaila enrolled at Fort Hare to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree. Following his undergraduate degree, he moved to Columbia University to complete his Masters in Theology and English.

He returned to South Africa and pursued a career as an educator. He is, however, better known for his contribution to the literary scene. He is an award-winning writer of fiction in Sepedi. His career as a writer began when he entered and won a competition to produce a children’s book. The book, Peolane E Etela Masakeng a Diphoofolo, was to be the first of many books for which Ramaila received awards.

Ramaila focuses on children’s literature, particularly on imparting to them the values of peace. His stories end with lessons that teach children to be peaceful and to maintain integrity.

Other award-winning titles include Thalabodiba, E! Mabolele and Nakana Ya Mokhura Phetelele. Ramaila continues to be one of a handful of indigenous language writers in South Africa. He strongly believes in the importance of preserving African languages, hence his writing in Sepedi. For Ramaila, African languages are rich with culture and they should be protected and promoted among the younger generation.

Despite his many awards and prestige, Ramaila remains humble and insists that his contribution to Sepedi literature is as a result of his duty as a senior citizen to preserve the culture and traditions for generations to come.

In these days when proficiency in the English language has become a mark of prestige in literary circles, and when South Africa is struggling to upgrade and develop indigenous languages, it is inspiring to find a writer who takes pride in expressing his artistic aptitude in an indigenous language.

Henry Segome Ramaila remains an inspiring figure in African language literature. During this era of the African Renaissance, when Africans are making earnest attempts to ensure the preservation of ancient African wisdom and to put it in modern context for development purposes, it is edifying to have writers such as Henry Ramaila to help see through this exacting task.