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Mr Arthur Nuthall Fula (Posthumous)

The Order of Ikhamanga in

Mr Arthur Nuthall Fula (Posthumous) Awarded for:
His excellent contribution to the field of literature and challenging stereotypes by writing in a third language, Afrikaans. His vivid imagination has inspired many readers and broadened the knowledge of our country.
Profile of Arthur Nuthall Fula

Mr Arthur Nuthall Fula was born on 16 May 1908 in East London. He received his education at the Siemert School for Coloureds and proceeded to the Eurafrican Normal College but did not complete his primary school teacher’s studies.

At the age of 17 he worked at the Wolhulter gold mine and later at the Pioneer gold mine, and later as a cabinetmaker.

In 1952, after a period of unemployment, Fula started working as an interpreter at the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court. Apart from his mother tongue, isiXhosa, he also spoke isiZulu, Sesotho, Setswana and Sepedi. He wrote and spoke English and Afrikaans fluently, and learnt French at the Alliance Francaise.

After initially attempting to publish in English, he ventured into Afrikaans, which he learnt to speak fluently during his early years in Germiston. At the beginning of 1954 Fula published his debut Afrikaans novel Johannie giet die beeld.

The book was reasonably successful and in 1957 his second novel, Met ermbarming, O Heer, saw the light. His choice of Afrikaans, in reality his third language, as his primary literary language, came about incidentally rather than by design. But it proved to be an inspired choice.

At first, he was, in his own words, “anxious and prejudiced” to write in a language primarily associated with white speakers.

His publishers saw the potential of Johannie giet die beeld.

The novel was generally well received by the Afrikaans reading public and went into a second print run, something unusual for a debut novel. Shortly after its publication Johannie giet die beeld was translated into German as Im Golden en Labyrinth (In the Golden Maze, 1956) and into Finnish as Kuftaaju kujuziita (Gold and Misery, 1960) respectively.

Carrol Lasker’s English translation The Golden Magnet was published in 1984 by Three Continents Press in Washington DC, USA. Some of Fula’s other work, mostly poetry, was published in the Swiss Africanist Peter Sulzer’s collections. However, many of his early works remain unpublished and are in fact lost.

In the Afrikaans literary community, in the late 1950s, Fula’s debut novel was met with enthusiasm, mostly because of the sociological fact that someone with his social and linguistic background originally wrote the text in Afrikaans.

Besides several press statements in English medium newspapers, no critical commentary exists of the contemporary black readers’ community. Fula as a third language speaker reached beyond the social and political boundaries which at the time seemed virtually unbridgeable.
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