A tribute by M. I. Soqaga
The world and literary fraternity is reeling over the plaintive demise of one of the transcendent black writer the world ever knows. E.R Braithwaite proves himself to be sagacious by the number of gargantuan work of literature he produced. When you read or write about E.R. Braithwaite, it is important to realise that many pundits would submit that he did not really write to represent certain philosophy of black people.
E.R. Braithwaite wrote his books innocuously and not as a Black African or Black African in Diaspora. As a child he was privileged to live in the family that was well educated and he also was educated. Can we say Braithwaite cannot be celebrated as the black writer? When you ponder his age and the time he began to write-to blacks which were completely immersed in anything pertinent to black, he could not be recognised as someone who was sympathetically attached to Black writing.
That’s why it will be startling to others who are not familiar with Black writing when Braithwaite literary work is appraised. Literary critics and pundits like Raphael Mokoena and Leke Giwa although they have other views about him but they do appreciate his contribution in literature. Raphael wrote “He wrote better than most educated whites and always showed that he was as good as any white man, but there was a problem, as he could not connect with Africans, I don't think he ever believed himself to have much in common with Africans.
Moreover, Leke Giwa added “Thank you. A great writer, Braithwaite, but he always belonged to the western world as can be seen in his most famous book. He himself feels superior as an intellectual, looking down on almost everybody - but he made the world somewhat start to respect blacks a bit”
Nevertheless, Braithwaite contribution in literature is wonderfully significant. One can reminisce about his famous book (1959) novel To Sir, With Love which was eventually made into a 1967 British drama film of the same title, starring Sidney Poitier. However, in looking at Braithwaite’s literary life, can we say Braithwaite despite his fascinating writing and opinion about racism-was truly genuine about his Black race? At his literary pinnacle, blacks all over the world were not recognized by the West. Blacks in Africa were strongly under the control of European powers and also blacks in Diaspora were regarded as servitude. Definitely, Africans throughout the world cannot be ashamed to celebrate the triumphal victory over racial discrimination and apartheid. Apart from political freedom, in the past Africans were completely denied freedom artistically. It is through their unflinching enormous efforts that they emerged prodigious.
During Braithwaite literary times, writers from Africa prove to be resoundingly excellent. Sol Plaatje, Peter Abrahams, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Leopold Senghor and many others were all illustrious and impressive. Braithwaite contribution to African literature will tentatively be questioned. By the fact that he accepted his status visit of “Honorary White” to South Africa during apartheid, will of course remain questionable.
In 1973, the South African ban on Braithwaite’s books was lifted and he reluctantly applied to visit the country. He was granted a visa and the status “honorary white” which gave him significantly more privileges than the indigenous black population, but less than the whites. He recorded the experiences and horror he witnessed during the six weeks he spent in South Africa in his book Honorary White.
Braithwaite’s literary contribution in the world will absolutely remain colossally important. Avoiding Pan Africanist solidarity perspective about Africa and Africans, Braithwaite brilliance will be always respected. As a black intellectual and academic, he illustrated to the world that colour of the skin cannot make one obviously sapient or superior. Race and humanity are equal and it must always be in harmony. Apparently, Braithwaite literary life will remain monumentally awe-inspiring and something proud to be celebrated.
BOOKS PUBLISHED BY BRAITHWAITE
To Sir with love
Choice of Straws
Hurricane hits England
A kind of homecoming
Solid lubricants and Surfaces.
Lubrication and Lubricants