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  • June 10, 2018
  • June 9, 2019
  • June 14, 2020
  • June 13, 2021
  • June 12, 2022

Zakes Mda (Doctor of Arts)

Jakes MdaJune 8, 2014

ZAKES MDA, your essential work as a painter, composer, filmmaker, and writer transcends culture and speaks to all of humanity.

As a self-styled "professional dabbler," you grew from a child peddling paintings to tourists into an internationally acclaimed artist. You've captured life in your native South Africa so compellingly; your work has been translated into 21 languages, touching lives on every continent.

Shaped in equal parts by the literature and oral tradition of your youth, your tales engage us through the intimate and the urgent. From the earliest international recognition of your play We Shall Sing for the Fatherland, we have been moved by your ability to craft human stories amidst a broader perspective—framing the present with the shadowed hues of the past.

Your fiction challenges us to contemplate the complex forces at play historically and in post-apartheid South Africa. In novels such as Ways of Dying, The Heart of Redness, and The Madonna of Excelsior, you command what The New York Times deemed a "Dickensian social range"—an "ability to generate characters from diverse backgrounds, colliding against the barriers erected to divide them."

As a teacher of writing, you've influenced numerous students seeking to connect with their own unique traditions. And your work to create the African Writers Trust continues to bring together African writers in the diaspora in ways never before possible.

For your extraordinary work as an artist, your commitment to developing the gifts of others, and for affording the world special insight into the rich culture of your homeland, Dartmouth College delights in awarding you the honorary degree of Doctor of Arts.

President Philip J. Hanlon

Last Updated: 6/8/14