Mongameli Mabona

His Life and Work

Ernst Wolff

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The life and work of a remarkably versatile and pioneering South African thinker
Mongameli Anthony Mabona (1929) is a singular South African scholar with an exceptional life path. Yet, he is a wrongly forgotten figure today. British imperialism and apartheid shaped the world into which he was born and, to a large extent, these powers carved out his destiny for him. Nevertheless, a curious set of coincidences enabled him to obtain a tertiary education as a priest, to pursue his doctoral studies in Italy and to befriend Alioune Diop. He is one of the first published philosophers of Anglophone Africa and holds doctorates in theology and anthropology. His opposition to institutionalized racism – an opposition which included his co-authoring the 1970 “Black Priests’ Manifesto” – eventually led to his exile. This book is the first study of any kind devoted to Mabona. It documents his life and offers a synoptic reading of his scholarly and poetic work.

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This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content).



1. Xhosaland: A history of confrontations 
1. A snapshot of Xhosa life in the mid eighteenth century 
2. Accelerated change: A typology of mounting conflict 
3. A changing region in a changing world 
3.1 Spread of Boers and British expansion 
3.2 British domination and its effects on Xhosaland and beyond 
3.3 Changes from the Xhosaland perspective 
3.4 Changes from the broader South African perspective 

2. (Dis)Union: The world of Mabona’s youth (1910 to the mid 1950s) 
1. International and Union politics 
2. The economy 
3. Separation – reserves – labour 
4. Transkei: Culture, religion, education 
5. Resistance nationally and in the Transkei 

3. Enter Mongameli 
1. Birth and first years 
2. Early childhood in Qombolo 
3. Life in Zigudu – Catholic background (1)
4. Ixopo – Catholic background (2) 
5. Pevensey – Catholic background (3) 
6. Early priesthood 

4. Italy 
1. Italian society after World War II 
2. Everyday life in Rome 
3. Mabona, the student and researcher 
4. Further intellectual work 
5. Second Congress of Black Writers and Artists: Alioune Diop and Présence Africaine
Excursion: The journal Présence Africaine 
6. Preparing for Vatican II 

5. Back home? Apartheid, St. Peter’s, SPOBA 
1. Apartheid 
2. Apartheid education 
3. The South African economy in the 1960s 
4. Resistance 
4.1 The ANC and the PAC 
5. Life back in South Africa 
5.1 Lumko 
5.2 Independent ethnographic studies 
5.3 Poetry 
5.4 Lecturer at St. Peter’s in Hammanskraal 

6. London and Switzerland: Politics or anthropology? 
1. SOAS 
2. The Azanian People’s Liberation Front and other politics 
3. Family life 
4. Continued research 

1. Lux: The first impetus 
2. Présence Africaine: Writing for a wide public 
3. “The depths of African philosophy” and The outlines of African philosophy 
3.1 General appraisal: South Africa’s first African philosopher? 1
4. Dissertatio ad lauream in Facultate Juris Canonici apud Pontificiam
Universitatem Urbanianam 
5. “The nuclear blast of spring”: Poetry 
6. Writings of a South African priest 
7. Anthropology and religion 
8. Interlude: The publication spurt of 1996 
9. Diviners and prophets: The last, incomplete, work 
9.1 Final appraisal 

Mabona primary bibliography 
Notes on the sources for interviews and biography 

Format: Edited volume - free ebook - ePUB

202 pages

ISBN: 9789461663627

Publication: January 05, 2021

Languages: English


Ernst Wolff is professor of philosophy at the Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven.