David Rubadiri. Collage from Edge.ug.

Malawian poet, academic, playwright, novelist and diplomat James David Rubadiri has passed on at 88. He died on 15 September. Born on 19 July 1930, Rubadiri, who was Malawi’s first ambassador to the UN and the USA after the country’s independence in 1964, was regarded as one of Africa’s most widely anthologized and celebrated poets.

Rubadiri attended King’s College, Budo in Uganda from 1941 to 1950, then Makerere University, Kampala from 1952-56, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and History. He went on to study literature at King’s College, Cambridge and received a diploma in Education from the University of Bristol.

After breaking off ties with the Malawian government in 1965, Rubadiri went on exile, teaching at Makerere University from 1968 to 1975, the University of Nairobi from 1976 to 1984, and, upon Wole Soyinka’s invitation, the University of Ibadan alongside Okot p’Bitek. He was further dean of the Language and Social Sciences Education Department at the University of Botswana from 1984 to 1997. In 1997, he was reappointed Malawi’s ambassador to the UN, and then named vice-chancellor of the University of Malawi in 2000. In 2005, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Strathclyde

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Rubadiri’s poetry appeared in the 1963 anthology Modern Poetry of Africa as well as in TransitionBlack Orpheus, and Présence Africaine. His only novel, No Bride Price, which was published in 1967 and was critical of Malawi’s government, has been cited as among the earliest published fiction by Malawians. His other works include the anthologies Growing Up With Poetry: An Anthology for Secondary Schools (1989) and Poems from East Africa (1971), the latter of which he co-edited with David Cook, and the play Come To Tea (1965).

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