At Masuli I have been able to secure a limited number of Farouk Asvat's published works including: A Celebration of Flames, The Time of Our Lives and Bra Frooks. These have all been recently published by Piquant and come in soft-back. Priced at £10 each plus postage or £25 for all three titles. Please contact me on info [AT] matsulimusic.com if you wish to make a purchase.
"Physician and poet extraordinaire, Farouk Asvat made South Africa proud when his poetry that reflects deeply on the history of South Africa received critical acclaim throughout the world.
"Asvat is the author of the prize-winning collection of poetry A Celebration of Flames and of The Time Of Our Lives, for which he won the Vita Literary Award. He was nominated as an Amnesty International “Prisoner of Conscience” in the 1970s, and was also selected to represent South Africa in the 1980 “International Portland Review” of poetry.
"His short stories, poems and essays have been published in South Africa, Germany, France, Canada, Netherlands, Switzerland, Brazil, England the United States. They have also been reviewed by The Star, The Rand Daily Mail, and The Sunday Times among others, while his poems have been recited on SABC Radio and performed by PACT.
He has been interviewed for radio by BBC Book World, Radio Antilles and others, and for print by The Star, Tribute, Azania Vrije and others.
"Asvat has recited his poems in numerous schools, cafes, universities, the XIth Conference Literature at Aachen and Liege, and many other places. He fondly remembers the late 80’s when he had audiences of 2000-3000 people at poetry recitals – he says that those times are indeed memories to be treasured.
"Dr. Asvat is also known as an anti-Aphartheid activist and says of those times, “When I used to read my poems in schoolrooms during the apartheid era, I was targeted by the government for speaking against them but I was never intimidated. I was even ‘politically listed’ by the government for two years, just after I qualified with an MB BCh at the University of Wits in 1978, and was unable to secure an internship with any of the hospitals and clinics.”
"Asvat also talks of his poetry which highlighted his anti-apartheid views, resulted in him receiving death threats from 1971 to 1995, but they did not deter him from expressing his views through this creative forum. Yet being banned by the regime between 1973 and 1978 while a Wits student, ensured that he could not be quoted or published.
"During that period, Asvat freelanced as a journalist, and in later years has been a columnist and literary critic for South African mediums as well as having his series Creative Arts serialized by Sowetan and The Indicator, and his critical analysis of medical services in South Africa was also serialized by Sowetan and Muslim News.
"He was denied a passport until 1986 when he was issued with a highly restricted document, and was granted limited passports in 1987 and 1988 to take up scholarships.
He initiated the Black Thoughts Group that toured the townships in 1973, campaigned against sectarian elections and was a member of the Black People’s Convention amongst many other organizations.
"Asvat resided in Fordsburg for a short period from early 1970’s and has fond memories of his hangouts with friends and family, such as Solly’s Corner, Jupiters Café, Lyric and Avalon Cinemas, and playing soccer and cricket at the Fietas Grounds.
“I still remember those days when we could walk around Fordsburg till the early hours of the morning, visiting shops and cinemas that were still open, and having a great time worry-free of crime.”
"Asvat’s The Times Of Our Lives and A Celebration Of Flames (the new revised editions, with new poems and translations) were released in September and October 2006 respectively.
Some of the comments in the media regarding his poems include:
“… you almost catch your breath at some of the stanzas … you can re-read it several times and be struck by new ideas, metaphors, elegiac surprises and the heartfelt poignancy …” Aggrey Klaaste, editor Sowetan; and
“ … an almost palpable tenderness for a country whom the poet alludes to as if she were a lover.” Neela Alvarez-Pereyre, Commonwealth Essays & Studies.
"This first collection of writings spanning a period of almost twenty years, evoke strong emotions- some have you smiling and even laughing outright with its candid humour, while others touch your hearts one way or the other about love, racism or poverty. Since Dr Asvat’s roots are strongly entrenched in politics, many of his poems reflect the brutality of the apartheid era and bring home the message of the reality of those days to many who were fortunate enough not to be born in those times.
"Some of Asvat’s renowned poems include Possibilities For A Man Hunted By SBs, A Poor Man’s Prayer, Die Kamma-Intellectuals, Part of Afrika & Fietas."
Profile by Fathima Jhani and first published at Fordsburg.com