Start main page content

University Corner renamed after illustrious writer Es'kia Mphahlele

- Wits University

Wits University has officially renamed University Corner after renowned writer and activist Es'kia Mphahlele as part of its continuing transformation plan.

Members of Es'kia Mphahlele's family with the unveiled gold plaque

The University Corner, located on the corner of Jorissen and Bertha street, was officially renamed on 01 June 2023.

The renaming of the popular building which houses the Wits Centre for Journalism, the Wits Centre for Diversity Studies and the Wits Art Museum to name a few, is a fitting tribute to Mphahlele, the first black Full Professor at Wits. He spent nearly 70 years of his life in a career spanning education, journalism, creative writing, and the leadership of institutions for the promotion of literature and the arts.

He was an icon who contributed enormously to the Wits community. Through his body of creative work, his far-reaching education work, and cultural activism, Mphahlele was a major force in shaping modern African Literature.

Before unveiling the golden plaque to guests and members of Mphahele's family, Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, said that renaming the building serves as a vital physical connection between the Wits Campus and Braamfontein.

"The university recognizes the importance of community engagement in forging new knowledge. Es’kia Mphahlele’s work was instrumental in breaking the bounds of traditional knowledge creation and fostering a more inclusive approach to scholarship," said Vilakazi.

"Let us not forget that Professor Es’kia Mphahlele was not only a visionary in education but also a leading African writer, whose talents were dedicated to the development of African writing on this continent and its diaspora. His contributions to literature were so remarkable that he was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature not once but twice," said Vilakazi.

"Today, as we confer his name upon this building, we pay homage to Professor Es’kia Mphahlele’s massive contribution to African letters. This small gesture of recognition is a testament to his enduring legacy and a reminder to future generations of scholars that his work continues to inspire and guide us."

The Mphahlele family representative, Gontse Moropa, thanked the institution for renaming the building after her uncle.

"As a family, we are very happy that you are honouring my granduncle. It shows that his legacy still continues."

The Students' Representative Council’s acting President, Kabelo Phungwayo, said that Es’kia Mphahlele’s struggle for his educational career is an inspiration to most students.

Phungwayo said it is an inspiration to honour someone who fought for his own education and thereafter fought for the education of others.

"We consider Es'kia as a revolutionary scholar, who inspires our African epistemology of humanism and who is the Dean of African letters. Such a figure, being recognised in this institution, means a lot to the SRC," said Phungwayo.

Es'kia Mphahlele building naming ceremony