CLEMENT MARTYN DOKE
C. M. Doke (1893-1980): Clement Martin Doke is arguably the greatest scholar South Africa has been privileged to have had in its history up to the present. Born in England, his missionary parents took him to New Zealand with the other siblings before he was a year old. From 1894 to 1902 he lived there, until the family undertook missionary work in South Africa. He was approximately ten years old when he arrived in the country where he was to initiate an intellectual revolution in the study of African languages and in the making and creation of Bantu literature [African literature in the African languages]. His father, Joseph John Doke (1861-1913) is known today as the first biographer of Mahatma Gandhi. Upon completing his B. A. degree at the age of nineteen years, Clement Martin Doke immediately in 1914 commenced missionary work in Lambaland (then Northern Rhodesia but present-day Zambia), while at the same time laying the foundations of his scholarly preoccupations for coming four decades by studying the linguistic structure of the Lamba language with the intent of translating the Bible into the language as well as undertaking the English-Lamba dictionary. Doke completely transformed the study of Bantu linguistics, folklore and literature not only in Zambia, but also in Southern Rhodesia (present day Zimbabwe) and in South Africa. In other words Clement Martin Doke brought the study of the African languages and cultures into the modern age. In a true sense, he was a great intellectual modernizer. He achieved this through scholarly treatises of great brilliance, establishing African linguistics on a scientific basis, translations, publishing the creative writings of great New African intellectuals written in the African languages. The scholarly work was achieved through his editing of African Studies journal (changing it from the old title of Bantu Studies within a year of assuming editorial ship in 1942) and publishing therein scholarly work of incomparable brilliance. The absolute nature of his astonishing achievements was rehearsed in many scholarly essays in a special 1993 issue of African Studies (vol. 52 no. 3) called the C. M. Doke Centenary. In his contribution Nhlanhla P. Maake wrote: "While the missionary presses such as Morija and Mazenod in Lesotho, Lovedale in the Cape, nand Marianhill in Natal, have become synonymous with South African Bantu literature, very few individuals can claim a place in having influenced the growth of literature. Among these few we can count Clement Martyn Doke. In this brief contribution, I shall provide an overview of his contribution in the development of Bantu literature in South African languages. There are basically four recognisable ways in which Doke made his mark: (1) His early collections of what he referred to as wisdom-lore; (2) His encouraging reviews of newly published works in journals such as Bantu Studies (later African Studies) of which he was editor from from 1931 to 1953, and South African Outlook; (3) His consistent review of developments in the field of literature qua literature; (4) His consistency in encouraging translations of classical works from other languages. . . . Between 1935 and 1953 Doke was editor of the Bantu Treasury Series of poetry and drama published by the Witwatersrand University Press in Johannesburg. In that capacity, his most direct contribution to the growth of Bantu literature came in the form of eleven publications. . . . Plaatje's translations, no doubt inspired by Doke (notwithstanding their difference of opinion as to which works were most suitable for translation), were followed by many other translations of English classics into various Bantu languages. . . . Doke's editorship of the Bantu Treasury Series, and his advocacy of translating works into one or another of the Bantu languages opened the way for other publishers to take an interest in Bantu literature. The period after 1953 can arguably be termed 'the Doke era", for his concern for the growth of literature in Bantu languages had a far-reaching impact." Indeed, the contribution of C. M. Doke to the making of literary modernity within the New African Movement was truly extraordinary. The monumental contribution of Doke to the construction of New African modernity was already evident to D. D. T. Jabavu in the early 1940s (African Studies, Volume 2 ). In a review of S. E. K. Mqhayi's book of poetry Inzuzo (Gain), which was Volume Seven of Bantu Treasury Series, Jabavu paid tribute to C. M. Doke by mentioning two other books he had already published in the series: Benedict Vilakazi's book of poetry Inkondlo kaZulu, which initiated the Series and hence was Volume One; and J. J. R. Jolobe's book of poetry UmYezo, which was Volume Two in the Series. Doke did also publish drama and essays in the Series. It may perhaps have been his observation of a cultural contradiction and untenable historical situation in Plaatje having published his novel Mhudi (1930) in English rather than in his mother tongue Setswana that inspired C. M. Doke a few years later to initiate the Bantu Treasury Series: publishing creative literature in the African languages by New African intellectuals. In a short review of the recently published novel, Doke made this observation: "A story of Native life written in a simple and interesting style, with the obvious advantage that the author is a Native and not a European trying to portray Native thought. Me. Plaatje has done a good service in writing this. It is a great pity that for Bantu publications the demand is at present so small among the Bantu themselves that books such as this have to be written in English. Mhudi written in Chwana would have been a still greater contribution, and Chwana sadly needs such additions to its present meagre literature" (Bantu Studies, vol. 5 no. 1, Janauary/June 1931). The Bantu Treasury Series was aimed at facilitating the cultural milieu of such readership: readers reading creative literature concerning secular matters of modernity. Doke was remarkably a man of foresight and vision in this instance, despite his profoundly religious alignments. The missionary presses were largely preoccupied with publishing books strongly laden with religious matters. It is in an essay of 1935, surveying the uneven nature of African literature in the African languages in South Africa, that perhaps C. M. Doke provides the rationale for the necessity of Bantu Treasury Series: "Among the outstanding Xhosa books, which may be used as text-books in the upper Standards of the primary schools and in the high schools, may be mentioned Tiyo Soga's magnificent translation of the 'Pilgrim's Progress', Uhambo lo Mhambi; this is to-day widely so used. Then there is U-Nomalizo, a short novel published by the S. P. C. K., and the novels of H. M. Ndawo, J. J. R. Jolobe, and G. B. Sinxo, all of which provide sound Xhosa reading-material. But the outstanding writer of Xhosa to-day is without doubt S. E. Mqayi. Not only has he provided his Ityala lama-Wele, a classic of Xhosa, of which there is an abridged edition for school use, but he is the author of Imi-Hobe nemi-Bongo, a unique collection of Xhosa verse. Provided publication outlet can be found for the numerous manuscripts available, Xhosa literature and reading-material will easily keep pace with the demand. . . . With regard to books suitable for general and cultural reading in the upper classes, Zulu is not in so fotunate a position as is Xhosa. Prescribed books for reading include such as Fuze's Abantu Abamnyama, a book useful in many ways, but lacking in balance and any sustained interest. . . . There is still a dearth in Zulu of imaginative literature, and a Zulu novelist has yet to be found. No Zulu poetry has yet appeared, though Vilakazi has a creditable book of poems entitled Inkondlo ka Zulu in the press. This work is in the new Zulu orthography. . . ." ("Vernacular Text-Books in South African Native Schools", Africa, no. 8 ). The book in the press was naturally Volume One of Bantu Treasury Series. It is very ironic that in the same year that Doke was making the comment about the absence of a Zulu novelist, the very same Benedict Vilakazi published his first novel in the Zulu language: Noma Nini (Marianhill, Natal, 1935). In the following decade two other novels appeared: U-Dingiswayo ka Jobe (The Sheldon Press, London, 1939); and Nje-Nempela (Marianhill Mission Press, Natal, 1945). Benedict Vilakazi became the Zulu novelist C. M. Doke was clamoring for. From this dramatic year of 1935 the destiny of these two great intellectuals were to be intertwined until the death of Benedict Vilakazi twelve years later in 1947: in 1937 Doke supervised Vilakazi's Master's thesis "Conception and Development of Poetry in Zulu" at the University of Witwatersrand (a revised and abridged version of which Doke subsequently published in Bantu Studies); in 1946 at the same University Doke also supervised Vilakazi's doctoral thesis The Oral And Written Literature in Nguni; in 1948 appeared the great Zulu-English Dictionary which Doke and Vilakazi had worked on for many years. Given this extraordinary colloboration, it is not surprising that C. M. Doke was shaken by the untimely death of his younger colleague. Two years before the death of Vilakazi, Doke began another collaboration another student who was to be a major New African intellectual and writer: S. M. Mofokeng. In the aforementioned centennial essay on C. M. Doke, this was what Nhlanhla P. Maake had to say of Mofokeng who was included in Doke's Bantu Treausury Series: "In Southern Sotho the greatest essayist and dramatist, Mofokeng, and the poet and dramatist, Mocoancoeng, were published by the Witwatersrand University Press." Doke had a prescient understanding of Mofokeng's as yet fully revealed talent. In an obituary notice on the death of S. M. Mofokeng in 1957, exactly a decade after the death of Benedict Vilakazi, Clement Martyn Doke wrote the following: "On June 6th there passed away in Coronation Hospital, Johannesburg, at the age of the 34, Sophonia Machabe Mofokeng, after a long illness. To the ordinary reader such an announcement might mean little; but to those who knew him, and to those who watch the rise of the African people, from primitive life to culture, from ignorance and superstition to growth in knowledge and maturity of wisdom, from the darkness of paganism and spirit-worship too the light of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the passing of this son of Africa is no obscure event. . . . Sophonia Mofokeng, in his brief life, became an authority on Bantu folk and proverb lore. He was the author of a play in Sotho entitled Senkantana, which was published in the 'Bantu Treasury Series' in 1952, and of a book of essays and sketches, Leetong, published in 1954. He leaves a number of manuscripts, some of which may prove to be sufficiently complete for publication. In 1956 he was invited to join a team of experts in the compilation of a new edition of a German encyclopedia of folklore. Up to the time of his death he had collaborated with me in work on Southern Sotho grammar. He had read the proofs of the book now in the press; but, before seeing the finished work, he was called away to his eternal reward. Dr. Mofokeng was a man of high scholarship. But it is not for that that I shall remember him. He was a man of high Christian character" ("Dr. S. M. Mofokeng: A Personal Tribute", The South African Outlook, July 1st, 1957). Perhaps what accounts for Doke's extraordinary empathy and identification with the national project of constructing New African modernity by the New African intelligentsia was his remarkable grasp of the effect modernity had had on the African people. In another context, Doke wrote this brilliant resume of modernity, which no doubt H. I. E. Dhlomo would have found fascinating: "In dealing with the development of the Bantu in the Union of South Africa during the last twenty-five years, we are dealing with the growth of a people in direct touch with a superior civilisation, which of itself is advancing by tremendous leaps and bounds in material and scientific discovery and improvement. The spirit of this age of speeding-up, increased efficiency, and enhanced living comforts cannot but have a tremendous effect upon the Bantu peoples brought directly into touch with it. The old wonder and blank astonishment of the kraal native at the marvels of the white man and his 'supernatural' powers are entirely things of the past. The new discoveries of science and the new conquests of the air and of the ether no longer affect the Bantu differently from the way in which thet affect the European. This may be said of the vast majority of the Bantu in the Union of South Africa. Here is a change, and a very vital change, that has come over the Bantu in the last quarter of a century. It indicates that the Bantu have quietly slipped into the atmosphere of the twentieth century civilisation; and it is their place in this civilisation which creates the problem of race-contact facing us in this country. How far the Great War is responsible for this rapid transition it is difficult to say, but it has undoubtedly contributed to it. The men who served overseas and elsewhere in labour contigents were not unaffected by what they saw and heard, and the post-war spirit has not left the Bantu untouched" ("Twenty-five Years of Bantu Development", S. A. Railways & Harbours Magazine, October 1930). For sure, Dhlomo would have disagreed with Doke about the supposed superiority of European civilisation, yet affirming that it is more advanced than African societies. The collaboration of Clement Martyn Doke and Sophonia Machabe Mofokeng on Textbook of Southern Sotho Grammar (1957) was in a way a marriage of European modernity and African modernity in the making of South African modernity. Who would doubt that Doke was one of the greatest New African intellectuals.