Thousands turned up for celebrated poet Albert Malikongwa’s funeral in Marapong last weekend.
Speakers at the funeral praised Malikongwa who died aged 81 after a long illness for his dedication to his art, family, community service and contribution to the development of his village and country.
Described as a workaholic, the father of five, who leaves behind a widow, Malikongwa was a founding member of amongst others the Marapong Development Trust, John Nswazwi CJSS, and Madau CJSS. He was also active in other community projects such as the Marapong VDC which he chaired from 1979 to 1986.
So dedicated was Malikongwa to the development of his home village that he bought fencing material for the UCCSA although he was Roman Catholic. When he was not writing Malikongwa was either involved at work or improving his education.
Born in Nswazwi in 1930 to Keetile and Ruth Malikongwa, Albert did his primary education at Nshakazhongwe,Nswazwi and Mapoka Primary schools. He then did his Junior Certificate at St. Joseph’s College before training as a teacher at the Mariezell Training College in South Africa. After completing his teacher training course in 1953 he spent the following year at Roma College,Lesotho.
He then taught at several schools before coming back home to work as a Senior Clerk in the Kanye District Administration in 1967. His love for education saw him combing work and study to attain a Bachelor”s Degree of Arts from the University of Lesotho in 1968 and a Diploma in Public Administration from the University of York, England in 1970. He then took up several positions in the civil service and worked for the DPSM, the High Court, the Ministry of Agriculture, customary Court President in Gaborone and Lobatse. He retired from the civil service in 2003 after serving as a member of the Customary Court of appeal from 1989.
As he worked he also pursued his number one love: poetry and writing. Two of his poems were recorded and broadcast by the BBC in London in 1969. The turning point in his writing career however came in 1978 when he was granted a fellowship by the University of Iowa, USA after he had attended an international writing program that was conducted by the institute. As a writer in residence at Iowa,he worked on three manuscripts that he later self published namely: The Dawn, a collection of English Poems, Denje Buya, an anthology of Ikalanga poems and Chief Mengwe IV a play in English.
He went on to publish other works in Ikalanga and English amongst them History of the Nswazwi(struggle against Tshekedi), A Portrait of She Nswazwi VII,The Assault of captain Robert M.D. Langley by the Bakalanga Baka Nswazwi wa Pomba Ng’ombe all in English and Matama ano Pesa ne Mitetembelo ye Ikalanga(Ikalanga Proverbs).
His works have been published in numerous international anthologies and have become an integral part of local literature.
As and artist Malikongwa was an active member of the Writers Association of Botswana, the Domboshaba Cultural Festival and was a founder member of the Milidzani Tjilenje Cultural group.
He was also deeply involved in the successful translation of the bible to Ikalanga.