Curtains fall on Africa’s literary icon Rubadiri


Kampala. “…Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones; So let it be with Caesar”.
This excerpt is the first line of a speech by Mark Antony in William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, while he was delivering a eulogy in honour of murdered Julius Caesar.
Antony’s befitting eulogy to Caesar best describes the emotional praises that have been heaped on Prof David Rubadiri.
An academic, poet, playwright and novelist, Rubadiri – who died at 88 on Saturday- has been praised by relatives, friends and literary scholars for the great scholarly work he has left behind.
This newspaper had by press time not established what could have caused his death.
Rubadiri used meticulous diction in his works, often appealing to emotion with its powerful use of imagery; drawing from his life experiences.
When the Malawian poet breathed his last, there was an outpouring of emotions across the African continent.
Ms Victoria Rubadiri, one of the deceased poet’s relatives, took to Twitter to celebrate his life.
“…the literary giant now rests. Prof David Rubadiri breathed his last today [Saturday], but his words continue to inspire so many across this great continent. His legacy is one I could never give up to. The name he gave me is one I will continue to carry with pride. Rest in peace Babu,” she wrote.
Though his pen has gone silent, Rubadiri’s literary work still tower due to the exceptional message which continues to shape many literary minds. Rubadiri’s poetry has been praised by fellow scholars as being among “the richest of contemporary Africa”, and arguably one of the best celebrated and anthologised poets of the post-colonial era.
Mr John Nagenda, the senior media adviser to President Museveni, who spoke to Daily Monitor on phone yesterday, described Rubadiri’s death as ‘shocking’. “I first met Rubadiri at King’s College, Budo, and we all went on to play cricket and he was a great cricketer. He was a very good writer,” Mr Nagenda said.
Dr Susan Kiguli, an Associate Professor in the Department of Literature at Makerere University, described Rubadiri’s death as painful.
“You see, I don’t want to believe that he is dead. It’s really painful,” she said. Kiguli said she would co-author an article with Austin Bukenya to eulogise Rubadiri.

Rubadiri attended King’s College, Budo in Uganda from 1941 to 1950, then Makerere University 1952-56), where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English literature and History.
When Malawi got her Independence in 1944, Rubadiri was appointed Malawi’s ambassador to the United States and the United Nations but later fell out with then president Hastings Banda. As an exile, he taught at Makerere University (1968–75) but he was again exiled during Idi Amin’s regime. He also taught at the University of Nairobi, University of Ibadan in Nigeria and University of Botswana.
His anthology Modern Poetry of Africa (East African Publishers, 1996) was published in 1963 and appeared in international publications, including Transition, Black Orpheus and Présence Africaine. His only novel, No Bride Price, was published in 1967. It criticised president Banda’s regime and was, along with Legson Kayira’s The Looming Shadow, among the earliest published fiction works by Malawians.

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