You are probably wondering why today's Google doodle resembles Zulu cultural aesthetics of an animal battle shield and knobkerrie. That's because today marks the 92nd post-humous birthday anniversary of South African poet laureate Professor Mazisi Kunene.

Prof. Kunene was born in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, on May 12, 1930.

Growing up writing short tales and poems in Zulu as a youngster, Prof. Kunene had by the age of 11 started publishing his works in local newspapers and publications.

His postgraduate thesis at the University of Natal explored the dilution of Zulu culture in Western literature, and by the time apartheid became out in South Africa, he had utilized his writing to denounce the unjust regime. The South African government exiled him in 1959, and he then sought refuge in the United Kingdom.

His period in exile was when he published some of his most significant works, including The Ancestors and the Sacred Mountain, Anthem of the Decades, and Emperor Shaka the Great.

In 1975, he was employed as an African literature professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he spent the next two decades teaching students and advising UNESCO. He returned to South Africa once apartheid ended, where he resumed his writing in Zulu and was named Poet Laureate in 1993. Prof Mazisi Kunene was a University of Natal alumnus who had been assigned to the Department of Zulu Language and Literature.

Prof. Kunene passed away in his birthplace of Durban in 2006. The Mazisi Kunene Foundation is the steward of his legacy, with the mission of encouraging and educating indigenous language use in poetry and scholarly publications.

— By Bataung Qhotsokoane

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