Archibald Campbell Jordan: 1906 – 1968

Novelist and academic of note

AC Jordan was a novelist, poet and academic who became the first African to receive a PhD in phonological and grammatical study at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

Archibald Campbell Mzolisa Jordan, a novelist, an academic and author, was born in 1906 in Mbokothwana Mission Station near Tsolo in Pondoland (now Eastern Cape).

Jordan went to St Cuthbert’s Primary under Mbokothwana Mission. After finishing his primary school education he went to Alice to further his education at Lovedale College where he got a Junior Certificate, also known as Standard Eight (now Grade Ten).

At the age of 17, in 1923, AC moved to Umtata to study at St John’s College. Then later went back to Alice to enroll for a teacher’s diploma (obtained in 1932) and a BA degree (obtained in 1934) at Fort Hare University.

His contributions to Imvo Zabatsundu

At that time, Imvo Zabatsundu had already established itself as one of the household brands in the printed word industry. And Jordan would build his legacy as his poetry would be published in the newspaper with one of his Xhosa poems about the invasion of Abyssinia by the Italians under the stewardship of Benito Mussolini.

He would go on and publish a novel, Ingqumbo Yeminyana (The Wreath of the Ancestors), described as a “tragic epic about conflict between Western-style education and traditional beliefs”, wrote Verwey in New Dictionary of South African Biography Volume 1.

Publishing posthumously

Two years after his death in 1970, the novel titled, Kwezo Mpindo zeTsitsa was published. Three years later, Tales from Southern Africa was published followed by Towards an African Literature: The emergence of Literary Form in Xhosa which was published the same year. Ingqumbo Yeminyana (The Wreath of the Ancestors), was further published in three languages. In 1980 it was published in English, ten years later in Afrikaans as Die Toorn van die Voorvaders and nine years later in Dutch as De Wraak van het Voorgeslacht.

An Academic

Jordan was more than a novelist, he was an academic of note. After obtaining a BA degree in 1934, aged 28, he was awarded an MA in 1944 by the University of South Africa after completing a thesis on the phonetic and grammatical structure of the Baca language.

In 1945, he accepted a post as a lecturer at Fort Hare University’s Department of Bantu Languages following the retirement of Davidson Don Tengo Jabavu.

In 1956, Jordan became the first African to receive a PhD in phonological and grammatical study at the University of Cape Town (UCT). This achievement was followed by a lecturing post he also accepted at UCT. Jordan passed on Sunday 20 October 1968.

References

SAHO, [s.a.]. Archibald Campbell Jordan, A Xhosa poet and linguist dies. Available at: http://www.sahistory.org.za/dated-event/archibald-campbell-mzoliza-jordan-xhosa-writer-and-linguist-dies. Accessed on 16 October 2015. Verwey, E.J. 1995. New Dictionary of South African Biography Volume 1.

Pretoria: Human Science Research Council, pp.108-109. Image courtersy of SA History Online available at: http://www.sahistory.org.za/dated-event/archibald-campbell-mzoliza-jordan-xhosa-writer-and-linguist-dies. Accessed on 16 October 2015.

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