Izwi was regularly under attack from the Apartheid authorities, often accused of supporting anti-Afrikaans factionalism, contributing to subversive forms of liberalism and other more progressive worldviews.

Izwi, directly translated as Stem (in Afrikaans) or Voice, was a periodical that filled the vacuum that Wurm magazine had left behind after it ended print in 1970. Phil du Plessis was involved with both Wurm and Izwi, and his editorial vision went against the grain of the literary orthodoxy of the time, especially in the context of Afrikanerdom and Apartheid, providing a refreshing and alternative understanding of Afrikaans literary traditions. Izwi had no influence on the powerful grasp of the Apartheid regime, but it did connect many writers and artists who existed outside the accepted norms of the time, most of whom came from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Published from a humble base in Crown Mines, Johannesburg, Izwi’s key editors included Du Plessis, Stephen Gray, and Wilma Stockenström. Wessel Pretorius, Sheila Roberts, and Peter Wilhelm (editor of the little-known Heresy magazine) would become contributing editors in later issues. All Izwi’s editors shared Du Plessis’ perspective, many contributing to other like-minded periodicals, such as Ophir, Donga, and Inspan.

Izwi often included work from Wurm alumni, such as Marié Blomerus, Wopko Jensma, and Casper Schmidt to name a few. Izwi is noteworthy for the sheer amount of writers and poets that it published, which amounted to about 150 by the final issue. Included as ‘bonus’ content from inception, Izwi contained original, signed, and editioned artwork. As a result, the magazine has become quite valuable and highly collectible, with certain editions containing important pieces by Walter Battiss, Casper Schmidt, Alexis Preller, Wopko Jensma, Christo Coetzee, Norman Catherine, Peter Clarke, and Cecil Skotnes, to name a few. It was commonplace to include contributors from other literary magazines of the time, such as Stet and Ophir, including Barney Simon, Sheila Fugard, Sheila Roberts, Sinclair Beiles, Welma Odendaal, Njabulo Ndebele, and Mbulelo Mzamane. This proves that there was a good measure of cross-pollination and a free flow of ideas during the 70s amongst avant-garde circles and that a diverse creative counterculture community existed in Apartheid South Africa at the time.

Izwi was a bilingual magazine, but it was mostly comprised of Afrikaans and English literature, with about one-third dedicated to other languages. A generous amount of space was reserved for the translations of poems, bringing to light the succinct cultural shifts in meaning and understanding, related to semantics, tone, semiology, and the like. Alongside translations from an array of European languages into English and Afrikaans, Izwi included some translations from Shona and Owambo and published Portuguese and Zulu poetry translated into English, printed parallel to each other.

Izwi intentionally adopted an inexpensive format in case censorship or political intervention affected the finances of the publication. Normally forty-pages in length, the magazine was hand-crafted and tended to avoid conventional, more ‘tasteful’, literary standards. Izwi opted for younger writers who were hungrier and therefore quite raw and authentic, as opposed to the pretensions of academia and the broader establishment. In all, twenty issues were published between 1971 and 1974, and aside from the numerous literary contributors, around fifty visual artists were showcased throughout the publication’s lifetime.

The right to freedom of expression was defended at all costs, Izwi was regularly under attack from authorities, and du Plessis, alongside co-editors, Gray and Stockenström, were often accused of being involved with anti-Afrikaans factionalism, in support of more subversive forms of tribalism, liberalism, and other more progressive worldviews.

Izwi was arguably more avant-garde in terms of activism and alternative political thinking than Wurm was, and many writers and artists associated with Izwi suffered exile, arrest, censorship, and persecution for their perceived subversive output. The magazine thus rebelled against institutionalized literary and political structures in South Africa, with many contributors placed under regular pressure from Apartheid authorities for being too inclusive, pluralist, and experimental. Du Plessis himself was summoned to the infamous John Vorster Square for interrogation – where revolutionaries such as Ahmed Timol were executed, amongst many others, under the guise of suicide – where he was warned to dissociate himself from the thoughts, activities, and people associated with the publication. Izwi also attracted the attention of the Apartheid regime when Oswald Mtshali was considered as an editor, in an attempt to attract more contributions by black writers. Ultimately, Mtshali was forced to withdraw from considering the position, due to “extra-literary pressure”. More examples include Don Mattera, who was an early contributor until he was banned, and Jeremy Cronin who was charged as a terrorist and imprisoned for seven years. True to its name, Izwi embraced the equality of all human beings, supported by its manifesto which challenged the ideology of Apartheid: “Izwi is the voice of All Africa”.

Izwi discontinued print in December 1974, publishing a final double issue that included many of the contributors from previous issues. With this swan song, the editors purposefully wanted to subvert Afrikaans literary traditions, and by proxy agitate the political status quo, without fear or favor. A final double issue going down in flames, kamikaze-style, seems like a neat way to go out when Apartheid is your foe. The final issue was numbered 19 and 20 and included many controversial pieces, including a praise poem to King Sobhuza II of Swaziland. Izwi and its contemporaries: Contrast (Cape Town), Ophir (Pretoria), New Coin (Grahamstown), and Bolt (Durban) were alternatives to the harsh literary, moral, and political censorship of the Apartheid regime during the 70s. Izwi was a platform for the freedom of expression, not only in subject matter but also in style, and provided a medium for subversive Afrikaans writers in particular who were trying to find their voices outside the constraints of the backward, stagnant, or dated Afrikaans beliefs of the time.

The movement that Izwi helped create did not go away quietly. Other voices continued to rise, growing from the seed that du Plessis and his co-editors had planted. Following the death of Izwi, Welma Odendaal started Donga in 1976, which encouraged emerging and free-thinking writers who went against the grain of the powers that be. Three issues of Donga were banned due to the fact that they had black contributors, eventually ceasing publication. Inspan followed Donga in 1978, only to meet the same demise, producing a mere two issues. Inspan’s editor, Isabel Hofmeyr, narrowly escaped prosecution for blasphemy. From all this, Staffrider emerged, founded by Mike Kirkwood and published by Ravan Press in 1978. Staffrider was more like an organization than a magazine, and it was arguably the success story in the wake of Izwi’s death, attempting to connect writers together across the apartheid divides. Staffrider had a fairly long life, printing about 43 issues within 11 volumes, ceasing publication in 1993, one year before the official demise of the Apartheid regime with South Africa’s first democratic elections.

Izwi was a bilingual magazine, with a generous amount of space eserved for translations of poems, bringing to light the succinct cultural shifts in meaning and understanding.

Izwi no.1

Year: 1971
Pages: 44
Print run: 200
Size: 20.5cm X 25.5cm.
Editors: Phil du Plessis, Stephen Gray, Sydney José, Wilma Strockenström, Lola Watter.
Writers: Mike Dues, Sydney José, Angus H. Dyido, Ingrid de Kok, Cornell Rai, Rob Greig, Jeremey Cronin, Jeanne Goosen, Wilhelm Schmidt, Marie Blomerus, Geoffrey Haresnape, Don Mattera, Jenny Frazer, Helena Rodrigues, Claus Andrup, Barney Simon, Wilma Strockenström.
Artists: Casper Schmidt.
Further notes: The cover has a rare quirk to it because it does not have the original red organic graphic that featured on all the other known copies.

Izwi no.2

Year: 1971
Pages: 40
Print run: 200
Size: 20.5cm X 25.5cm.
Editors: Phil du Plessis, Stephen Gray, Wilma Strockenström.
Writers: N/A
Artists: Wopko Jensma.

Izwi no.3

Year: 1971
Pages: 40
Print run: 200
Size: 20.5cm X 25.5cm.
Editors: Phil du Plessis, Stephen Gray, Wilma Strockenström.
Writers: N/A
Artists: N/A

Izwi no.4

Year: 1972
Pages: 44
Print run: 250
Size: 20.5cm X 25.5cm.
Editors: Phil du Plessis, Stephen Gray, Wilma Strockenström.
Writers: D. Campbell, Andrew Mothobi Mutloatse, Francois Stemmet, Egbert van Bart, Sheila Fugard, H.M. Ferguson, Phil du Plessis, Sheila Roberts, Eric Jose, Mike Dues.
Artists: Nosugref (H.M. Ferguson).

Izwi no.5

Year: 1972
Pages: 44
Print run: 250
Size: 20.5cm X 25.5cm.
Editors: Phil du Plessis, Stephen Gray, Wilma Strockenström.
Writers: N/A
Artists: N/A

Izwi no.6

Year: 1972
Pages: 44
Print run: 250
Size: 20.5cm X 25.5cm.
Editors: Phil du Plessis, Stephen Gray, Wilma Strockenström.
Writers: Daan de la Rey, Jan du Plessis, J.J. Beukes, Farouk Asvat, Wopko Jensma, Mike Nicol, James Mabin, Wilhelm Schmidt, Peter Clarke, Mannie Hirsch, Les Sacks,
Artists: Peter Clarke.

Izwi no.7

Year: 1972
Pages: 44
Print run: 250
Size: 20.5cm X 25.5cm.
Editors: Phil du Plessis, Stephen Gray, Wilma Strockenström.
Writers: E.M. McPhail, Doreen Playne, Christopher Hope, Chris Mann, Leonard Koza, M.S. Seedat, Wessel Pretorius, Marko van der Colff, Egbert van Bart, Ren Werth, Sheila Roberts, Mike Dues, Michael Cox, Mike Oberholzer, Douglas Livingstone.
Artists: Franscois Pieterson, Johan van Heerden.

Izwi no.8

Year: 1972
Pages: 44
Print run: 250
Size: 20.5cm X 25.5cm.
Editors: Phil du Plessis, Stephen Gray, Wilma Strockenström.
Writers: N/A
Artists: N/A

Izwi no.9

Year: 1972
Pages: 44
Print run: 250
Size: 20.5cm X 25.5cm.
Editors: Phil du Plessis, Stephen Gray, Wilma Strockenström.
Writers: N/A
Artists: Alexis Preller.

Izwi no.10

Year: 1973
Pages: 44
Print run: 250
Size: 20.5cm X 25.5cm.
Editors: Phil du Plessis, Stephen Gray, Wilma Stockenström, Wessel Pretorius, Roy Holland.
Writers: Wessel Pretorius, D.F.M. Botes, Marie Blomerus, Herman Binge, Mike Costello, Mjabulo S. Ndebele, Mbulelo Visikhungo Mzamane, Bulie Voyi, Karel Schoeman, Robert Greig, Darryl Butler, Guy Struben, Lucas Malan.
Artists: Mike Costello, Dirk Meerkotter.

Izwi no.11

Year: 1973
Pages: 44
Print run: 250
Size: 20.5cm X 25.5cm.
Editors Phil du Plessis, Wilma Stockenström, Stephen Gray, Wessel Pretorius, Peter Wilhem.
Writers: Peter Wilhem, Jean Marquard, Geoff Hughes, Cherry Clayton, Stephen Gray, J.J. Beukes, F.J. Greyling, Johann Mostert, Pieter Brink, Mike Oberholzer.
Artists: Paul Aitchison, David Marais, Dov Fedler, Richard Smith.

Izwi no.12

Year: 1973
Pages: 44
Print run: 250
Size: 20.5cm X 25.5cm.
Editors Phil du Plessis, Wilma Stockenström, Stephen Gray, Wessel Pretorius.
Writers: Doc Fedderson, Phil du Plessis, Hans Namuhuya, Tatiana Boehm, Stephen Gray, Michael Cox, James Twala, Jonathan Paton, Martin McAvenna, Gilpatrick Devlin, Wendy Wilson, Gigi Theron, Alant Joubert, Johann Mostert, André le Roux.
Artists: A.J. Wannenburgh, Anna Vorster, Tatiana Boehm, Nils Burwitz.

Izwi no.13

Year: 1973
Pages: 44
Print run: 250
Size: 20.5cm X 25.5cm.
Editors Phil du Plessis, Wilma Stockenström, Stephen Gray, Wessel Pretorius, Don Mattera.
Writers: Gloria Masale, Monzana Molapisi, Xolile Roxy Mazungula, Lymen Matsvere, Lydia Tsimong, Wilma Odendaal, Barrie Hough, Leonard Koza, Michael de Kock, Wessel Pretorius, Gerald Kraak, Mike Oberholzer, Darryl Butler, E.M. MacPhail, Julius Tobias, Thami, Patrick Gqubile.
Artists: Christo Coetzee, John van Brede..

Izwi no.14

Year: 1974
Pages: 44
Print run: 250
Size: 20.5cm X 25.5cm.
Editors Phil du Plessis, Wilma Stockenström, Stephen Gray, Wessel Pretorius, Sheila Roberts.
Writers: Douglas Livingston, Laurence Lerner, David Wright, Charles Eglington, Jack Cope, Colin Style, Wopko Jensma, Mothobi Andrew Mutloase, Mark Swift, Geoffrey Haresnape, Sheila Fugard, Sally Bryer, Christopher Hope, James Mabin, Wilma Stockenström, Welma Odendaal, Alant Joubert, Pieter Brink, Nico Mouton, Pieter Wilhelm, Mike Nicol, Christopher Mann, Stephen Gray, Patrick Cullinan, Jeni Couzyn.
Artists: Cecil Skotnes, Berenice Michelow, Sipho Magudulela.

Izwi no.15

Year: 1974
Pages: 44
Print run: 250
Size: 20.5cm X 25.5cm.
Editors Phil du Plessis, Stephen Gray, Wessel Pretorius, Sheila Roberts.
Writers: Sydney Sepamla, Robert Greig, Sheila Roberts, Cherry Clayton, Michael Fridjhon, M.D. Lindemann, Rika van der Merwe, Marlené van Niekerk, Michael de Kock, Leonard Koza, Magda Rall, Doc Feddersen.
Artists: Annemarie Wessels, Ian Rogers, H.M. Ferguson.

Izwi no.16

Year: 1974
Pages: 44
Print run: 250
Size: 20.5cm X 25.5cm.
Editors Phil du Plessis, Stephen Gray, Wessel Pretorius, Sheila Roberts.
Writers: Wessels Pretorius, Alant Joubert, Dirk Theunissen, Greta Greer, Wilma Stockenström, Stephen Gray, Baudelaire, Flavien Ranaivo, Alexandre Quintanilha, Rui Knopfli, Walter Battiss, Mark Swift, Mbulelo Vizikhungo, Mzamane, Alexander Mthombeni, Peet van der Merwe,
Artists: Walter Battiss, Norman Catherine.

Izwi no.17

Year: 1974
Pages: 44
Print run: 250
Size: 20.5cm X 25.5cm.
Editors Phil du Plessis, Stephen Gray, Wessel Pretorius, Sheila Roberts.
Writers: Wessel Pretorius, Nils Burwitz, D.P.M. Botes, Uys Krige, Pablo Neruda, Lionel Abrahams, David Farrell, Sydney Sepamla, Steve Heinemann, Magnus Heystek, Egbert van Bart, Claire Collins, Jaco Nel, Abel Pike, Renn Werth, Attie Richter, Stanley Trevor, Pieter Smit, Elsabe van Reenen.
Artists: Raymond Andrews, Christo Coetzee.

Izwi no.18

Year: 1974
Pages: 44
Print run: 250
Size: 20.5cm X 25.5cm.
Editors Phil du Plessis, Stephen Gray, Wessel Pretorius, Sheila Roberts.
Writers: Roy Mcnab, Robert Greig, Herman Binge, Sunita du Plessis, Lasya Buys, Christo P. Smit, Lyndall van Abo, Edrich de Villiers, Sheila Roberts, Peter Wilhelm, Rui Knopfli, Reinaldo Ferreira, Wilma Stockenström, Mike Oberholzer, Leonard Koza, Claus Andrup, Shabbir Banoobhai.
Artists: Bernard Jordaan, Stephen Gray, Keri Swift, José Craveirinha Filho, Rui Knopfli.

Izwi no.19 and 20

Year: 1974
Pages: 45
Print run: 250
Size: 20.5cm X 25.5cm.
Editors Phil du Plessis, Stephen Gray, Wessel Pretorius Sheila Roberts.
Writers for #19: Marie Blomerus, Pieter Brink, D.J. de Waal, Esthi Heydenrich, André le Roux, Lucas Malan, Nico Mouton, Vivian Myburgh, Welma Odendaal, Magda Rall, Marietha Smit, Pieter Smit, Johan van der Merwe, Rika van der Merwe, Elsabé van Reenen, Pieter van Rooyen, George H. Weideman, Alant Joubert, Peet van der Meerwe.
Writers for #20: Helmut Bertelsmann, Cherry Clayton, H.M. Ferguson, Melanie Ferraz, J.D.U Geldenhuys, Geoffrey Haresnape, Laurence Lerner, Jan le Seur, Charley Lewis, Katherin Leycester, Christopher Mann, Mpini Bernard ka Mbelle, Mbulelo V. Mzamane, Keith Niemeyer, Ivor Powell, Larry Schwarz, Wendy Theron, S.M. Wheeler, Ken A. Williams, Peter Wilhelm, Phillippe Berlyn, J. Chamunorwa, Noel Kashaya, George Charambarara, Douglas Livingstone, Wilson Chivaura, C.S.Z Ntuli, Tsetsele Fantan.
Artists: Alice Golden, Leo theron, Christo Coetzee.

Leave a Reply