Two decades into the Apartheid era, Ophir provided an alternative perspective, feeding the need for a subversive, experimental poetry journal that rejected the totalitarian views of the time.

In 1965 a group of academics from UNISA, including Michael Macnamara, Ridley Beeton and Peter Horn, perceived a need for a magazine that promoted experimental poetry that a number of staff members were actively writing at the time. Horn took the helm by convincing various academic departments, encompassing all the languages, Philosophy, and Fine Art to get involved with the proposed publication. Alongside experimental poetry, theory and critical commentary about poetry were proposed as the core content for the journal. Beeton abandoned the idea as too ambitious and thought that the university would never support it. Macnamara and Horn would continue on, accompanied by Walter Saunders and Phil du Plessis, and published a journal independently, sans the support of the institution. This predominantly Pretoria-based group (Horn was in Empangeni, Zululand) understood that the magazine had to be vastly different from established poetry journals of the time, such as New Coin.

After various discussions about the way forward for the proposed publication, it was decided that Ophir would be the moniker that the publication would adopt and that it needed to be produced by a select group of independent writers. Published in Pretoria, the name recalls a port mentioned in the Bible, made popular as the place where King Solomon received his gold, silver, and other sources of his vast wealth. The title is also thought to be inspired by John Masefield’s poem, Cargoes, wherein the end of the first line mentions Ophir, critically charged with colonial undertones.

Horn constructed a hand press in his garage, laboriously inking and printing all 250 copies of the 16-page first issue, which broke before the cover could be printed. The editors had to buy a commercial press to print the cover of the inaugural Ophir. The theme for the first issue was the sea, hence the turquoise cover, which in hindsight looks much like an old government-issue textbook. Perhaps this approach was an attempt at satire, maybe irony, or simply due to financial restrictions. The magazine was comprised mostly of the groups own work and poetry that attracted their interest, notably texts from black poets, and subversive, anti-authoritarian Afrikaans writers. As it was published during the Apartheid era, with quasi-Marxist, anti-authoritarian underpinnings, Ophir’s bilingualism was a deliberate protective measure, a way to disguise dissident writers from the powers that be.

In this way, Ophir was an alternative platform for experimental poets, other than Wurm magazine. Most poets would submit work to both Wurm and Ophir, but the latter seems to have published the more politically disruptive literature. The inclusion of counter-culture Afrikaans writers allowed the editors to publish work by subversive artists such as Wopko Jensma, who was producing a lot of material for Wurm at the time and turned into a weapon of sorts for Ophir.

Jensma’s Afrikaans writings aggravated the establishment, bringing along with him the European avant-garde tendencies he used in Wurm, imbued with an African sensibility that was unrivalled by any other white poet at the time.  This, coupled with his formidable graphic skills and ability to write in English as well, was perhaps the reason why underground black poets began to send their work to Ophir, signified by the publication of ‘Africa, Music and Show Business’ by Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim), to which Jensma responded with his poem: ‘A Twelve-Tone for Dollar Brand’.

Both Horn and Saunders also actively looked for work from black writers from all over South Africa, and by the time the sixth issue was published in 1968, Oswald Mtshali’s appeared, followed by Shabbir Banoobhai, Mafika Gwala, Nkathazo ka Mnyayiza, Leonard Koza, Benjamin Langa, Bheki Maseko, Zinjiva Nkondo, Motshile Nthodi, Sipho Sepamla, Mongane Serote, and Mbali Vilakazi. It was at this stage that Ophir also began to publish international submissions. The pluralism, and cross-pollination of black South African poets with contributors from abroad signify the commitment that Ophir’s editors had to publish work outside the boundaries that were set by the Apartheid regime.

Twenty-three issues of Ophir were produced, with a final double issue published in 1976. This last effort included frequent contributors and a few lesser-known poets, such as Alan Cook who opened the issue with his requiem for the Karoo Express, ‘Swansong of the 15F’. The issue was aptly closed with a three-movement poem by Saunders, using his editorial sway,  titled: ‘The Start of the Journey’.

 

A multiplicity of voices and writers writing the various African stories that embrace pluralism, helping to define South Africa's evolution as a young democracy.

Ophir no.1

Year: 1967
Pages: 16
Print run: 200
Size: 20.2cm X 16.5cm.
Contributors: Michael Macnamara, Peter Horn, Phil du Plessis, Wilhelm Knobel, Jill King, P. de W. Venter, Walter Saunders.

Ophir no.2

Year: 1967
Pages: 20
Print run: 200
Size: 20.5cm X 14cm.
Contributors: Michael Macnamara, Peter Horn, Walter Saunders, Phil du Plessis, Wopko Jensma, Helen Segal, Roger Kelsey Loveday, Jeanne Goosen, Charl J.F. Cilliers.

Ophir no.3

Year: 1967
Pages: 20
Print run: 200
Size: 20cm X 12.5cm.
Contributors: Michael Macnamara, Peter Horn, Walter Saunders, Phil du Plessis, Wopko Jensma, Jeanne Goosen, D.M. Greeff, Charl J.F. Cilliers, Wilhelm Knobel.

Ophir no.4

Year: 1968
Pages: 20
Print run: 200
Size: 20cm X 12.5cm
Contributors: Fiction: Michael Macnamara, Peter Horn, Walter Saunders, Phil du Plessis, Charl J.F. Cilliers, Walter Battiss, Wopko Jensma, Marié Blomerus.

Ophir no.5

Year: 1968
Pages: 24
Print run: 200
Size: 20cm X 12.5cm
Contributors: Michael Macnamara, Peter Horn, Walter Saunders, Phil du Plessis, Wopko Jensma, D.M. Greeff, Rui Knopfli, Don Maclennan, Fred Jenkin, Terence Heywood, Martin Booth, Lionel Abrahams, Glanville Le Sueur, Margueritte Edmonds.

Ophir no.6

Year: 1968
Pages: 24
Print run: 200
Size: 20cm X 12.5cm.
Contributors: Michael Macnamara, Peter Horn, Walter Saunders, Phil du Plessis, Wopko Jensma, Rui Knopfli, Martin Booth, Charl J.F. Cilliers, Margueritte Edmonds, Carlos Reyes, Oswald Mtshali, Wilhelm Knobel, Jiri Valoch, Jeanne Goosen, Wessel Pretorius, Ben Klein.

Ophir no.7

Year: 1968
Pages: 20
Print run: 200
Size: 20cm X 12.5cm
Contributors: Michael Macnamara, Peter Horn, Walter Saunders, Wopko Jensma, Don Maclennan, Lionel Abrahams, Glanville Le Sueur, Wilhelm Knobel, Oswald Mtshali, John Cotton, Wilma Stockenstrom, Jeanne Goosen, Michael Johnson, Steve Heinemann, Robert Greig, N.A. Liebenberg, Terence Heywood.

Ophir no.8

Year: 1969
Pages: 20
Print run: 200
Size: 20cm X 12.5cm
Contributors: Michael Macnamara, Peter Horn, Walter Saunders, Phil du Plessis, Wopko Jensma, Martin Booth, Barry Edgar Pilcher, D.P.M. Botes, Richard Tudhope, George Bowering, Robert Druce, Piers Davies, Margueritte Edmonds, Charl J.F. Cilliers, Bernard Levinson, Alexander von Rudolff.

Ophir no.9

Year: 1969
Pages: 24
Print run: 200
Size: 20cm X 12.5cm
Contributors: Michael Macnamara, Peter Horn, Walter Saunders, Phil du Plessis, Wopko Jensma, Don Maclennan, Margueritte Edmonds, Richard Tudhope, Steve Heinemann, D.P.M. Botes, William Plomer, Robert Druce, Arthur McGiven, David Tribe, Ian Ferguson, Wally Mongane Serote, Sinclair Beiles, Wessel J. Pretorius.

Ophir no.10

Year: 1969
Pages: 20
Print run: 200
Size: 20cm X 12.5cm
Contributors: Michael Macnamara, Peter Horn, Walter Saunders, Wopko Jensma, Oswald Mtshali, Ian Ferguson, Margeurite Edmonds, Kenneth O. Hanson, David Gutman, Peter Finch, Sheila Roberts, Jiri Valoch, Alexander von Rudolff, Steve Heinemann, Alan James, Jeanne Goosen, George Kendrick, Nikos Tselepides, Barry Edgar Pilcher, George Bowering.

Ophir no.11

Year: 1970
Pages: 24
Print run: 200
Size: 20cm X 12.5cm
Contributors: Michael Macnamara, Peter Horn, Walter Saunders, Wopko Jensma, Pascal Gwala, David Jaffin, Terence Heywood, Wilhelm Knobel, Robert Greig, Margeurite Edmonds, Annica Foxcroft, Sheila Roberts, Sheila Fugard, John Best, Sinclair Beiles, Hussain Svant.

Ophir no.12

Year: 1970
Pages: 20
Print run: 200
Size: 20cm X 12.5cm
Contributors: Michael Macnamara, Peter Horn, Walter Saunders, Wopko Jensma, Ian Ferguson, Martin Booth, George Bowering, Ken Hanson, Sheila Roberts, Stewart M. Lindh, Nikos Tselepides.

Ophir no.13

Year: 1971
Pages: 16
Print run: 200
Size: 20cm X 12.5cm
Contributors: Michael Macnamara, Peter Horn, Walter Saunders, Sheila Fugard, Sheila Roberts, Piers Davies, Ken Hanson, Steve Heinemann, Roy Williams, Pascal Gwala, Martin Booth.

Ophir no.14

Year: N/A
Pages: N/A
Print run: N/A
Size: N/A
Contributors: N/A

Ophir no.15

Year: N/A
Pages: N/A
Print run: N/A
Size: N/A
Contributors: N/A

Ophir no.16

Year: N/A
Pages: N/A
Print run: N/A
Size: N/A
Contributors: N/A

Ophir no.17

Year: 1973
Pages: 36
Print run: N/A
Size: 24.5cm X 17cm.
Contributors: Michael Macnamara, Peter Horn, Walter Saunders, Martin Booth, Don Maclennan, Roger Skelton, Piers Davies.

Ophir no.18

Year: 1973
Pages: 36
Print run: N/A
Size: 24.5cm X 17cm.
Contributors: Michael Macnamara, Peter Horn, Walter Saunders, Martin Booth, Nkathazo KaMnyayiza, Michael Naumann, Howard Eybers, Sheila Roberts, Sheila Fugard, Nakedi Phoosa, Steve Heinemann, Wopko Jensma.

Ophir no.19

Year: 1974
Pages: 35
Print run: N/A
Size: 22cm X 16cm.
Contributors: Michael Macnamara, Peter Horn, Walter Saunders, Martin Booth, Peter Randall, Sydney Sepamla, Yannis Goumas, Peter Wilhelm, Howard Eybers, Michael Benenson, Christophe Hope, Wopko Jensma, Vikizitha Wycliffe Mtshali, Nkathazo KaMnyayiza, Ian Ferguson, Kissoon Kunjbehari, Alant Joubert, Paul Vilakazi, Lionel Abrahams, Mark Swift, Bruce Hewitt, Keith Gottschalk, Rita Benzan, Piers Davies, Barry Edgar Pilcher, Steve Heinemann, Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali, Leonard Koza, Robert Greig.

Ophir no.20

Year: N/A
Pages: N/A
Print run: N/A
Size: N/A
Contributors: N/A

Ophir no.21

Year: 1975
Pages: 40
Print run: N/A
Size: 19cm X 12cm.
Contributors: Peter Horn, Walter Saunders, Peter Randall, Martin Booth, Douglas Livingstone, Essop Patel, Christopher Mann, Steve Heinemann, Kissoon Kunjbehari, Jeremy Cronin, Peter Wilhelm, Keith Gottschalk, N.M. Phosa, H.M. Ferguson, Ross Adey, Sheila Fugard, Motshile Ntshodi, Lefifi Tladi, Mike Nicol.

Ophir no.22

Year: N/A
Pages: N/A
Print run: N/A
Size: N/A
Contributors: N/A

Ophir no.23

Year: 1976
Pages: 72
Print run: N/A
Size: 19cm X 12cm.
Contributors: Michael Macnamara, Peter Horn, Walter Saunders, Martin Booth, Piers Davies, Peter Randall, Alan Cook, Manon du Plessis, Mike Nicol, Shabbir Banoobhai, Lionel Abrahams, Bicca Muntu Maseko, Nakedi Phosa, Sheila Fugard, Patrick Cullinan, Sipho Sepamla, Keth Gottschalk, Peter Wilhelm, Shiela Roberts, Rita Benzan, Douglas Livingston, Pascal Gwala, Yannis Goumas, Wilma Stockenström, Mannie Hirsch, Alexius H. Buthelezi, Walter Battiss, Julian Furrmann, Christopher van Wyk, Robert Berold, Nkathazo Ka Mnyayiza, Barry Edgar Pilcher, Gerhard van Wyngaard, Billy Beeton, Wopko Jensma, R.I. Ferguson, Piers Davies, Howard Eybers, Lynne Pickering.

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