Zanemvula Kizito Gatyeni Mda, better known as Zakes Mda, is an internationally acclaimed South African poet, playwright, novelist and painter. Born in 1948 in the Eastern Cape, Mda spent his early childhood in Soweto. By 1977 his poetry was being regularly published, and in 1978 his play We Shall Sing for the Fatherland won the first Amstel Playwright of the Year Award. The following year he won the same honor for his play The Hill. In 1983 Mda graduated from Ohio University with an M.F.A. in theatre and an M.A. in telecommunications. Mda has since taught at the University of Lesotho and been awarded a Ph.D. by the University of Cape Town.
Mda’s first novel, Ways of Dying (1995), won the M-net Book Prize. The Heart of Redness (2002) won the prestigious Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize for the Africa Region. His novel The Madonna of Excelsior (2004) was selected as one of the Top Ten South African Books Published in the Decade of Democracy. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux will publish his new novel, The Whale Caller, in October 2005. Mda is currently a full professor at Ohio University.