About us

 “Collecting the best in African Literature”

University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

CALS is committed to growing its holdings and extending its focus beyond African literature written in English and is a leading resource for the study of African literature – Lusophone, Francophone and other African language literatures. The Vision of the centre is to develop African Studies as an inter-disciplinary programme and thus set the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) on the path to becoming the “Premier University of African Scholarship” and the “University of First Choice” in African Studies. 

The Centre for African Literary Studies (CALS) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg, (UKZN), South Africa, was launched in September 2004 and officially opened by the national Minister of Arts and Culture, Dr Pallo Jordan. CALS has made tremendous progress, first under Professor Liz Gunner and then Professor Jenny Clarence-Fincham as Acting Directors.  Professor Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane became the first substantive CALS director in January 2007.  Professor Mbongeni Malaba acted as Director of CALS from July 2010 to April 2011.  We thank Prof. Malaba for his sincere and ongoing interest in and contribution to the activities of CALS.  The Centre warmly welcomed Professor Christine Stilwell as their Acting Director with effect from 1st May 2011.  Christine left for a 6 month sabbatical period leaving the centre in the very capable hands of  Dr Ruth Hoskins for the period 1 February – 31st July 2012.  The Centre is truly fortunate and honoured to have such capable leaders at the helm.  They have  brought such a wealth of expertise and knowledge to this centre. 

CALS initially came into being to house the Bernth Lindfors collection. Professor Bernth Lindfors offered the collection to the University. The funds to acquire the collection and to launch the Centre were provided by The Atlantic Philanthropies, with contributions from the national Department of Arts and Culture, the Anglo-American Chairman’s Fund, and the University of Natal Research Fund. The collection boasts some 13 000 books, journals and rare tape and video material and is especially notable for its holdings of material published in Africa, such as a full collection of Onitsha market literature from Nigeria. Also in the collection is a large body of newspaper clippings relating to African authors and wide ranging bibliographical resources for criticism about African literature.

CALS also acquired papers and journals from the extensive Lusophone collection of the late Professor Gerald Moser. Parts of the work are devoted to general bibliographies and national literatures of Angola, Cape Verde Islands, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and S. Tomé & Príncipe Islands, divided into sections on oral literature, creative writing and literary history and criticism.

CALS also houses the Richard Priebe Collection which has added greatly to the collection of Nigerian and Ghanian market litertaure.

Donations include material from Gillian Stead Eilersen, Stephen Gray, Nicole Geslin, the Brenthurst monographs, Carole Beckett, John N Jonsson, Liz Gunner, Peter Rorvik and Catherine Woeber.  Professor Dietloff van der Berg of the Afrikaans Department on the Pietermaritzburg Campus has donated the Department’s Collection of Afrikaans literature.

A great effort was made in 2012 to build up the collection of titles in other local languages. isiZulu books as well as books on Zulu culture and history have been donated by the National Library of South Africa (NLSA), the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial and Public Library and Information Services, Shuter and Shooter and UKZN Press. The NLSA has also donated books in six other local languages.

Work on archiving of the dcuments of Gillian Stead Eilersen papers, Catherine Woeber, Bernth Lindfors and Gerald Moser has been completed and summaries of the indexes are found on ILink.  

The Library

The Centre for African Literary Studies is available to staff and students of the University, international researchers and visitors, postgraduate and undergraduate students from other South African tertiary institutions, scholars and members of the general public.


CALS programmes and activities centre in the main on the following:

Library Systems (Acquisitions, Cataloguing etc.), Residencies and Fellowships

Lectures, Seminars and Conferences, Research, Publications and Community Outreach.

While initially CALS programmes and activities were centred on imaginative writing and literary studies, it is imperative that an African University should prioritise African Studies, with CALS as its recognisable “African face”.