A tribute to Angeline Kamba from the Council of the Caine Prize for African Writing


Dr. Angeline Kamba, who died on 12 September 2017 at the age of 81, was a member of the Council of the Caine Prize almost from its foundation. She played a key role in the first Caine Prize event held in Africa – the Award Ceremony in Harare, Zimbabwe, in July 2000 – and provided a Caine Prize presence in Zimbabwe thereafter, notably helping with the organisation of the Caine Prize Writers’ Workshop held in Zimbabwe in March 2014.

Angeline Kamba was the widow of the first black Vice-Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe, Walter Kamba. He had previously been Dean of the Faculty of Law at Dundee University and Angeline had been in charge of the Law Library there. On their return to Zimbabwe shortly after Independence, Angeline was asked to take charge of the National Archives as Director. So successful was she at winning the respect and adoration of its initially mistrustful staff that she was then asked to take on the directorship of the Zimbabwe Government’s Manpower Commission, charged with achieving the progressive Africanisation of the Civil Service, a role which she accomplished with persuasive tact, skill and sensibility.

International appointments followed. She was made a member of the UNESCO World Commission on Culture and Development; she was a member of the Board of Trustees of the International Rice Research Institute and for two years held its chair; and she was an enthusiastic trustee of an organisation developing an emergency service of motorbike-borne medical practitioners in African countries. At home in Zimbabwe, Angeline was very much involved with the Harare International Festival of the Arts, serving for ten years as its Chair.

From the moment of their return to Zimbabwe in 1980, Angeline and Walter Kamba were veritable stars in that newly independent country and each played a very important role in its exciting early development and stayed on through more difficult times. They both had friends all over the world who will remember them with great admiration and affection.

Individual councillors offered their own personal tributes:

“Angeline was one of the great ladies of Africa. Directing the National Archives in Zimbabwe presented many scholarly and conservation challenges and always had to be done with half an eye on what the government was up to. I have always been told that she did the job with great astuteness and judgement, a role model for how such a post should be filled. She was also of course a mighty support to her husband, Walter Kamba, one of the great figures among African educationalists. I am very sad to hear of Angeline's death but she and Walter will both be remembered with huge respect.” – Alastair Niven.

“The contributions Dr Kamba made in the field of cultural heritage had historic significance and will be remembered. Many condolences to her family.” – Margaret Busby.

“Dr. Kamba's involvement in the key African Zimbabwe International Bookfair is of great importance to me and many others. Her role as a pioneering archivist and her passion for literature and books is one which will endure. May she rest in peace.” – Wangui wa Goro.

The thoughts of everyone involved with the Caine Prize for African Writing are with the family of Dr Angeline Kamba.

The Caine Prize For African Writing wishes to thank Nick Elam for his contribution to this tribute, which is published on behalf of everyone on the council.