Rural in the Citi Art Movement

Henry Segome Habakkuk Ramaila was born on the 19th December 1924 at the small village of Phokeng near Rustenburg where his father was a church minister and a principal of the Saron Mission School under the Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission. Teaching seems to be a family tradition for the Ramailas as his mother was a teacher as well.

As a small boy Henry was left at Botshabelo in 1929, to live with his grandfather, where he grew up until going to school. His parents joined him there later when his father was appointed to help train evangelists and teachers at the Botshabelo Training Institution in 1929. Ramaila was heavily inspired and influenced by his father, who loved writing. It was thus hardly surprising that after completing his Junior Certificate (Stadard VI) in 1940 at Emmarentia Geldenhuys Secondary School in Warmbaths, Ramaila returned to Botshabelo Training College in 1941 where he completed his teachers training later. He then went to the St. Peters high school, at Rosettenville, Johannesburg, where he did his J.C. and Matric in four years, matriculating in 1947.

Ramaila was then to get his opportunity for university training in 1949. He enrolled at Fort Hare to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1951. In 1953 through the help of Prof. and Mrs. Z.K Mathews he was accepted as the Union Theological Seminary Fellow for 1953-1954. He proceeded thus in the fall of 1953 following his undergraduate degree to Columbia University to complete his Masters in Theology and English.

As a Youth Consultant, he attended the 1954 World Council of Churches at Evanston, where he was offered an opportunity to study in Germany with the help of Pastor Martin Niemoller in1956. He studied for a short time at Hamburg University in 1956. On his return to South Africa he married Victoria, the eldest daughter of Reverend Abner Mothoa of the Hervormde Kerk at the end of 1956.

In the Christian area, Ramaila was the first Field Officer of the Christian Institute when Dr. Beyers Naude was president around 1966, and later served as a secretary of the Bible Society for over ten years.

Ramaila since then pursued career as an educator, and he has been equally used in the education field and the church. He held various inter-church posts for about a decade and another decade in teaching including a year as a lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand in the department of African Languages. He also worked as a teacher for about six years at the Orlando High School and Lady Selborne High School outside Pretoria. While based in Johannesburg, Ramaila was an Organising Secretary of the Bible Society of South Africa. He also taught Biblical Studies and Sesotho sa Lebowa at Promat College until 1986.

He is however, better known for his contribution to the literary scene. He is an award-winning writer of fiction in Sepedi. His career as a writer began when he entered and won a competition to produce a children’s book. The book, ‘Peolane E Etela Masakeng a Diphoofolo’ published in 1966, was to be the first of many books for which Ramaila received awards. The competition was organised by the Pretoria Non-European Library. The book was shortly followed by another book to his credit – a detective novel, ‘Tsela Kgolokgolo’ published in 1973 by Educum.

Ramaila focuses on children’s literature, particularly on imparting to them the values of peace. His stories end with lessons that teach children to be peaceful and to maintain integrity.

Other award-winning titles include Thalabodiba, E! Mabolele, and Nakana Ya Mukhura Phetelele.