n English in Africa - "The difficult task of normalizing freedom" : spectacular masculinities, Ndebele's literary / cultural commentary and post-apartheid life

Volume 36, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



Njabulo Ndebele wrote the above sentences as part of his analysis of "protest art," which celebrates the visibly spectacular at the expense of the reflective and nuanced. In much South African literature, Ndebele argued, the spectacular is the terrain of struggle between the dominant and the weak. However, as this paper will show, Ndebele's critique of literary predictability is theoretically applicable to spaces beyond the literary impulse that was his primary concern in the body of work cited. Ndebele's theorisation of the spectacular remains a powerful commentary on contemporary South African culture and gendered public life, and specifically the ways in which violent masculinities have taken centre stage since the Jacob Zuma rape trial. The subtitle of his first essay collection, Essays on South African Literature and Culture, hints at Ndebele's status as a pioneering figure of South African cultural studies. Consequently, it makes sense that his commentary should offer critical vocabularies applicable beyond 'protest art / literature.'

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