n English in Africa - The historical and literary moment of Njabulo S. Ndebele

Volume 36, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



An essay that defined a particular moment in South African intellectual history in the twentieth century was Nadine Gordimer's "Living in the Interregnum." In it, she articulated the historical crisis that engulfed the country after 1960 with the defeat of the democratic forces following the banning of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress by the apartheid State. The South African Communist Party had been banned in 1950. Borrowing the historical construct of the "interregnum" - as understood by Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci - Gordimer viewed the power struggle in South Africa as one between an oppressive and unjust old order outstaying its historical moment and the new order of liberty and democracy, still uncertain about its scheduled hour of arrival. The interregnum, a force field of political and cultural contestations, lasted for three decades until 1994 when democratic elections brought a new order into being. The year 1960 signified not only the defeat of the aforementioned political movements but was also the termination of the cultural and intellectual phenomenon that some have called the 'New African Movement.' From Oxford- and Columbia-trained lawyer, Pixley ka Isaka Seme's early vision of such a New African Movement in 1904 to the formation of the South African Natives National Congress (later ANC) in 1912 under his aegis, it may be argued that these two historical movements were mutually inseparable, in that the former was the cultural expression of the latter and the latter was the driving political force of the former.

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