English in Africa - Volume 42, Issue 3, 2015
Volumes & issues
Volume 42, Issue 3, 2015
Author Tony VossSource: English in Africa 42, pp 7 –8 (2015) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v42i3.1More Less
In recognition of some closely contemporary anniversaries - the centenary of the Native Lands Act, the 20th anniversary of South Africa's first free and fair elections, the 180th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire and the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Charter - contributions were invited to this issue of English in Africa, under the title "[South] Africa: [the] Emancipation Moment[s]," exploring "how the phenomenon of emancipation has been perceived" (Davis) in the texts and other social, cultural and political occasions which fall into or arise from the field of vision of the journal. In the event our contributors, for the most part, have found their matter in three distinct phases of South Africa's late colonial and post-colonial history: segregation, apartheid and democracy.
Author Shane MoranSource: English in Africa 42, pp 9 –42 (2015) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v42i3.2More Less
As sites of cultural memory's crystallisation the texts of Sol Plaatje are vulnerable to manipulation and appropriation. Where those engaged in the anti-apartheid struggle found in Plaatje resources for resisting racial oppression, post-apartheid readings have detected the presentiment of liberation and reconciliation. Simultaneously Plaatje circulates as a model of principled rectitude with which to admonish the corrupt and a shield vindicating the maligned integrity of the political elite. This essay aims to loosen the bonds of these investments by reframing Plaatje as a tactician of resistance. Mhudi is interpreted against the mutually reinforcing criticism of his naïve appeal to morality and lauding of his unerring sense of justice. The hypothesis is that the literary critical debate around Plaatje's resistance mirrors the complementary idealisms at work in competing diagnoses of the problems of contemporary South Africa.
Author David JohnsonSource: English in Africa 42, pp 43 –69 (2015) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v42i3.3More Less
The language of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) and its leader Clements Kadalie is examined. The article analyses afresh the ICU archive - the articles, manifestoes, speeches, memoirs and letters of Kadalie and his ICU comrades in the 1920s and 1930s. Two questions guide discussion. How did the language of the ICU challenge the religious, literary and political discourses of white South Africa? And, did the ICU leaders generate a distinctive language of freedom? The theoretical insights of inter alia Walter Rodney, James C. Scott and Howard Caygill into the languages of resistance and liberation inform the discussion of the ICU's language. In conclusion, the resonances of the ICU's language of freedom is assessed in relation to the public discourses of post-apartheid South Africa.
Emancipation and "the Great Wheel of Labour" : enduring liminality in Rayda Jacobs's The Slave Book (1988) and a painting of two slave women (1859) by Thomas BainesAuthor Neville SmithSource: English in Africa 42, pp 71 –88 (2015) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v42i3.4More Less
On this anniversary of the Freedom Charter, we may reflect on the erasure of slavery from the national memory and remind ourselves that freedom is never absolute, always deferred. This paper suggests that by comparing the aesthetic of fragmented and incoherent afterimages of slavery at the Cape, two slave women in Rayda Jacobs's postcolonial narrative The Slave Book (1998) with a Thomas Baines watercolour, we may articulate these multifaceted, unstable and very different structures of subjectivity, memory and history. Jacobs's artistic re-imagining of a subsumed Muslim slave presence becomes the means towards individual self-fashioning, diasporic connection and communal liberation embodied in the transcendence of her 'romantic' protagonists (although their emancipation is deferred). Baines's ethnographic painting of two slave women aboard a ship that symbolized British imperial superiority is examined from a postcolonial vantage point, which problematizes his act of artistic representation and the instability implicit in his role as observer. In order to negotiate mutable identities and multiple realities we may juxtapose contemporary artistic expressions which strive towards communal liberation and individual self-fashioning with fragmented afterimages of slavery and oppression. In this way it becomes possible to acknowledge the "inescapable hybridity and intermixture of ideas" (Gilroy 1993, xi).
Source: English in Africa 42, pp 89 –110 (2015) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v42i3.5More Less
Even though the theories of Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) originally responded to the turbulent Italy of his own times they can be successfully applied to post-apartheid South Africa. All Gramsci's thoughts are impelled by the vision of an ideally transformed state in which what he calls "organic intellectuals" are to play the pivotal roles of guides and organisers of society. This paper argues that the theory of the organic intellectual is relevant not only to the changed and changing political situation in South Africa, but also to this situation as reflected in literary fiction. The paper applies the concept of organic intellectuals to Zakes Mda's novel, The Heart of Redness (2000). Two characters from the contemporary narrative strand of the novel, Camagu and Qukezwa, can be identified as organic intellectuals according to Gramsci's specifications. Both of them become organisers and agents of change in the village of Qolorha-by-Sea, without representing the interests of outsider groups or classes. As Gramsci pinned his hopes upon organic intellectuals in his own milieu, so in our time does Mda appear to maintain faith in men and women of the people such as Camagu and, particularly, Qukezwa, to bring about sustainable improvements in the lives of those South Africans at present excluded from wealth and privilege.
Author Beth WyrillSource: English in Africa 42, pp 111 –135 (2015) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v42i3.6More Less
This paper asserts that, when it comes to approaching previously silenced South African histories (for example, those personal histories that are written out of the official record by colonial practices of archive and documentary record-keeping), literary attempts at historical reimagining can better gesture towards a felt connection with a lived historical moment. This is precisely because creative literary offerings can take as springboard, rather than boundary, the documentary evidence upon which the discipline of History must rely. Russel Brownlee's novel Garden of the Plagues provides a useful case study in unpacking this premise. The novel adds to a body of South African contemporary re-imaginings of slave histories during the Dutch occupation of the Cape. It can be said to fall into the generic category of 'historiographic metafiction,' meaning, fiction which self-consciously engages and critiques the realist literary foundations of traditional nineteenth-century historiography. Brownlee, by using various postmodern literary devices, is able to foreground the Enlightenment epistemologies informing colonial discourse and so generate the grounds for a useful literary-historical dialogue.
Author Cheryl StobieSource: English in Africa 42, pp 137 –156 (2015) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v42i3.7More Less
Claire Robertson's 2013 novel, The Spiral House, consists of two alternating South African chronotopes, one a farm in 1794, the other a mission hospital in 1961. The first narrative unfolds shortly before the abolition of slavery. Robertson critiques the ideology of slavery and the effects of Enlightenment scientific experimentation on human subjects. The consequences of social engineering, violence and sexism are shown in the suffering of the characters. The second narrative is set at the time when South Africa becomes a republic. It concerns a white nun who is breaking away from her convent life and acting as a surrogate mother to a young black boy. The novel, which concludes in 1994, requires the reader to contemplate who has been given full subjecthood within the framework of the nation, according to which ideologies. In analysing this novel I employ Leonard Praeg's A Report on Ubuntu (2014). Ubuntu is an African concept of community through an imagined sense of belonging, both material and ethical. Praeg notes: "Ubuntu [...] can only play this role of positing past realities as future possibilities through a perpetual deconstruction of two essential building blocks of Western modernity: a linear conception of time and the binary separation of self and other, being and belonging" (248). I argue that Robertson's novel effectively and movingly exemplifies Ubuntu.
Author John KearneySource: English in Africa 42, pp 157 –176 (2015) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v42i3.8More Less
This article explores the theme of freedom in Brink's four main slave novels - An Instant in the Wind (1975), A Chain of Voices (1982), The Rights of Desire (2000), and Philida (2012) - all of which portray the actual lives of slaves. The selected areas of concern are: freedom and childhood experience, freedom and commitment in love, and freedom and political or sociocultural liberation. Crucial to the whole discussion is an attempt to resolve the apparent tension between Brink's liberation politics and the realities of the human condition. What the study ultimately seeks to affirm is Brink's own freedom in terms of imaginative sympathy; his recognition of the opportunities for positive agency while at the same time refusing to entertain sentimental possibilities or stereotypes; and in general the rich complexity of his vision regarding the progress of the spirit of activism over generations to achieve the goal of freedom, human equality.