n English in Africa - Organic intellectuals in Zakes Mda's

Volume 42, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



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, (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.

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