n Latin American Report - Seeking common ground : literature and the South African rainbow 'renaissance'

Volume 24, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0256-6060



Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu is, in South Africa, credited with popularizing the description of South African people as the Rainbow nation. However, in traditional Southern African societies the symbol of a rainbow conjures diverse meanings. For some, the appearance of a rainbow before a thunderstorm suggests heavy rains. For others, a rainbow is a harbinger of a dry day or season. Yet for others the appearance of a rainbow while a bank of rain clouds is building, means that the rainbow could end the possibility of heavy rains. But the charm from the dappled collages that is the rainbow could not escape the notice of some Southern African societies. For these societies, the unity in diversity of the "clashing" colours of a rainbow suggests the possibility of mutual co-existence amongst the people. In the context of post-1994, the term "rainbow" brings with it new connotations. It implies tolerance of each other's views by a diverse South African people who are meeting "at the rendezvous of victory', at work places, and above all, the merging of literary voices attempting to give form to their longing for a durable South African nation. Within the arts, the "rainbow" might symbolise a congerie of creative imaginations, all characterized by what Andries Walter Oliphant describes as the "ironies and contradictions" that have emerged from post-apartheid historical context and have entered public life as a perennial discourse on freedom in South Africa. It is these "ironies and contradictions" that this article explores in the collections of short stories (1999), dedicated to South Africa's ten years of Democracy. The selected stories from this anthology are representative of the South African soul, only to the extent that contributions came from blacks, Afrikaners and Indians. Though useful because it gives us a glimpse of South African expectations in the first ten years of democracy, a complicating factor is that the stories are rendered in English. It is possible to state that other "versions" of a South African literature written in the ten vernacular languages, and produced in the same period of ten years of democracy might emerge. South African oral culture and particularly urban popular has also helped readers imagine a potentially different literary rainbow. All these points do not minimize the capacity of the anthology to provide a window through which a new South African rainbow nation can be remembered, celebrated, reflected upon and continues to be re-imagine in novel ways particularly in the wake of a successful 2010 soccer show that South Africa staged.

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Article metrics loading...


This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error