Separating the Magical from the Real

The Representation of the Barwa in Zakes Mda’s She Plays with the Darkness

In: Matatu


Zakes Mda’s novel She Plays with the Darkness has been characterised as a magical realist novel. It is notable, though, that the magical elements are reserved almost exclusively for the sections of the novel that relate to the major character, Dikosha, and her world of music, art and dance. Central to this world are the Barwa, better known as the Bushmen or San. This article is chiefly concerned with the novel’s representation of Dikosha’s relationship with the Barwa. It also examines the depiction of the Barwa way of life and the symbolic resonance they possess for the present.

  • Barker David. “Escaping the Tyranny of Magic Realism? A Discussion of the Term in Relation to the Novels of Zakes Mda” Postcolonial Text 4.2 (2008): 1–20.

  • Biesele Megan Richard Katz and Verna St. Denis. Healing Makes Our Hearts Happy: Spirituality and Cultural Transformation among the Kalahari Ju/’Hoansi (Rochester: Inner Traditions International 1997).

  • Fincham Gail. Dance of Life: The Novels of Zakes Mda in Post-Apartheid South Africa (Cape Town: UCT Press 2011).

  • Jacobs Johan. “Zakes Mda and the (South) African Renaissance: Reading She Plays with the DarknessEnglish in Africa 27.1 (2000): 55–74.

  • Mazibuko Nokuthula. “Silence and Violence in She Plays with the DarknessScrutiny 2 10.2 (2005): 93–102.

  • Mda Zakes. She Plays with the Darkness (Florida South Africa: Vivlia 1995).

  • Mbembe Achille. Critique of Black Reason (Johannesburg: Wits University Press 2017).

  • Naidoo Venu. 1997. “Interview with Zakes Mda” Alternation 4.1 (1997): 247–261.

  • Orpen Joseph. “A Glimpse into the Mythology of the Maluti Bushmen” The Cape Monthly Magazine 9 (1874): 1–13.

  • Thomas Elizabeth Marshall The Harmless People (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1959).

  • Voss Tony. “ ‘Die Bushie is Dood: Long Live the Bushie’: Black South African Writers on the San” African Studies 9.1 (1990): 59–69.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 121 121 16
Full Text Views 3 3 0
PDF Downloads 2 2 0