Voices of Justice and Reason

Apartheid and Beyond in South African Literature


Over the past fifty years transformations of great moment have taken place in South Africa. Apartheid and the subsequent transition to a democratic, non-racial society in particular have exercised a profound effect on the practice of literature.
This study traces the development of literature under apartheid, then seeks to identify the ways in which writers and theatre practitioners are now facing the challenges of a new social order.
The main focus is on the work of black writers, prime among them Matsemela Manaka, Mtutuzeli Matshoba and Richard Rive, who, as politically committed members of the oppressed majority, bore witness to the “black experience” through their writing. Despite the draconian censorship system they were able to address the social problems caused by racial discrimination in all areas of life, particularly through forced removals, the migrant labour system, and the creation of the homelands. Their writing may be read both as a comprehensive record of everyday life under apartheid and as an alternative cultural history of South Africa.
Particular attention is paid to theatre as a barometer of social change in South Africa.
The concluding chapters consider how in the current period of transition writers and arts institutions have set about reassessing their priorities, redefining their function and seeking new aesthetic directions in taking up the challenge of imagining a new society.

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GEOFFREY V. DAVIS teaches at Aachen University, Germany. He read Modern Languages at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, wrote his doctorate on Arnold Zweig, and has since occupied himself largely with postcolonial writing, specializing in the literatures of South Africa, Canada and Australia. He is co-editor of the Cross/Cultures series and of the African studies journal Matatu. He is also the current chair of the European Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (EACLALS).
”…this is an excellent book […] a pleasure to read.” in: NELM News, Vol. 43, December 2005
“…a well-researched and accessible book whose careful research is made obvious in the clear contexts provided for the “resistance writing” that provides the scope of Davis’s study.” in: H-Net Reviews in the Humanities & Social Sciences (published by H-Safrica), September 2004
Preface, Acknowledgements, Illustrations Introduction 1 “Look elsewhere for your bedtime story”: William Plomer and the Politics of Love 2 “Life on the black side of the fence”: Forced Removals and the Migrant Labour System in Mtutuzeli Matshoba's Seeds of War 3 “An island in a sea of apartheid”: Richard Rive's District Six 4 “Literature in an imperfect world”: Censorship in South Africa 5 Of “Undesirability”: The Control of Theatre in South Africa During the Age of Apartheid 6 “Born out of flames”: Marsemela Manaka’s Theatre for Social Reconstructions 7 “Repainting the damaged canvas”: The Theatre of Matsemela Manaka 8 “The people are claiming their history”: Reconstructions of History in Black South African Writing 9 From Soweto to Gorée: A South African Writer in Search of the African Heritage 10 “When it’s all over, and we all return”: Matsemela Manaka’s Play Ekhaya – Going Home 11 Theatre for a Post-Apartheid Society 12 Conclusion: “What are South Africans now going to write about?” Appendix: The Intoxicated Octopus and the Garlic-Kissed Prawn: On South African Bibliography Works Cited