South Africa Native Literature

South Africa Native Literature


According to ehealthfacts, South Africa presents a phenomenon of linguistic and cultural pluralism which has given rise to several parallel literatures. Politics was instrumental in the choice of literary language: literature in Afrikaans (dating back to Dutch and spoken by the Boers) derives from Boer nationalism, that in English is centered on the racial problem, while the policy of separate development caused the death of a promising Bantu literature.


Before contact with the Western world there was an oral literature. That Zulu, expression of a warrior community, exalted heroism in ancient epic songs, which reached their apogee in the first half of the nineteenth century, simultaneously with the exploits of the leader Chaka. These praise songs, or izibongo, of which the great poet Magolwane was the creator, became, after the end of the Zulu power, songs of nostalgia for past glories and still persist today. The poet Mazisi Kunene (1930-2006) made an English collection and translation (Zulu Poems, 1970). In the first half of the century. XX the three main languages ​​spoken in South Africa had a great literary flourishing, which reached its peak in the Thirties, and then declined following the Bantu education law (1955), which suppressed the missionary schools. It was in fact the missionaries who transcribed these languages ​​in Latin letters and formed elites educated who headed to three spiritual centers, corresponding to missions equipped with publishing houses. Xhosa literature developed at the Scottish mission of Lovedale and was illustrated, among other things, by novelists GB Sinxo (1902-1962) and AC Jordan (b.1906), poet, novelist and playwright JJR Jolobe (1902-1976)) and by the poet and novelist SEK Mqhayi (1875-1945). Zulu literature flourished at the Catholic mission of Mariannhill and counted among its greatest exponents the poets BW Vilakazi (1906-1947) and HJE Dhlomo (1905-1956) and the novelist CLS Nyembezi (1919-2001). These writers made a synthesis between the values ​​and styles of their own civilization and those of European culture. If the first generation accepted Western superiority en bloc, some writers already expressed, in English, Mhudi (1930), DDT Javabu, HJE Dhlomo, novelist BM Malefo, W. Msomi and R. Mazisi Kunene. The revolt then resulted in the political struggle, oriented towards non-violence in A. Luthuli (1898-1967), Nobel Peace Prize 1961, for the volume Let My People Go (1953; Freedom for my people), or towards a bitter testimony, often autobiographical, as in the well-known novelist P. Abrahams and in Alex La Guma (1925-1985), Richard Rive (1931-1989), WB Modisane (1923-1986), Alfred Hutchinson (1924-1972), E. Mphahlele and L. Nkosi (b. 1936), authors who, in general, had to choose exile. If, until the end of apartheid, literature in Bantu languages ​​is forced by racist legislation to vegetate in a dull conformism, black-African literature in English turns out to be alive and valid and reflects a mood of anguish and violent tension that it seems to that of African Americans. This need finds expression above all in poetry, preferred as it is the most universal and most suitable tool for evading the rigors of censorship: referring to precursors such as D. Brutus (b.1924), A. Nortje (1943-1970), J. Matthews (1929) and O. Mtshali (b. 1936), the youngest heirs left in their homeland entrust their verses with a desperate message of anger and revolt. The theater has become, since 1976, an aspect of cultural resistance and a contribution to the political struggle. It is proposed to testify, accuse, mobilize and target a black, urban proletariat uprooted from the ancient tribal civilization. Its best representatives are CV Mutwa, Nthuli Shezi, G. Kente, H. Dube and BL Leshoai. One of the most interesting representatives of contemporary South African literature is Z. Mada (b. 1948), whose text Ways of Dying (1995) marks his transition from poet to novelist; his recent work The Whale Caller (2005) offers us a skeptical look at the rampant optimism of the new South Africa.


The literature of the Indian community expresses, through the lyrics of F. Asvat, P. Essop, PS Joshi, AN Suveh Singh and the theater of R. Govender, the difficulty of living in a multiracial country.

South Africa Native Literature

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