Essays on South African Literature
In the years of anti-apartheid struggle, the immediate political conflict was pre-eminent in the minds of many poets but extended to broader concerns about race, writing and colonialism, such as the debate about the imbongi (African praise singer) as the true antecedent of the contemporary African poet. After the end of apartheid new challenges came to the South African book publishing industry and, thus, to South African writers, as they tried to make sense of the past and draw tentative lines into the future. The works of J. M. Coetzee, Njabulo Ndebele, Kelwyn Sole, Sandile Dikeni, Vincent Swart, Heather Robertson, Patrick Cullinan, Seitlhamo Motsapi, W. P. B. Botha and more are read against this changing social and political landscape.
“The purple pink salt of songs without heads”: Seitlhamo Motsapi’s earthstepper/the ocean is very shallow
The reader may be forgiven if he sees in these “meditashuns”1 nothing but the private “goobledigoon” (29) of a writer enjoying his ability to pun.2 His particular bête noire seem to be those on the “varsiti lecher circuit” (47),3 the “assnologists” (29), “antfloppologists” (15), “feelanthropists” (19), who write “histri books” (19) on their “conputers” (51). He rails against “politricks” (24), the “harmies of amerikkka” and “televangelists” (47), and the machinations of modern capitalist world politics, where everything seems arranged:
so the Machine can piss in the faces of the poor (39)
A lot of his punning does require an intimate knowledge of South African history (“non-retiefiable”), the cultural history of blacks in South Africa (“saxes tromboning dorkay”) and elsewhere in the “empire” (“kwesi”), and of the anti-imperialist struggles all over the world (“nzinga kimathi”).
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