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Narrating the nation: a postcolonial reading of Jabulani Mngadi’s novels

Over the years, South African literary critics have regarded literatures in African indigenous languages as inferior to English and Afrikaans literatures both quantitatively and qualitatively (Atwell, 1984; Mphahlele, 1992; Maake, 2000). They have also lamented that these literatures do not engage sufficiently with the pertinent socio-political and socio-economic issues of their times, and that the linguistics-based western theories cannot fully explain them (Msimang, 1983; Selepe, 2008; Mhlambi, 2012). Although it can be said with a degree of frankness that literature in the indigenous languages of South Africa is not yet fully developed, dismissing it outright as having childish plots, underdeveloped characters and apolitical in nature (Kunene, 1992; Mphahlele, 1992), is an observation that is overly generalised, selfish and unfounded. Literatures in these languages must be applauded for their ability to develop, survive and thrive under the appalling conditions that were not conducive to any form of development (Maake, 2000). For more than the past half century, literary criticism in these languages has been dominated by narratology as theoretical framework against which these literatures are measured, criticised and appreciated. The major aim of this study is to seek an alternative approach to the analysis of indigenous African languages literatures in order explore the extent to which the authors deal with pertinent issues and explain these literatures beyond the aspects of narratology. In as much as the elements of narration are important in prose narratives, this thesis intends to examine how the award-winning novelist; Matthew Jabulani Mngadi, explores and handles the pertinent political, social, cultural and economic issues of our times in his novels. It discusses issues such as identities, cultures, hybridity, race relations, social relations, politics, ideology and economics. It critically discusses how Mngadi ‘writes back’ to the biased colonial narratives about black African people. It explores how the novelist reaffirms and reasserts the marginalised, alienated subjectivities and, in the process, narrates the new, post-independence, anticipated democratic nation. Broadly, the analysis demonstrates that literature in African indigenous languages engages with pertinent issues of its time, including the political, social, economic and ideological aspects. It also indicates that, as the different cultures encounter each other, new hybrid, if not pluralistic, cultures and identities are formed. These literatures explore the mentioned issues covertly and overtly for various reasons. Political issues, for example, are not directly discussed but writers tend to use allegorical stories and polite ways of saying the impolite. Other writers implicitly criticise the government and bodies of authority by using ironies and internal contradictions within those institutions.

KEYWORDS: Mngadi, postcolonial studies, novels, identity, culture, hybridity, narrative, indigenous, nation

Full Name
Dr Dumisani Sibiya