The Power of Literature
The character of Refilwe in Phanaswe Mpe’s Welcome to Our Hillbrow drew the significance of literature as a critique to the post Apartheid regime in South Africa. As the publishers’ reviewers forced the use of euphemism to mask the fragmented and controversial political and cultural lives of South Africa, Mpe best described how the power of literature in African language could break the devil chains of “grief and prejudice” (59). Through Refilwe’s point of view, it was clear how the ignorance and complicity regarding the Apartheid system by banning the writers to write in Sepedi language would create a “scarecrow state” (58). Meanwhile, the use of African language would be helpful for the South Africans to understand the complexities of the country’s politics. The major question that, how are people then able to contribute in fixing the corrupt government if “artistic skill and honesty could be compromised in the name of questionable morality?” (58).
This problem seems to be confirmed by the article “Post-Apartheid Fiction” in The New York Times that claims how the post-apartheid regime still leaves South Africa under the white minority rule. To that extent, the most major issue concerning the legacy of this regime revolves around racism. While racism in the past is strongly correlated with politics, today’s African writers touch on much broader focuses, such as “the AIDS pandemic, poverty, crime, xenophobia, unemployment,” that are believed as more susceptible with regards to racial boundaries. With that being said, this also seems to strengthen the issues brought up in Dog Days by Patrice Nganang, regardless of the fact that the novel is centered in Cameroon.
Mpe’s novel and the article point out how the power of literature has played a great role in pointing out that the consequences of the Apartheid system still exists to date. Looking at how literature brings us back to reflect the regime’s legacy in daily lives, I do believe that it also reminds us that ignorance and complicity along resulting in increasing prejudice will only cause more fragmented South African societies. What do you think?
Here’s the link: