Indigeneity in modernity. The cases of Kgebetli Moele and Niq Mhlongo




Black South African English literature, post-apartheid South Africa, transnational, institutional racism, colour-blindness, indignity, modernity


The study of South African English literature written by black people in the postapartheid period has focused, among others, on the so-called Hillbrow novels of Phaswane Mpe and Niq Mhlongo, and narratives such as Kgebetli Moele's Book of the Dead (2009) set in Pretoria. A number of studies show how the fiction of these writers handles black concerns that some critics believe to have replaced a thematic preoccupation with apartheid, as soon as political freedom was attained in 1994. However, adequate analyses are yet to be made of works produced by some of these black writers in their more rounded scrutiny of the first decade of democracy, apart from what one may describe as an indigenous/traditional weaning from preoccupation with the theme of apartheid. This study intends to fill this gap, as well as examine how such a richer social commentary is refracted in its imaginative critique of South African democratic life beyond its first decade of existence.  I consider Mhlongo's novels Dog Eat Dog (2004) and After Tears (2007); together with Moele's narratives reflecting on the same epoch Room 207 (2006) and The Book of the Dead (2009). For the portrayal of black lives after ten years of democracy, I unpack the discursive content of Mhlongo's and Moele's novels Way Back Home (2013) and Untitled (2013) respectively. I probe new ways in which these postapartheid writers critique the new living conditions of blacks in their novelistic discourses. I argue that their evolving approaches interrogate literary imaginaries, presumed modernities and visions on socio-political freedom of a postapartheid South Africa, in ways deserving critical attention.  I demonstrate how Moele and Mhlongo in their novels progressively assert a self-determining indigeneity in a postapartheid modernity unfolding in the context of some pertinent discursive views around ideas such as colourblindness and transnationalism. I show how the discourses of the author's novels enable a comparison both their individual handling of the concepts of persisting institutional racism and the hegemonic silencing of white privilege; and distinguishable ways in which each of the two authors grapples with such issues in their fiction depicting black conditions in the first decade of South African democratic rule, differently from the way they do with portrayals of the socio-economic challenges faced by black people beyond the first ten years of South African democracy.


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Author Biography

Lesibana Rafapa, University of South Africa, Pretoria

Lesibana Rafapa is Full Professor in the Department of English Studies, University of South Africa, Pretoria.


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How to Cite

Rafapa, L. (2018). Indigeneity in modernity. The cases of Kgebetli Moele and Niq Mhlongo. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 55(1), 90–109.



Research articles