Power, race and sex as evident in the role of the psychiatrist in Lewis Nkosi's Mating Birds and The Black Psychiatrist.
In this thesis I will look at the interlinked issues of power, race and sex in Lewis Nkosi's Mating Birds (1986) and The Black Psychiatrist (1994) using the psychiatrist figure to provide the focus on these intersections of power, race and sex. It becomes clear after even a cursory reading of these texts that it is these very issues that inform both texts, one a novel and the other a play. it is important to note as well that these texts were selected because they have at their center inter-racial sexual relations set against the backdrop of apartheid in South Africa. Mating Birds is the story of Ndi Sibiya, ex-student of the University of Natal, left to a life of aimless wandering after being expelled for participating in student boycotts, now imprisoned and sentenced to death for the rape of a white woman, Veronica Slater. What is interesting about this text is the doubt set in the reader's mind about Ndi's guilt or innocence, by Ndi himself. The Black Psychiatrist deals with a black psychiatrist Dr Kerry, practising in Harley Street, London, who is visited by a white female patient, originally from South Africa. What is interesting about the play is the fact that the doctor seems to take on the role of patient and the patient that of the doctor. What is ironic however is that in her attempts to analyse the doctor, she is faced with the realities of her own life. With both texts dealing clearly with inter-racial relations, it is thus necessary to take into account the historical context in which these texts are set. Mating Birds was published in 1986 but set during the 1950's and 1960's while The Black Psychiatrist was published in 1994. Both texts were written and published before South Africa's first democratic elections and set during the time of apartheid. Selected theorists that will be looked at in relation to the two texts will be Freud (1949), Memmi (1965), Fanon (1967), Said (1978) and Young (1995). Freud is a useful starting point as it is his theory of the Oedipus Complex that forms the basis of psychoanalysis in which the role of the psychiatrist in curing patients of neurosis is very important. Freud's essays on the Oedipus Complex, "A Child is Being Beaten" and "Fetishism" though not written with the black man in mind are useful in analysing the effects of colonisation on the colonised and the way the colonised sees the world. This is something Fanon discusses in detail in his book Black Skin White Masks (1967), where he describes the feelings of inadequacy and dependence experienced by people of colour in a white colonial world. Robert Young's Colonial Desire (1995) will be a key text for this thesis as it allows insight into definitions and theories of race, power and sex in a colonial and oppressive context. Said's Orientalism (1978) will help provide insight into colonial discourse and its effects. Though written specifically with the Orient in mind it is a text that can be used to understand all subjugated people. His opinions on the notion of othering will be of particular importance: the idea that the colonised will always be the Other, object and not subject. Memmi's The Colonizer and the Colonized helps provide useful insight into colonialism, creating portraits of the coloniser and the colonised, allowing one access into the minds of both. The theorists selected provide definitions and theories about power, race and sex, issues which form the basis of Mating Birds and The Black Psychiatrist and which can best be understood by looking at the psychiatrists Dr Dufre and Dr Kerry. Issues of power, race and sex are essential in any discussion of colonialism and colonised people. The basis of colonisation was one of power, in the case of South Africa power of the white man over black people. Of particular importance to the white man in his reign of power were the extreme oppression of black people and an absolute prohibition of any sexual contact between black and white. It is these issues then that underline the work of Lewis Nkosi and that form the basis of his texts Mating Birds and The Black Psychiatrist. Chapter Two provides the historical context of Nkosi's work as well as a short biography. Of particular importance in this chapter will be a discussion of why Nkosi writes the way he does; why the emphasis on power, race and sex in his work. This requires one to look at the political situation under which he lived and worked for a time before leaving the country having signed away his right to return. Nkosi' s work outlines clearly the effects of apartheid and oppression. Discussed in this chapter as well are his comments on African literature, particularly South African 'protest' fiction. This will be linked to his work and the reasons for him writing the way he does. Chapter Three provides an in-depth analysis of Mating Birds looking specifically at power, race and sex using the role of the psychiatrist as a focus. A useful beginning will be an outline of the plot of the play followed by a discussion of Freud's Oedipus Complex and how it can be used to interpret the black man's view of the world according to Fanon. Deleuze and Guattari's theories will be useful as well in understanding the coloniser as the Father figure, the patriarch. This can be linked to the control that the coloniser has over things like language, communication, place, and the prohibition of inter-sexual relations - looked at in relation to the text. Freud's essay on "Fetishism" will help provide insight into the black man's desire for the white woman while at the same time using her as a substitute for the freedom and power that he so covets. The issue of Othering is important as well - what do black and white men represent to each other? Fanon's views on the African rapist will be referred to as will be Said's object-other theory. Chapter Four presents a brief plot outline of the play The Black Psychiatrist followed by a detailed analysis of the psychiatrist figure Dr Kerry, a successful, black South African having flown his home to practise in London's famous Harley Street. Issues of power are evident immediately as Kerry's authority in his office is undermined by the white woman who should be his patient but prefers to do the questioning. Freud's theories on Repression, which are based on the Oedipus Complex are important here but what needs to be discussed is which character is really guilty of this repression? It is in this chapter as well that a contrast between Dr Dufre and Dr Kerry will be made. Dufre, by coming to South Africa becomes a white man operating in a black man's world, representing the coloniser while Dr Kerry living and working in London is a black man in a white man's world, representing the colonised. Linked to Freud's Oedipus Complex is the issue of incest, which becomes evident only at the end of the play and can also be linked to his theories on Repression. Fanon's views on relationships between black and white make for useful discussions pertaining to the text. Chapter Five presents a short conclusion looking briefly at whether the thesis has achieved what it set out to do: that is, provide a discussion of the issues of power, race and sex in Lewis Nkosi's Mating Birds and The Black Psychiatrist. It will include a discussion of whether Nkosi has found a new way of writing about apartheid. Chapter Five includes as well a discussion of Nkosi's use of psychoanalysis in his writing and presents a short account of his article "The Wandering Subject: Exile as Fetish".