Social commitment in some Zulu literary works published during the apartheid era.
Mathonsi, Nhlanhla Naphtal.
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This study, Social commitment in some Zulu literary works published during the apartheid era, was motivated by what was perceived as arrogant and superficial observations by a number of especially foreign-based critics, that all the literature in South Africa African-languages published during the apartheid period was children stuff, not worth the paper it was written on, and that it did not show any effort at commitment to, or at reflecting on the weighty social problems that civil society in South Africa had to bear. In response to such criticism, the study highlights aspects of social commitment in selected literary works, and it also sketches the committed approach as part of the African literary outlook. It traces commitment in oral traditional literature, where it appears that the great preoccupation of the oral society was that none of the achievements of the human spirit get lost. The proverbs clearly reflect on, and offer directives for, day-to-day problems, while myths represent reflections on the fate of man and the world. Folktales use common problems in life and family as the basis for the conflictual situations to be resolved. Izibongo (praise poems) declaim the heroic deeds of our leaders, trace our history, and demonstrate that, even in moments of glory, the needs of the people must be taken care of on pain of being negatively labelled with invectives that will reverberate through the centuries. In a brief survey on the early 20th century stages of South African literature in African languages (Zulu, Xhosa, S. Sotho) it was noted that our pioneer writers made a gigantic effort to experiment with genres, forms and contents, and, in the process, to reflect on the anxieties caused by the often bewildering encounter of Mrica with the west. Our early writers excel in creating poetry that amalgamates tradition and modernization, but in the narrative genres they seem to be able to be more genial and creative when they deal with historical material, possibly because they feel more at home with an inspiration that imitates the glorious praise poetry and are thus able to deal with the present in terms of past events, without upsetting critics or education authorities. Then the decades of the expected maturity arrived -from the 1960s to the 1990s, but the seeds of vibrant originality sown during the previous period were cruelly trampled over and squashed, possibly by both the apartheid-appointed censors and by the fear that they would object to any 'committed' writing and destine it for the dustbin. Fear, self-imposed censorship, and possibly more than a little laziness hampered vigorous developments of literatures that had appeared very promising at their emergence. Listed here are a number of works in Xhosa, Southern Sotho, Zulu and Shona. The contributions of English and Afrikaans works to South African literary development are also outlined. The fact that most works were meant for schools caused a further restraint on originality and creativity, although it should have spurred the authors on to do their very best, because through the schools they were moulding the future of the nation. But a number of authors were valiantly able to overcome the general self-defeating frustrations and to rise to the challenge of producing excellent material, outstanding in both form and content. Some such works are examined and exemplified in the thesis. One of I.S. Kubheka's novels, Ulaka LwabaNguni, is analysed to show the depth of the conflict between Africa and the west, between country and city life, between western schooled and traditionally educated people. The new ways could become a monster that swallows everything and everybody, specially if one is unable to keep the animal on the chain of ubuntu that allows only as much westernization of the mind as can go hand in hand with the greatest traditional values. Then follows the analysis of three historically based plays and one novel. History offers the opportunity of speaking about the present by describing the past. Msimang and Zondi do exactly this, and offer visions of today's social problems that become clearer when placed on the lips of people such as Mkabayi, Shaka, Cetshwayo, Bhambatha. Each of these works is a clarion call to wake up and be counted, because the new Africa is rising, both soulful and promising, full of expectations if one is able to overcome present day restrictions. The author of this research fervently hopes that this work will produce better understanding among the South African races, and give birth to an era of multilingualism and multiculturalism, where the differences are treatgd115 gifts rather than obstacles. The country is great, and its populations present an extraordinary wealth of life and experience, especially when all is viewed through the prism of the colours of the rainbow, generously reflected in the new South African flag.