'Malibongwe igama lama khosikazi' ('Let the name of woman be praised') : the negotiation of female subjectivity in Lauretta Ngcobo's And they didn't die.
In this thesis I attempt to examine the way that rural women in Natal, from the early 1950s to the 1980s, were relegated to the periphery of both white society and black traditional society. Lauretta Ngcobo's second novel And They Didn't Die is therefore a very useful resource as it takes a look at the interplay of traditional black patriarchy, white patriarchy, and the way rural women were affected by these oppressive institutions. And They Didn't Die examines the way that apartheid affected rural communities and the individual. It investigates the various struggles faced by rural women; how women have to negotiate their own identities within different systems. And They Didn't Die focuses on the political, economic, and traditional struggles of rural women in Natal at the end of the 1950s, but unlike other novels, And They Didn't Die also focuses on the sexual identities of rural women, and how they mobilised themselves through political activities such as the struggle against the dreaded pass laws, and the protests against the beer halls. And They Didn't Die is a novel which explores political, traditional, economic, sexual, and communal aspects of rural life. Ngcobo foregrounds the communal, political, economic, and traditional problems that the women in the novel have to face. Ngcobo recreates the various political protests that were happening at this time, to demonstrate the construction of the black woman as political subject. She carefully demonstrates how agency has to be negotiated with both the white authorities and black patriarchy. Black South African women were forced to fight double political battles on the domestic and national fronts. The split structure of the political and traditional struggle is at the center of Ngcobo's work. And They Didn't Die shows that the struggle for female subjectivity is a dynamic process. In South Africa, rural black women had to negotiate numerous subject positions. Forging a sense of selfhood was difficult, especially when confronted with dual patriarchies, apartheid, and the constant negotiation with tradition. Ngcobo's novel is an interesting fictional account that draws on various historical events that offers the reader a sense of what women had to go through in order to survive the atrocities of apartheid.