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Magic realism in Zakes Mda's Ways of Dying (1995) and She Plays with the Darkness (1995).

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I shall argue in this thesis that Zakes Mda's novels Ways of Dying (l995a) and She Plays with the Darkness (1995b) are magic realist texts that are representative of the hybrid nature of this literary mode. Furthermore I shall demonstrate that Ways of Dying (l995a) and She Plays with the Darkness (1995b) share common elements with a variety of magic realist texts. Mda's own creative and literary consciousness has been shaped by an intellectual background stemming from tertiary education at Ph.D level, his teaching positions at various international universities, and his knowledge of African folk-culture. The seemingly contesting streams of Western education and African mysticism are not presented as sources of conflict in Mda's novels, but rather as syncretic forces of potential transformative power. Mda displays in his project as a novelist, the continuing concerns of black writers who saw the novel as a tool for socio-political change. My thesis therefore also investigates the extent to which Mda's use of magic realism in the novels mentioned above, signals a radical shift in literary representation by South African black writers who wrote in English. Mda's novels transcend Black Consciousness-inspired protest that characterised black literature in the 1970's and 1980's. His use of tropes associated with magic realism, African folk-culture, the apocalyptic and carnivalesque has enabled him to create a discursive space for South African black writers on the international stage, and foregrounds a movement towards literature that offers opposition to being classified as merely ''black writing". The death of the old order in South Africa and the birth of a new one, invites questioning and analysis of the position of the self during a period of cataclysmic change. That the apocalypse brings with it both death and renewal could be seen within the context of post modernist visions of the erosion of the self and death as the ultimate reality. Mda's novels, Ways of Dying (l995a) and She Plays with the Darkness (1995b), are the first English narratives by a South Afiican black author that can claim affinities with postcolonial writers such as Carpentier, Marquez, Okri and Rushdie. These writers reflect in their narratives, the infinite possibilities of magic realism in reclaiming the self submerged by the colonial experience. I shall attempt, in Chapter One, a survey of specific theoretical assumptions relevant to magic realism. Chapter Two will provide biographical details of Zakes Mda the playwright, poet, theatre practitioner, film producer and novelist and the importance of magic realism in his writings. Chapter Three is an analysis of Mda's published plays and points to the early uses of elements consistent with magic realism in his work. Chapters Four and Five are investigations into Mda's use of magic realism in Ways of Dying (1995) and She Plays with the Darkness (1995), respectively.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of Durban-Westville, 1998.


Mda, Zakes. Ways of dying., Mda, Zakes. She plays with the darkness., Theses--English.