South Africa:

South Africa:
Two Stories of Growth under the
Influence of Apartheid (1)
Njabulo Ndebele
General Introd:
– Factors of Identity
– Njabulo Nedebele
Questions for Discussion
“The Prophetess”
– The Boy vs. the Prophetess
– The Prophetess’ Lessons
– The Passengers on the Bus
– The Boy’s Street Experience & his Growth
“The Music of the Violin”
– Gender vs. Nation
– Education: Racial and Cultural Issues
Note & References
What South African Stories have
we read or talked about?
1. Cultural/Social Causes for Apartheid
a. Cry, the Beloved Country 1940’s(published in 1949)
b. "The Prophetess"
c. "The Music of the Violin“ (next week)
2. Anti-Apartheid Movements & Expressions in Arts
a. "Amnesty“
b. "The Prisoner who Wore Glasses”
c. Cry Freedom (Steven Biko) and Graceland
3. Violence– “The Day of the Riots”
4. post-Apartheid period – Yesterday, Soweto Green, Tsotsi, Mama
Africa, Black Butterflies
South Africa: Map
Various Cultural Identities between
Separatism & Assimilationism
Gangsters on
the Streets
Vukani &
His sister
The Jewish
whites  Boers
Vukani’s mother,
Dr. Zwane and
his wife
Identity: The Other Factors
 Culture –
Traditional culture (e.g. the prophetess, her song
and her holy water; inbreeding or close-kin marriage)
[next week “Music’]
– Western culture (e.g. violin, ballet, Western foods)
– Education (Bantu education – of Afrikaan?)
Gender – sexism –in both stories
 Class – “Violin” & “Prophetess” (middle-class;
home vs. street)
Njabulo Ndebele
Post-1976 writers
 Ndebele's writings -constitutes “a return to more
traditional concerns with
narrative complexity and
literary quality."
 Fools: The township life seen
through the eyes of a young
and sensitive protagonist. (e.g.
“The Prophetess”; “The
Violin” )
Related Videos
 Sangoma - faith healer
Post-1976 Generation –according to Coetzee
 Njabulo S. Ndebele: Pay more attention to individual
psychology and the influences of tradition.
 Mbulo Mzamane – “street writer”…
“Their literary descent is not from the Afro-Caribbean
Negritude movement and the West African novel but
from a homebred South African journalistic tradition of
gritty realism. Their English is lavish, careless, without
nuance; in Mzamane's case it bears the marks of a
second language. Their stories are probably more in
tune with the mood of the townships today--angry,
impatient, violent--than are the stories in Fools… ”
Ndebele on Children
"South African literature has generally handled the
images of childhood as social criticism:
an infant abandoned by its mother.
Friends going against each other.
the entrance of the young in national politics
education affected; (i.e. Soweto uprising)
Reconstruction should begin with the recovery of
childhood and innocence. (source: )
1. On what is the boy’s attention focused when
he visits the prophetess? Are they signs of
her spirituality?
dog; darkness, vine, his own sensations, memory,
doek (African headscarf, 11); camphor (12);
her coughing
2. The people on the bus – How do they relate to
each other? And to the prophetess? How
are they different from each other?
the other women
the big woman
the man with a balaclava (Woollen hat);
the young man at the back
the young man with
immaculate dress
3. Compared with the people on the bus, how does the boy
relate to the prophetess? What breaks the spell the
prophetess has on him? What does she teach him?
What does the ending mean?
Re: A story of initiation. The boy gains self-confidence.
The other issues: Sangoma + Christianity; home vs. danger
on the street.
4. Do you see any traces of apartheid in this story, or seeds
of the anti-apartheid movements?
Time for the Groups (123)!
“The Prophetess” vs. the boy
The boy
 fearful of -- dog; darkness, vine,
 attentive to -- his own sensations (shiver,
warmth from the dog fur), the prophetess’ doek
(African headscarf, 11), her coughing (12)
 feel relaxed by – the smell of camphor (12); the
mats ( his mother); her smile and her knowing
his mother (14), memory of his mother (16)
 touched by –the religious ambience, her prayer
and her touch (which smells of soap and wax)
the prophetess’ lessons
 Learn and serve 14
 Always listen to new things; then try to create
the song – “We too will survive the fire that is
 What grows out of the barren wastes has a
strength (15)
 blessing the water with “the flower of newness”
and faith (16)
 we are all made of all that is in the world 17
Traces of Apartheid?
The prophetess’s allusion to their
The Other Views of the
the bus passengers  superstition and sexism
the other women – “really
happened” like a chorus
the big woman --- evidence?
the young man at the back – “heard” the young man with
it; “love is having women like you” immaculate dress – “We laugh
the man with a balaclava– cursing at everything.” No proof
 The mother – try all the possibilities (western
medicine, herb and holy water
Street Experience –also sexism
 Timi discusses with Biza about a girl the latter
claims that he’d “conquered”
a contrast between the two kinds of “liquid”
The boy’s sense of superiority (20)
 Accident—bump into a bicycle
feels pain first, then sees/hears the bike-rider
then he realizes the loss of the water
The Boy’s Growth
sees thru’ the macho type of heroism
 Controls his sense of pain; conquers his fear of
being punished because of telling a white lie.
 takes the prophetess’ lesson to heal the mother
with “the water in the world” (24)
 Coetzee, J.M. “Fools and other stories.” The New
Republic, Dec 22, 1986 v195 p36(3).
 Maithufi, Sope. ”Black Christianity as intellectual
resource in Njabulo Ndebele's Fools and Other
Stories” English in Africa, May 2004 v31 i1 p139(9)