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South Africa: Consequences of Apartheid (2). the Movement, Imprisonment and Riots. Starting Questions . Which of the three stories do you like the best? And why? Does any of the stories allow us to know more than the others?

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south africa consequences of apartheid 2

South Africa: Consequences of Apartheid (2)

the Movement, Imprisonment and Riots

starting questions
Starting Questions
  • Which of the three stories do you like the best? And why? Does any of the stories allow us to know more than the others?
  • Are there any similarities (in themes) or differences (in themes and styles) among them?
central themes
Central Themes
  • Resistance and Survival, in and out of prison;
  • The distortion of humanity in the prison or during the riots;
  • Three black persons’ lives seen from different perspectives:
    • 1st person -- a female teacher of a farm school;
    • 3rd person -- a prisoner, Brille,
    • omniscient 3rd person –Venter & Sipho’s family and the Riots
  • Imprisonment and the Movement:
  • Background: inequality & Robben Island
  • Gordimer (2): Her Treatment of Black Race & “Amnesty”
  • Bessie Head: “The Prisoner . . .”
  • Race Relations during the Riots:
  • Mbuleo Mzamane: “The Days of the Riots”
robben island
Robben Island
  • prisoners crushing rocks at Robben Island
e g nelson mendala in prison
e.g.: Nelson Mendala in prison
  • 18 years in Robben Island; 27 years in prison.
  • On the Island: 1 letter every 6 months, 1 visitor for 30 minutes a year, hard labor at the quarry.
  • During this period, Mandela was in many ways a forgotten man; his image and words were banned throughout Africa.
  • He assumed leadership over his jailed comrads;
  • His way of resistance, “walked” when he was required to run.

(source: )

nadine gordimer treatments of races
Nadine Gordimer: treatments of races
  • earlier fiction: white middle class characters and their relationship to Black characters under the system of apartheid (e.g. “Six Feet of the Country”)
  • Later: used first-person voice to express position of Black characters
  • criticized – presumptuous of her to represent an experience which cannot be her own
  • Her defense: has her right to write about Black characters; acknowledging the need to ensure that their voices must be heard (source: )
example of the criticism 1
Example of the criticism (1):
  • “the least convincing. There is something faux-naïf [artfully simple] about the perception and diction; it feels patronising. . . It seems odd that Gordimer even tries to feel black.” (source: Nadine Gordimer 173)
example of the criticism 2
Example of the criticism (2):
  • July’s People (1981)–banned in Gauteng province
  • "the subject matter is questionable ... the language that is used is not acceptable, as it does not encourage good grammatical practices ... the reader is bombarded with nuances that do not achieve much ... any condemnation of racism is difficult to discover - so the story comes across as being deeply racist, superior and patronizing.“

(source with an excerpt from the book:,6000,475098,00.html).

gordimer s view 2
Gordimer’s view (2)
  • “key areas of both white and black experience are self-contained in South Africa” (Nadine Gordimer 17)
  • E.g. she would not attempt, for example, to “narrate the experience of the Soweto riots, knowing ‘it would be false.’”
  • published in Jump, a collection of short stories, shortly before Gordimer won the Nobel prize.
  • Told from the wife of one who joins a Union first and then the “Movement.”
  • How much do we know, through the narrator, about her lover’s revolutionary ideas? How is he related to the narrator and their families?
  • What role does the narrator play in between an activist and her peasant family? How much does she learn from her lover?
the anti apartheid movements and ideas
The Anti-Apartheid Movements and Ideas
  • From a Union to full-time participation in the Movement;
  • well-dressed (no stupid yes-baas black men) p. 26; exercise in their cells 29;
  • Criticism of his people’s self-content, belief in God, and ignorance p. 26; 28;
  • Criticism of racial inequality: 30;
  • Work for the future:
the lover distanced from his family
The lover: distanced from his family
  • absent-minded, something in his mind 29-30;
  • Have sex like taking a meal 31;
  • the comrades: confirming “our culture”
  • patronizing—wanting her to learn 31
the narrator s position
The Narrator’s position

Her lover &

his comrades

The narrator

The peasants


  • Gender: p. 25 (needs the father’s permission to get married);
  • Education: standard 8  teach in a farm school;
  • Knowledge: has not seen the island
  • her lover: learns from newspaper wrapping 25; as a worker 26
gender differences in the story
Gender differences in the story
  • The narrator– happy about his return; 25;

Get well-dressed to go see him p. 27; has to wait again at the end.

  • learning e.g. p. 26; about not having a “home” 30;
  • has her distinct perception the use of nature p. 27; the view of the earth and the clouds 32
standard 8
Standard 8
  • In South Africa, studies at high school level are called “Standards” and they maintain a high academic level. South African students study five years of high school, Standards 6-10. Standard 10, which is the graduate year, is also called “Matric”. (source)
  • Standard 8 – about Grade 12 in American system, the third-year in our senior high.
bessie head 1937 1986
Bessie Head (1937-1986)
  • One of the “colored” South Africans.
  • Born in a mental hospital of an "illicit" union between a Scottish woman and a black man, who worked for her family.
  • Major Novels: When Rain Clouds Gather, Maru, and A Question of Power

Info and image source

the prisoner who wore glasses
“The Prisoner who Wore Glasses” ”
  • How are the political prisoners presented in the story? Are they just exploited?
  • Why is Brille called this name? Does he suffer from any of his weaknesses?
  • How does Brille join politics? How does he get to change his view of politics?
  • To combine the above questions, what does the author think about power relation and politics?
the political prisoners brille
The political prisoners & Brille
  • Span One –assertive 68-69; best thieves and liars;

Warder Hannetjie –he discovers their tricks

  • Brille his views of the clouds p. 68

beaten up by WH

brille s adjustment and findings
Brille’s adjustment and findings
  • keep on stealing;
  • Found WH stealing; found the “evils” of prison life; p. 71;
  • His open defiance 72;
  • Politics in the prison:

1) an eye for an eye;

2) the fittest survive and the apparently powerful is only a child;

3) The warder and the prisoner as a mirror to each other  mutually supportive thieves

mbuleo mzamane
Mbuleo Mzamane
  • Realistic in style;
  • Against using “western criteria alone” in the evaluation of committed African literature.
the children of soweto
The Children of Soweto --
  • set in South Africa during the 1976 uprisings against apartheid.
  • 3 parts:
    • 1st - describes students’ schooldays and then the protests by students against education imposed by the apartheid.
    • 2nd (“The Days of the Riots”) - an African man to hide his white friend caught in the middle of a riot.
    • 3rd - graphic detail about the children’s riots.
the days of the riots
“The Days of the Riots”
  • How are the students’ riots described?
  • How are Sipho’s and Venter’s positions changed during the riots?
  • Why does Sipho not go back to work the next day?
  • marching and demonstration; 135-
  • students get wiser p. 136; and more violent;
  • Eddie’s experience: 140 –virtual government;
  • the story of Chabeli and Rathebe pp. 141 - 143
sipho and venter
Sipho and Venter
  • Before the riots:
    • Sipho – poverty 133;
    • Sipho – not trusted by his company to drive the car home 145;
    • Sipho – has a BA but does not want people to know. 148
    • Venter – prejudiced
    • goes with Sipho for black women; rely on him more;
sipho and venter 2 during the riots
Sipho and Venter(2) during the Riots:
  • Venter’s
    • increasing fear: 148;
    • In a dilemma – cannot go home, cannot stay at Sipho’s either.
    • under constant threats and insecurity
    • in the coal box: 138;
  • Sipho’s perspective  Daphne’s & Miekie’s
    • keep the basic human concern: not wanting him to die out in the cold and the riots;
    • think more for his own family;
sipho and venter 3 ironic ending
Sipho and Venter(3) ironic ending
  • Venter’s
    • Wants to promote Sipho
  • Sipho
    • “one-hearted” in drinking; almost forget about sending Venter home.
    • Does not show up – many possibilities
  • Head, Dominic. Nadine Gordimer. Cambridge UP, 1994.