Zakes Mda: The Madonna of Excelsior

Posted in Africa, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, South Africa on 2012-11-16 22:31Z by Steven

Zakes Mda: The Madonna of Excelsior

Muthal Naidoo: Published Books, Plays, Poems and Articles

Muthal Naidoo

(2002. Cape Town. Oxford University Press)
The Immorality Act of 1927, which prohibited sex between Blacks and Whites, was amended in 1950 to prohibit sex between Whites and all non-Whites. Zakes Mda bases his novel, The Madonna of Excelsior, on the 1971 case in which 19 people from Excelsior were charged under the Immorality Act. He traces the lives of Niki, one of the accused, and her children Viliki and Popi, and the effects of the ‘illicit’ activities on their lives and those of the people around them.

Niki, the Madonna of Excelsior, lives in Mahlaswetsa, the black township of Excelsior. She and several other women fall prey to circumstances of poverty and become involved with white men from Excelsior. When the women give birth to white babies, fourteen of them are arrested and put on trial with five white men. But the case comes to nothing; the Minister of Justice withdraws the charges. And there are no fathers of the white babies of black women. This attempt to wipe out the whole event and pretend it never happened may have succeeded in the rest of the country but in Excelsior it lives on in the shame that families both black and white feel, in the many ‘coloured’ children walking the streets, in the unacknowledged connections that they represent. And especially in Popi’s hatred of herself. People call her ‘boesman” and she is ashamed of her blonde hair, blue eyes and hairy legs. She has a white half-brother whom she does not acknowledge and clings to the memory of her black father…

Read the entire review here.

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The Madonna of Excelsior: A Novel

Posted in Africa, Books, Media Archive, Novels, South Africa on 2012-11-12 18:53Z by Steven

The Madonna of Excelsior: A Novel

Picador (an imprint of Macmillan)
March 2005
288 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches
Paperback ISBN: 9780312423827; ISBN10: 0312423829

Zakes Mda, Professor of Creative Writing
Ohio University

In 1971, nineteen citizens of Excelsior in South Africa’s white-ruled Free State were charged with breaking apartheid’s Immorality Act, which forbade sex between blacks and whites. Taking this case as raw material for his alchemic imagination, Zakes Mda tells the story of one irrepressible fallen madonna, Niki, and her family, at the heart of the scandal.

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Empire’s progeny: The representation of mixed race characters in twentieth century South African and Caribbean literature

Posted in Africa, Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, South Africa on 2010-08-06 00:44Z by Steven

Empire’s progeny: The representation of mixed race characters in twentieth century South African and Caribbean literature

355 pages
Publication Number: AAT 3249543

Kathleen A. Koljian
University of Connecticut

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut, 2006.

This dissertation is an examination of the portrayal of mixed race characters in South African and Caribbean literature. Through a close reading of the works of representative Caribbean [Derek Walcott, Michelle Cliff, and Jamaica Kincaid] and South African authors, [Bessie Head, Zoe Wicomb, and Zakes Mda] my dissertation will construct a more valid paradigm for the understanding of mixed-race characters and the ways in which authors from the Caribbean and South Africa typically deploy racially mixed characters to challenge the social order imposed during colonial domination. These authors emphasize the nuanced and hierarchical conceptualizations of racialized identity in South Africa and the Caribbean. Their narratives stand in marked contrast to contemporary models of ‘hybridity’ promulgated by prominent post-colonial critics such as Homi Bhabha and his adherents. In this dissertation, I hope to provide a more historically and culturally situated paradigm for understanding narrative portrayals of mixed race characters as an alternative to contemporary theories of ‘hybridity’. Current paradigms within post-colonial theory are compromised by their lack of historical and cultural specificity. In failing to take into account specific and long-standing attitudes toward racial identity prevalent in particular colonized cultures, these critics founder in attempts to define the significance of the racially mixed character in postcolonial literature. Bhabha, for example, fails to recognize that the formation of racialized identity within the Caribbean and South Africa is not imagined in simple binary terms but within a distinctly articulated racial hierarchy. Furthermore, Bhabha does not acknowledge the evolution of attitudes and ideas that have shaped the construction and understanding of mixed-race identity. After a brief survey of the scientific discourse of race in the colonial era, and a representative sampling of key thematic elements and tropes in early colonial literature to demonstrate the intersection of race theory and literature, close readings of individual narratives will demonstrate the limitations of current models of ‘hybridity’ and illuminate the ways in which individual authors and texts are constructed within (and sometimes constrained by) long-standing and pervasive discourses of racialized identity.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: Empire’s Progeny
  • “A Small Corner of the Earth”: Bessie Head
  • “Colouring the Truth”: Zoe Wicomb
  • Birthing the Rainbow Nation: Zakes Mda’s Madonna of Excelsior
  • The “Mulatto of Style”: Derek Walcott’s Carribean Aesthetics
  • “Only Sadness Comes from Mixture”: Clare Savage’s Matrilineal Quest
  • Xeula and Oya: Jamaica Kincaid’s Autobiography of My Mother
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited

Read a preview here.
Purchase the full dissertation here.

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