Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Protest against Social Inequalities in B.W. Vilakazi's Poem "Ngoba ... Sewuthi" ("Because ... You Now say")/Protes Teen Sosiale Ongelykheid in B.W. Vilakazi Se Gedig "Ngoba ... Sewuthi" ("Want ... Nou Se Jy")

Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Protest against Social Inequalities in B.W. Vilakazi's Poem "Ngoba ... Sewuthi" ("Because ... You Now say")/Protes Teen Sosiale Ongelykheid in B.W. Vilakazi Se Gedig "Ngoba ... Sewuthi" ("Want ... Nou Se Jy")

Article excerpt

Abstract

Long before the National Party institutionalised apartheid in 1948, individuals and organisations tried to highlight the injustices of the colonial capitalist system in South Africa, but, as Lodge (1983:6) puts it, "it all ended in speeches". This article seeks to demonstrate how Benedict Wallet Vilakazi effectively broke the silence by bringing the plight of the black masses to the attention of the world. He strongly protested against the enslavement of black labourers, especially in the gold and diamond mines, that he depicts as responsible for the human, psychological and physical destruction of the black working classes. As a self-appointed spokesperson of the oppressed, he protested against the injustices through the medium of his poetry. One of his grave concerns was the fact that black workers had been reduced to a class with no name, no rights, practically with no life and no soul. The chosen poem "Ngoba ... sewuthi" (Because ... you now say) is thus representative of the poems in which B.W Vilakazi externalised his commitment to the well-being of the black workers, and his protest against the insensitivity of white employers.

Opsomming

Lank voor die Nasionale Party apartheid na 1948 gefnsfitusionaliseer het, het individue en organisasies probeer om die onregverdighede van die koloniale kapitalisfiese sisteem in Suid-Afrika na vore te bring, maar soos Lodge (1983-1986) dit stel, "it all ended in speeches". Hierdie artikel toon aan hoe Benedict Wallet Vilakazi die stilte doeltreffend verbreek het deur die lot van die swart massas onder die aandag van die wereld te bring. Hy het heftig protes aangeteken omdat swart arbeiders soos slawe behandel is in veral die goud--en diamantmyne, wat hy uitbeeld as die instansies wat verantwoordelik was vir die menslike, sielkundige en fisieke vemietiging van die swart werkersklas. As 'n selfaangestelde woordvoerder van die onderdruktes het hy deur medium van sy poesie beswaar gemaak teen die onregverdighede. Een van die dinge waaroor hy veral besorgd was, was die feit dat swart werkers gereduseer is tot 'n klas sonder naam, sonder regte--'n klas wat prakties geen lewe en siel gehad het nie. Die gekose gedig "Ngoba ... Sewuthi" (Want ... nou se jy) is dus verteenwoordigend van die gedigte waarin B.W Vilakazi sy betrokkenheid by die welsyn van die swart werkers en sy protes teen die ongevoeligheid van wit werkgewers uitgedruk het.

1. Introduction

B.W Vilakazi's Zulu poetry, published in two volumes (1935 and 1945), became world famous through its 1973 English translation by Malcolm and Friedman. Even Vilakazi's earliest critics acknowledged that his poetry constituted a definite departure from the Zulu poetic tradition, which had excelled in praise poetry about kings and heroes, although it had also found expression in melic and romantic poetry, especially in the accompaniment of love songs and other types of rhythmic music. Determined to demonstrate the boundless possibilities of the Zulu language and literary traditions, Vilakazi concerned himself with all kinds of subjects ranging from historical to purely romantic themes. The more he tried to penetrate the soul of his people, the more he became aware of their sufferings under the injustices inflicted by a colonial government. Colonial goverments represented the interests of white capitalists who often only aimed at personal enrichment, and did not care about the social development of the black population that was living in a state of servitude in its own land, deprived of any human rights. This situation led to Vilakazi's deeply felt protest poetry.

Like his contemporary, H.I.E. Dhlomo, the subject of Vilakazi's protest poems were mainly the inhuman conditions of mine workers. Both his Zulu roots in the ubuntu philosophy and his Christian education at St. Francis College, a Catholic Missionary school at Mariannhill, KwaZulu-Natal, made him aware that human beings need to be treated with dignity, regardless of race and class. …

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