Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

"You Are Suffering from Literary Kwashiorkor": Transculturation at the Confluence of African Literature, Vegetarianism and Indigenous Ritual Practice in Nape 'A Motana's Son-in-Law of the Boere

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

"You Are Suffering from Literary Kwashiorkor": Transculturation at the Confluence of African Literature, Vegetarianism and Indigenous Ritual Practice in Nape 'A Motana's Son-in-Law of the Boere

Article excerpt

Summary

On the surface, Nape 'a Motana's fictional work Son-In-Law of the Boere (2010) is a tale of love between a black "Jim-comes-to-Jo'burg" stereotype and a white Afrikaans female teaching colleague during a transitional era in South African political and social history. However, as this article will reveal, the text is a compelling and transformative narrative which should be read as a literary transculturation of three veins of social discourse: (1) the literary historiography of African literature and the provision of access for contemporary readers to the African literary archive, (2) vegetarianism as a metaphor for transformation in a postcolonial and post-apartheid society, and (3) the representation of indigenous ritual practices in the modernity of liberation-era South Africa. Furthermore, the novel suggests that access to African fictional texts and a corps of motivated educators in South African schools would go some distance toward developing the necessary literacies to overcome the "literary kwashiorkor" referred to in the title of this essay.

Opsomming

Nape 'a Motana se fiksieverhaal Son-In-Law of the Boere (2010) lyk op die oog af na 'n liefdesverhaal tussen die stereotipiese swart "Jim-van-die-platteland-in-Jo'burg" en 'n Afrikaanse blanke vroulike onderwyskollega tydens 'n oorgangstyd in die SuidAfrikaanse sosio-politieke geskiedenis. Nogtans, soos hierdie artikel dit na vore bring, is die teks 'n meesleurende en transformerende verhaal wat gelees behoort te word as 'n literere transkulturasie van drie modusse van sosiale omgang: (1) die literere historiografie van Afrika-literatuur en die eienaarskap daarvan, (2) vegetarianisme as 'n metafoor vir transformasie in 'n postkoloniale en postapartheid samelewing, en (3) die voorstelling van inheemse rituele praktyke in die moderniteit van bevrydingsera Suid-Afrika. Verder suggereer die roman dat toegang tot Afrikafiksietekste en 'n korps van gemotiveerde opvoeders in Suid-Afrikaanse skole grootliks sal bydra tot die ontwikkeling van noodsaaklike geletterdheid en om "literere kwashiorkor" waarna in die titel van hierdie artikel verwys word te oorkom.

Transculturation as a Theoretical Framework

The term transculturation, according to David Attweil (2005), "suggests multiple processes, a dialogue in both directions and, most importantly, processes of cultural destruction followed by reconstruction on entirely new terms" (p. 18). Such processes arise out of the historical collision of vastly differentiated civilisations, and inevitably, would affect all aspects of public and personal life. "The demons and angels of history unleashed by transculturation are the product of asymmetrical power relationships" (West-Duran 2005: 968); yet transculturation as a critical discourse and transformative modality in a contemporary reading of texts and cultural performance is a powerful non-linear methodology of analysis which produces an enabling effect in the creation of new knowledge. Transculturation, in this application of the concept, is defined as a literary process which incorporates elements of rural indigenous cultures, both traditional and popular, in conjunction with literary techniques of the modern urban novel; furthermore, transculturation is a counter-current to dominant homogenising global processes of cultural exchange. Transculturation emphasises sociocultural plurality and diversity while resisting a fetishisation of difference, working towards the heterogeneity of literary expression in opposition to a homogenous unified South African literary field. The concept implies, firstly, a fluidity of boundariness, liminality, cultural circuitry, border crossings and contact zones. Secondly, there is a theoretical implication that transhistorical, translingual and transcultural processes are circulating between communities, cultures and nations. These complex processes are characterised by historical contestations over place, resources, ownership, gender, authority, authenticity and power (Ortiz 1947; Hicks 1991; Pratt 1992; Rama 1997; Rogers 2006; Archibald 2007; ArnedoG6mez 2008; Nyman 2009). …

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