Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

"Opening Up to the Rest of Africa"?: Continental Connections and Literary (Dis) Continuities in Simao Kikamba's Going Home and Jonathan Nkala's the Crossing

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

"Opening Up to the Rest of Africa"?: Continental Connections and Literary (Dis) Continuities in Simao Kikamba's Going Home and Jonathan Nkala's the Crossing

Article excerpt

Summary

This article focuses on Simao Kikamba's semi-autobiographical novel Going Home (2005) and Jonathan Khumbulani Nkala's one-man drama The Crossing (2009). Both texts chronicle the odyssey of the refugee author or narrator--in Kikamba's text from Angola and in Nkala's drama from Zimbabwe--to South Africa. I argue that although these works picture the growing transnational texture of the South African national space, this apparent continental connectivity is fraught with new intolerances like xenophobia. Far from displaying a definite break from the hallmarks of South African writing during apartheid, such as a preoccupation with the national and a focus on social commitment, the texts stress a continuation of these characteristics while at the same time re-examining them from a new, Afropolitan angle.

Opsomming

Hierdie artikel fokus op Simao Kikamba se semi-outobiografiese roman Going Home (2005) en Jonathan Khumbulani Nkala se eenmandrama The Crossing (2009). Albei tekste vertel die storie van die vlugtelingskrywer of-verteller se tog na Suid-Afrika--in Kikamba se teks vanuit Angola en in Nkala se drama vanuit Zimbabwe. Ek voer aan dat hierdie werke die toenemende transnasionale tekstuur van 8uid-Afrika se nasionale ruimte uitbeeld, maar ook dat hierdie klaarblyklik kontinentale samehang deurspek is met nuwe voorbeelde van onverdraagsaamheid, soos vreemdelingehaat. Hierdie tekste beweeg nie onomwonde weg van die onmiskenbare eienskappe van Suid-Afrikaanse skryfwerk gedurende die apartheidsjare hie. (Die eienskappe sluit in 'n fassinasie met die nasionale en 'n klein op maatskaplike verantwoordelikheid.) Inteendeel beklemtoon die tekste 'n voortsetting van die eienskappe, en ondersoek terselfdertyd hierdie eienskappe vanuit 'n nuwe, Afropolitaanse hoek.

Introduction: Writing "Continental Connections" (1)

"South Africa was opening up to the rest of Africa" (Kikamba 2005: 151), observes Kikamba's Angolan protagonist, Manuel Mpanda, after his arrival in South Africa in the author's semi-autobiographical novel Going Home. Mpanda, a refugee fleeing from political unrest in Angola, is one among a plethora of African migrant protagonists that have come to populate South African literary landscapes, particularly since the early 2000s. Most of the novels dealing with this new era of migration are written by South African authors. This makes Kikamba, an immigrant himself, an exception. Thus Phaswane Mpe's 2001 novel Welcome to Our Hillbrow welcomes its readers to a truly pan-African inner-city Johannesburg. Next to Mpe's largely faceless African migrants, we encounter in Patricia Schonstein Pinnock's Skyline (2000) the Mozambican refugee and painter Bernard. He shares a Cape Town high-rise building with other African refugees from the "scorched fields of war" (Schonstein Pinnock 2000: 8). In Nadine Gordimer's The Pickup (2001), Abdu, an undocumented Arab migrant from North Africa, becomes the main protagonist's lover, whom she dubs "her oriental prince". Claude Dema, a former child soldier from an unspecified francophone African country, now a drug dealer and Pentecostal preacher, murders his South African host and lover Nana in the closing apocalyptic scene of Angelina N. Sithebe's novel Holy Hill (2007). In Heinrich Troost's Plot Loss (2007), we meet Johnson, a "Nigerian of many homes and faces" (Troost 2007: 8). Yomi, Niq Mhlongo's Nigerian character in After Tears (2007), is known as a swindler and document forger, while Andrew Brown's South African main character in Refuge (2009) falls prey to the pretences of his sensual Nigerian masseuse, Abayomi, and the trickery of her Nigerian lodger Sunday. The list goes on. (2)

Although these South African texts are often written with the intention (explicit or implicit) of countering xenophobic sentiments in the country, the authors equally often fall short of sketching African migrants as fleshed-out characters. As the list above reveals, literary representations of African migrants often seem to come from a catalogue of stereotypical images ubiquitous to the South African public sphere. …

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