Psychoanalysis and Apartheid
The Image and Role of the Psychiatrist in
Selected Works of Lewis Nkosi
IN HIS ESSAY "Sex and the Law in South Africa," Lewis Nkosi stressed the complex if not perverse relationship between blacks and whites stemming from the strictures against all interracial sexual relationships during apartheid.1 The fictional transgression of this interdiction was to become one of the leitmotifs of certain black and white writers of South African fiction – Alan Paton's Too Late the Phalarope, Peter Abrahams' The Path of Thunder, Nadine Gordimer's A Sport of Nature, to mention but a few. Through its variations, the theme constituted the supreme metaphor of apartheid's Aufhebung. That is what Nkosi analyses and depicts, in part, in his short stories and plays.2 This metaphor did not function as an obsession,3 but as an attempt to go beyond a reality which became more and more repressive
1 Lewis Nkosi, Home and Exile and Other Selections (London: Longman, 1983):
37–44. Nkosi quotes specifically from Alan Paton's Too Late the Phalarope, in which
a young white man intently pursues a young black woman who is not unaware of the
sexual provocation she embodies for a white man.
2 See also "The Prisoner" and The Rhythm of Violence.
3 Cf. André Brink, "An Ornithology of Sexual Politics: Lewis Nkosi's Mating
Birds," English in Africa 19.1 (May 1992): 1–20. He denounces the author's persistent
fascination for the subject and sees in him an individual who is obsessed by white
women, who is deeply sexist and marked by a Calvinistic morality through which he
only sees white women as sexual objects, temptresses who will hasten him to his
downfall. All the clichés and stereotypes used by Nkosi in his writing are taken at face
value by Brink.