A Socially Committed Literary Work: Perspectives on Elliot Zondi's Insumansumane

By Mathonsi, N. N. | Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies, November 2005 | Go to article overview

A Socially Committed Literary Work: Perspectives on Elliot Zondi's Insumansumane


Mathonsi, N. N., Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies


Abstract

In this article Elliot Zondi's historical drama, "Insumansumane", is discussed as a committed literary work. The main character, Bhambada, urges his contemporaries to challenge the ideological domination of the apartheid system and to fight for their freedom to the last man, if necessary. According to Elliot Zondi, the 1906 Bhambada Rebellion was caused by a lack of consultation and utter disregard for the feelings of the African majority regarding taxation. The rebellion was also caused by the forceful introduction of Western culture and social values. The play in itself is actually a metaphor for the Zulu people living in the 1980s under the iron rule of President P.W. Botha. In this play the Zulu are urged to live up to the freedom ideals for which their forefathers had been ready to fight and to die. The development of the plot in the play emphasises that the "winds of change" at that time were becoming stronger, causing the undercurrent that was to bring about liberation in 1992 and in 1994.

Opsomming

'n Sosiaal-betrokke literere werk: perspektiewe op Elliot Zondi se Insumansumane

In hierdie artikel word Elliot Zondi se historiese drama, "Insumansumane" (1986), bespreek as 'n sosiaal-betrokke literere werk omdat die hoofkarakter, Bhambada sy tydgenote aanmoedig om die ideologiese dominasie van die apartheidsisteem uit te daag en om vir hulle vryheid te veg, selfs tot die bittere einde indien nodig. Volgens Elliot Zondi het die 1906 Bhambada-rebellie onder die Zoeloes ontstaan weens 'n gebrek aan onderhandeling en op grond van 'n algehele miskenning van die gevoelens van die swart meerderheid aangaande belasting. Die rebellie is ook veroorsaak deur die gedwonge invoering van Westerse kulturele en sosiale waardes. Die toneelstuk self is inderwaarheid 'n metafoor vir die Zoeloevolk, wat in die tagtigerjare onder die dwingelandy van president P.W. Botha moes leef. In die drama word die Zoeloes aangemoedig om reg te laat geskied aan die vryheidsideale waarvoor hulle voorvaders bereid was om te veg en te sterf. Die ontwikkelingslyn in die drama beklemtoon dat die "winde van verandering" gedurende daardie tyd sterker geword het en uiteindelik sou lei tot die onderstroming wat die bevryding in 1992 en 1994 bewerkstellig het.

1. Introduction

Usually most attempts at literary analysis dwell more on form or structure than on content and social function. This article will lean on theories that approach literature from the point of view of its relation to the society it is intended for. Marxism and theories advocated by African writers on socio-political commitment will therefore be employed for this purpose. Foregrounding the aspects of social commitment in the assessment of Zondi's literary work, Insumansumane, hopefully will be achieved by provoking some discussion revolving around the social action derived on the foundations of social commitment.

Regarding social commitment, Ngara (1985:vii) asserts:

   Committed writers are extremely sensitive to the social
   problems of their day and are constantly coming to grips with
   them, hoping to play their part in changing society for the better.
   They are therefore constantly defining the role of art in society
   and endeavouring to develop literary forms that match their
   social vision.

To achieve the above aim, targetting is necessary, because if too many ills present in society are presented, the impact of the argument is affected. The next step should be the creation of a metaphoric image, consisting of fictional characters and events, that represent and reflect the social ills that are highlighted. Through fictional characters and events the manifestations of injustice can be portrayed, with one or more workable solutions suggested. For instance, a socially committed work could challenge society to alter itself and its circumstances through a catharsis--if the work is dramatic in nature; through laughter at itself, if the work is comic in nature. …

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