In 1991, when the issue of Kunapipi on ‘New Art and Literature from South Africa’ appeared, Njabulo S Ndebele’s complaint about the way in which black South African writing, committed to political engagement, had deteriorated into struggle allegory, was already a critical commonplace. South African fiction, Ndebele had said back in the 80s, was ‘the product of an ideology whose analysis of society is based on moral premises’ (23), and its characters consisted essentially of the stereotypical villains and victims of apartheid, impersonal ciphers in a moral debate. Formulaic rather than analytical, such novels had come to reproduce apartheid’s negation of human individuality in a heroic narrative of ‘numbing sensationalism’ (24) and spectacle, requiring nothing beyond recognition. What was needed, Ndebele argued, was the rediscovery of the ordinary and the restoration of the truly human dimension to black South African storytelling.
Jacobs, J U., Zakes Mda’s The Heart of Redness: The Novel as Umngqokolo, Kunapipi, 24(1), 2002.