In March and April 2000, Writers & Company presented The New South Africa: a special series that takes you into the lives and writings of novelists and poets, with experiences of detention, banning, exile -- and celebration.
Author information and reading list
Throughout its turbulent history, South Africa has captured world attention perhaps more dramatically than any other colonized nation. In the past decade, the release of Nelson Mandela, the first democratic election in April 1994, and the signing of a new constitution have been landmarks in an ongoing process of cultural transformation. Through the hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the country has attempted to confront its traumatic past. Now South Africans of all races must re-imagine their future.
South Africa's best-known writers-J. M. Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer, Breyten Breytenbach, Andre Brink and others-continue to produce challenging work that reflects the complexities of their country. But South Africa is a place of many languages and many voices. In this special series, Eleanor Wachtel travels to post-apartheid South Africa and takes listeners into the lives and writings of a variety of new novelists and poets. Their experiences of detention, banning and exile tell a remarkable story of struggle...and celebration.
Some of the writers interviewed for the series, in Cape Town and Johannesburg, are playwright Zakes Mda, storyteller Gcina Mlophe, novelists Mandla Langa, Achmat Dangor and Tatamkhulu Afrika, and rap poet Lesogo Rampolokeng. Also featured is a conversation with Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer. Complementing the series are interviews with leading Afrikaner writers Breyten Breytenbach and Antjie Krog, as well as the celebrated novelist and critic J. M. Coetzee, recent winner of England's Booker Prize. Former activist, now Justice, Albie Sachs also appears in a special program, on THE ARTS TODAY.
The New South Africa March 26, 2000 - Program 1: Mandla Langa
A preacher's son, novelist Mandla Langa was born in 1950 on the northern Natal coast. He studied at the University of Fort Hare, where he became involved in the Black Consciousness Movement. In 1976, a time of student protest, Langa was arrested and held in jail for 101 days. After his release, he went into exile, to neighboring Botswana. Langa served the African National Congress in exile for 18 years, as editor, speechwriter and cultural attache, working in Zambia and London. Since his return to South Africa in 1994, he has held a number of prominent positions in the country's cultural institutions, including director of television programming at the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Currently he chairs the Independent Broadcasting Authority (the equivalent of Canada's CRTC). Langa is one of the first South African writers to give voice to the trauma of return from exile. In addition to three earlier novels, he has published a collection of stories, The Naked Song (1996); and recently he collaborated on an opera with another former exile, Hugh Masakela. His collection The Naked Song and his new novel, The Memory of Stones, are published by David Philip in Cape Town. Mandla Langa lives in Johannesburg.
April 2, 2000 - Program 2: Gcina Mlophe and Zakes Mda
Writer, performer and director Gcina Mlophe was born in Hammarsdale, Natal, in 1958, to Zula and Xhosa parents. She spent her early years with her paternal grandmother, but at age 10 she was "kidnapped" by her mother and taken to live in the Transkei, in the Eastern Cape. Later, while living in a women's hostel in Alexandra Township in Johannesburg, she drew upon the upheaval of her childhood in her play Have you seen Zandile, which has been produced internationally. Inspired by her grandmother, Mlophe has also revived the traditional art of storytelling through her own performances and through the storytelling group she has founded. She has toured the world - in theatre productions, and performing her own poems and stories solo. In 1994 she released an album of children's songs with Ladysmith Black Mombazo, and she has her own radio and television series, "Gcina and Friends." She is based in Johannesburg.
Playwright and novelist Zakes Mda was born in 1948 in the Eastern Cape. He grew up in a political family: his father, a teacher and lawyer, was a prominent African nationalist. In the early 1960s, after his father was arrested, the family went into exile to Lesotho, where Mda finished his schooling. He continued his education in the U.S., earning two masters degrees and later a PhD in Drama from the University of Cape Town. Mda returned to South Africa in 1995, settling in Johannesburg, where he now teaches, paints and writes. His plays have been widely produced both within the country and abroad: five years ago he made theatrical history in the Johannesburg area when he had eight plays opening within weeks of each other. (Several volumes of his plays are available from the University of Witwatersrand Press in Johannesburg.) As well as plays and fiction, he writes for film and television. His prize-winning 1995 novel, Ways of Dying, is published by Oxford University Press. His most recent novel, She Plays With the Darkness, is published by Africa World Press Inc.
April 9, 2000 - Program 3: Lesogo Rampolokeng and Tatamkhulu Afrika
April 16, 2000 - Program 4: Nadine Gordimer and Achmat Dangor
March 21, 2000 - Albie Sachs on THE ARTS TODAY
Complementing THE NEW SOUTH AFRICA series on WRITERS & COMPANY is a 30 minute interview with Albie Sachs, also recorded in South Africa, and heard on THE ARTS TODAY. Activist lawyer Albie Sachs is best known for his remarkable book The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs. On April 7th, 1988, Sachs was in his car in Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, when a bomb exploded. In a matter of seconds, he lost an arm and the sight in one eye, barely escaping with his life. At the time of the bombing, Albie Sachs was in exile. At home in South Africa, he worked as a civil rights lawyer, anti-apartheid activist, and member of the African National Congress. Twice in the 1960s, he was detained in South Africa without trial and tortured by the security police ... a period detailed in his diary. In 1966, Sachs fled first to England, then Mozambique, where the car bombing took place. In 1992 he finally returned to a free South Africa and took part in negotiations for the country's new constitution. Now 65, he is Justice Sachs, a member of the South African Constitutional Court, and a busy and powerful judicial figure in the country. A new edition of his memoir, The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter, has just been published by the University of California Press.
The names featured above are just a few of the most interesting new voices in contemporary South African writing. For a sampling of others, some useful anthologies are:
World Literature Today: South African Literature in Translation, Vol. 70, Number 1, Winter 1996 (University of Oklahoma): includes criticism, poetry, fiction, interviews.
West Coast Line: A Journal of Contemporary Writing and Criticism, Number Twenty, Fall 1996 (Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC): "Making New: A Selection of Recent South African Writing." (poetry)
The Lava of This Land: South African Poetry 1960 - 1996 (Triquarterly Books/ Northwestern University Press, 1997).
Atlanta Review, Vol. V, Issue Number 2 (P.O. Box 8248, Atlanta, GA 31106): Africa Feature Section, 1998. (poetry)
At the Rendezvous of Victory and Other Stories, ed. Andries Walter Oliphant, Kwela Books, Cape Town, 1999. (fiction)
*All eight tapes are available for purchase at a cost of $80.00 (or $20.00 each).
Please send cheque payable to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to:
CBC Writers & Company: P.O. Box 500, Station "A" Toronto, Ontario M5W 1E6
The series The New South Africa was produced for Writers & Company by Sandra Rabinovitch.